Chances are, Bronco fans won't get to witness this at Sports Authority Field in Week 14. Jay Cutler lays on the field after losing his helmet during the game against the San Diego Chargers at Soldier Field on November 20, 2011 in Chicago. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
In light of recent events this weekend, namely the thumb injury to former Bronco Quarterback Jay Cutler, I thought it might be worth taking a gander at the schedule to see a damage report on upcoming Bronco opponents and how that could shape their overall record. I will list my findings below and then you can vote your opinion on what you think the outcome will be just from an injury perspective.
While the injury gremlin has been somewhat kinder this year to the Broncos as opposed to recent seasons, it has moved on (I hope permanently) to other teams. The Kansas City Chiefs lost their starting quarterback Matt Cassell and the Oakland Raiders just carted off Darrius Heyward-Bey last night. The San Diego Chargers have had a slew of injuries as well and while I don't wish harm upon anyone, injuries are part of the game.
Here are the remaining opponents the Broncos face.
- Week 12 Sun. Nov. 27 at San Diego Chargers
The Chargers have lost Defensive Tackle Nick Polk (Hand), Safety Damik Scafe (Leg), Kicker Nate Kaeding (Left knee), Inside Linebacker Jonas Mouton (Shoulder) their 2nd round (29th) draft pick this year, Safety Bob Sanders (Knee), Linebacker Stephen Cooper (Biceps), Linebacker Larry English (Broken left foot) and Guard Kris Dielman (Concussion).
Polk was a CFA two years ago and attended Training Camp with the Broncos. He was cut on August 1st. The Chargers picked him up and he was considered a longshot to make the squad. Scafe was another CFA that probably could have seen playing time had he not been hurt, if only because San Diego took a huge risk with the eternally injured Bob Sanders, who everyone but AJ Smith knew would be a waste of money. Jonas Mouton showed potential in Training Camp, but was having difficulty adapting to the NFL speed. The biggest health impacts for the Chargers have been the injuries to starters Kaeding, Sanders, Cooper, English and Dielman. Losing five starters is borderline drastic.
More recently, Backup Center and current Left Guard Scott Mruczkowski sustained a concussion in Sunday's loss to the Bears. Starting Guard Louis Vasquez (high ankle sprain) didn't even suit up and Left Tackle Marcus McNeill is in danger of missing the rest of the season with a neck injury. To say the San Diego O-Line is decimated would be an understatement and all these injuries make what at the beginning of the season look like a problem, now appear winnable.
The Vikings have been relatively healthy compared to the rest of the league. Journeyman swing Tackle Scott Kooistra underwent surgery in late August to repair a spinal cord injury and his career might be over. Linebacker Jasper Brinkley needed hip surgery in September. He was a 2-down player backing up EJ Henderson and his loss left Minnesota thin at that position. Cornerback Antoine Winfield hit the IR last week with a broken Clavicle and that injury made a weak secondary even worse. Of course, many witnessed Adrian Peterson being carted off the field Sunday with an ankle injury against Oakland. The X-rays were negative and AP even returned to the sideline. This would be a mighty loss, especially for rookie Quarterback Christian Ponder, but Adrian said,
"I'm going to try to get back as fast as I can and God willing, I'll be up and ready to run this weekend."
Peterson has a history of playing hurt and has only missed three games in his five-year career.
The Bears got some terrible news on Sunday when it was reported that Quarterback Jay Cutler fractured his right thumb in the 4th quarter against the Chargers. He is extremely doubtful for Week 12 and his status for the Bears matchup with the Broncos remains to be seen.
Chicago has lost 5 other players this season to the Injured Reserve List. 6th round pick Linebacker J.T. Thomas (Back), 1st round 29th pick Offensive Tackle Gabe Carimi (Right knee), Tight End Kyle Adams (Hamstring), Guard Chris Williams (Dislocated left wrist) and Safety Anthony Walters (Hamstring). It's a little early to predict this one, but I know some will be disappointed if Jay Cutler can't play. The Denver crowd wanted a chance to change his opinion of them from a 6 to a 9.
- Week 15 Sun. Dec. 18 New England at Home
The Patriots list of walking wounded belies the act of a man (Bill Belichick) trying to hide any advantage for his opponents overtly. Throwing a vast amount of names on their Weekly Injury Reports to confuse other teams is one method to his madness. Or genius, since there is a fine line between them. Anyway, New England had to assign nine players to Injured Reserve this season, and while that is excessive, it is not the highest in 2011. The Jacksonville Jaguars hold that esteem, with 13 players out for the season. You may remember that the Green Bay Packers surrendered 17 players to IR last year and still went on to win the Super Bowl. That proves depth to be an important aspect when building a team.
Linebacker Christian Cox (Neck), Tackle Kyle Hix (Undisclosed), Defensive Back Bret Lockett (Groin), Guard Rich Ohrnberger, Center Dan Koppen (Fibula), Defensive Tackle Myron Pryor (Shoulder), Defensive Tackle Mike Wright (Concussion), Cornerback Ras-I Dowling (Hip) and Strong Safety Josh Barrett (Calf) are the nine who New England placed on IR. There were another 19 players on the Patriots Injury Report for Week 11, but since the Broncos won't be playing them for another month, I 'm not going to list them. I don't think there is anyone in the league that is better at planning for contingencies than Belichick and he refuses to use injury as an excuse.
There is yet one more possibility to factor in. Tom Brady is playing hurt. Apparently the Patriots quarterback suffered a bone bruise to his right elbow during their win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6. Brady has been wearing a black band underneath his elbow since that game. It is said that the injury is not serious and could very well heal completely before the end of the season, but his accuracy has suffered because of it.
"It could affect his release because the triceps tendon attaches right there, you have all your forearm muscles there, your extensors and flexors to hold a football. If you get a bone bruise, he'd accommodate his release a little bit to accommodate the bone bruise.
Tom has already thrown 10 Interceptions this season and is on pace to set a new career high. I guess we will see how that affects him this evening against the Chiefs.
The Bills lost 11 players to Injured Reserve this season. Defensive End Reggie Torbor (Shoulder), Rookie CFA Running Back Bruce Hall, Wide Receiver Marcus Easley (Illness), Wide Receiver Roscoe Parrish (Left ankle), Defensive Back Jon Corto (Shoulder), Wide Receiver Felton Huggins (Head), Outside Linebacker Shawne Merriman (Achilles), Nose Tackle Kyle Williams (Left foot), Center Eric Wood (Torn right ACL), Defensive Back Terrence McGee (knee surgery) and their 2011 6th round Pick Linebacker Chris White (Knee).
Torbor was lost during Training Camp and I'm sure the Bills are missing his 35 Tackle yearly average. Easley is a 4th round pick from 2010. He was pit on IR because of a heart ailment, which is possibly serious. Parrish, you may recall, returned his first punt return of the season for a touchdown against the Broncos in 2007. He is a 4th receiver type and speedy return man. Corto and Huggins haven't played all year and Williams hasn't done enough to be missed, but Merriman, Wood and McGee were starters. white was relegated to Special Teams and will compete for a job next year after tearing an ACL.
Wide Receiver Donald Jones (Ankle) is currently out for 3-6 weeks and may end up on Injured reserve. The best case scenario for him would be a return in Week 15. Guard Kraig Urbik is out indefinitely with a Knee injury.
The Chiefs have been hit just as hard as anyone, if only because each one of their 7 players on IR was a starter. Linebacker Brandon Siler (Achilles), Tackle Ryan O'Callaghan (Undisclosed), 2011 5th round Pick Linebacker Gabe Miller, Tight End Tony Moeaki (Knee), Safety Eric Berry (Left knee), Running Back Jamaal Charles (Torn left ACL) and Quarterback Matt Cassel is Out for the season with an injured Right hand. Seven out of 22 starters is a tough loss to overcome. It could be that they have won their last game this year. A fact that Bronco fans will lose little sleep over.
- Week 17 Sun. Jan. 1 Kansas City at Home
Personally, I like to take the games week to week and try not to look ahead. But I realize that some people really enjoy doing projections. So the question today is, after looking at the injury perspective of the future Bronco opponents, how many of these games do you (honestly) think Denver will win?