Over the past couple of weeks, including yesterday, the NFL season has taken some strange twists and turns. Teams that are supposed to contend for the playoffs, such as the Tennessee Titans and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are struggling, with identical 2-3 records. Whereas, teams such as the Miami Dolphins, the Buffalo Bills, the New York Jets, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New Orleans Saints were not expected to win a lot of football games, nor contend for the playoffs. And yet they are right there, all having won three games so far.
And while these are intriguing storylines to keep an eye on throughout the remainder of the season, the more attention-grabbing headlines involve terrible injuries to some of the NFL’s biggest stars: Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson, up and coming Minnesota Vikings rookie running back Dalvin Cook, Houston Texans superstar defensive end J.J. Watt, New York Giants All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and, very recently, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
All these injuries have had impact, not just on the teams, but for the overall popularity of the NFL. Rodgers, Beckham, and Watt are the premiere names, each having their own TV commercial sponsors. Each of the three players do damage in the fantasy football world also, racking up points for fantasy football owners. Yes, the NFL still has stars such as Tom Brady and Antonio Brown, and it still gains thousands of social media followers. Nevertheless, the notion that several big-name athletes in one professional sports missing playing time due to injury is unheard of.
Of the three teams who have lost a star player (Houston, New York, Green Bay), the team that should do well the most without is the Texans. Their offense, led by rookie sensation DeShaun Watson, will put up a lot of points, make big plays, and control time of possession to keep their defense off the field. The Texans’ defensive unit, according to NFL.com, ranks 7th, behind Denver, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Minnesota, and Chicago.Yet, these statistics can change over the next few weeks of the season, and the offense will not always be able to come through. The x-factor will be the strength of each division: The Packers and Giants play in improved, difficult divisions in the NFC North and NFC East, respectively. Houston plays in the weakest division in the NFL, the AFC South. Nobody in that division has jumped out in front and grabbed a hold of it firmly. Still, the fact of the matter is that the NFL, the most popular sports organization in the world, lost three of its biggest star representatives to devastating season-ending injuries.