2017 has been a dreadful year for quarterbacks, with injuries carrying major postseason implications.
Devastating injuries to starting quarterbacks throughout this 2017 season have drastically changed teams’ trajectories in the blink of an eye. Heading into the postseason, we reflect on how these injuries changed the course of this season: which injuries were inconsequential and which eliminated all hope for their respective teams.
10. Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings (Knee, Week 5)
After an impressive win over New Orleans on Monday Night Football in week one, Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford took a few weeks off with nagging knee pain. He attempted a comeback in week five but left in the first half when the pain overcame him, and hasn’t been back since.
I scratched Minnesota off as a lost cause early this season with the absence of both Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater and a long schedule ahead. Think about this: Minnesota has two former first-round picks in their quarterback room, and both were facing long-term leg injuries. As it turns out, injuries at QB haven’t meant a thing for the Vikings this season.
The Minnesota defense has played amazing football week after week and Case Keenum has posted impressive numbers. The team is 11-3 and projected as the number two seed in the NFC playoffs. Many believe that the Vikings are the best team in the NFL. As if that weren’t enough, if the Vikings can keep up their dominance and survive the rest of the NFC, they will be playing Super Bowl LII at home in U.S. Bank Stadium.
9. Josh McCown, New York Jets (Hand, Week 14)
Josh McCown may have been the best part of a Jets team which might be carrying the worst roster in the league this season. McCown’s ability to lead the offense as a veteran player gave the Jets big wins against quality opponents like Jacksonville and Kansas City. McCown went down late in the year, and at 5-9, the Jets don’t have much to play for, but the team has lost a big piece of their identity.
McCown has produced big plays this year, but a team can’t build a franchise around a 38-year-old quarterback. The Jets will scour the quarterback market this offseason with free agency and the Draft. We might see McCown return for at least one more year, though we could also see him on the sidelines as a coach, next season.
8. Paxton Lynch, Denver Broncos (Ankle, Week 11)
2016 first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch hoped to emerge as the heir to Peyton Manning as the team’s franchise quarterback in his second season. Failing to win the job over 2015 seventh-rounder Trevor Siemian, then neglecting to perform with the chances he was given, and finally exiting a week 11 game with an ankle injury have combined for a pretty dreadful season for Lynch.
7. Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos (Shoulder, Week 15)
The Trevor Siemian versus Paxton Lynch quarterback competition was a big story line, this season. Both passers subsequently under-delivered and were lost to injury. Losing the number one and two options this season has sealed Denver’s fate. In a tightly-contested AFC West, Denver kept itself in the game for a while. Now, at 5-9, the team is running out the clock with a familiar face, Brock Osweiler.
Denver just can’t catch a break. The four-year stint with Peyton Manning was a success, but juggling between Siemian, Lynch, and Osweiler, with seventh-round pick Chad Kelly also sidelined with injury this season, has left the Broncos with very little to behold in the passing game. The team will take a strong look at the impressive pool of signal callers in the upcoming Draft.
6. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (Knee, preseason)
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill hasn’t played in an NFL game since December 11, 2016. Assuming he starts the 2018 season opener on Sunday, September 9, 2018, he will have gone 637 days without seeing in-game action with his team.
After making the playoffs in 2016, Miami’s fans were optimistic, but losing their starting quarterback to a knee injury in preseason was a devastating blow.
Jay Cutler’s emergence from retirement gave Miami a chance this year, and even produced a big win over New England. Now, at 6-8, it’s just about time for the team to close up shop and look ahead to bouncing back next year when their franchise quarterback is hopefully back and ready to go.
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5. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals (Arm, Week 7)
Fifteenth-year quarterback Carson Palmer suffered a broken arm in week seven, when Arizona was still in the mix for the NFC West title. The Cards have since gone 3-4 without him.
A team that was in the NFC Championship in 2015 is now circling the drain. Palmer’s decision to come back next season will likely hinge on whether or not Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians is back in 2018.
4. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (ACL, Week 14)
If there is any silver lining to second-year quarterback Carson Wentz’ ACL tear in week 14 against the L.A. Rams, it’s that it came late in the year, at a point when Wentz’ MVP-caliber performance throughout the season had given his team some breathing room. Philly will still have a bye and some guaranteed home field advantage in the playoffs.
Without Wentz, however, the Eagles’ chances to make the Super Bowl have slipped from favorable to doubtful. Nick Foles is a very capable backup, but it is nearly impossible to picture a scenario in which the team survives potential matchups with New Orleans, the L.A. Rams, and Minnesota without their star quarterback.
3. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans (ACL, Week 9)
The Texans looked like they had a great shot at winning the AFC South before star rookie Deshaun Watson’s injury. Houston picked up Watson as the number 12 pick in this year’s Draft with an absolute steal.
Offensive-minded Head Coach Bill O’Brien, in his fourth year with Houston, had at long last been paired with a franchise quarterback to build around. However, Watson tore his ACL in practice in week nine, and the Texans have gone 1-6 with Tom Savage under center.
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2. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (Labrum, offseason)
The Andrew Luck shoulder injury has been a disaster from the beginning. The injury has been bothering him since September 27, 2015. After dealing with it for two seasons, Luck finally had surgery in January 2017. After taking nine months to rehab, he started throwing again in October. Just weeks later, he was placed on the IR. Without Luck, Indianapolis is leaving $19.4 million on the bench this season, and sits at 3-11.
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There are two silver linings to Indy’s lost 2017 season, however. First, the Colts have totally justified Luck’s recent contract extension. This season is proof that, even with a very capable and talented backup quarterback in Jacoby Brissett, the Colts can’t win, even in the weak AFC. The team needs an above-average quarterback to elevate a poor roster and have a shot at the postseason.
Secondly, the team is a virtual lock to get a top-five pick in the upcoming Draft. They will also have the opportunity to deal Brissett, possibly as a starter for a team in need of a big arm. The team is in a prime position to reload its roster with elite talent to support Luck in 2018.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (Collarbone, Week 6)
Rodgers broke his collarbone and had to watch helplessly from the sidelines for eight weeks while his team slipped into the middle of the pack in an intense NFC playoff race.
The Packers’ 3-5 stint with backup Brett Hundley gave the team zero breathing room heading into their final playoff push, especially with Minnesota a lock to win the division and the NFC wild card race so stacked. The loss to Carolina last week (Rodgers’ first game back off of the IR) knocked Green Bay out of the playoffs, and Rodgers now gets an entire offseason to get his health back on track.
Injuries to franchise quarterbacks have transformed the landscape of the 2017 season, turning many divisions upside down. These injuries, paired with the razor-thin margin for error that exists in 16-game NFL season, have allowed new, less traditional teams to emerge in the playoff picture. Seeing teams like the L.A. Rams and Jacksonville in the postseason will remind us of the parity that is experienced in the NFL and will be a refreshing change of pace for many fans.
Edited by Brian Kang.
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