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NFL Teams Defying The Odds And Winning Despite Mounting Injuries

Hidden behind their undefeated record, the New England Patriots are among the top teams hit heavy by injuries.

Bo Marchionte



Winning is never easy in the NFL.

Compounding injuries usually derail even the most talented teams from maintaining a successful season.

We have come to witness through seven weeks that several teams have dismissed that notion and continued their winning ways despite mounting casualties.

In the NFL, no team is completely healthy, but every year certain teams take on more than their fair share of injuries and continue to win.


Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)

The question to ask is, “How good are the Pittsburgh Steelers if they were close to 100% healthy?”

Before entering Week 1, the Steelers already were missing two offensive linemen. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey was placed on injured reserve-designated to return list and Mike Adams was placed on the PUP.

The trend continued last Sunday when left tackle Kelvin Beachum tore his ACL and was placed on the IR one day later.

The most significant injury to date is the sprained knee suffered by franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Pittsburgh could not even use their true No. 2 backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski because he was already on the IR due to a preseason incident where he dislocated his finger requiring surgery.

Pittsburgh was forced to sign Michael Vick off the streets as a free agent.

Guess what?

Now he’s down for the count after tweaking his hamstring last Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

So in reality, Pittsburgh is basically on their fourth-string quarterback, Landry Jones.

Defensively, the team anxiously awaits the return of linebacker Ryan Shazier. The emerging star of their defense is recovery from a shoulder injury and is expected back soon after missing the last four games.

The most trivial of all injuries was sustained by kicker Shaun Suisham in the Hall of Fame Game in August.  Suisham was replaced by Garrett Hartley who eventually – You guessed it – hurt his hamstring and needed to be replaced. Those two injuries forced Pittsburgh to trade for former Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee.

Scobee was a disaster for Pittsburgh, going 6-for-10 on field goals which eventually cost him his job.

Still, the Steelers are more than treading water.

Carolina Panthers (5-0)
The Carolina Panthers have persevered through the first five weeks of the NFL season to remain undefeated despite losing some of their key contributors on both sides of the football.

High expectations were in place for second-year receiver Kelvin Benjamin. He was poised to be the centerpiece of the Carolina passing attack, but a torn ACL suffered in the preseason forced him to the IR.

That was a swift blow to the offense, but the Panthers offense has resiliently been productive.

Defensive end Charles Johnson was placed on the injured reserve-designated for return list with a hamstring injury and is expected to return Week 13 against the Dallas Cowboys.

Rather favorable results regarding Johnson, when comparing the misfortune of the others on their defensive line unit.  Three other defensive linemen will miss the season due to injuries which includes Nate Chandler (knee), Frank Alexander (achilles) and Arthur Miley (knee).

Things got so bad for the Panthers they were forced to trade with the Chicago Bears for aging defensive end Jared Allen.

Arguably the best player on the roster, linebacker Luke Kuechly, missed three games with a concussion, yet the defense still ranks seventh-overall.

Kudos to “Riverboat” Ron Rivera for a job well done!


New England Patriots (5-0) 

Belichick and Brady loom so large over the New England franchise due to their long and successful careers together that it is easy to dismiss the hurdles the Patriots face, just like each of the other 31 NFL franchises.

The defending Super Bowl champs are a perfect 7-0 for the first time since 2007, the year they went 16-0 and lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

On the outside, everything looks perfect but underneath the pile of Super Bowl rings is one of the larger injury reports in the NFL.

For the casual fan, most of the names currently placed in the team’s IR are not of the household variety.

New England currently has six players on IR, which includes running back James Develin, defensive back Darryl Roberts, linebacker Dane Fletcher, defensive back Tarell Brown, offensive lineman Nate Solder and receiver Brandon Gibson.

The most prolific name on the list is starting left tackle Nate Solder.  The former first-round pick will miss the remainder of the season after tearing his biceps.

“We have guys in this building that we feel like will be able to take care of the situation,” Belichick said, via ESPN. “We’ll figure out what we feel is the best option before game time and be ready to go.”

That sort of sums up the entire roster in New England in terms of how they coach and facilitate each and every player to perform at the highest level when their number is called.

Offensive lineman Bryan Stork was close to missing the entire season, but was placed on the injured reserve-designated to return list and is expected back Week 9 against the Washington Redskins. Stork could have been the seventh player added to the IR.

If Stork avoids any setbacks and returns, then receiver Brian Tyms takes the lead role as being the seventh player on the team to receive the injured reserve tag. Tyms has a serious foot injury he suffered during the preseason and is in danger of not returning at all in 2015.

This weekend against the New York Jets the Patriots ruled out three players – tackle Marcus Cannon, linebacker Rufus Johnson and defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard – and listed eight as questionable, including linebacker Dont’a Hightower and special teams star Matthew Slater.

The Patriots haven’t lost a game at home in the month of October since 2005, going 20-0.

With or without injuries they are one excellent football team.


Indianapolis Colts (3-4) 

Having a sub-.500 record isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of survival.

When your franchise quarterback misses two games and your relying on 40-year old Matt Hasselbeck to carry the load, then you get the nod of approval for maneuvering between some tricky circumstances.

Hasselbeck led the Colts to back-to-back wins over the Jacksonville Jaguars at home and a victory over the Houston Texans on the road.

Essentially those two games saved their season after starting 0-2 with a healthy Andrew Luck.

Currently four players are on the IR for the Colts which includes cornerbacks D’Joun Smith and Tevin Mitchel, along with defensive end Arthur Jones and running back Tyler Varga.

Already absent of two defensive backs due to injuries, the Colts lost to the New Orleans Saints without starting safeties Mike Adams and Clayton Geathers.



New York Giants (4-3) 

Tom Coughlin seems angry enough most of the time and that is without bizarre fireworks accidents to his best defensive player.

Over July 4th weekend, Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul had to have his right index finger amputated following his off-season incident with fireworks.

Without him, the defense lacks a disruptive force and currently the Giants rank tied for 28th in the NFL with just eight quarterback sacks.

Even if he returns, there is not much to go on regarding how effective he’ll be after the injury.

Add another four names that include safety Nat Berhe, safety Bennett Jackson, center Brett Jones and tight end Daniel Fells and you realize that Coughlin and his staff have done an admirable job keeping the team competitive.

The Giants defeated their division rival Dallas Cowboys this weekend without their best player in the secondary, cornerback Prince Amukamara.

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about Victor Cruz – I just didn’t want to add more salt to the wound.

Cruz suffered an ACL tear in Week 6 last season and has yet to return to the field. He rehabbed from the ACL, but is now trying to overcome a patellar tear he suffered over the summer.

Bo Marchionte is an NFL writer for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade. His background includes being staff for the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star game as a talent evaluator for player personnel along with an internship scouting with the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the Canadian Football League. Bo’s draft background includes working for the NFL Draft Bible and currently owns and operates He has done radio spots on NBC, Fox Sports and ESPN and their affiliates in different markets around the country. Bo covers the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Panthers along with other colleges in the northeast.

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