Despite a season filled with memorable touchdown celebrations and unforgettable playoff endings, perhaps the most significant part of the 2017 NFL season was the staggering amount of injuries suffered throughout the league. By the end of the 2017 season, the collective injured reserve looked more like an All-Pro team. These injuries changed the course of the season for several franchises, but as with all things, some teams absorbed the losses more effectively than others.
Perhaps the biggest star to be lost during the 2017 season was Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The former NFL MVP suffered a broken collarbone in Week 6 against the Minnesota Vikings. The Pack had been 4-1 entering that contest, but they finished the season 7-9. Without Rodgers, Green Bay turned to Brett Hundley, who managed just a 3-6 record.
J.J. Watt‘s 2017 will always be remembered for his philanthropic response to the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, raising $37 million to help those affected in Houston. But the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year suffered a broken leg in Week 5 and missed the final 13 games of the season. The Texans were 2-3 when Watt went down and the team managed only two more wins the rest of the way.
Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the most electric players in the NFL. His acrobatic catches are a staple of highlight reel shows. Beckham entered the 2017 season full of promise, after a 2016 of over 100 catches and a playoff berth. OBJ was plagued with injuries early on and managed to see the field in only four games before suffering a fractured ankle in Week 5. To make things worse, New York also wide receiver Brandon Marshall that week. The Giants finished the season 3-13, the second-worst record in the league.
The Hardest Hit Teams
Houston Texans lose J.J. Watt in Week 5, they also lost star linebacker Whitney Merciless, who suffered a chest injury in the first quarter of Week 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Texans ended the season with a staggering 19 players on the injured reserve, including starting tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. But the biggest injury for the Texans may have come in Week 9, when rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was coming off a 400-yard four touchdown performance against the Seattle Seahawks, was lost for the season to a torn ACL. With Watson, the Texans were 3-3. Without Watson, they were 1-9.
The Arizona Cardinals came into the 2017 season with high expectations. They sported arguably the best running back in the league, with a veteran quarterback and a solid defense. Well, things went sideways in Arizona in Week 1, when star running back David Johnson suffered a dislocated wrist. The Cardinals never found a suitable replacement for Johnson, then lost veteran quarterback Carson Palmer to a broken left arm in Week 7. The team managed an 8-8 record, despite the crippling offensive losses.
The Seattle Seahawks entered Week 10 at 6-3, in control of their playoff fate. But on Thursday Night Football, Seattle lost cornerback Richard Sherman to a ruptured Achilles tendon and safety Kam Chancellor to a potentially career-ending neck injury. Sherman went on to vent his frustrations with Thursday Night Football, where left tackle Duane Brown (ankle), defensive tackle Jarran Reed (hamstring) and running back C.J. Prosise (ankle) were among the other Seahawks players to suffer injuries on the night. But that didn’t change the fact that the Seahawks finished the season 3-4 without Sherman and Chancellor and missed the playoffs.
The Teams that Overcame
The Minnesota Vikings 2017 season will forever be characterized by the miracle finish in the NFC Divisional playoff against the New Orleans Saints. The Vikings improved to 13-3 despite losing their starting quarterback and starting running back to injuries by Week 5. Sam Bradford was injured in Week 1, and after a brief return in Week 5, landed on the season-ending injured reserve after a knee scope. The Vikings saw promising rookie running back Dalvin Cook go down to a non-contact ACL tear in Week 4. Averaging 88.5 yards-per-game on 18.5 carries, Cook was well on his way to helping Minnesota fans forget Adrian Peterson.
The New England Patriots will be trying to become back-to-back Super Bowl champions for the second time, but will do so without a pair of important players. The Patriots lost one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets when wide receiver Julian Edelman was lost in the preseason to a non-contact ACL tear. New England’s shaky defense absorbed a major loss in Week 7 when linebacker Dont’a Hightower was lost to a torn pectoral muscle. The Patriots finished the season 13-3, but might be without tight end Rob Gronkowski for Super Bowl LII because of a concussion.
The Philadelphia Eagles are set to play in Super Bowl LII despite a pair of major injuries to significant offensive pieces. The Eagles lost dynamic running back Darren Sproles in Week 3 to a broken arm and torn ACL. Philadelphia later traded for former Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi after Week 8, but in Week 14, the Eagles saw their MVP-candidate, quarterback Carson Wentz, go down with a torn ACL. Nick Foles has stepped in admirably for Wentz in the intervening weeks. The Eagles also overcame the loss of linebacker Jordan Hicks, a major contributor to the best Eagles defense in years before he ruptured his Achilles tendon in Week 7.
Other Notable Injuries
The Indianapolis Colts lost quarterback Andrew Luck to injury in 2016, but a January surgery to repair a torn labrum ultimately cost Luck the 2017 season as well. The Colts traded for Jacoby Brissett in September, but the team struggled through a 4-12 season.
The Miami Dolphins also lost their quarterback in 2016, when Ryan Tannehill sprained his left knee. Tannehill elected to rehab the injury rather than undergo surgery, and although everything looked fine through training camp, Tannehill suffered a non-contact ACL tear in the same knee during the preseason. The Dolphins signed the then-retired Jay Cutler to be their starter, but the entire offense struggled all season long. The Dolphins finished 6-10.
The Kansas City Chiefs saw their starting running back Spencer Ware go down to a PCL tear in the preseason, but that injury paved the way for rookie Kareem Hunt to assume the role. The Chiefs lost cancer survivor safety Eric Berry to a ruptured Achilles in Week 1. The Chiefs made it to the playoffs, but were upset by the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Wild Card round.