This is a new feature where I'll list Disaster Ratings (one being the least problematic, to 10 being code red) for NFL teams involving offseason retirements and injuries. With some of the recent players going down or calling it quits, I thought it would be nice to have a new section where I can discuss and rate everything.
Giants QB Eli Manning Accused of Selling Fake Memorabilia: 10/10 or 0/10 Disaster Rating
This is a bizarre story that was published by the New York Post on Thursday. The Post reported that Eli Manning was part of a conspiracy to defraud collectors by selling fake game-worn gear. It obtained an e-mail exchange with equipment manager Joe Skiba where Manning was asked to provide two helmets that could "pass as game used," and Manning complied.
It's unclear how true this entire story is - the Giants' lawyers have said that the exchange was taken out of context - but there are other reports stating that the Giants deleted other e-mails.
If true, this is obviously a horrific look for the NFL. Manning signed a $101.5 million contract two years ago, so a player earning a nine-figure contract ripping off people for thousands of dollars is just ridiculous. If guilty, I imagine Manning would be suspended for at least one season, and the Giants could lose a first-round pick for destroying evidence. I'd have to believe that Roger Goodell would strip the Patriots of a mid-round selection as well, just because he hates them.
Then again, this could be fake news. Maybe these exchanges were really taken out of context, and Manning didn't do anything wrong. Either way, the Giants need to be thinking about finding a new quarterback in one of the next two NFL Drafts because Manning's play fell off substantially in 2016. The possibility of Manning being suspended could prompt them to select a quarterback early in the 2017 NFL Draft (check the 2017 NFL Draft Quarterback Prospect Rankings here.)
Redskins DE/OLB Junior Galette arrested: 0/10 Disaster Rating
Junior Galette was arrested this past weekend for disorderly conduct. The police report said he struck another individual and ran away from a police officer. He was then subdued with a stun gun. Galette must have been bored, as he hasn't played since 2014 because of dual Achilles tears.
Galette is a bum who wasn't expected to contribute to the Redskins anytime soon. One Achilles tear is bad enough, but two consecutive tears would've been too much to come back from. Galette likely would've been a shell of his former self in 2017, even if he'd be able to suit up.
With this news, the Redskins could release Galette, who was caught whipping women on camera a couple of years ago. Then again, it takes the Redskins eons to do anything, so perhaps they'll let him linger on the roster for a few months as Chris Cooley spreads rumors about him.
49ers CB Tramaine Brock arrested and released: 1/10 Disaster Rating
I suppose there are actually two Disaster Grades to issue: one for the 49ers, and one for Tramaine Brock. The San Francisco cornerback was arrested for domestic violence, as police reportedly found his girlfriend with "visible injuries." The 49ers wasted no time in releasing him.
For Brock, this is potentially a 10/10 Disaster Grade. If the allegations are true, Brock may never play in the NFL again. Ray Rice hasn't drawn any interest since his infamous video was released, so why would Brock if he's guilty?
As for the 49ers, losing Brock is not a big deal. Brock is a good player, but he was entering his contract year anyway. San Francisco is years away from competing for a playoff spot, so by the time the 49ers are ready to do so, Brock would be past his prime anyway. Not having Brock will allow the 49ers to have a better shot at the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, which is packed with great talent (check out my 2018 NFL Mock Draft here.)
Cowboys QB Tony Romo announces retirement: 9/10 and 5/10 Disaster Ratings
Well, the good news for the Texans and Broncos is that they no longer have to wait for Jerry Jones to release his long-time quarterback. Tony Romo has announced his retirement from football, and he will now pursue a career in broadcasting.
This is painful for both teams, especially the Texans. They now have to move forward with Tom Savage as their quarterback unless they can obtain a quarterback at the bottom of the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft (check out my 2017 NFL Mock Draft.) Romo was always favored to sign with Houston. He wanted to be there more than Denver because it would be close to home. He's about to have a third child, so he didn't want to stray far from Dallas. Plus, being on the Texans would've given him the opportunity to play for a Super Bowl contender.
Houston almost certainly would've made a run at Super Bowl LII as long as Romo could stay healthy. Granted, that was far from a guarantee, considering his dubious injury history, but it at least would've given the Texans a chance. Now, they'll be very lucky if they aren't surpassed by the Titans as the AFC South winner. The Texans clearly deserve a very high Disaster Grade. A 9/10 seems right.
As for the Broncos, their Disaster Grade isn't as high. Romo, as mentioned, was favored to go to Houston. Plus, Denver has a viable quarterback in place for the future in Paxton Lynch. With Romo definitely not in the picture, the Broncos can use all of their resources to develop Lynch, who has the potential to be a very good NFL signal-caller. It still hurts the Broncos that they can't compete for Super Bowl LII - hence the 5/10 Disaster Grade - but perhaps this is better for the long haul.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention CBS hiring Romo. This is perhaps the best news of the day, as Romo will be paired with Jim Nantz, displacing the atrocious Phil Simms. We no longer will have to hear Simms drone on and on about nothing. The days of hearing Simms answer his own questions and mutter stuff about tables being switched are finally over.
Update: Facebook friend Joey Y. wrote the following: "What about a douchebag grade for Jerry Jones? Kind of ridiculous that he forced Tony Romo to walk away by refusing to release him, after he was your quarterback for 10 years."
How could I forget to mention Jones? He definitely deserves a 10/10 for acting like a petulant child who didn't want anyone else to play with his precious toy. Had Jones released Romo earlier, Romo would probably be with the Texans or Broncos right now. I can't believe how utterly selfish a grown man acted in this instance.
Raiders moving to Las Vegas: 9/10 Disaster Rating
The NFL has done some stupid things over the years, but they've generally gotten more things right than wrong. This decision is not included in that statement.
The league owners voted 31-1 in favor of the Raiders moving from Oakland to Las Vegas, with the Dolphins being the lone franchise that opposed this decision. I never thought I'd say this, but the other owners should've followed Stephen Ross' example, because he was the only one who wasn't clueless in that meeting.
I can't believe the Raiders are doing this. They are going to have no one in the stands, and they're going to have the worst home-field advantage in NFL history. Sure, there will be some tourists there going to the games, and I'm sure those attending Vegas business conferences will enjoy the contests from club boxes, but as far as general fans are concerned, the Raiders will have none there. Mark Davis may have to go to one of the closing Macy's and purchase mannequins for $5, so that he can fill the seats with them and not look completely humiliated.
I feel bad for the people of Oakland. They finally have a great team, and now they're moving. It sucks. I don't get it. There's a short-term financial benefit of moving to Las Vegas, but it's going to be horrible for the long haul. Ticket sales and TV viewership in Las Vegas are going to be miserable following the first year. Every single owner should've understood this, but they didn't. Perhaps Ross, owning a team in a tourist city like Miami, was aware of what would occur if the Raiders would move to Las Vegas. He knows it's not going to end well, and he's right.
Panthers QB Cam Newton, DE Charles Johnson undergoing surgeries: 6/10 Disaster Rating
Today is not a good day to be a Panther fan. Both Cam Newton and Charles Johnson will be undergoing surgeries. Newton will repair a partially torn rotator cuff, while Johnson will have back surgery. Johnson will miss the entire offseason program, while Newton's availability for the start of training camp is highly questionable.
Beginning with Newton, it's very strange that he didn't have the surgery back in January. The Panthers have stated that they wanted Newton to have some rest before surgery and subsequent rehabilitation, but giving him more than two months off just seems ridiculous. Hell, one month of rest is almost certainly enough.
Now, this could all blow over, and Newton could be 100 percent by Week 1. That's definitely a possibility. However, another scenario is Newton being rusty from not getting enough reps in with his receivers in training camp and the preseason. That could trickle into the beginning of the season, prompting the Panthers to start slowly again.
As for Johnson, the Panthers had to have known about his back issues because they just signed him to a contract two weeks ago. No back procedure is minor, but I imagine Carolina believes Johnson will be fine. There are no guarantees, however.
I think this is a 6/10 Disaster Rating. It's very ominous for the Panthers' 2017 playoff chances, but as stated above, all of this may not mean anything come September.
Broncos DE/OLB DeMarcus Ware announced retirement: 2/10 Disaster Rating
It may seem odd to issue a Disaster Grade for the Broncos in the wake of DeMarcus Ware's retirement because he happened to be a free agent. However, there was some speculation that he could return to Denver, so that's why I'm doing this particular write-up.
Had Ware gone back to Denver, he would've just been a backup. Shane Ray, a 2015 first-round pick, was expected to transition into the starting lineup across from Von Miller. Ray showed great potential last year, logging eight sacks despite playing about 60 percent of the defensive snaps. Ray was hot at the end of the year, notching four sacks in his final six games.
That said, Ware's loss will still be felt. All the Broncos have behind Miller and Ray is Shaq Barrett. Ware would've been a great third edge rusher, so unless something happens during the draft, the Broncos could have trouble generating a great pass rush if either Miller or Ray goes down.
I'm issuing a 2/10 Disaster Grade. Miller's loss could potentially hurt quite a bit, but that would involve Denver losing one of its players to injury and also whiffing completely in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Washington CB Sidney Jones tears Achilles: 9/10 Disaster Rating
You really have to feel bad for Sidney Jones. The talented cornerback, projected widely to be a top-20 pick, tore his Achilles during his pro day. The injury will cost him millions of dollars, and it will prevent him from seeing the field until 2018.
While Marshon Lattimore is considered the overall No. 1 cornerback, there are some teams that thought Sidney Jones was the best player at his position in this class. He's very talented, and there was an outside shot of him sneaking into the top 10 (I had him No. 13 to Arizona in my 2017 NFL Mock Draft.) That's all over now, and the first round is no longer a possibility. Jones will now be hoping to be selected in the second frame like Jaylon Smith was last year. However, the Cowboys genuinely thought Smith would be able to play this past season. Because Jones won't be available until 2018, he could fall into the third round.
This is a 9/10 Disaster Grade for Jones. The only thing keeping it from being a 10/10 is that it wasn't a torn patellar tendon. Achilles ruptures are difficult to come back from, and Jones may not be in 100-percent form until 2019, but at least his career isn't over.
Cowboys OT Doug Free announces retirement: 4/10 Disaster Rating
Doug Free was once considered one of the top right tackles in the NFL. That hasn't been the case lately, as Free's talent level has dropped, which is understandable, given that he just turned 33. Free apparently noticed this, as he announced his retirement Saturday afternoon.
Despite Free declining, this retirement still hurts the Cowboys. They allowed Ronald Leary to leave via free agency. Had they known of Free's plans, they could've re-signed Leary and moved La'el Collins to right tackle. Now, the plan is to keep Collins at guard and use Chaz Green in Free's spot. The problem with that is Green is far worse than Free. He was horrible last year, and Dallas' offensive line isn't going to be as good without Free.
I'm giving this a 4/10 Disaster Grade. It's bad, but it's not horrible, as the Cowboys might be able to find a decent right tackle in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Ravens RB Kenneth Dixon suspended for 4 games (PED violation): 2/10 Disaster Rating
Kenneth Dixon showed a ton of promise last year, so it's disappointing to see him get a four-game ban like this. Missing four games won't be a huge deal in the grand scheme of things for Dixon, but if he's caught again, he'll be suspended for much longer.
That said, this is probably a bigger deal for Dixon than the Ravens, which is why I've given Baltimore a 2/10 Disaster Grade. Dixon is good for sure, but there so many talented Running Back Prospects in this year's class. I expected Baltimore to take a running back regardless.
Jets cut C Nick Mangold: 4/10 Disaster Rating
I normally don't do grades for cuts, but e-mailer Chris F. requested this, and I realized that I probably should issue a Disaster Rating. Nick Mangold has been with the Jets since 2006, so it's worth discussing.
Mangold wasn't cut for performance, as he still played well when healthy. He dealt with injuries the past couple of seasons, but he was still a good player while available. The cap was the big issue, as he was owed more than $9 million. Releasing him was necessary because of financial implications, and it's a shame that the previous Jets regime caused this to happen.
I don't think cutting Mangold is a huge deal because the Jets are in rebuilding mode, and by the time they're ready to compete again, he'll likely be in decline. However, there's a chance they hit all their draft picks and get back into playoff contention by 2018, and not having Mangold will hurt. Thus, I think something in the middle like a 4/10 Disaster Grade is appropriate.
Redskins C Kory Lichtensteiger announced retirement: 0/10 Disaster Rating
Kory Lichtensteiger has made 75 starts for the Redskins, but he has decided to end his career. He has spent the previous seven years with the team.
Lichtensteiger is apparently a big name - both literally and figuratively, given that he's trending on Twitter - but this is not a major loss for Washington. In fact, it warrants no sort of Disaster Grade. Lichtensteiger was supplanted by Spencer Long this past season, and Long was better than Lichtensteiger happened to be. Lichtensteiger was an OK center, but he was usually inconsistent. Sure, he'll be missed as a backup, but the Redskins can easily find an equal No. 2 center. Besides, Lichtensteiger was turning 32 soon, so he was bound to decline in the near future.
Colts P Pat McAfee announced retirement: 0/10 Disaster Rating
Pat McAfee is, or rather, was one of the top players at his position in the NFL, and he's just 30 (in May). Thus, his retirement comes as a surprise. I was going to give this a 10/10 Disaster Grade until I remembered that McAfee is a punter, and his absence won't matter whatsoever.
McAfee has cited knee concerns for his retirement, and he's going to move on to write for a Web site. I'm sure some Colt fans are upset by this - his retirement; not the writing ventures - but they should be reminded that punters effectively grow on trees, and Indianapolis will be able to replace him very easily.
Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater reportedly out for 2017 season (knee): 10/10 Disaster Rating
When Teddy Bridgewater shredded his knee last summer, there was some speculation that he would miss multiple seasons and would never be the same again. It seems as though that will be the case, as it's been reported that Bridgewater is expected to be out all of 2017.
This is obviously horrible news. Bridgewater was seen as a promising young quarterback heading into his third year, but his career has been completely derailed by this gruesome knee injury. The Vikings desperately need Bridgewater; he's a much better signal-caller than Sam Bradford, as he had a penchant for converting third downs, while his mobility helped mitigate Minnesota's horrible offensive line. Bradford did set the NFL's single-season completion percentage mark in 2016. This, however, is one of the most fraudulent records in the history of sports, as Bradford checked the ball down on most of his throws, including third-and-long situations that Bridgewater typically converted.
The Vikings now have to wait until 2018 to potentially get Bridgewater back, but even when he returns, he may not be the same. Thus, I have no choice but to give Minnesota a 10/10 Disaster Grade.
Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn out for playoffs (torn biceps): 2/10 Disaster Rating
Not having Adrian Clayborn for the NFC Championship and possible Super Bowl appearance won't be a big deal for the Falcons, as they managed to blow out the Seahawks without him. Clayborn barely played Saturday, and I'd say Atlanta fared pretty well. It's not that Clayborn isn't a good player; it's just that the drop-off from Clayborn to Dwight Freeney isn't substantial at all. Freeney will have to keep playing more snaps, but that's not a problem.
This injury isn't very detrimental. I think a 2/10 rating is right, and it's only above one because of depth issues. If Freeney gets hurt, there will be a big problem, but the Falcons are fine as it stands right now.
Chargers Change Logo to Abomination: 5/10 Disaster Rating
I graded the Chargers' foolish decision to move to Los Angeles yesterday (scroll down below), and I was going to list some places where it would've been better to move - Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City, the Moon - to name a few, but then this happened. The Chargers revealed a new logo. If you haven't seen this atrocity, here it is:
That's horrible. It's like the owner told some 18-year-old intern to make a new logo for him, and the kid went into Photoshop, chose a font, typed "LA" and then added a squiggly line at the end to make it look like a lightning bolt of some sort.
And then, someone pointed out that this was basically a combination of the Dodgers and Tampa Bay Lightning logos:
Wow. Not only did the Chargers create a lazy logo, but they stole two designs. That's pathetic, but it matches the utter incompetence of ownership to move to a city that doesn't care about professional football.
Because the Chargers could get sued by the Dodgers and Lightning for copyright infringement, and also sued by Photoshop for horrible usage of their product, I thought about giving this a 10/10. But then, I realized that no one cares because the Chargers no longer have any fans. Thus, I sliced the rating in half. Just like that. It didn't require much thinking, but neither did this awful logo.
Chargers Move to Los Angeles: 10/10 Disaster Rating
Why are there two teams in Los Angeles? Hell, why is there one team in that city? We've had countless years of proof that Los Angeles does not support professional football, and that was once again proven to be the case this past year. Now, the Chargers will have to fight the Rams for attendance, a situation that can't possibly end well.
If the Chargers thought their home games in San Diego were bad, they haven't seen anything yet. Their matchups versus Oakland, for example, will be Raider home games. Other contests will have 30,000 people in the stands if they are lucky. This is going to look horrible for the Chargers and even worse for the NFL. It's such a short-sighted move, though it's typical for it to occur in this Roger Goodell era.
Broncos HC Gary Kubiak retires: 4/10 Disaster Rating
I couldn't exactly post this on my Coach Firing page. How do you grade someone's retirement, after all? What I can do is discuss how it impacts the Broncos organization.
It sucks for Gary Kubiak that he couldn't continue his career because of health concerns, but those obviously need to come first. It also sucks for the Broncos, as they have to find a new head coach, unexpectedly.
Kubiak will be missed, as he was a very good head coach. However, he's not irreplaceable like Bill Belichick, or like Jim Harbaugh was for the 49ers several years ago. There are good candidates out there, and I'm sure John Elway will find a capable replacement. The challenge, however - and this is why I posted a 4/10 Disaster Grade - will be finding someone who can keep the terrific staff intact. What if Elway brings someone in who unexpectedly clashes with the other coaches? That would certainly ruin what the Broncos have going for them right now.
Titans QB Marcus Mariota out for season (fractured fibula): 2/10 Disaster Rating
I graded Derek Carr's season-ending injury earlier, but I was waiting on Marcus Mariota because Houston's outcome against the Bengals on Sunday night would play a big factor in what the grade would be. After all, a Houston victory would mean that Tennessee's rematch versus the Texans next week would be meaningless. It turns out that's exactly the case, as Houston beat Cincinnati, 12-10.
I don't think the Titans would've beaten the Jaguars with Mariota, given how poorly they were playing prior to the injury. Thus, I planned on basing the grade on what could happen next week, as well as Mariota's offseason preparation. Next week is now irrelevant, so I can't provide a big number for this grade.
As for the offseason, Mariota could miss OTAs, which is why I'm grading this a 2/10 instead of a 0/10. As a young quarterback, Mariota's spring work is very valuable. That said, he'll be ready for training camp, so there almost certainly won't be any long-term ramifications.
Raiders QB Derek Carr out for season (broken fibula): 10/10 Disaster Rating
Ugh, what a nightmare for Oakland. The Raiders had a legitimate chance to make a deep run into the playoffs to perhaps reach and even win the Super Bowl. I wrote that it all depended on Carr's finger. If it healed enough, Oakland could beat anyone in January and maybe February.
Well, Carr's finger is the least of Oakland's worries now. Carr has suffered a broken fibula, ending his season.
This is an obvious 10/10 Disaster Grade. The Raiders go from one of the favorites to reach the Super Bowl to one-and-done fodder in the playoffs, as Matt McGloin isn't capable enough to have success in the postseason.
If there's a silver lining, it's that this isn't a torn patellar tendon or Achilles, or anything like that. Carr will be fine for the start of 2017. However, the Raiders had a golden opportunity to potentially win a Super Bowl, and it's now gone. Merry Christmas.
Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson out for season (torn Achilles): 8/10 Disaster Rating
When Derrick Johnson went down with a non-contact injury toward the end of the second quarter, it was quite apparent that it wasn't going to end well. Johnson had to be helped off the field, as he couldn't put pressure on his left leg. It was quickly determined that the issue was with Johnson's problematic left Achilles, which had been sore in recent weeks. Andy Reid then announced the inevitable; Johnson ruptured his Achilles and will be out for the season.
This is a crushing blow for the Chiefs' Super Bowl aspirations. They don't have an explosive offense, so they have to win with defense and special teams. Johnson is the heart and soul of the defense, and his absence leaves just Ramik Wilson as the only quality inside linebacker on the roster.
Even worse, this could also have long-term ramifications. Johnson will almost certainly miss a chunk of the 2017 campaign, and given that he's 34, it's quite possible that he may never be the same again. That's why I'm giving this an 8/10 Disaster Grade, and I could easily be talked into a 9/10.
Seahawks S Earl Thomas out for season (cracked tibia): 7/10 Disaster Rating
Earl Thomas suffered a gruesome injury against the Panthers when he collided with Kam Chancellor in mid-air while trying to snatch a Cam Newton interception. He was carted into the locker room to undergo X-rays, where he discovered that he had a cracked tibia.
The news hit Thomas hard, as he tweeted that he's pondering retirement in the wake of this injury. I have to believe that Thomas isn't serious and will change his mind after thinking it over, but the Seahawks have to feel equally depressed. They had finally just gotten all of their star players back from injury, and now Thomas is gone. He's one of the top safeties in the NFL, and he'll sorely be missed.
The one silver lining is that the Seahawks have a solid backup in Steven Terrell. He's obviously not in the same caliber as Thomas, but he's a decent player who will be able to hold his own. Thus, I'm giving this a 7/10 Disaster Grade instead of an 8/10 or 9/10.
Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski out for 8 weeks (back surgery): 9/10 Disaster Rating
Wow, what a crushing blow for the Patriots. Rob Gronkowski was knocked out of the Jets game this past Sunday with a back ailment, and it wasn't known how severe the injury was until now. Gronkowski, as it turns out, has a ruptured disk in his back, and he'll be out for eight weeks or so. He's effectively done for the year, though a return in the Super Bowl is theoretically possible, though Gronkowski may not be 100 percent.
I don't need to tell you how severe of a setback this is for New England. The 9/10 Disaster Grade is definitely warranted. Gronkowski is one of the top offensive play-makers in the NFL, and the Patriots' offense isn't nearly the same without him. It's going to be very difficult for New England to reach the Super Bowl without his services. Martellus Bennett's presence will help, but he's not the sort of game-changer that Gronkowski is.
Making matters worse, there are long-term ramifications. This is Gronkowski's third back operation. All of these injuries will keep compounding, and they will undoubtedly shorten Gronkowski's career. It's quite possible that Gronkowski, who turns 28 in May, won't be the same ever again.
Panthers C Ryan Kalil out for season (shoulder surgery): 0/10 Disaster Rating
Ryan Kalil is one of the top centers in the NFL, and under normal circumstances, a season-ending injury to a player like him would warrant a Disaster Grade of 8/10 at the very least.
However, this is going to be a blessing in disguise. At 4-7, the Panthers had to run the table to even have a chance at the playoffs. Their postseason aspirations were highly unlikely in the wake of their loss at Oakland, so now they need to begin worrying about their draft positioning so that they can select the top cornerback in the class in order to help their putrid secondary. Kalil's absence will help them do that, as Carolina won't be nearly as productive offensively without him.
Sealing the deal for this 0/10 Disaster Grade is the fact that Kalil is fully expected to be ready for training camp next summer. That's the most important part, so there's no doubt that the Panthers stand to benefit from this injury, as odd as that sounds.
Falcons CB Desmond Trufant out for season (torn pectoral): 6/10 Disaster Rating
The Falcons are currently the favorites to win the NFC South, but to reach the Super Bowl, they'll need to beat the likes of Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson. And they'll have to do so without their No. 1 cornerback.
Desmond Trufant is a great player, and he'll be missed. His ability to contain opposing top receivers allowed the Falcons to do a lot on defense, but now the coaching staff may not have that luxury.
All hope isn't lost though, which is why I'm giving this a 6/10 Disaster Rating instead of the usual seven or eight for a top player at a position being lost for the year. Cornerbacks Jalen Collins and Brian Poole have quietly performed well for the Falcons recently, so perhaps they'll continue to play at a high level. If so, Trufant won't be missed as much as many anticipate.
In other Falcon news, Adrian Clayborn will miss three to five weeks with a partially torn meniscus. I'll give this a 4/10 Disaster Rating, as Clayborn has been playing well across from Vic Beasley. He's a jack-of-all-trades whose run-stopping prowess will be missed. Fortunately, Clayborn should be fine for the playoffs - assuming Atlanta holds on to its divisional lead with these new injuries.
Bears LB Danny Trevathan out for season (torn patellar tendon): 7/10 Disaster Rating
Any normal injury to Bears players would warrant a 0/10 Disaster Rating right now, as it would help them maintain better draft position. This, however, is not nearly any sort of normal injury.
Torn patellar tendons are nearly impossible to come back from. Only two players that we know of in league history have enjoyed quality seasons following a torn patellar tendon: Robert Brooks and Jimmy Graham, and the former completely fell off following his one strong NFL campaign. It's a brutal injury, so it's likely that Trevathan could be sidelined all of 2017, and he may never be the same ever again. Thus, I think this injury warrants a 7/10 Disaster Grade at the very least, and I could be talked into an 8/10. For Trevathan personally, it's a 10/10.
Patriots NT Alan Branch suspended for four games: 3/10 Disaster Rating
The Patriots suddenly have a very depleted defensive front. As if Bill Belichick carelessly trading away talented players away wasn't enough, now there's this: Alan Branch has gotten slapped with a four-game suspension.
Branch doesn't provide any sort of pass rush, but he's a monstrous run-stuffer. The good news though is that Branch will be back for the playoffs, and his four-game absence won't affect New England having a bye. The Patriots are locked into one of the top two seeds, so they're fine in that regard. The bad news, however, is that Branch won't be around for the Denver game in Week 15. That could be for home-field advantage, so the Patriots will definitely miss Branch then.
Bears ILB Jerrell Freeman suspended for four games: 3/10 Disaster Rating
This suspension obviously means very little for this season. In fact, Freeman being out of the lineup will prove to be beneficial, given that it'll give Chicago a better chance to lose and maintain its draft position. Freeman is one of the best linebackers in the NFL, so he'll be missed in regard to actually winning and losing on the field, but the Bears shouldn't be concerned with that right now.
So, why is this a 3/10 Disaster Grade? Because if Freeman decides to juice up once again in 2017, he could be suspended for much longer. The Bears have some great defensive talent, so assuming they're more competitive next year, missing Freeman for an extended period of time could be pretty detrimental. Of course, there's a chance Freeman won't be suspended again, so I don't want to overreact too much.
Bengals WR A.J. Green out ??? (torn hamstring), RB Giovani Bernard out for season (torn ACL): 9/10 Disaster Rating
Say goodbye to the 2016 Bengals. They entered Week 11 with a 3-5-1 record, but still had a chance at the playoffs because the Ravens and Bengals have been floundering around as well. However, in addition to suffering a home defeat to the Bills today, they also lost two key offensive players to injuries.
Giovani Bernard tore his ACL and is done for the year. The A.J. Green injury is more significant, however, as he tore his hamstring and will undergo an MRI on Monday to determine how severe it is. He'll definitely miss at least a few games, but could also be lost for the season.
Because this has concluded Cincinnati's playoff chances, this deserves a very high Disaster Grade. I'm giving the Bengals a 9/10; the only thing keeping it from being a 10/10 is that there are no long-term ramifications.
Steelers DE/DT Cameron Heyward out for season (pectoral): 7/10 Disaster Rating
Wow, this is huge. It's not Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown going down, but it's definitely close to that, as Cameron Heyward was arguably Pittsburgh's top defensive player.
The Steelers are really going to miss Heyward. He's a great pass-rusher, and he'll also be missed in run support. Remember when Jay Ajayi rushed for 200 yards against the Steelers? Heyward wasn't in the lineup, which is why Pittsburgh couldn't stop the run at all.
I'm giving this a 7/10 Disaster Grade. Heyward's absence won't mean that the Steelers can't win the Super Bowl, but the injury is definitely a crushing blow for their chances.
Bears WR Alshon Jeffery suspended for 4 games (PEDs): 0/10 Disaster Rating
This is a very easy 0/10 Disaster Grade. Alshon Jeffery's four-game suspension for PEDs obviously won't affect the Bears' playoff aspirations because they have none. In fact, Jeffery's absence will be beneficial because it'll help Chicago's draft positioning. The Bears are close to landing DeShone Kizer, as seen here in my 2017 NFL Mock Draft. However, they'll need the Browns to pass on Kizer, and it's unknown if that'll happen.
There's another reason why this is a good thing for Chicago. Jeffery is in his contract year, and he already wasn't doing too well. Jeffery hasn't topped 100 yards since Week 1 and only managed to score one touchdown all season. Now, there's this. All of these factors will lower Jeffery's potential earnings going forward, so the Bears should be able to keep him for cheaper than initially anticipated.
Bills C Eric Wood out for the year (broken leg): 7/10 Disaster Rating
Talk about adding injury to insult. The Bills suffered a brutal, emotional loss to the Seahawks on Monday night with the help of some horrible officiating, and to make matters worse, Eric Wood is out for the year with a broken leg.
This is obviously a season-ender. At 4-5, the Bills need to pretty much run the table, and that's now next to impossible in the wake of Wood's injury. Wood is one of the better centers in the NFL, and he helps set up all the blocking assignments. If there's a silver lining, it's that the Bills have an extra week to figure this out. However, it feels like it's over, so a 7/10 Disaster Rating seems appropriate. It would be higher if Wood weren't good to go starting in 2017, but he should be fine by then.
Giants G Justin Pugh out 3-4 weeks (sprained MCL): 4/10 Disaster Rating
The Giants already had offensive line issues, and now they'll be without their top blocker for close to a month. Considering that New York barely did anything offensively against the Eagles outside of capitalizing off Carson Wentz's turnovers - they averaged just 5.0 yards per play - it's difficult to imagine the Giants having much offensive success going forward without Justin Pugh.
However, this is not a season-ending injury, so the Giants aren't exactly crushed by this. They're 5-3, so they can afford a loss or two. Plus, they have the Bears and Browns as two of their next four opponents, so New York can tread water until Pugh returns.
Redskins OT Trent Williams suspended for 4 games (marijuana): 6/10 Disaster Rating
There's a long list of reasons why Roger Goodell should be removed as commissioner of the NFL, and this is one of them. I don't understand what his obsession is with suspending players for multiple games because of marijuana usage. Who the hell cares about marijuana, which is legal in several states? Why does Goodell insist on running the league like a Saudi Arabian dictator, and does he really think it's in his best interest to suspend great players for such silly infractions? Why not just fine them?
Moving on from Goodell's idiotic policies, let's focus on how this will impact the Redskins. Based on this Disaster Grade, I guess you can say that I think it'll be pretty impactful. The Redskins, whose record is 4-3-1, will be entering a crucial stage of their season following their Week 9 bye. Their next four opponents are Vikings, Packers, Cowboys and Cardinals. Three project as playoff teams, and Arizona could conceivably be playing well in four weeks once they get some players back from injury. Oh, and you know what all four of those squads have in common? They all have talented edge rushers!
Williams' absence is really going to hurt, which is why I've made this a 6/10. Without him, the Redskins could conceivably go 1-3 in those four contests, which would drop them to 5-6-1, making it difficult for them to make the playoffs, especially in a competitive NFC East.
Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles out for 8 weeks (knee surgery): 1/10 Disaster Rating
Jamaal Charles fantasy owners will finally be able to open up a roster spot, as their running back will be out for at least eight weeks because of a second operation on his surgically repaired knee.
This sucks for Charles and anyone rooting for his return, but it won't really affect the Chiefs much. They've been doing great with Spencer Ware as their lead back, and I've felt as though the looming spectre of Charles served as somewhat of a distraction. With Charles officially sidelined for two months, Ware can continue to dominate - as soon as he clears concussion protocol, that is.
This Disaster Grade is an easy one to make. I'm giving it a 1/10. Charles didn't really factor into the team's success this season, and the only reason that this isn't a 0/10 is because of depth purposes.
Cardinals OT Jared Veldheer out for season (torn triceps): 7/10 Disaster Rating
Way more people know Tyrann Mathieu's name than Jared Veldheer's, but the Veldheer injury is far more significant. First of all, Mathieu will be out 3-6 weeks, while Veldheer has been knocked out for the season. Second, the regressing Carson Palmer needs all the protection he can get, and not having his stud blind-side protector going forward will be a major problem.
The Cardinals were blown out at Carolina because they couldn't pass protect whatsoever. Imagine how poor the blocking will be the rest of the year without their talented left tackle. Veldheer's absence will be huge, and Arizona's offense won't be nearly as explosive unless they're playing a horrible defense like San Francisco's in Week 10.
I'm giving this the same Disaster Rating I issued the Cowboys losing Morris Claiborne for the season. Both injuries seem to be equally devastating for their respective teams.
Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu out 3-6 weeks (shoulder): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Like the Cowboys, the Cardinals sustained two important injuries Sunday. The difference, however, is that they didn't win the game. Besides, at 3-4-1, they don't exactly have the leeway to endure a multi-week injury like this.
Tyrann Mathieu wasn't having his best year because he's coming off a torn ACL, but he was still an important member of Arizona's secondary. Losing him for 3-6 weeks - really 2-5 weeks because the Cardinals are heading into their bye - will definitely hurt. Arizona has to begin winning to give itself a chance to make the playoffs. Beating the 49ers in Week 10 shouldn't be an issue, but traveling to Minnesota and Atlanta afterward without Mathieu will be pretty painful.
I'm grading this as a 4/10 because Mathieu could return right after the Atlanta contest. Besides, Arizona has a more-important injury...
Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne out indefinitely (groin tear): 7/10 Disaster Rating
Here's the injury the Cowboys should be worried about. It's currently feared that Morris Claiborne has torn his groin. If so, it's possible that he could be out for the season.
If true, this is obviously a devastating blow to Dallas' Super Bowl aspirations. Claiborne had been a major draft bust prior to this season, but he improved his play markedly in 2016. That is actually an understatement, as Claiborne has transformed into one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott get all the credit, but a major reason why Dallas is 6-1 right now is because of Claiborne's fantastic play. Without him, the Cowboys' pass defense is going to be much less potent.
This deserves a Disaster Grade like 7/10. If it's ruled that Claiborne's injury isn't as severe, I'll make adjustments, but it sounds as though this is a crushing hit for Dallas.
Cowboys S Barry Church out for a few weeks (broken arm): 3/10 Disaster Rating
The Cowboys sustained injuries to two key players in their victory Sunday night. Safety Barry Church was one of them, and he broke his arm.
This injury will hurt, but it's definitely not crushing. Church has played very well for the Cowboys, so he'll be missed as a key member of the secondary. However, the injury is just a broken arm, so Church should be back in a few weeks or perhaps a month. Dallas is well ahead of every other team in the NFC East, so it can afford to tread water for a while, especially with a game coming up against the Browns.
Broncos RB C.J. Anderson out for 8 weeks (knee): 3/10 Disaster Rating
It's possible that C.J. Anderson could be out for just a few weeks, which would warrant a 1/10 Disaster Grade. However, Ian Rapoport suggested that Anderson could miss the rest of the season, which obviously makes this more dire.
This injury is not crushing, however. That's because the Broncos have Devontae Booker waiting in the wings. Booker, a fourth-round rookie, has been very impressive thus far, and he's more than capable of taking over the starting duties.
I'm giving Denver a 3/10 because of depth, however. If Booker were to go down, the Broncos would have nothing at running back remaining (Kapri Bibbs would be the next man up). Thus, the Anderson injury has the potential to be damaging, but not at the moment.
Update: Anderson has been placed on injured reserve, but the Broncos will be fine without him as long as Booker stays healthy.
Dolphins S Reshad Jones out for season (shoulder): 4/10 Disaster Rating
As noted below, a reader reminded me that I forgot to issue a Disaster Grade for Reshad Jones' injury. I initially didn't have much motivation to write up a rating for this, given that the Dolphins were just 1-4 a couple of weeks ago, and then I forgot. Now 3-4, Miami has a legitimate chance to fight for a playoff spot, but will have to do that without its stud safety.
The Jones loss is seemingly pretty substantial. Jones, who tore his rotator cuff, will be out for the rest of the season. He was the top player in the Dolphins' secondary, by far. Miami hasn't missed him much yet, but they've battled an injured Ben Roethlisberger and Tyrod Taylor the past two weeks. The good news - and this is why I'm giving this just a 4/10 - is that the Dolphins take on just two great quarterbacks the rest of the year: Philip Rivers and Tom Brady. The rest of the list looks like this: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, Colin Kaepernick, Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer (not the same this year), Fitzpatrick and Taylor again.
It's possible the Dolphins could survive without Jones and continue to play well as long as the offensive line is healthy. However, there's not much hope against the better teams in the playoffs, though I don't think Miami had much of a chance with Ryan Tannehill anyway.
Dolphins RB Arian Foster announces retirement: 0/10 Disaster Rating
Arian Foster shocked everyone by suddenly announcing his retirement, but in hindsight, it's not too much of a surprise. Foster, who has been completely ineffective, cited his body breaking down as the reason. Foster has been on a horrible diet - the same one Colin Kaepernick has been on, prompting him to lose 20 pounds - so he can look to that as a reason why he hasn't been able to recover quickly.
This won't do any sort of harm for the Dolphins. In fact, it'll keep Adam Gase from wasting downs by giving the ball to Foster, who as the worst runner on Miami's roster. Foster, meanwhile, has interesting things to say, so I imagine he'll be on some TV network sometime soon.
By the way, a reader just reminded me that I never graded Reshad Jones, so I'll do that later tonight.
Packers RB Eddie Lacy out for 8 weeks (ankle surgery): 4/10 Disaster Rating
That escalated quickly. Eddie Lacy went from being considered questionable for Thursday's game 48 hours ago to being placed on injured reserve. The Packers, according to Adam Schefter, don't yet know if Lacy will be able to return for a potential playoff run.
It's a shame for Lacy, as he was enjoying a nice, bounce-back season. Lacy struggled with weight issues in 2015, but was back to his old self this year, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He failed to find the end zone, but he looked good running in between the 20s. He'll be missed, especially with James Starks also sidelined.
Lacy's absence will hurt, but I don't think it's especially damaging for the Packers, hence the 4/10 Disaster Grade. Green Bay has a stellar offensive line, so plugging in any running back until James Starks returns from his own injury in about a month should be able to work. It sounds like Ty Montgomery will get the majority of the workload until either Starks comes back or Knile Davis learns the offense, and I think that'll be good enough. It'll be a downgrade from Lacy, but the Packers have bigger fish to fry in terms of their other issues.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger out for 4-6 weeks (torn meniscus): 7/10 Disaster Rating
It was initially reported that Ben Roethlisberger would miss one, perhaps two games with a torn meniscus. A recent report by Chris Mortensen has contradicted that, as Mortensen is saying that Roethlisberger will be out four to six weeks.
I graded Roethlisberger's brief absence as a 4/10 Disaster Rating, as a loss to the Patriots would perhaps decide home-field advantage in the AFC. Now, I'm not sure the Steelers will even make the playoffs. If Roethlisberger can't return until Week 12 or 13, the Steelers could be out of it by then, especially considering the other injuries they have on the roster (Cameron Heyward, Ryan Shazier). The good news is that the other teams in the AFC North are shaky as well.
The Steelers have a miserable quarterbacking situation behind Roethlisberger. Landry Jones is perhaps the worst signal-caller in the NFL. He won't be able to win many games. If Pittsburgh believes Roethlisberger will be out for six weeks, or if he won't be 100 percent upon his return, the front office should consider trading for a veteran. Anyone would be a better option than Jones, who could really capsize the Steelers. That's why this is an 7/10 Disaster Grade, and it would be an 8/10 if the AFC North were in better shape.
Packers CB Sam Shields out for 8 weeks (concussion): 7/10 Disaster Rating
Sam Shields has been out since Week 2 with a concussion, and it's a major concern that he had to be placed on injured reserve. This is the fifth concussion of Shields' career, so it's not a complete surprise that it's taking him so long to return.
This obviously has long-term ramifications. We've seen players like Austin Collie have to step away from the NFL because of concussions, and Shields could have the same fate if this lengthy absence is any indication. Plus, even when he returns, the next concussion could knock him out for good.
This is definitely a dire situation for the Packers, though there's still a chance it turns out OK. Shields could at least return for a playoff run, which will be crucial considering his talent level and Green Bay's current dilemma at cornerback.
Jets WR Eric Decker out for season (torn rotator cuff): 6/10 Disaster Rating
I listed Eric Decker's injury as a 0/10 Disaster Grade a week ago because the Jets have no chance at making the playoffs, and that Decker would likely be ready for the start of the 2017 campaign. That, unfortunately, doesn't seem to be the case now.
It's been reported that Decker may not be ready for next year's opener. Decker can't undergo shoulder surgery until he recovers from his bum hip. This is obviously horrible news for the Jets, though it could be possible that Decker will be available a month into the 2017 season. That's just speculation, however, and it's not quite known when Decker will return to action at this point.
Texans CB Kevin Johnson to be placed on injured reserve (broken foot): 6/10 Disaster Rating
This is a tough break for the Texans, as they likely won't have Kevin Johnson available until 2017. Johnson reportedly will be placed on injured reserve after sustaining a broken foot.
Johnson, a 2015 first-round pick, had an average rookie campaign, but was playing very well this season. He'll be missed, especially considering the other injuries the Texans have sustained in their secondary.
Johnson figures to be ready for 2017, but the concern is that Johnson now has a history of foot injuries. This might start worrying Houston's front office, though perhaps Johnson will overcome those issues and continue to perform at a high level in 2017 and beyond.
Browns G Joel Bitonio out for 8 weeks (foot sprain): 0/10 Disaster Rating
This is the best sort of injury the Browns could have hoped for. Joel Bitonio's foot sprain is not career-threatening in the slightest, and he could potentially be 100 percent prior to the conclusion of his 8-week stint on injured reserve.
With no long-term ramifications, this injury will help Cleveland lose games, as Bitonio was one of the team's better offensive players. More losses means improved draft positioning, so the Browns will have a better chance of being in position to select DeShone Kizer, as seen in my 2017 NFL Mock Draft.
Eagles OT Lane Johnson suspended for 10 games (PEDs): 7/10 Disaster Rating
Lane Johnson has finally been suspended. He appealed, but couldn't prevail. He'll miss the next 10 games as a consequence.
This is a huge loss. Carson Wentz has been terrific thus far, but part of the reason why he's been so successful is because of the great pass protection he's received. Johnson had been one of the top right tackles in the NFL, but now there will be a huge decline in blocking. The Eagles don't have any sort of viable replacement for Johnson.
Johnson's suspension has long-term ramifications as well. If Johnson tests positive again, it'll be his third violation, and that would come with a year-long ban. That's a major reason why this Disaster Rating is so high even though Johnson will be available for a potential playoff run this season.
Vikings OT Andre Smith out for 8 weeks (triceps): 1/10 Disaster Rating
Andre Smith got hurt last Monday night during he team's victory against the Giants. Seven days later, it was announced that Andre Smith would be out eight weeks with torn triceps.
This injury would be irrelevant if it actually weren't a blessing in disguise. Smith had been horrible as Minnesota's starting right tackle. His replacement, Jeremiah Sirles, has been much better thus far. Granted, it's a very small sample size, but Sirles definitely appears to be a possible upgrade. If so, Smith may never start again.
The only reason this isn't a 0/10 is because of depth concerns. However, this may help Minnesota's offense improve as the season progresses.
Cardinals G Evan Mathis out for 8 weeks (knee): 5/10 Disaster Rating
This is a pretty substantial loss for the Cardinals. They brought in Evan Mathis to solidify the interior of the offensive line, and Mathis was doing a good job of that when on the field in the first four weeks. Mathis, however, won't be around for at least the next two months with an ankle injury.
Mathis, 35 in November, is no longer the elite blocker he once was, but he was still one of the better guards in the NFL. The Cardinals will miss him greatly as they attempt to dig out of their 2-3 hole. The one silver lining, however, is that Mathis could return in late December, perhaps just in time for a potential playoff run. There's a chance he may not make it back though, and what if the Cardinals aren't even in position to reach the postseason as a result of Mathis' injury? I think this deserves a 5/10 Disaster Grade, and it could arguably be higher.
Buccaneers RB Charles Sims out for 8 weeks (knee): 2/10 Disaster Rating
This came out of nowhere, as it sounded like Charles Sims had a small chance to play Monday night. Apparently not, as Sims will miss the next eight weeks with a knee injury.
I don't think this hurts too much, as Doug Martin is set to return following the Week 6 bye. Sure, Tampa will miss Sims' pass-catching ability, but Martin can partly make up for that, as can Jacquizz Rodgers. It's obviously a downgrade from Sims to Rodgers, but it's not nearly the worst thing that could've happened to the Buccaneers.
Chargers CB Jason Verrett out for season (broken fibula): 5/10 Disaster Rating
Jason Verrett started the season extremely well, smothering talented receivers like Allen Robinson, Brandin Cooks and Jeremy Maclin in three of his first four games. Unfortunately for Verrett, he partly tore his ACL and will be out for the year.
The Chargers are 1-3 right now, and their playoff hopes are obviously dwindling. They could be 4-0 right now if it weren't for numerous mistakes late in contests. However, they've sustained so many injuries that it's going to be very difficult for them to climb out of the hole they've dug themselves into.
Here's yet another injury, and it might be the final nail in the coffin. Verrett will be a big loss, and his ACL tear would be higher in terms of this Disaster Grading, but I think a 5/10 rating is appropriate because the Chargers' playoff hopes were already beginning to be diminished. The silver lining in this is that Verrett only partially tore his ACL, so it sounds like he'll be ready to roll come 2017.
Bears WR Kevin White out 8 weeks (broken fibula): 3/10 Disaster Rating
The Bears obviously have no chance of making the playoffs, thanks to all of the injuries they've incurred this year. Thus, another injury would ordinarily have zero impact on their season and would actually be beneficial in terms of their placing in the draft order. Speaking of, I've updated my 2017 NFL Mock Draft today.
At any rate, this warrants some sort of a Disaster Grade because Kevin White's development continues to slow down with all of these injuries. He missed all of 2015, and now he'll be out for a big chunk of this season. Assuming White is only out eight weeks, he'll have been absent 24 of the first 28 games of his career. Perhaps this won't matter in the long run, but the Bears have to begin worrying a bit.
Cardinals CB/S Tyvon Branch out 8 weeks (sports hernia): 4/10 Disaster Rating
The Cardinals have lost three of their first four contests and happen to be two games behind the Seahawks and Rams, so there's not a lot of room for error going forward. Thus, every injury that occurs will be magnified until Arizona stabilizes.
Tyvon Branch's sports hernia isn't an enormous deal, but it'll hurt. He's a solid member of Arizona's secondary, which already had problems at cornerback prior to Marcus Cooper replacing Brandon Williams a couple of weeks ago. Tyrann Mathieu will probably have to slide into Branch's spot, opening up a liability at safety.
I think I'd normally grade this as a 3/10, but because the Cardinals are 1-3, I'm willing to bump this up to a 4/10 Disaster Grade.
49ers ILB NaVorro Bowman out for season (torn Achilles): 6/10 Disaster Rating
I'd give the 49ers a 0/10 Disaster Grade for any injury that doesn't have long-term ramifications. They obviously have no chance of making the playoffs, so each loss is better for them, as they can improve their draft positioning. I currently have them taking a quarterback in my 2017 NFL Mock Draft.
This, however, could have long-term effects. NaVorro Bowman tore his Achilles, which is a tough injury to come back from in less than a year. It's possible that he may not be ready for the 2017 opener. Bowman has proven to be a slow healer - it took him two years to fully return from a knee tear - so this is another injury he'll have to overcome. Bowman struggled in 2015, but was great this season, so it's a shame to see him sustain another injury.
I could be making something out of nothing, but that doesn't seem to be the case. It's possible that Bowman will return fully healthy, but I think it's more likely that he won't be 100 percent ever again, given that he could be out of his prime by the time he completely gets over his torn Achilles.
Bills WR Sammy Watkins out 8 weeks (foot): 4/10 Disaster Rating
I think the Bills are at that point where any injury warrants a zero Disaster Grade as long as it doesn't have any long-term ramifications. Sammy Watkins is obviously an extremely talented player, but it doesn't really matter if he's out for eight weeks because the Bills have very slim playoff aspirations.
There's some good news here, as Watkins doesn't need surgery. All he needs is time to heal, and he'll have two months to do so. He'll likely return in Week 12, though he could be playing for a new head coach by then.
Update: Now that the Bills' have revived their season, this Disaster Grade has risen. Watkins will be back in seven weeks potentially, so it's not the end of the world, but his absence will hurt.
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant out 1-2 weeks (knee): 2/10 Disaster Rating
When it was reported that Dez Bryant had a hairline fracture in his knee, I'm sure Dallas fans feared the worst. I personally expected Bryant to miss several weeks, but now it sounds like that won't be the case. Bryant reportedly had great feedback from Dr. James Andrews, and now it sounds like he may only miss one week.
An extended absence from Bryant would've warranted a Disaster Grade of 6/10 or higher, as he's Dak Prescott's only dynamic downfield threat. Bryant's absence would've allowed teams to play closer to the line of scrimmage, where they'd focus on stuffing Ezekiel Elliott. If Bryant is only out for this San Francisco game, the Cowboys will be fine. At least their offense will be.
I'm giving this a 3/10 Disaster Grade. It could be argued down to a 2/10, but I'd be a bit worried if Bryant returns too early and aggravates the injury, but it sounds like he'll be fine for Week 5 and beyond.
Cowboys G La'el Collins out 8 weeks (toe): 2/10 Disaster Rating
The Cowboys are touted as having one of the top offensive lines in the NFL, but they have two liabilities up front. One is right tackle Doug Free, who has been declining. The other is at one of the guard spots, where La'el Collins was struggling immensely.
Collins is a major talent, but he had been woeful in pass protection. Perhaps it was because of his toe problem, or maybe it's because he still needs to be developed. Regardless, Ronald Leary should be an upgrade in the short term. Leary isn't very good, but he's not horrible either.
This would be a 1/10 Disaster Rating, but the concern is what'll happen if Leary or Zack Martin goes down; the Cowboys will suddenly be very thin in the interior.
Colts DE/OLB Trent Cole out for 8 weeks (back): 3/10 Disaster Rating
I'm going to be cleaning up some Disaster Grades I didn't have time to post earlier in the week...
As if the Colts needed another injury to their defense, which has been in shambles. Trent Cole was placed on injured reserve, meaning he might be able to return in two months.
This isn't a huge loss, as Cole is a declining player who failed to regiser a sack this season. He was rotating with Robert Mathis, so he'll be missed in terms of depth purposes. Depth is the real issue here, as Indianapolis is very thin on this side of the ball. A 3/10 Disaster Rating seems appropriate for that reason.
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory suspended 10 more games: 7/10 Disaster Rating
Randy Gregory was suspended for four games, so like Josh Gordon, he was due back following this week. That's not the case anymore, as Gregory has been suspended for 10 more contests on top of that, meaning he's set to return in Week 16.
Gregory's life is an absolute mess. Teams were so concerned with his off-the-field issues that they avoided a top-five talent in the second round, and they're looking very smart right now. Gregory is one more infraction away from being banned indefinitely, and based on his history, it's probable that he'll get into trouble prior to the penultimate week of the 2016 campaign.
Gregory's absence will be very painful. The Cowboys have an awful front seven incapable of putting any pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Gregory's return was supposed to change that, but he won't be back for a while now (if at all).
Browns WR Josh Gordon enters rehab: 5/10 Disaster Rating
It seemed as though Josh Gordon would return in Week 5 following his four-game suspension. That will obviously not happen now, as Gordon has decided to enter rehab. In a statement, he said that he's stepping away from "pursuing my return to the Browns and my football career."
This is obviously a blow to the Browns. Not that they were going to make the playoffs or anything, but Gordon was a blue-chip weapon they thought they'd have going forward for whichever quarterback they decide to select next April (Deshaun Watson in my 2017 NFL Mock Draft.)
It was hard for me to come up with a grade for this. The Browns have Corey Coleman and Terrelle Pryor as dynamic offensive play-makers, so it's not like they desperately needed Gordon. Plus, if Gordon never returns, the Browns won't ever have to worry about him getting into trouble again. So, on one hand, it's a relief. On the other hand, it really hurts to lose such a talented player. I think a 5/10 Disaster Grade sounds about right, but I'd listen to arguments for a different rating.
Texans DE/DT J.J. Watt out indefinitely (back): 11/10 Disaster Rating
Wow, what a crushing blow. J.J. Watt re-injured his surgically repaired back, and consequently will be out indefinitely, quite possibly the rest of the season, according to Ian Rapoport.
It goes without saying that this is horrible news. Watt hadn't played all that well through three games, but there was hope that he'd get healthier each week and eventually return to his former self during the playoff run. Now, that's highly unlikely to happen, as it sounds like Watt won't be available until 2017, at the earliest.
This is a shame, as we may not see the most dominant defensive player in the NFL at his best ever again. Back injuries linger, and Watt may never fully recover. He even began discussing retirement this past offseason, so with that in his mind, he may decide to stop playing if he thinks he can never be 100 percent ever again.
This injury is so horrible for the Texans that the Disaster Grade needs to be higher than a 10/10. This is a potential franchise-killer, as Houston's Super Bowl aspirations - not just this year, but over the next few seasons - now appear to have vanished.
Redskins S DeAngelo Hall out for season (torn ACL): 6/10 Disaster Rating
This is a pretty substantial loss for the Redskins. DeAngelo Hall was a valuable member of the team's secondary. His days of playing cornerback were over, but he made a smooth transition to safety. Now, Washington will have to move on without Hall.
Hall tore his ACL, and it's fair to wonder if he'll ever be the same. Hall turns 33 in November, so beginning next season, he'll be a soon-to-be 34-year-old coming off a brutal knee injury. Hall should be able to make it back for the beginning of the 2016 campaign, but will he be 100 percent? That's a legitimate concern.
I think this warrants a 6/10 Disaster Grade. It'd be far worse if Hall were a more important member of the team, such as Jordan Reed, Trent Williams or Ryan Kerrigan, but he will certainly be missed, and long-term concerns are factored in.
Bears RB Jeremy Langford out 4-6 weeks (ankle): 0/10 Disaster Rating
It doesn't matter who gets injured for the Bears anymore. Unless it's an injury that'll linger beyond this season - i.e. a torn patellar tendon - it'll be a 0/10 Disaster Grade each time.
The Bears need to lose. They have to ensure that they'll land the top quarterback prospect possible. Besides, this could be a blessing in disguise, as it'll give promising rookie Jordan Howard an opportunity.
Giants RB Shane Vereen out for season (triceps): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Shane Vereen had been getting a healthy workload with Rashad Jennings out, but that won't be the case anymore because Vereen has been lost for the season with a triceps injury.
This hurts, as Vereen was an important part of the offense. Vereen was running the ball a healthy amount and also serving as a potent receiver out of the backfield; an illegal contact he drew versus the Redskins led to a touchdown. Not being able to have Vereen as a versatile weapon will diminish the offense.
This is not a season-ender for the Giants, as they could still win the division without Vereen. That said, their chances have certainly decreased, as Orleans Darwka and Bobby Rainey will be asked to handle the workload until Jennings returns, and even then, Eli Manning will miss having Vereen as a passing-game option.
Chargers ILB Manti Te'o out for season (torn Achilles): 0/10 Disaster Rating
And another Charger goes down. I don't know why San Diego sustains so many injuries, but its players have been dropping like flies over the past few years. Manti Te'o is the latest one, as he suffered a torn Achilles against the Colts.
This injury is not a big deal. Te'o is a big name, but he was not playing well whatsoever this year. He was actually a liability, so having him off the field could actually help improve the defense. The Chargers have a couple of rookies in Joshua Perry and Jatavis Brown that they could try in Te'o's spot, so this could actually be a blessing in disguise.
Te'o's torn Achilles will warrant a 0/10 Disaster Grade. It's a huge deal for Te'o, who happens to be in his contract year, but San Diego's defense won't absorb any sort of decline in his absence.
Browns QB Josh McCown out several weeks (broken clavicle): 0/10 Disaster Rating
This is late, but it's a Disaster Grade I forgot to write up. An e-mailer asked me to grade this, so here we are.
This has to be a 0/10. Josh McCown gave the Browns the best chance of winning games. Cody Kessler, on the other hand, can't possibly win more than a contest or two over an entire season. Given that the Eagles seem like they won't finish with a poor record, the Browns losing out is their only chance of landing DeShone Kizer, the presumed No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. That's what I currently have happening in my 2017 NFL Mock Draft as of this momen.
Patriots QB Jacoby Brissett out indefinitely (thumb surgery): 0/10 Disaster Rating
Everyone doubted the Patriots, but they were able to upset the Texans with Jacoby Brissett. The third-round rookie made some mistakes, but played well overall considering the circumstances. Brissett was set to make one more start before Tom Brady returned from suspension, but that no longer is the case. Brissett will miss Week 4 because of a thumb injury that will require surgery.
This hurts Brissett, as he would've gotten to pad his resume with an easy victory over the horrific Bills. As for the Patriots, it's irrelevant. Bill Belichick can start an 85-year-old grandma and still have success. It's unclear whom he'll go with. He could just have the injured Jimmy Garoppolo hand the ball off every play. He could sign someone - check out the NFL Free Agent Quarterback Rankings. Or, he could be completely arrogant and just allow Julian Edelman to play under center. Even if he does that, he'll still probably win, as the Bills are a joke.
This is an easy 0/10 Disaster Grade. If Brady weren't returning in one week, I'd consider a positive number, but the Patriots are still likely to improve to 4-0 without Brissett.
Browns WR Corey Coleman out 4-6 weeks (broken hand): 1/10 Disaster Rating
Oh, the Browns! This could only happen to them. Corey Coleman had a breakout game against the Ravens, only to break his hand in practice several days later. It's unclear how long Coleman will be out just yet (update: 4-6 weeks), but it's safe to say that he'll miss extended action since, you know, he actually has to catch passes with his hand.
This obviously isn't a big deal for anyone outside of Coleman fantasy owners, but even they didn't expect much with Cody Kessler at quarterback. The Browns, meanwhile, aren't going anywhere, so Coleman's absence could actually help them secure the No. 1 overall pick, which is what I have happening in my 2017 NFL Mock Draft.
This easily could've earn a 0/10 Disaster Grade. I'm giving it a 1/10 because as a rookie, Coleman needs reps and such, but I don't think his career will be hurt at all by this injury.
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson out for 3-4 months (torn meniscus): 8/10 Disaster Rating
So much for Adrian Peterson being out for a short period of time! It was initially speculated that Peterson would miss two or so games, but Josina Anderson has reported that Peterson will miss a minimum of three to four months with his torn meniscus.
And that sound you're hearing is Viking fans collectively slamming their heads against the wall. Then again, that fan base is used to having terrible luck, so maybe that's something else.
This is a shame. The Vikings seemed prime for a deep playoff run, especially with how well Sam Bradford adjusted to his new team. Peterson being out changes that. I still think the Vikings could win a game in the postseason, but a Super Bowl now seems out of the question.
Granted, Peterson averaged just 1.6 yards per carry in 2016, but his presence on the field greatly impacted what teams were doing. Defenses had eight, nine, or sometimes even 10 men in the box to stop him, and that gave Shaun Hill and Bradford more opportunities to connect on downfield passes. Bradford took great advantage of that, but now, the opposition will be able to focus on stopping him and emerging receiver Stefon Diggs.
The Vikings should still be able to win anywhere between nine and 11 games with Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata splitting the workload along with the newly signed Ronnie Hillman, thanks to their great defense, but Peterson being out changes their ultimate goal.
Vikings OT Matt Kalil out 8 weeks (hip): 3/10 Disaster Rating
A team losing its quarterback, running back and left tackle to significant injuries would ordinarily be in deep trouble, but Minnesota is not. It says a lot about the talent the Vikings have assembled. They still have a chance to win some games in the playoffs because of their stellar defense.
You'd think a team's blind-side protector going down would warrant a higher Disaster Grade than 3/10, but here's the thing: Matt Kalil sucks! Kalil began his career well, but regressed tremendously. He was downright awful in two games this year. Perhaps this was because of his troublesome hip, but regardless, he was a human turnstile and will not be missed in the slightest. Former fourth-round pick T.J. Clemmings can't be much worse as a replacement.
So, why is this a 3/10 and not anything lower? Quite simply, for depth purposes. If Clemmings or Andre Smith goes down, the Vikings will have major issues. But if Kalil is the only tackle who's out of the lineup, it's not a huge deal.
Buccaneers RB Doug Martin out 3 weeks (hamstring): 2/10 Disaster Rating
Doug Martin told the media that he only tweaked his hamstring in the blowout loss to the Cardinals. So much for that! Martin apparently has a severe strain and a possible tear. He'll miss about three weeks.
I don't think this injury is a big deal. That's because Charles Sims has shown a lot of ability, and I think he can be a solid replacement for Martin in the short term. I didn't really see Martin running all that well versus Tampa's next three opponents (Rams, Broncos, Panthers), so the Buccaneers were likely to utilize Sims a lot as a pass-catcher out of the backfield anyway.
By the way, all of these running back injuries just goes to show that targeting receivers in the early rounds of fantasy drafts is the best strategy. I wouldn't completely avoid running backs - certainly take one if the value is there - but I'd prioritize receivers instead.
Lions RB Ameer Abdullah out 8 weeks (foot): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Ameer Abdullah has been placed on injured reserve with some sort of a foot injury. Per the new rules, however, he can be activated in eight weeks. It's unclear though how severe it is, and Abdullah could be lost for the season.
The popular consensus is that the Lions are one of the worst teams in the league, but I disagreed with that. I thought they could contend for a playoff spot, but Abdullah's injury is a somewhat substantial hit to Detroit's postseason aspirations. Abdullah is a talented back who ran circles around the Colts in Week 1. He has plenty of ability, but hasn't been able to stay healthy. He's now been banged up in his two seasons, so it's fair to start wondering if the Lions drafted a lemon in the second round of the 2015 class.
That said, I don't think this is necessary the end for the Lions. They still have Theo Riddick, and rookie Dwayne Washington has shown some ability. Thus, I'll give the Lions a 4/10 Disaster Grade. I was close to making this a 5/10 though.
Colts WR Donte Moncrief out 4-6 weeks (fractured scapula): 2/10 Disaster Rating
The Colts have many problems. They can't block, run the ball, stop the rush, put pressure on the quarterback or cover anyone. Receiving depth, however, is not an issue.
Donte Moncrief is a good player, and not having him around for about a month will hurt a bit, but I don't see much changing without him. Indianapolis will have its same problems, while Phillip Dorsett will see an uptick in targets with Moncrief out of the lineup.
One other thing to note: If there's a silver lining here, it's that Moncrief's injury won't require surgery at all. He just needs to rest.
Bears QB Jay Cutler, NT Eddie Goldman, DE/OLB Lamarr Houston, ILB Danny Trevathan all to be out: 0/10 Disaster Rating
Chicago's Monday night loss to the Eagles was a blood bath. Not because of the final score, but because of all the injuries the Bears endured. Jay Cutler, Eddie Goldman, Lamarr Houston and Danny Trevathan were just a handful of players to get knocked out of the game. They'll all miss action in the future, with Houston suffering the worst of it (torn ACL).
I've decided to group all of these injuries into one Disaster Grade - a 0/10.
I've listed four talented players, so how can this be a 0/10? Because it doesn't matter anymore. The Bears, now 0-2, won't be able to win more than a couple of games the rest of the way. And that's fine, because they need to rebuild. They have to move on from Cutler, and bottoming out is a great way to do so because it might put them in position to select DeShone Kizer, whom we have atop our 2017 NFL Draft Quarterback Prospect Rankings.
Also, make sure to check out our updated 2017 NFL Mock Draft tomorrow to see which signal-caller the Bears end up with. It won't be Kizer. At least not yet.
Seahawks fined $400,000 and lose 2017 fifth-round pick: 3/10 Disaster Rating
I thought I'd make note of this amid all of the injuries. The NFL determined Monday that the Seahawks were guilty of excessive workouts during the offseason. The lazy players didn't want many contact practices, but Seattle decided not to listen. The Seahawks have been docked a fifth-round pick on top of a $400,000 fine.
I can't speak for the Seahawks' financial details, but losing out on a fifth-round pick probably deserves a 3/10 Disaster Grade. The Seahawks draft extremely well in the middle rounds, so they could potentially lose out on a solid starter because of this penalty. Then again, perhaps the fifth-rounder wouldn't amount to anything. We'll never know, I guess.
This penalty will hurt Seattle a bit, but it's not a franchise-killer, or anything close to that. I think a 3/10 rating is pretty fair.
Chargers RB Danny Woodhead out for season (torn ACL): 4/10 Disaster Rating
If the Chargers had fans, I'd ask which one of them desecrated an Indian burial ground. San Diego has endured some of the worst injury luck ever over the past several years, and now Danny Woodhead has become the latest victim. He's lost for the year with a torn ACL.
While it seems like this should be graded highly, I'm only going to give San Diego a 4/10 because I didn't anticipate the Chargers making a deep push into the playoffs without Keenan Allen. Besides, Melvin Gordon is more than capable of being utilized in an every-down role. He's not the pass-catcher Woodhead is, but Gordon needed to be on the field more anyway.
I actually had the urge to give the Chargers a 2/10 or 3/10, but what if Woodhead loses his explosiveness as a result of this injury and isn't the same going forward? That's certainly a possibility.
Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo out for 3-4 weeks (shoulder): 2/10 Disaster Rating
This seemed a lot worse at the time because Jimmy Garoppolo was having the game of his life against the Dolphins. It's a shame he sustained a shoulder injury, but it doesn't really matter all that much for the Patriots.
Garoppolo might be out for 3-4 weeks, but it's effectively just two games because Tom Brady will return after that. The Patriots, in a worst-case scenario, will be 2-2 after four games, which isn't that bad. However, they battle the Bills in Week 4, so they're likely to be 3-1 at the very least.
I had this as a 1/10 Disaster Grade, but I changed it to 2/10 because of the Texans possibly holding the tie-breaker in the unlikely event that these two teams have the same record heading into the playoffs. I don't really see that happening though, but it's still a possibility.
Texans ILB Brian Cushing out for 6 weeks (torn MCL): 3/10 Disaster Rating
I somehow forgot to type up a Disaster Grade for this. Brian Cushing sustained a torn MCL this past Sunday and isn't expected to return until late October or early November.
I don't think this is a huge deal. Cushing has been a declining player for a while now, and he doesn't seem like he has much more time on Houston's roster. He's due $8.5 million in 2018, so next year could be his final season, if he even makes it that far.
This is not a zero or one out of 10 because of depth issues, as well as Cushing's leadership on the football field. The Texans will miss that, but I don't think there's that much of a talent downgrade to Max Bullough.
Cardinals G Evan Mathis out 1-4 weeks (sprained foot): 5/10 Disaster Rating
This is a pretty substantial loss for the Cardinals. An absence of 1-4 weeks may not sound horrible at first glance, but Mathis missing a whole month and then potentially returning at less than 100 percent would be devastating.
Mathis is Arizona's top lineman, and he'll be missed. Carson Palmer has regressed thus far, and he needs all the help he can get at this stage of his career. Even still, Palmer is Arizona's best shot at reaching the Super Bowl, by far, as Drew Stanton was miserable this preseason. Mathis being out of the lineup makes the possibility stronger that the injury-prone Palmer will get hurt at some point.
Perhaps this won't be a big deal. It's possible that Mathis will come back strong after missing one or two games. However, the downside of this is overwhelming, so I have to give this a 5/10 Disaster Rating.
Saints CB Delvin Breaux out for 6 weeks (broken leg): 6/10 Disaster Rating
The Saints are not a very good football team, thanks to their woeful defense, but they had some players on that side of the ball who are very good. One was Delvin Breaux, but he won't be around until late October at the earliest.
Breaux was New Orleans' top cornerback by far, so he'll be missed. With receivers like Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones and Kelvin Benjamin on the horizon, the Saints are going to have trouble forcing any sort of punts. It could be argued that the Saints wouldn't make the playoffs anyway, but considering every team in the NFC South, save for the Buccaneers, lost in Week 1, they at least had a chance to make some noise. That's not the case anymore.
Browns QB Robert Griffin out for 8 weeks (shoulder): 0/10 Disaster Rating
No one is surprise by this outside of the Browns, who passed on Carson Wentz because they believed in Robert Griffin. At some point, the Browns should begin acting like George Costanza and just doing the opposite of their natural instinct. They'd win a Super Bowl in no time using this tactic.
This is an obvious 0/10 rating. Griffin is horrible, and Josh McCown is the better option. McCown will actually use Gary Barnidge, whereas Griffin was too incompetent to get the ball to his talented tight end.
It's worth noting that McCown might help the Browns win some games, putting them out of position for DeShone Kizer - see my 2017 NFL Mock Draft here - but Cleveland is so devoid of talent, it might be difficult for them to win any games.
Chargers WR Keenan Allen out for season (torn ACL): 8/10 Disaster Rating
It's not official yet, but the Chargers fear that Keenan Allen sustained a torn ACL on his non-contact injury versus the Chiefs in the second quarter. I'm going to grade this as a torn ACL, with Allen presumably out for the year, but if anything changes, I'll post an update.
This definitely sucks for the Chargers, who get an 8/10 Disaster Grade. Allen being lost severely limits the offense, as everyone saw in Week 1. The Chargers were up 24-3, but couldn't muster any semblance of offense once Allen left the game. That's a sign of things to come, as Allen is so important to that passing attack.
Honestly, this grade could be higher than 8/10, but I'll keep it that way because Allen sustained the injury so early in the year that he'll likely be ready for the start of 2017. Still, it's a double-whammy, as Allen's injury not only hurts the team going forward, but it also prompted the loss to Kansas City, as San Diego probably would've prevailed had Allen remained on the field.
49ers FB/TE Bruce Miller arrested (assault): 0/10 Disaster Rating
Here's more trouble for the worst-run organization in the NFL. Bruce Miller, a versatile player who can do a bit of everything, has been arrested in a strange story in which he assaulted a 70-year-old man and his son at a hotel.
Miller could lose his roster spot for this, though he could perhaps save himself by turning into a communist like his oppressed teammate. Ordinarily, I'd give something like this a 3/10 or 4/10, as Miller's release would hurt, but the 49ers have a zero percent of even having any sort of hope for the playoffs, so anything that helps them earn the No. 1 pick in April's draft - check out my 2017 NFL Mock Draft here - is a plus.
Then again, I'm not even sure Deshaun Watson could save this train wreck of a franchise.
Steelers place DE/OLB Bud Dupree on injured reserve (groin): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Bud Dupree, a second-year rush linebacker out of Kentucky, has been placed on injured reserve. He's not out for the year just yet, as he's eligible to return Week 9.
This injury will hurt the Steelers, but I don't think it's particularly devastating. Dupree tallied three sacks in his first five games last year, but didn't do much after that. He admitted that he hit a rookie wall and felt sluggish at the end of the season. He was down to 254 pounds at the beginning of training camp, but was attempting to come back too early from his injury, and it cost him.
I think a 4/10 Disaster Grade works. Dupree's absence is a downgrade for Pittsburgh's defense unless Jarvis Jones steps up, which is unlikely. It's also unclear how much Dupree would've contributed. However, it's sounding like Dupree will return for the second half of the year, so the Steelers could be near full strength for the stretch run.
49ers lose QB Jeff Driskel on waivers (stupidity): 2/10 Disaster Rating
The 49ers waiving Jeff Driskel was a bit of a surprise, given that they talked him up all offseason. Driskel had two disastrous showings in the preseason, but played relatively well in the other two contests. He was the only young, promising quarterback on the 49ers' roster, and the front office was hoping to stash him on the practice squad.
San Francisco underrated Driskel's appeal, as the Bengals quickly snatched him off waivers. The 49ers now have no long-term hope at quarterback.
This is probably irrelevant. Driskel has some talent, but he's unlikely to pan out in the NFL. I just wanted to write this to once again point out the utter stupidity of Trent Baalke. I don't understand the logic behind getting rid of a quarterback, or any other player you like while keeping someone else at the position who can't play well and is black-balled by the rest of the league. Retaining Communist Kaepernick is right up there on the list of dumbest things Baalke has ever done, and that's saying a lot because he has been guilty of many stupid things over the years.
Packers cut G Josh Sitton (contract dispute): 6/10 Disaster Rating
When the Packers released Josh Sitton, one of the best guards in the NFL, my mind raced through the possibilities. Did Sitton sustain a career-ending injury? Was he arrested for a serious crime? Did he refuse to stand for the national anthem? All three seemed like viable explanations for the Packers to cut ties with one of their top players.
As it turns out, Green Bay cut Sitton because of a contract dispute.
I... I just don't know where to start. It seems absolutely ridiculous for Ted Thompson to penalize his own team because he couldn't agree to terms with Sitton. The Packers have a very strong shot of winning the Super Bowl this year, but now they'll have to claim the Lombardi Trophy without Sitton while traversing a very strong NFC. It can be done, but Green Bay has effectively handicapped itself.
If you disagree with my assessment that this was a stupid move, consider this: Had the Packers kept Sitton and lost him to free agency after this year, they would've received a compensatory pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Now, they'll get nothing. I just don't get it.
For the other 31 teams, they're undoubtedly excited for the opportunity to sign Sitton - you can check out my NFL Free Agent Guard Rankings to see where I've slotted him - and now that it's clear that Sitton is not a criminal or a communist, any squad can sign him without any concerns. I have to believe that the Patriots, Seahawks, Colts and Buccaneers are playoff-caliber teams that would be highly interested.
Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater suffers non-contact knee injury in practice: 11/10 Disaster Rating
I wasn't aware if I've ever given out 10/10 Disaster Grades before. I have, twice. This, however, seems worse, hence the unprecedented 11/10. If you haven't heard, Teddy Bridgewater sustained a non-contact knee injury in Tuesday's practice. Players were cursing and throwing helmets, and the team ended practice early. An ambulance was also called.
If Bridgewater's knee injury is what everyone fears, this is the end of the Vikings' season. Minnesota will still be competitive, as it possesses one of the NFL's top defenses, a solid offensive line and a strong running game. However, Shaun Hill, while being a savvy veteran, is not equipped to lead the Vikings deep into the playoffs.
If Bridgewater is out for the year, this is a huge shame for the franchise, as it had legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. In fact, I'm working on my NFL Power Rankings now, and I slotted Minnesota at No. 2, only behind the Packers. They'll slide down to around 10-12 if Bridgewater is out for the year.
Once Bridgewater's status is known, I'll have updates.
Update: Bridgewater has a torn ACL and a dislocated left knee. The Vikings' worst fears have come to fruition, as Bridgewater is out for the season. Minnesota's Super Bowl aspirations are completely gone. Even worse, there's no guarantee Bridgewater will be ready or 100 percent for 2017. This is absolutely horrible news, making the 11/10 Disaster Grade warranted.
49ers WR Bruce Ellington out for the season (hamstring): 1/10 Disaster Rating
We found out during the Live Fantasy Football Mock Draft that Bruce Ellington was out for the year. It's a shame, as Ellington was an intriguing late-round fantasy sleeper.
This obviously hurts the 49ers' ability to win games; they were already thin at receiver, so they're so much worse there now. Ellington was one of Blaine Gabbert's favorite receivers in training camp, so San Francisco's already-miserable offense won't even be able to reach its full potential, which is just sad.
Under normal circumstances, this would warrant a 4/10 grade; perhaps even a 5/10. However, the 49ers had no chance of making the playoffs, so this will help them earn the No. 1 pick in the draft. You can check out my 2017 NFL Mock Draft here.
Chiefs DE/OLB Justin Houston placed on PUP list (knee): 7/10 Disaster Rating
While we're waiting on the Teddy Bridgewater news, there are some other injuries to discuss...
I know some readers were hoping that Justin Houston would return early, but it's now official that it won't happen for him. Justin Houston has been placed on the PUP list, meaning he'll be eligible to return to action Week 8 at the very earliest.
This is not a season-ender for the Chiefs, but it's definitely a crushing blow. Save for J.J. Watt, Houston is in the conversation as the best defensive player in the NFL. His absence will have a huge impact on the defense, which will still be good, but it won't be nearly as dominant. I wish I could post some convincing statistics that the Chiefs' defense declined last year without Houston, but some of the quarterbacks they battled down the stretch without Houston were Ryan Mallett, Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer. Derek Carr was also there twice, but Amari Cooper was injured by that point, hindering Oakland's offense.
I think a 7/10 Disaster Grade is appropriate. The AFC West is highly contested, as all four teams have a legitimate chance to claim the divisional crown. If Houston's absence results in two extra losses, that could have a huge impact on Kansas City's playoff chances.
Ravens TE Ben Watson out for season (torn Achilles): 2/10 Disaster Rating
The last thing the Ravens want to see are injuries after what transpired last year. Well, it's deja vu all over again, apparently, as Ben Watson sustained a torn Achilles on the first play of the third preseason game.
This is horrible for Watson, but Baltimore happens to be pretty deep at tight end. The team has Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams on the roster, and any one of those players can be viable replacements. I get that Pitta and Williams are hurt now, but they'll be back eventually.
I actually didn't understand that Watson signing to begin with. I thought he was an overrated free agent, as he had done nothing in the passing game prior to playing with Drew Brees. Joe Flacco is not Brees, so Watson was going to regress had he remained healthy. I didn't even think he was an upgrade over Gillmore. Thus, I'm giving this just a 2/10 Disaster Grade.
Cowboys QB Tony Romo out indefinitely (broken bone in back): 6/10 Disaster Rating
Tony Romo thought his back was just tight when he was tackled awkwardly in the first quarter against the Seahawks. He even tried to reenter the game despite grimacing on the sideline. And then, he woke up the following morning and had trouble getting out of bed. He underwent an MRI, which showed that he has a broken bone in his back.
Romo has been ruled out indefinitely, though he's not necessarily done for the season. Jason Garrett told the media that he expects Romo to return at some point during the year. However, Romo may not be 100 percent, as back injuries tend to be very serious.
The exact Disaster Grade this deserves depends on how much you believe in Dak Prescott. I am definitely a firm believer. As I've written in my NFL Preseason Recaps, Prescott is the most impressive rookie quarterback I've ever seen in the preseason. However, the fact remains that he's just a rookie, so it's extremely unlikely that he'll be able to lead Dallas deep into the playoffs in his first year; Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger and the like were able to win postseason contests, but failed to reach the Super Bowl.
I still think the Cowboys will be competitive with Prescott, but their Super Bowl prospects definitely took a big hit. However, I'm giving this a 6/10 Disaster Rating instead of a 9/10 or 10/10 because I like Prescott, and there's a chance - albeit a small one - that Romo can return at full strength.
Falcons S Keanu Neal out for 3-4 weeks (knee scope): 2/10 Disaster Rating
This injury could've been a lot worse. When Keanu Neal was helped off the field Thursday night, there was speculation that he could be done for the year. As it turns out, he'll only miss 3-4 weeks with a minor knee procedure.
Neal's absence will hurt in theory the first two weeks; the Falcons take on the Buccaneers and Raiders to open the year, so they won't have their first-round safety against Mike Evans and Amari Cooper. However, there's no telling how effective Neal will be. We haven't seen him in real action just yet, and while he was the No. 17 overall selection, some teams considered him to be a second-round prospect, so it's not like he was guaranteed to make an instant impact.
I think a 2/10 Disaster Rating is appropriate. The Falcons will want Neal on the field, but a 2-week absence shouldn't be a big deal, especially without truly knowing how Neal will perform.
Texans OT Duane Brown likely to be placed on PUP list (quad): 6/10 Disaster Rating
Wow, which Indian burial ground did the Texans' front office urinate on during the offseason? First, J.J. Watt has issues with his back; next, rookie center Nick Martin is out. Now, it's being reported that left tackle Duane Brown is headed for the PUP list and will be out for the first six games of the season.
Unlike Martin, we actually know that Brown is a great player. He's one of the better left tackles in the NFL, so he'll definitely be missed if this report is true. Brown's replacement is Chris Clark, who struggled mightily last year.
It's safe to say that this is horrible news for Houston. Without two of its better linemen, the offense is going to struggle to score until Brown returns. And as mentioned in the Martin grade, Brock Osweiler and company will need to be at their best as long as Watt is out.
I'm giving this a 6/10 Disaster Grade. I could see a 7/10, but Brown should return in Week 7, giving the Texans some time to recover from what could be a slow start.
Texans C Nick Martin out for season (ankle surgery): 5/10 Disaster Rating
There's a slight chance Nick Martin could return for a playoff run, but his 4-month recovery timetable will surely sideline him for the entire regular season. This is obviously a blow to Houston's postseason hopes.
The general public doesn't realize this, but center is one of the most important positions in the NFL, so this certainly is a big deal. Martin was just a second-round rookie, but the Texans expected great things from him. He was likely to be a big upgrade over the departed Ben Jones, but we now won't know if that'll be the case until 2017.
Of course, with any injury, you have to look at who the backups are. The two candidates to replace Martin are Greg Mancz, an undrafted free agent from 2015 who has barely played, and Tony Bergstrom, a career backup thus far with just four starts under his belt. Bergstrom wasn't horrible for the Raiders last year, so I wouldn't say all hope is lost. However, Bergstrom is definitely a downgrade for an offense that needed to pick up the slack in the wake of J.J. Watt's back troubles.
Chargers and DE Joey Bosa at contract impasse: 5/10 Disaster Rating
I've yet to write about Joey Bosa's contract impasse with the Chargers because when it was happening earlier in the offseason, I didn't consider it to be a big deal. A couple of players have been disgruntled before with the language in their contracts in this new CBA, and it was eventually worked out.
This doesn't appear to be heading in that direction. The Chargers announced that they have pulled their best offer to Bosa, a deal that included a greater signing bonus than any player in the past two drafts, as well as more money in this calendar year than any player in the 2016 NFL Draft, save for Carson Wentz, who was drafted ahead of Bosa. Yet, Bosa still doesn't want to sign.
The Chargers did not look very good early in the process, as Bosa was rightfully complaining about not receiving the majority of his signing bonus up front. However, this is getting ridiculous. San Diego is clearly giving Bosa a great contract, yet his refusal to sign is making him look awful. And I can't imagine that some teams are surprised, given that they told us that they had character concerns with Bosa entering the 2016 NFL Draft.
I didn't think it would head down this road before, but I would now bet on Bosa never playing for the Chargers. I could be wrong - I actually hope I am, since it would be a shame for any San Diego fans left out there - but Bosa could actually enter the 2017 NFL Draft if he doesn't sign. In that scenario, the Chargers could not draft him, and they also wouldn't be given any sort of compensatory pick (a rule that should be changed.) It would be interesting to see which franchise decides to make itself a mortal enemy of the Chargers by taking Bosa.
There's still time for Bosa to sign, so I'm giving this a 5/10 Disaster Rating for now. Bosa won't be ready for the opener no matter what at this point, and I feel like both parties have made themselves look bad. However, it's still not irreversible. They could still come to an agreement. But if they don't, I'll revisit this Disaster Grade later.
Packers C Corey Linsley out indefinitely (torn hamstring): 3/10 Disaster Rating
The Packers struggled for a number of reasons last year. Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb were banged up; Jordy Nelson was out; Eddie Lacy was fat; and numerous offensive linemen were injured. Green Bay will contend for the Super Bowl if most of its roster is healthy, so this is obviously not the greatest news for them.
That said, it's not the worst either. Corey Linsley is a solid center, but the Packers have a viable backup in J.C. Tretter. He's not as good as Linsley, but he can do a solid job as a substitute.
The issue, however, is if Tretter or other linemen begin going down. Tretter can play multiple positions, so not having him available to fill in for someone else will hurt. I'm giving this a 3/10 Disaster Rating, but the next injury to a blocker will earn a much higher mark.
Colts CB Vontae Davis out for at least a month (ankle): 6/10 Disaster Rating
This would explain the Antonio Cromartie signing, which you can see my thoughts on in the Free Agent Signing Grades page. Vontae Davis is going to miss at least one month with an ankle injury, and it's sounding like he could be out for much longer.
Davis' injury is obviously a crushing blow. Davis is the best player on Indianapolis' defense and obviously the top cornerback on the roster by a long shot, and his absence is going to make it very easy for opposing quarterbacks to shred the Colts' secondary.
The good news is that this isn't necessarily a season-ending injury. However, that's a minor silver lining, as Davis may not be 100 percent the entire season. If that's the case, the Colts may have trouble reaching the playoffs again.
Dolphins C Mike Pouncey out for a few weeks (hip): 4/10 Disaster Rating
This seemed much worse to me when I first heard the news. Mike Pouncey, who is dealing with a troublesome hip, will miss the rest of the preseason and could potentially be out for the first couple of weeks of live action. He might be able to return for the opener, but at what capacity? Miami has absolutely nothing behind Pouncey on the depth chart, so how could it possibly win games without him?
Then, I looked at the schedule. Three of the Dolphins' first four games are extremely difficult (at Seahawks, at Patriots, at Bengals). There's a very realistic chance they were starting 1-3 anyway. Then, however, they somehow have four home contests in a row. Thus, if Pouncey is 100 percent by that stretch, the Dolphins could be 4-4 or even 5-3 at the midpoint of the season.
Of course, Pouncey's hip injury could linger, and he could be ineffective for most of the year. If so, the Dolphins will have no chance at the playoffs, but they'll at least have a high pick in the upcoming draft (go here for my 2017 NFL Mock Draft.) Miami had no chance of reaching the Super Bowl, so perhaps this is for the best.
Patriots OT Sebastian Vollmer reportedly out for season (hip): 8/10 Disaster Rating
The Patriots are having a horrible start to their Sunday morning! Dion Lewis is slated to go on the PUP list, and Shaq Mason broke his hand (0/10 Disaster Rating, but still). The worst news of all is that Sebastian Vollmer is reportedly out for the year with a hip injury.
Though Lewis is the bigger name, this is the greater crushing blow. Vollmer is one of the best right tackles in the NFL when healthy, and there is an enormous drop-off between him and his replacement, Marcus Cannon. Words can't even describe how horrible Cannon is; he's regarded as one of the worst offensive linemen in the league. Now, he'll be charged with protecting either a quarterback making his first NFL starts, or a 39-year-old signal-caller.
I mentioned below that the Patriots' offense declined when Lewis got hurt. Another reason for that was the offensive line being banged up. New England lost the AFC Championship because it couldn't protect Tom Brady. Thanks to the front office neglecting to address tackle depth this offseason, it appears as though history will be repeating itself.
Patriots RB Dion Lewis needs second surgery on knee: 5/10 Disaster Rating
Dion Lewis tore his ACL in November, but was reportedly walking around normally without a brace. It was believed that he'd be ready for the regular-season opener, but that's apparently not true. Lewis needs a second procedure on his knee, and he could be placed on the PUP list as a result.
This is obviously bad news for the Patriots, as their offense was markedly worse last year following Lewis' injury. Lewis is an electrifying player out of the backfield, and New England doesn't have anyone else like that. James White is the logical replacement, but he's not nearly as talented.
This hurts the Patriots enough to warrant a 5/10 Disaster Rating at the very least; with Tom Brady suspended the first four games, they needed all hands on deck to escape with a 2-2 record. Lewis' absence hurts the chances of that happening, but New England could survive if Lewis returns by November. Considering Lewis' injury history, however, that could be a big "if."
Bills DE/DT Marcell Dareus suspended for 4 games, enters rehab (substance-abuse policy): 7/10 Disaster Rating
I remember talking to Matvei in the spring about teams we liked for season-total over/unders, and Matvei mentioned that he thought the Bills had a good shot to make the playoffs. I agreed with him at the time. But not anymore - and I'm sure he feels the same way, too.
What in the world is going on in Buffalo? Everyone is either suspended or injured. Missing Marcell Dareus for four games would be bad enough on its own, given that he's one of the better defensive tackles in the NFL. However, the Bills won't have Reggie Ragland, Shaq Lawson and IK Enemkapli either - not to mention Karlos Williams and probably Cordy Glenn on the other side of the ball.
I think I'd give this a 4/10 under normal circumstances, but I'm bumping this Disaster Grade to a 6/10. Buffalo's first four games (at Ravens, vs. Jets, vs. Cardinals, at Patriots without Tom Brady) all seemed like 50-50 matchups a couple of weeks ago, but that's not the case anymore. Without Dareus and everyone else, they stand a realistic chance of going 1-3 or even 0-4, which might be too deep of a hole to dig out of.
Update: Dareus announced that he's entering rehab. This will obviously be good for the long term if rehab actually works - it certainly did not for Johnny Manziel - but it could also mean that Dareus won't be available for his previously scheduled return for Week 5. If so, the Bills can probably kiss their playoff aspirations goodbye. I'm raising this Disaster Grade to a 7/10.
Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell suspended for 3 games (substance abuse policy): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Le'Veon Bell didn't exactly test positively for substance abuse, but he skipped actually being tested, which the NFL deems to be the same thing. Either way, this hurts the Steelers immeasurably.
For the short term, not having Bell around for four games could cost them a win or two. Bell is one of the top running backs in the NFL, so the drop-off between him and DeAngelo Williams could be quite large. Williams played well last year, but will that occur again in 2016? Williams is now 33, so it's reasonable to expect him to decline this upcoming season. Pittsburgh battles a trio of tough opponents in the opening quarter of the season (at Redskins, Bengals, Chiefs), so 3-1 could suddenly transform into 2-2 or maybe even 1-3.
The long haul is why this Disaster Rating is an 8/10. Bell was suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy last year. This is another strike against him, so an additional one could cost him the entire season, and that would obviously be crushing.
If there's a silver lining about this suspension, it'll allow Bell to have more time to recover from his torn PCL and MCL, rather than rushing back too early. However, that's just not enough to make any Steeler fan or Bell fantasy owner feel good about this.
Update: Bell's supension has been reduced from four to three games, so I have dropped this Disaster Rating from 8/10 to 7/10. The Steelers will now have Bell for their Week 4 tilt against the Chiefs, which is huge. However, this still deserves a high rating because of a possible longer suspension the next time Bell is an idiot again.
Another Update: As it turns out, Bell is somehow not in Stage 3 of the substance-abuse program, despite his many suspensions thus far. As a result, his next suspension would only be four games. I don't know how he's doing this, but Josh Gordon should take lessons. This Disaster Grade has been reduced significantly.
Broncos DE/DT Vance Walker out for season (torn ACL): 3/10 Disaster Rating
With Malik Jackson now in Jacksonville, Vance Walker was the projected starter at defensive end across from Derek Wolfe. That was the plan, at least, prior to Walker's ACL tear. He's out for the year.
Walker played well in relief last year, so the Broncos must have felt comfortable with him replacing Jackson. However, it's not like Walker was a special talent, or anything. Denver spent a second-round pick on Adam Gotsis, so perhaps he can take over. Gotsis was considered a reach, but the Broncos at least have an alternative option.
I'm giving Denver a 3/10 Disaster Rating, mostly for depth issues. Also, Gotsis could be a bust, which would affect the run defense, as Walker was proficient is clamping down on ground attacks.
Saints DT Sheldon Rankings out 6-8 weeks (broken fibula): 4/10 Disaster Rating
This is a tough one to grade. On one hand, the Saints received great news when it was revealed that Sheldon Rankins "only" sustained a broken fibula. When he was carted off the practice field, it seemed as though the injury could be much worse. New Orleans feared that its first-round rookie would miss the entire 2016 campaign. On the other hand, this injury could end up being much worse than initially projected.
As it stands now, Rankins is set to be absent just six to eight weeks, meaning his likely return is right after the team's Week 5 bye. However, it's not quite that simple. Steelers Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey missed all of 2015 with the same injury, as he had complications with his recovery. Still, this is better than a torn ACL or Achilles, as Rankins has a chance to play in early October.
Raiders DE Mario Edwards out 4-6 weeks (hip strain): 2/10 Disaster Rating
I suppose this is good news for the Raiders. There was some speculation that Mario Edwards would be out for much longer. An absence of 4-6 weeks is definitely quite manageable.
Still, this could hurt Oakland. Edwards is sounding like he'll be out for the opener and perhaps Week 2 as well. The first game is a 50-50 matchup at New Orleans, while the second game could also be a loss versus Atlanta. If Edwards' absence means that the Raiders will lose one of those conests - they won't have much of a pass rush outside of Khalil Mack without him - then that could end up being disastrous because every single team in the AFC West could legitimately win the division.
That said, Edwards being out one or two games probably won't affect anything, so I'll grade this as a 2/10.
Bills DE/OLB IK Enemkpali out for season (torn ACL): 3/10 Disaster Rating
In a vacuum, a season-ending injury to someone named IK Enemkpali wouldn't be a huge deal. I'd probably give it a 1/10 Disaster Rating, solely because of depth purposes. The Bills, however, are a different case.
Buffalo's linebacking corps is so injury ravaged right now. Shaq Lawson was already out, and then Reggie Ragland was lost for the season several days ago. Now, Enemkpali faces the same fate with his torn ACL. How much more can this Bills team take?
I'm still keeping this rating relatively low, however. Enemkpali wasn't a very good player last year, so he might be replaceable. Still though, he was being counted on as a starter, and by all accounts, he was having a solid training camp. Thus, I think a 3/10 Disaster Rating is appropriate.
Eagles QB Carson Wentz out for a few weeks (rib fracture): 1/10 Disaster Rating
Carson Wentz took a huge hit when he flipped into the air and landed on his back in the preseason opener. He was walking gingerly after that, so I can't say I'm surprised that he sustained some sort of injury. In this case, it's a hairline fracture to the ribs.
Wentz could be back for the preseason finale, so this isn't a huge deal. I'd list this as a 0/10 rating, but Wentz is a rookie and needs all the reps he can get. That said, I don't think his absence the next couple of weeks will have much of an impact on when Doug Pederson plans to insert him into the lineup.
Also, it's worth noting that this could be a blessing in disguise. Philadelphia's reserve offensive line is horrendously bad. Wentz could've suffered a more serious injury had he played the next couple of weeks. Keeping Wentz out of the preseason could actually be in his best interest.
Buccaneers G J.R. Sweezy expected to begin year on PUP (back): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times has reported that new Buccaneers guard J.R. Sweezy is expected to start the year on the PUP list. Tampa acquired the former Seahawk this offseason to counter the retirement of Logan Mankins, but now it seems as though Sweezy will be forced to miss regular-season games because of a bad back.
This is not good. If Sweezy is out, that means Kevin Pamphile will start. If you watched the preseason opener versus Philadelphia, you know how bad Pamphile is. Bennie Logan completely embarrassed him. That said, I'm not going above a 4/10 Disaster Rating because Sweezy isn't very good himself. He's much better than Pamphile, but only by default. Sweezy struggled for the Seahawks last year, so it was odd that the Buccaneers gave him a $32.5 million contract this offseason.
Saints CB Keenan Lewis out indefinitely (hip): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Remember that one time Keenan Lewis was healthy? No... no, I don't either.
Lewis played just six games in 2015 and was constantly banged up the year before. He underwent hip surgery in December and apparently tried to return prematurely because he aggravated his injury. As a consequence, Lewis will be out for an unknown period of time.
The impact of Lewis' absence depends on how P.J. Williams performs. Williams, a third-round choice in 2015, missed all of last year with a torn hamstring, but has reportedly looked great in training camp. If that translates to live action, the Saints will be fine with Williams starting across from Delvin Breaux - unless there's another injury. Depth at cornerback is a concern right now, so I'm going to give New Orleans a 4/10 Disaster Grade.
Chargers WR Stevie Johnson out for season (meniscus): 1/10 Disaster Rating
Stevie Johnson has been declared out for the season with meniscus surgery. This wouldn't be a big deal to most teams, but the Chargers sustained so many injuries last year that it can't feel good.
That said, I can't really grade this above a 1/10. San Diego has Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin at receiver; not to mention tight ends Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry. At best, Johnson was going to be the fifth receiving option between three of those players and Danny Woodhead. He won't be missed much, as Dontrelle Inman, his likely replacement, has shown some flashes througout his brief career.
Bills ILB Reggie Ragland out for season (torn ACL): 7/10 Disaster Rating
This is going to hurt the Bills a lot. Want proof? Defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman told the media that Reggie Ragland's absence is going to "change the whole scheme."
Ragland's torn ACL wouldn't be as painful if Buffalo had a viable replacement. Unfortunately for the team, it does not. The candidates to replace Ragland include Brandon Spikes, David Hawthorne and Zach Brown, neither of whom is very good. Hawthorne and Brown struggled mightily last year, while Spikes didn't even play in 2015 because of off-the-field issues.
If the Bills were going to make the playoffs, their defense would have to be a huge part of it. The stop unit is now significantly worse with Ragland gone. Thus, Buffalo may not qualify for the postseason, which could cost Rex Ryan his job. If that's not enough to warrant a high Disaster Rating, consider that health was already a concern for Ragland, as teams have begun shying away from Alabama prospects because they believe Nick Saban runs them into the ground. Multiple teams have told us this, and Ragland's injury won't do anything to quell those concerns.
Patriots DE Rob Ninkovich out 4-6 weeks (torn triceps): 1/10 Disaster Rating
The Patriots aren't having the best day. First, Julian Edelman re-injured his twice-surgically repaired foot - no Disaster Grade on that yet because it's unclear how long he'll be out for - and now Rob Ninkovich faces an absence of 4-6 weeks because of torn triceps.
Ninkovich might be back for the season opener, but it appears as though he could miss the first three games (Week 3 is a Thursday night contest). Even if he does though, it doesn't matter all that much, given that Ninkovich has been a declining player for a while now. Ninkovich struggled mightily last year, and if he plays the same way in 2016, he won't be missed outside of depth purposes. An injury to someone else could really hurt in the short term. However, I can't go above a 1/10 Disaster Grade for this.
Bills OT Cordy Glenn out for preseason (high ankle sprain): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Cordy Glenn has been ruled out for the rest of the preseason with a high ankle sprain. Of course, what really matters is whether or not he'll miss any regular-season action, and that has yet to have been determined.
Glenn is an extremely important player for the Bills. He's one of the better left tackles in the NFL, and he hasn't missed a game since 2012. Losing him for an extended period would be deterimental. Even having him out for the first couple of games would be damaging. The Weeks 1 and 2 matchups versus the Ravens and Jets seem like 50-50 contests, so Glenn being absent could swing those in the opponents' favor.
Of course, Glenn could return for the season opener, so I'm going to give the Bills a 3/10 Disaster Rating for the injury. I'll adjust this if there's any additional news.
Eagles WR Jordan Matthews out 2-4 weeks (bone bruise): 1/10 Disaster Rating
The Eagles are very fortunate that Jordan Matthews sustained this bone bruise in his knee so early in training camp. Matthews is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with this malady, which should put him on track to suit up in the regular-season opener against the Browns. Matthews actually missing meaningful action would be disastrous, given that Philadelphia has no talent at receiver otherwise.
I'll give this a 1/10 Disaster Rating because of the very slight possibility that Matthews may not be 100 percent when the regular season kicks off, but he should be fine. This is not a soft-tissue injury, so Matthews should be able to recover completely. Also, it's worth noting that this could give Sam Bradford time to get comfortable with some of the other receivers. That probably won't matter because of the lack of talent, but crazier things have happened.
NFL Hall of Fame Game canceled (field conditions): 0/10 Disaster Rating
I can only imagine the screaming and shouting coming from the NFL commissioner's office right now. All of the blood money Roger Goodell was counting on acquiring from airing a meaningless fifth preseason game for the Packers and Colts has vanished into thin air. Poor Roger.
Having said that, I think the NFL is going to survive. Call it a hunch. Losing out on some of the revenue from one televised preseason game won't hurt the league. Sure, the person/people responsible for the field being horrible could be fired, and some of the young players who might be on the roster bubble will lose out on an opportunity, but this isn't a big deal for anyone else in the slightest.
As a matter of fact, this could actually be a blessing in disguise. One fewer preseason game means that there's less of a chance that one of the Packer or Colt starters will sustain an injury. Sure, some of the first-stringers weren't going to play, but that wasn't the case for all of them. There could've been a significant injury in this contest, and now that can be avoided.
This is an obvious 0/10 Disaster Grade, so let me use this space to discuss two items very quickly:
1. The planned live blog is off. As fun as it might be to discuss the new ESPN "personalities" (Matt Hasselbeck calling this a lost opportunity for Andrew Luck was one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard), there will be plenty of time for that in the future. I'm a bit sad because I had some awesome jokes prepared for tonight's game, but I can just save them for later.
2. This all could've been avoided had the NFL not stupidly made the Packers and Colts play this following weekend. Why do two teams need to have five preseason games? It's dumb. I'm not in favor of the Hall of Fame Game, but I'm willing to accept it if the two participating squads don't have to play in Week 1 of the exhibition. If the Packers and Colts had off next weekend, they could've just played the Hall of Fame Game then.
Ravens DE/DT Bronson Kaufusi likely out for season (broken ankle): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Here we go again. The Ravens sustained so many injuries last year that they players on IR probably could've beaten the healthy ones in a scrimmage. Thus, something like this is the last thing the front office wanted to see.
Bronson Kaufusi was chosen in the third round this past April and was expected to compete for a starting job at defensive end. It's difficult to say how Kaufusi would've performed, but what is clear is that this is a shot to Baltimore's already-poor depth. The Ravens have been extremely thin ever since signing Joe Flacco to a big contract, and they cannot afford to sustain too many injuries.
A 3/10 Disaster Rating for a third-round rookie getting hurt is probably too high for most teams, but the Ravens are a special case. Their defensive line outside of Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Williams is pretty poor now in the wake of the Kaufusi injury.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott out 1-2 weeks (hamstring): 1/10 Disaster Rating
Ezekiel Elliott hurt his hamstring during Tuesday's practice and now will be out for what reports say will be "some time." Vice president Stephen Jones said that the team will be "conservative" with Elliott, so we may not see him at all in the preseason.
Though soft-tissue injuries like this can linger, I don't think this is a big deal. Even if Elliott misses a regular-season game or two, the Cowboys still have Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris available to split carries. They aren't bad options. And besides, Elliott could only be out for a week or two. There's really nothing to see here, so I'm just going to give Dallas a 1/10 Disaster Grade.
Update: It's been reported that Elliott will be out for 1-2 weeks. Thus, I'm sticking with this 1/10 Disaster Grade. It could be a 0/10, but soft-tissue injuries can sometimes be difficult to recover from. That said, this probably won't affect Dallas' season at all.
Steelers CB Senquez Golson out 12 weeks (Lisfranc injury): 3/10 Disaster Rating
More people know who Kellen Moore is, but unlike that injury, this one actually means something for the team in question.
Senquez Golson, selected in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, was expected to be the Steelers' starting nickel cornerback this year. He's not a proven commodity - he missed all of his rookie campaign - but Pittsburgh has poor depth at the position, so Golson's absence will hurt.
Having said that, I don't think this is too serious. A 3/10 rating seems fine, as Golson will likely return prior to Thanksgiving. Thus, Golson will be around for Pittsburgh's projected playoff run, which is what's most important.
Cowboys QB Kellen Moore likely out for season (broken ankle): 0/10 Disaster Rating
I wasn't going to post a disaster grade for Kellen Moore's broken ankle, but this injury is generating some buzz on Twitter. Since people are interested in it, I figure I might as well discuss it.
The reason I wasn't going to write about this is because it deserves a 0/10. In fact, a negative rating could be warranted. Moore absolutely sucks and was slated to be one of the worst No. 2 quarterbacks in the NFL. This could prompt the Cowboys to sign Nick Foles, who, despite last season's debacle, would be a huge upgrade over Moore. Given that Tony Romo is so injury-prone, Moore's broken ankle could be a blessing in disguise.
Bengals CB William Jackson out indefinitely (torn pectoral): 3/10 Disaster Rating
It's unclear if William Jackson is out for the year or not, but players who tear their pectorals are often lost for the season.
Either way, this isn't a huge blow for the Bengals' 2016 outlook. It hurts, as Jackson was a talented prospect coming out of Houston, but he was expected to be Cincinnati's No. 4 cornerback to start the year. Depth might be an issue, but that's just about it.
Long term, Jackson's lost rookie year could hurt his development, but not necessarily. Jackson has the talent to overcome this, and he could have a strong offseason to become a solid starter next season.
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory to be suspended (substance abuse policy): 8/10 Disaster Rating
You've gotta be kidding me. Randy Gregory, already facing a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, is now facing yet another ban for the same exact offense! Talk about being an idiot. Roger Goodell should spend some of his trillion-dollar salary on a crown for Gregory and dub him the King of Stupid.
As dumb as Gregory is, this can't be a surprise. He was a top-five talent who dropped to the second round because of numerous off-the-field issues well beyond his drug problems. He's at least going to drug treatment now, so perhaps he'll recover and actually play for the Cowboys in the future. As it stands now though, it'll be shocking if Gregory saw the field in 2016.
As a result, I'm going to have to grade this pretty harshly. Gregory was expected to be a key part of Dallas' defense, so his absence will be huge. Furthermore, his future in the NFL is now in jeopardy, so the Cowboys stand to lose a valuable resource. I think an 8/10 Disaster Grade is appropriate, and I actually thought about a 9/10.
Redskins DE/OLB Junior Galette out for season (torn Achilles): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Junior Galette won't be around to help the Redskins in 2016. He has torn his Achilles, though it's unclear if he sustained the injury while trying to whip people at the beach again with his belt or not.
Galette is a talented player, but the Redskins won't miss him very much. He didn't even play for them in 2015 because of a similar injury, and yet they reached the playoffs. Still, I'm reluctant to give this an extremely low grade because Galette was expected to inject some pass-rushing presence into the defense as a starter across from Ryan Kerrigan.
I think this injury deserves a 3/10 Disaster Rating. It's not overly serious, but the Redskins are hurt by it, if only in terms of depth. Second-year Preston Smith will step into Galette's spot and could handle himself well. However, if either Kerrigan or Smith gets hurt now, Washington will be in a world of trouble, as its defense won't be able to generate much of a pass rush.
Browns WR Josh Gordon suspended for 4 games: -3/10 Disaster Rating
I don't think I ever anticipated handing out a negative grade for a four-game suspension. In fact, I don't know if I ever even gave a negative grade, since it doesn't really make any sense in most cases.
Well, it does here. The Browns would love to have Gordon on the field for all 16 games, but they'll certainly take him being out for a quarter of the season because there was a chance he wouldn't even be available at all. Gordon was suspended indefinitely, but following his meeting with Roger Goodell, the NFL's dictator decided that Gordon's banishment will end in Week 5 against the Patriots.
This is obviously great news for Cleveland. The team didn't have any veteran talent at receiver, but now Gordon will be around to take attention away from first-round rookie Corey Coleman. It remains to be seen if Gordon will be able to stay out of trouble, but for now, the Browns have to be happy.
Raiders DE/OLB Aldon Smith does something stupid: 5/10 & 8/10 Disaster Rating
Aldon Smith has posted a video of himself on social media smoking what appears to be weed. Smith, of course, has been suspended for an entire season because he has violated the league's substance-abuse policy. If this, in fact, is marijuana, it could prompt Roger Goodell, who continues to run the NFL like a Saudi Arabian dictator, to drop the permanent ban hammer on Smith.
I'm giving out two Disaster Grades for this video. The 5/10 is for the Raiders. They were counting on Smith returning to the lineup late in the year to help with a potential playoff push. Smith is so good across from Khalil Mack, so his potential permanent absence will hurt. It might even make the difference of whether or not the Raiders qualify for the postseason.
The 8/10 is for Smith himself. It's possible that his career could be over. I'm not making it a 10/10 because he might somehow wiggle his way out of this, but it looks terrible. It truly is mind-boggling how someone can be so stupid. NFL players basically have to follow two rules: Don't do drugs, and don't drive drunk. It's that simple, yet numerous players somehow can't stay out of trouble. How is it possible to be that dumb?
Colts DE/DT Arthur Jones suspended for 4 games (performance-enhancing drugs): 2/10 Disaster Rating
It's difficult to say if the Colts are going to miss Arthur Jones for the first quarter of the season. On one hand, Jones hasn't done much since signing a 5-year, $33 million deal with the Colts. He had a pedestrian 2014 campaign and then missed all of 2015 because of an ankle injury. He's expected to start this year, but is he even going to be very productive when he returns? That's very unclear.
On the other hand, Jones was a projected starter who will be out for four games, so that has to be at least somewhat significant. The Colts happen to be thin on the defensive line, so Jones' absence could have ramifications, even if he's not any good.
Ultimately, I've decided to give this a 2/10 Disaster Rating. It could have easily been a three, but Jones has shown nothing in Indianapolis, so I think a two is more appropriate.
Texans DE/DT J.J. Watt out 6-8 weeks (back surgery): 7/10 Disaster Rating
Just to be clear, this "6-8 weeks" time period is starting today; not the regular season. Thus, it's possible that J.J. Watt could be in the lineup on opening weekend, though that's far from a guarantee.
This is a tricky grade for sure. It's extremely possible that Watt could be fine for Week 1 or 2, and that he could have an injury-free 2016 season. Thus, in hindsight, this 7/10 Disaster Grade will look extremely stupid.
On the other hand, there's no such thing as minor back surgery. What if this haunts Watt throughout the year? If it does, the Texans will be screwed, as Watt means more to his team than any other non-quarterback in the NFL. Houston will have major problems getting to the playoffs if Watt is either out or not near full strength. And if that's the case, this 7/10 Disaster Rating will actually be considered quite low.
49ers DE/OLB Aaron Lynch suspended for 4 games (substance abuse policy): 5/10 Disaster Rating
I guess I'm a big fan of giving out 5/10 Disaster Grades today. It's definitely not a 5/10 kind of day - I'll explain more in Jerks of the Week soon - but I'll chalk it up as a coincidence.
The 49ers will definitely sort of miss Aaron Lynch, as he's their top pass-rusher by a wide margin. However, his absence won't hurt because San Francisco had no shot of making the playoffs, so, in a sense, Lynch being out could help the 49ers secure the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft (go here for my 2017 NFL Mock Draft.)
That said, this is a 5/10 because of the long-term applications. Lynch had character concerns coming out of college, so it's discouraging to see him suspended. If he gets into trouble again, he could be banned for a year, which would actually be devastating.
Patriots QB Tom Brady suspended for 4 games: 5/10 Disaster Rating
Tom Brady will officially be suspended for four games. The U.S. Court of Appeals denied the appeal, and Brady was unwilling to go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Brady, as a result, will miss games against the Cardinals, Dolphins, Texans and Bills.
This 5/10 rating is the same exact grade I gave to the Patriots a year ago, and I don't know why it would change. A quarterback of Brady's caliber missing four games would normally be a huge deal to most teams, but the Patriots have shown that they can handle themselves pretty well without him. Recall that they went 11-5 with Matt Cassel back in 2008. Jimmy Garoppolo is a much more talented quarterback than Cassel, and he has reportedly looked good at OTAs, so I don't think it's unreasonable to expect the Patriots to go 2-2 in this stretch. Even 1-3 won't be so bad, as New England can simply come back from that hole once Brady returns in Week 5. I trust Belichick enough to know that he'll have some excellent game plans put together to lead New England to some victories without his future Hall of Fame signal-caller.
Bills RB Karlos Williams suspended for 4 games (substance-abuse policy): 5/10 Disaster Rating
What the hell is Karlos Williams doing? He showed up to minicamp 25 pounds overweight, blaming everything on his wife's pregnancy. Now, he's been suspended for four games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. They should almost do a reality TV show on what stupid thing he'll do next.
The Bills can survive without Williams for a quarter of the season. They have LeSean McCoy, after all. However, this rating is more about Williams' long-term prospects. Williams had a great rookie year and showed a ton of promise, but it appears as though he's throwing his career away. It's a shame that Williams is wasting some great talent. He's one more infraction away from getting slapped with a year-long ban, so a 5/10 Disaster Rating seems appropriate.
Browns DE/DT Desmond Bryant out for season (torn pectoral): 1/10 Disaster Rating
Desmond Bryant is Cleveland's best pass-rusher on the defensive line, as he notched six sacks in 2015. However, he tore his pectoral and will miss the entire 2016 campaign.
This would be a crushing blow for most teams. The Browns, however, aren't most teams. They had a zero-percent chance of qualifying for the playoffs this upcoming season, so Bryant's absence can only help the organization obtain the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. It's crucial for Cleveland to secure someone like Deshaun Watson - I have this happening in my 2017 NFL Mock Draft - and Bryant being hurt can make that happen. Thus, Bryant's injury earns a mere 1/10 rating.
Jets DE/DT Sheldon Richardson suspended for 1 game: 0/10 Disaster Rating
Unlike DeMarcus Lawrence and Rolando McClain, Sheldon Richardson was not suspended for violating the substance-abuse policy. What Richardson did was just even more stupid - he was clocked going 143 mph and then tried to evade police - but his ban is much more brief, somehow.
Richardson missing one game isn't a big deal whatsoever. The Jets have plenty of talented defensive linemen, including Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams, so Richardson being absent for the opener against the Bengals won't matter at all unless there are multiple injuries in that game. I'm not even going to give this a 1/10 Disaster Rating. Richardson is a great player, but the Jets will survive without him for one contest.
Cowboys ILB Rolando McClain suspended for 10 games: 7/10 Disaster Rating
I gave the Rolando McClain four-game suspension a 4/10 last year. This, obviously, has to be much higher, as McClain has gotten a 10-game ban for 2016 for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
McClain's stupidity apparently knows no bounds, as he continues to get slapped with suspensions. He's an extremely important player in the Dallas defense, and considering the lack of depth at linebacker, his absence will be absolutely huge. That in itself would warrant a Disaster Grade of five or six.
However, other considerations must be factored in. If McClain keeps being dumb, he'll eventually be banned for an entire season, and at that point, the Cowboys will just part ways with him. Thus, I'm giving this a 7/10 Disaster Grade, and that might even be low because McClain is just one more mistake away from being gone for good.
Cowboys DE Demarcus Lawrence suspended for 4 games: 6/10 Disaster Rating
Dallas defensive ends can't stay on the field. Randy Gregory was suspended for four games, and now Demarcus Lawrence matched that with a four-game suspension of his own for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
It normally wouldn't be a huge deal to lose a player for a quarter of the season. Under regular circumstances, I'd probably grade this as a 3/10 or a 4/10. However, Dallas already lost Gregory, so the team won't have very much in terms of edge rushers to kick off the year. Also, Lawrence is now in danger of missing much more action if he tests positive again in the future.
The Cowboys have to be legitimately concerned about this. The Dallas Morning News suggests that Joey Bosa could be pushed further up the board as a result. I already had the Cowboys selecting Bosa in my 2016 NFL Mock Draft.
Update: Lawrence's suspension has been upheld. He tried to appeal, but didn't have much of a case, apparently. This still stands as a 6/10 because Lawrence will be gone for much longer with another infraction.
Cowboys RB Darren McFadden out for 2 months (broken elbow): 0/10 Disaster Rating
Darren McFadden reportedly sustained this injury trying to save his cell phone. I don't know how that happened, but to think how different things would be right now had Tom Brady cared just as much about his own mobile device.
McFadden is out for two months, so he should be back for the start of the regular season, though there's no guarantee that'll happen. Even if McFadden were locked in to miss some meaningful action, it would've warranted a 1/10 Disaster Grade. The number would've been higher last year, but the Cowboys now have Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris. The two backs will be able to hold down the fort in McFadden's absence, and this could even be a blessing in disguise, as it'll give Elliott more opportunities with the first team.
With that in mind, you have to wonder what McFadden was thinking. He could've kept his job by just buying a new phone several hours later. I guess going that long without playing Angry Birds was just too much for him to deal with.
Saints DE/OLB Hau'oli Kikaha out for season (torn ACL): 7/10 Disaster Rating
When the Saints spent a second-round pick on Hau'oli Kikaha, it was widely considered a reach because of how injury-prone the Washington product was. Kikaha tore his ACL twice in college and was considered to be a major health risk. The Saints took a chance on Kikaha, but it appears as though that decision is backfiring because Kikaha tore his ACL a third time today.
New Orleans had big plans for Kikaha this year, as he was supposed to be one of its primary pass-rushers. The Saints will obviously have to look elsewhere now. Kikaha wasn't considered a great player - he was just OK as a rookie - and if this were some other player, the Disaster Grade would be much lower. However, I have to make it a 7/10 because of Kikaha's history. A third ACL tear could make it so Kikaha never reaches his potential, and it also shows that he's not as durable as the Saints were hoping he would become in the pros.
Bengals TE Tyler Eifert out 3 months (ankle surgery): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Tyler Eifert sustained an ankle injury in the Pro Bowl, a senseless game that should have been discontinued years ago. As a result, he'll undergo surgery and will miss three months. That puts him on track to return in late August, but Adam Schefter has stated that Eifert is "in jeopardy" for Week 1.
I initially was going to give this a 2/10, but it's possible that Eifert could suffer some sort of setback that could cause him to miss more action. That would really hurt the Bengals, who lost Marvin Jones this offseason. Not having Eifert around would be pretty detrimental, and the possibility of him being out for an extended period is certainly likely, given that he has durability issues; Eifert has missed 18 games in the past two years.
Then again, this might not be serious at all. Eifert could return by Week 1, and everything will be fine. The Bengals better hope so, as Andy Dalton's second target will become Brandon LaFell if Eifert is out.
Jaguars CB/S Jalen Ramsey out for 4-6 weeks (torn meniscus): 1/10 Disaster Rating
Wow, the Jaguars definitely don't have good luck when it comes to their first-round picks. Dante Fowler missed the entire 2015 season, and now Jalen Ramsey could possibly be out for half of his rookie campaign.
Ramsey sustained a torn meniscus in practice Thursday. It was initially reported that he'd be out 4-6 weeks, but a second opinion could force him to miss 4-6 months.
The former diagnosis obviously wouldn't be a huge deal, hence the 1/10 rating. Ramsey would return just in time for training camp. However, the 4-6 month speculation would score a 5/10 disaster rating, as Ramsey was supposed to help Jacksonville finally compete for the playoffs. The team's postseason aspirations would definitely take a huge hit if Ramsey were to miss the first two months of the regular season. That's huge, as the current staff could be fired in the wake of another disappointing year.
Update: Despite there being an initial possible diagnosis of 4-6 months, Ramsey will miss just 4-6 weeks, putting him on track to participate in training camp. This is obviously great news for the Jaguars. This Disaster Grade can drop from 5/10 to 1/10 - and it's only a one instead of a zero because of the possibility of a setback.
Cam Robinson arrested for felony weapons charge: 8/10 Disaster Rating
Say you're an NFL prospect entering your final year of school. You're a projected top-10 draft pick. Do you:
A) Train super hard so you can be drafted as highly as possible?
B) Keep your current training regimen but stay out of trouble?
C) Get arrested for a felony weapons charge?
Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson apparently thought the answer was "C," as he was booked Tuesday morning for possession of a stolen firearm. He's also facing charges for marijuana, but only idiots care about that.
Keep in mind that this is a grade for Robinson only, as Alabama has the talent to overcome this and potentially win another national championship. Robinson has killed his draft stock, so unless he's somehow completely cleared, he won't be a top-10 pick anymore. In fact, I dropped him from No. 8 overall to the second round of this week's 2017 NFL Mock Draft.
This is an 8/10, and it could've even been higher. Robinson is going to have to do a lot of work to rehabilitate his draft stock, and it's possible that he has completely kissed his first-round chances goodbye.
Sammy Watkins out 6-8 weeks (broken foot): 6/10 Disaster Rating
Poor Bills. What's next? Tyrod Taylor abducted by aliens? Stephon Gilmore eaten by a dinosaur? If you're a Buffalo fan, start sticking pins into dolls of other players so other teams start getting bad karma for a change.
Sammy Watkins is dealing with a broken foot. I don't need to tell you that this is horrific news. The Bills don't have a viable option at receiver outside of Watkins, so if he misses any time, Buffalo's offense will be severely limited. Robert Woods would serve as one of the weakest No. 1 wideouts in NFL history.
There's some good news and bad news regarding Watkins' broken foot. The good news is that there's a chance he could be ready for training camp. The bad news, however, is that receivers often have setbacks with such an injury, and if Watkins tries to return early - as most NFL players are wont to do - he could sustain other maladies that could keep him out even longer.
I think a 6/10 rating is appropriate, though it's hard to come up with a great number. There's a chance that this is an overblown story and that Watkins will be fine. However, it's also very possible that Watkins will miss numerous games, which will make it extremely unlikely for the Bills to reach the playoffs.
Update: The Bills, according to Adam Schefter, are targeting Week 1 as Watkins' return date. Thus, he's not going to be available for training camp. This isn't horrible news, but it's not good either. As I mentioned, receivers have had difficulty recovering from such foot injuries.
Bills DE Shaq Lawson out 5-6 months (shoulder surgery): 3/10 Disaster Rating
The Bills did not expect Shaq Lawson to fall to them at No. 19 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft. Lawson was projected by many to be chosen in the 9-14 range, so when he was available, Buffalo didn't hesitate. The team had concerns about his shoulder, but felt as though his upside trumped the injury.
Lawson will have surgery on his shoulder and will be out indefinitely. He might be able to return at some point during the 2016 season, but that remains to be seen.
The Bills obviously knew about this, and it's not like Lawson is dealing with a torn patellar tendon or Achilles, or anything. He'll recover. Thus, I'm not going to give Buffalo a high rating.
A 3/10 seems fair. I thought about a 2/10, but there's a ton of pressure on Rex Ryan to qualify for the playoffs this year, and not having Lawson around would obviously hurt his chances. However, Lawson could always recover in time and be a factor in the second half of the season.
Update: Lawson's timetable is 5-6 months, which would put him on track to play sometime in early November. This is not a guarantee though, as Lawson could miss his entire rookie campaign. However, the news could've been worse, as it sounds like Lawson could contribute down the stretch.
Panthers rescind franchise tag of CB Josh Norman; now unrestricted free agent: 8/10 Disaster Rating
Wow. This is absolutely stunning. Josh Norman is one of the top defensive players in the NFL. The Panthers rescinded his franchise tag, and they apparently don't expect him to re-sign as an unrestricted free agent. General manager Dave Gettleman made that clear when he said, "We thank Josh for all of his contributions and truly wish him well."
Gettleman is one of the top general managers in the NFL, so something is obviously up. It's definitely not just an impasse in contract negotiations. Nothing like that would've prompted this action. Something serious transpired with Norman, perhaps legally. It wouldn't surprise me at all if news eventually broke that Norman is in dire trouble with the law. Teams just don't release All-Pro players like this for no good reason.
I'm willing to grade this an 8/10. I originally marked it down as a nine, but the Panthers have a terrific front office capable of nailing the upcoming draft - go here for my 2016 NFL Mock Draft - to help compensate for this loss. That said, Norman was a truly gifted player, so he'll be missed. His absence could be the difference between going to the Super Bowl again and losing in the early rounds of the playoffs.
Update: It's being reported that there was a disagreement in terms between Norman and the Panthers. I'm not buying that at all. Well, I totally get that the two sides were far apart, but that alone wouldn't prompt any team - let alone a smart one - to cut one of the top defensive players in the NFL. Something else is up.
Browns WR Josh Gordon fails drug test, lives with Johnny Manziel: 8/10 and 10/10 Disaster Rating
So much for Josh Gordon turning his life around. There were glowing reports about Gordon being clean and even taking up painting as a hobby to keep himself out of trouble.
And then, apparently, Johnny Manziel happened. Manziel has been living with Gordon and has single-handedly ruined Gordon's recovery. Gordon, as a consequence, failed another drug test, which has put the kibosh on the reinstatement he was hoping for.
I'm giving out two grades for this. The 8/10 is for the Browns, who likely won't have Gordon available for 2016. It's a shame, as they already lost several players this offseason. Gordon is an unreal play-maker who would've made Carson Wentz or Jared Goff's rookie campaign much easier. Instead, Cleveland will have to spend two premium selections on wideouts. I currently have them taking one in the second round of my 2016 NFL Mock Draft.
As for Gordon, this is an easy 10/10, as he sabotaged his career by allowing the big-time loser to live with him. This decision was unbelievably stupid, as any logical individual would've kept a self-destructive alcoholic like Manziel away from him. Roger Goodell runs the NFL like a Saudi Arabian dictator, so Gordon should've known that another failed drug test would prevent him from playing football anytime in the near future.
Jets OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson announces retirement: 2/10 Disaster Rating
Anyone who has watched D'Brickashaw Ferguson recently can't possibly be surprised by this. Ferguson used to be one of the top left tackles in the NFL, but his play has dropped off significantly in the past couple of seasons. As a 32-year-old, he looked done last year. He was awful in most regards, and the Jets consequently asked him to take a pay cut. Ferguson must have decided that it wasn't worth playing for substantially less money, so he has decided to call it a career - an honorable move, rather than be a blight on the team's salary cap.
This doesn't deserve much of a disaster rating. Based on Ferguson's 2015 performance, it would be a 0/10. I'm giving the Jets a 2/10, solely because Ferguson's leadership in the locker room will be missed. However, New York can fill the void at left tackle by trading for Ryan Clady, whom the Broncos have been shopping ever since signing Russell Okung.
Chiefs DE/OLB Justin Houston out 6-12 months (ACL injury): 9/10 Disaster Rating
Justin Houston doesn't have a torn ACL, but it reportedly is not functioning properly, meaning that he'll be out six to 12 months. This is obviously a broad range, as the former number will put him on track to play around Week 3 or so. If it's the latter, he won't take the field at all in 2016.
This 9/10 rating is based on Houston being sidelined for 12 months, as it seems appropriate to discuss the worst-case scenario in a "disaster" grades page. Houston is one of the top defensive players in the NFL, so it goes without saying that he'll be incredibly missed. Kansas City's stop unit simply won't be the same without him, as reserve Dee Ford isn't even close to Houston at this stage of his career.
Some overly optimistic Kansas City fans may look at last year's numbers and point out that the Chiefs surrendered about six points fewer per game without Houston in the lineup. However, Kansas City's schedule was ridiculously easy down the stretch, and the team struggled to put away bad teams like the Chargers and Browns. The Chiefs wouldn't have been nearly as successful versus tougher foes.
On the bright side, it's entirely possible that Houston could play at least half of 2016. Then again, he might not be as effective as he usually is after missing training camp. Still, it's better than him missing the entire year, which would make a return trip to the playoffs unlikely.
Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott arrested for DUI: 5/10 Disaster Rating
Twitter follower @kkegley54 told me that he'd like to see a disaster grade for Dak Prescott and his DUI arrest yesterday. Ask, and you shall receive!
I've said it many times before, and I'll say it again: I simply can't understand why any professional sports player would ever be arrested for a DUI. Why would they ever drive, especially when intoxicated? They're rich enough to hire drivers. Plus, it's a great tax write-off, so there's no reason not to have one.
Getting a DUI while in the NFL is pretty bad, but it's even worse when preparing for the NFL Draft. It's alarming that Prescott would be so reckless at such a crucial part of his football career. Teams that value character concerns highly will undoubtedly take him off their boards. Others will still consider him, but will probably be content to take him a round or two later than initially anticipated.
We reported that the Broncos like Dak Prescott and were planning on choosing him in the second round. I think Prescott is still a possibility for them, given that they took the troubled Shane Ray last year. I don't have any information on this at the very moment, but I imagine Denver might be thinking that it could still obtain Prescott in the third frame. I could be wrong though, and if we learn anything, we'll post it on the site.
With that in mind, a 5/10 seems appropriate. Prescott probably will fall a round or two, but he'll still be drafted in all likelihood.
Steelers WR Martavis Bryant suspended for one season (substance-abuse policy): 7/10 Disaster Rating
I was out all Saturday afternoon, so my apologies for being about five hours late on this. On the bright side, it allowed me to think about what to write - though I probably still have the same opinion as everyone else.
It goes without saying that this is a pretty terrible thing to happen to Pittsburgh's offense. Martavis Bryant has been inconsistent throughout his young career thus far, but he has shown plenty of potential and play-making ability. The sky is the limit for him, or at least it was. Bryant is facing a year-long suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, and he has checked himself into rehab.
I'm giving the Steelers a 7/10 Disaster Rating for this suspension. There are worse things that could've happened - Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown or Le'Veon Bell sustaining major injuries, for instance - but it still hurts quite a bit. Bryant's absence will limit the explosiveness of Pittsburgh's offense, though the signing of Ladarius Green will help. More importantly, Bryant might never play again if rehab doesn't help and he tests positive once again. Another violation will result in an indefinite suspension.
Lions announce retirement of WR Calvin Johnson: 6/10 Disaster Rating
This is obviously terrible news for the Lions. They finished the year on a hot streak, going 6-2 down the stretch, and it appeared as though that was going to carry over into 2016. That, apparently, won't be the case now, as Detroit has lost its primary offensive weapon.
Johnson wasn't the dynamic play-maker he was a couple of years ago, but he was still a dominant presence. His "down" year in 2015 saw him catch 88 passes for 1,214 yards. He turns 31 in September, so he still had 2-3 very strong seasons in the tank. In the wake of his retirement, Matthew Stafford will likely go back to struggling, and Detroit will probably continue to keep its playoff winless streak alive for quite some time.
This grade would've been a 10/10 two years ago. I thought about making it an 8/10 because of Johnson's recent decline, but I've decided to drop this to 6/10 after thinking about it; Johnson probably was bound to decline even more, so getting him off the books might not be so terrible.
Johnson finishes with 731 catches, 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns. He'll be in the Hall of Fame one day, but he won't be a first-ballot entrant, in all likelihood, because he just didn't play long enough.
Buccaneers G Logan Mankins announces retirement: 5/10 Disaster Rating
It's funny how things work out sometimes. The Buccaneers clearly won the Logan Makins-Tim Wright swap, yet they never reached the playoffs with Mankins, while the Patriots won the Super Bowl without him. Then again, perhaps New England would've claimed the Lombardi again in 2015 with Mankins shielding Tom Brady from Denver's ferocious pass rush.
Mankins has been one of the league's better guards, and that definitely was the case last year. He's one of the many reasons Jameis Winston was successful as a rookie. As a result, Mankins' absence will be felt. The Buccaneers now have a huge hole on the interior in the wake of his retirement. That's definitely not good, as a weak pass rush can hinder a young quarterback's development.
This isn't a devastating loss, but it could absolutely hurt. The Buccaneers already had plenty of needs they had to address, so adding another one to the list isn't ideal.
Broncos QB Peyton Manning retires: 0/10 Disaster Rating
Chris Mortensen has reported that Peyton Manning has decided to retire. In other words, the Broncos are getting exactly what they've wanted this entire time.
Manning had the worst statistical performance of any Super Bowl-winning quarterback ever. The team won in spite of him, thanks to its great defense and the overconfidence of the Panthers, who were told they were going to easily prevail. After the Super Bowl, Charlie Campbell reported that Peyton Manning and John Elway had a falling out, and that the Broncos didn't want to bring him back. Elway, however, didn't want to seem to be the bad guy, so he wished that Manning would announce his retirement, which is exactly what happened.
This is the best thing that could've happened to all parties. Manning gets to ride off into the sunset following a Super Bowl victory. Elway gets to save face by not forcing the greatest regular-season quarterback of all time to leave the team. The Broncos can move on with Brock Osweiler or whichever other young quarterback as Manning's successor. And us fans won't have to hear the media slobber over Manning any longer.
Given that everyone benefits from this, the Disaster Grade for this retirement is a very obvious 0/10.
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory suspended for 4 games: 5/10 Disaster Rating
I can't say this is the most shocking news. Only Johnny Manziel doing something drunkenly stupid would've been a more predictable NFL story line, and even he has managed to somehow stay out of the Twitter feed this week.
Randy Gregory tested positive at the Combine, which begun his sinking draft stock. A potential top-five selection, Gregory dropped to the bottom of the second round. It wasn't just the drug issues with Gregory; he had some personal demons that he was dealing with. Those completely scared off some teams, who refused to select him at any point during the 2015 NFL Draft. That's how the Cowboys were able to nab him so late.
Gregory didn't get into trouble as a rookie, and with scum bag Greg Hardy set to hit free agency, Gregory was expected to take over as a starting defensive end. He'll have to wait until Week 5 to do that, as the NFL has slapped him with a four-game suspension. Missing Gregory for four contests wouldn't have been the end of the world, despite the fact that his absence will hurt the defense. The reason that this is a 5/10 grade is because Gregory is now one strike away from a year-long ban, which seems inevitable, given his problems. It's kind of ridiculous that Roger Goodell runs the NFL as if he were in control of Saudi Arabia, but the rules aren't changing any time soon, and it doesn't appear as though Gregory is stable enough to follow them.
Steelers TE Heath Miller announces retirement: 2/10 Disaster Rating
Heath Miller has decided to call it a career after 11 seasons. He finishes with 592 receptions, 6,569 yards and 45 touchdowns, holding numerous Steeler franchise records for a tight end. Miller, a two-time Pro Bowler, was a great player, and he'll undoubtedly be missed.
That said, Miller would've been missed much more had he hung up the cleats two years ago. Miller, 34 in October, showed signs of regression in 2015, averaging just 8.9 yards per reception. It was the first time in his career that he held a figure of less than 10. Miller was still effective, but he definitely wasn't the same. Thus, I can't give this a high disaster rating.
The Steelers now have 2015 fifth-rounder Jesse James set to take over as the starter, unless the front office is able to obtain a great value in the upcoming draft. James flashed some potential as a rookie, so the drop-off between a declining Miller and a rising James may not be all that substantial.
Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict suspended for 3 games: 3/10 Disaster Rating
Vontaze Burfict acted like a maniac at the end of the playoff battle against the Steelers, ultimately costing his team what appeared to be a sure victory. He was bound to be suspended, and quite frankly, he's pretty fortunate to get away with just three games.
It's difficult to gauge how impactful this banning will be because the schedule hasn't been released yet. However, a 3/10 could turn out to be the right number. Burfict is one of the top linebackers in the NFL, and he'll be missed, especially when considering that Cincinnati's defense will be worse as a whole next year as a result of the amount of significant impending free agents who will probably leave. That said, this could easily be a 2/10 or 1/10 if the Bengals open the 2016 campaign against some soft opponents.
Bills RB LeSean McCoy reportedly involved in altercation with police: 8/10 & 2/10 Disaster Rating
If you haven't heard, LeSean McCoy allegedly assaulted three Philadelphia police officers at a Super Bowl party over an argument over a champagne bottle. Two of the officers were hospitalized. I'm going to post two Disaster Grades for this: one for McCoy; the other for the Bills.
This is absolutely horrible for McCoy. It paints him in a horrible image, and he can kiss any endorsements he had goodbye for the time being. This, however, isn't a 10/10 because there's a way out of it. McCoy's PR person will probably tell his client to admit that he's an alcoholic and check into a recovery facility for a couple of months. You know, the same, typical fake bulls*** celebrities do when they get into trouble. People will feel sorry for McCoy because he's an "alcoholic," and in a couple of years, he can go back to peddling merchandise he doesn't use. It's still a big financial loss though.
As for the Bills, this isn't a huge deal. Whether McCoy is suspended for four, eight or 16 games, it doesn't matter too much because it'll give Karlos Williams a chance to handle a greater workload. Williams was actually better than McCoy in 2015, so this could actually be a blessing in disguise. The only reason this grade is a 2/10 instead of a 0/10 is because of depth purposes.
Seahawks announce retirement of RB Marshawn Lynch: 0/10 Disaster Rating
This is an obvious zero because Marshawn Lynch wasn't going to be back with the team next year. Hypothetically, however, what would this grade be if Lynch were still going to be a member of the Seahawks at a cheap price? Well, despite Lynch being a five-time Pro Bowler, a Disaster Grade in that scenario would just be a 2/10 or 3/10 - and only because Thomas Rawls isn't completely proven.
One of the reasons the Seahawks were willing to part ways with Lynch was Rawls' dominant performance. Rawls was actually the better running back in 2015, as Lynch was worn down and hindered by injuries. He wasn't the same, unstoppable running back we enjoyed watching earlier this decade. Having Lynch around cheaply would be incredible for depth and insurance, but he would only block a better running back from taking the field.
The other question is whether Lynch has done enough to earn a bid into the Hall of Fame. Lynch doesn't have the greatest career numbers - 11,091 total yards and 83 touchdowns - but a Hall of Fame voter once told me that he'll vote for a player every time if he was great and was able to affect the course of NFL history. Lynch certainly fits both parameters, so while he won't get in on the first ballot, he should be in Canton one day.
Panthers CB Charles Tillman out for playoffs (torn ACL): 2/10 Disaster Rating
Several Panther fans asked me why a grade hasn't been posted for Charles Tillman's torn ACL. The answer is that I simply forgot to do it. I had it on my to-do list, but just didn't remember. I'm sorry!
Also, this injury is not a big deal. Tillman has played well this year across from Josh Norman, but he hasn't been great or anything. I think Carolina's other corners - Cortland Finnegan, Robert McClain - aren't substantial downgrades at all. The only reason this is a 2/10 instead of a 0/10 is for depth purposes.
Texans OT Duane Brown out for playoffs (torn quad): 8/10 Disaster Rating
Several teams went all out in Week 17 despite not really needing to. The Texans were one such squad - a billion things needed to happen for them to relinquish control of the division - and they lost Duane Brown to a torn quad as a result.
Losing Brown is absolutely huge. He's one of the top left tackles in the NFL, and replacement Chris Clark happens to be a huge downgrade. Making matters worse, Houston will be matched up with the Chiefs in the first round, meaning they'll have to battle Justin Houston and Tamba Hali without their best blocker, by far. With that in mind, the Texans will have a much more difficult task trying to upset the Chiefs.
Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. suspended for one game (stupidity): 0/10 or 7/10 Disaster Rating
Odell Beckham Jr. acted like a maniac against the Panthers and deserved to be suspended as a consequence. However, I think it was a mistake to suspend him for Week 16; I would have made it Week 17 instead. Many fantasy players - not me, so I'm not being biased here - have Beckham and will now have to play in a championship without him. I know it may seem silly to alter a player's suspension for fantasy purposes, but fantasy players are big-time paying customers; without them, the NFL wouldn't be raking in as much money. What if a fantasy player with a suspended Beckham has a bad taste in his/her mouth after losing because of that and stops playing fantasy entirely? The NFL would then lose a paying customer, which is just horrible business. Roger Goodell, once again, just doesn't get it.
As for this actual suspension, it's hard not to give this two separate ratings. That's because the Giants could be eliminated from the playoffs by the time they take the field Sunday night. If they are, this suspension is actually beneficial, as it'll help their draft seeding. If not, a 7/10 rating seems appropriate. Beckham is the Giants' best player, and their offense will be significantly worse without him. We saw what it looked like when he was hobbled in a Monday night loss to Philadelphia, and the Giants could be just as stagnant against the Vikings.
Cardinals CB Tyrann Mathieu out for season (torn ACL): 9/10 Disaster Rating
This isn't on the level of Carson Palmer being lost for the year, but it's pretty huge. Tyrann Mathieu tore his ACL and will obviously miss the playoffs.
It's a devastating loss. Mathieu was arguably the best defensive back in the NFL this year, and if it wasn't for J.J. Watt dominating the headlines, Mathieu would've been discussed more as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. The Cardinals don't have great depth at corner behind Mathieu and Patrick Peterson, so the defense will be significantly inferior in the wake of this absolutely crushing injury.
What makes matters worse is that Mathieu may not even be ready for the 2016 season. It took him a while to recover from his previous knee operation, and this one occurred so late in the year that it'll make it highly improbable for him to be prepared for OTAs. That's why I'm giving this a 9/10; it spoils the Cardinals' Super Bowl chances both this year and next season.
Bengals QB Andy Dalton week to week (thumb): 5/10 Disaster Rating
I've been waiting to do a disaster rating for Andy Dalton because we just don't know what the timetable of his injury is. It still doesn't seem like anyone knows how long he'll be out with his thumb injury. The latest we have is that Marvin Lewis said it's "very likely" that Dalton will play again this year, but didn't indicate when he would be able to return.
I think 5/10 is a safe number. It's high enough to indicate Dalton's importance. Dalton has been a choke artist, but he's been enjoying his best season yet. It'll hurt not to have him, as A.J. McCarron doesn't seem like a viable replacement. Dalton could also return as soon as Week 17. Then again, this rating can't be too high because of Dalton's track record in the playoffs. Plus, perhaps I'm wrong about McCarron. I don't think I am, but if he's believes enough that he's Tom Brady, maybe he'll actually become Tom Brady. Crazier things have... no, actually, they haven't.
Patriots DT Dominique Easley out for season (thigh): 5/10 Disaster Rating
LeGarrette Blount is the bigger name, but Dominique Easley's loss is way more significant. Easley happens to be New England's top interior defender. He's a terrific pass-rusher who handles himself well in run support. He didn't play against the Eagles, who were able to move the chains quite easily on the Patriots, so that might be a sign of things to come.
There's no question that the Patriots will be worse without Easley. New England, however, should have been prepared for this. Easley was considered a first-round talent entering the 2014 NFL Draft, but he had major red flags because of his injury history. Many teams had a second-round grade on him as a consequence. The Patriots took a chance, but with 10 missed games in his first two seasons thus far, the gamble isn't quite paying off.
Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount out for season (hip): 2/10 Disaster Rating
Adam Schefter is reporting that LeGarrette Blount will be placed on injured reserve with a hip injury. Blount is a big name, but his injury doesn't matter at all, outside of depth purposes. Blount has run well in previous playoff runs, but at 29, he appears to be completely worn down. Prior to Sunday night, when he was battling a declining Houston defense featuring J.J. Watt and his broken hand, Blount had averaged 3.56 yards per carry in four games since a blowout win over the Redskins. That's obviously not very good.
Brandon Bolden will take over for Blount, and he'll probably perform on a higher level. Bolden is younger and has more explosion left in the tank. Montee Ball was signed to be a reserve.
Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls out for season (broken ankle): 6/10 Disaster Rating
Marshawn Lynch struggled for most of the year because he was dealing with an injury. Lynch was eventually sidelined, allowing Thomas Rawls to enter the lineup. Rawls was fantastic, proving to be an unexpected upgrade. Unfortunately, Rawls won't be an upgrade any longer, given that he's out for the year with a broken ankle.
This is obviously a huge loss. DuJuan Harris couldn't even equal Rawls' yardage despite getting triple the amount of carries than Rawls received in limited action. It's definitely possible that Lynch will return soon, which is why his rating is just a 6/10. However, there's a chance that Lynch will continue to struggle, and if he gets hurt again, the Seahawks won't have a viable alternative at running back.
Saints RB Mark Ingram, Rams DE Robert Quinn out for season (shoulder & back): 0/10 Disaster Rating
I'm grouping these two injuries together because they deserve identical grades with the same explanation.
Mark Ingram and Robert Quinn are very important players for their teams, yet these season-ending injuries are completely irrelevant. That's because the Saints and Rams are entirely out of playoff contention, so Ingram and Quinn's absences will actually be beneficial because it'll allow their teams to have better draft positioning. Plus, it's not like these injuries are going to linger into 2016; the two players will both be fine by OTAs, so it's actually better that they'll miss action and avoid other, more serious injuries.
Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham out for season (torn patellar tendon): 10/10 Disaster Rating
This is horrible. It's only the second 10/10 I've ever given out, and this number could even be too low.
A torn patellar tendon is the worst "normal" injury an NFL player can ever have. It's extremely rare that any athlete comes back 100 percent from such an injury. Victor Cruz, who tore his patellar tendon last year, hasn't even been able to take the field. Jimmy Graham may never be the same, and it's very possible that he may not even play until 2017.
As for this year, losing Graham is obviously huge. Graham didn't have the best rapport with Russell Wilson, but the two seemed to have some chemistry going in the Pittsburgh game. Though Graham didn't post his usual great numbers, defenses still paid a ton of attention to him. Now, the opposition can focus on Wilson's other weapons, as well as Wilson himself.
Browns QB Josh McCown out for season (broken collarbone): 0/10 Disaster Rating
No one outside of the McCown family, and perhaps Mike Pettine, cares about this. It doesn't matter at all, and it could actually be beneficial for the Browns, as it'll force Pettine's hand. He'll almost have to use Johnny Manziel, so Cleveland can finally be sure that he's not the answer before they use one of the quarterbacks available in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Chiefs DE/OLB Justin Houston out a couple of weeks (sprained PCL): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Justin Houston is out for a much shorter period than Chris Johnson, the other player whose timetable was announced today, but this injury is much more significant and consequently deserves a greater disaster rating.
Houston is arguably a top-five defensive player in the NFL. Not only is he one of the most ferocious pass-rushers in the league; he's also a major reason why Kansas City is so stout against the run. Houston is irreplaceable. No one on the roster can even come close to matching his production across from Tamba Hali.
The good news is that Kansas City will be missing him for just a couple of weeks. The bad news is that the Chiefs are right in the thick of a playoff race, and two losses without him being on the field would be devastating. They have the Raiders and Chargers the next couple of games. Those aren't the toughest opponents, but both are capable of pulling the upset. Any road divisional game versus a decent opponent is tough, so Oakland could definitely win. San Diego, meanwhile, plays better as a visitor and will have revenge on its mind following the 33-3 drilling it took in Week 11.
The Chiefs could survive this injury, so I don't want to go overboard here. However, they'll be much weaker defensively without Houston, so dropping to 6-7 is definitely possible.
Cardinals RB Chris Johnson out 6-8 weeks (fractured tibia): 2/10 Disaster Rating
The Cardinals may not see Chris Johnson on the field again until 2016. This would've been devastating news during the early portion of the season when Johnson was running well, but he had slowed down considerably in recent weeks. In fact, the last time Johnson had averaged more than 3.6 yards per carry in a game was back on Oct. 26. In his past four games, Johnson had rushed for 247 yards on 85 carries, which is a 2.91 YPC figure. Not good.
Johnson had begun to show his age, so his injury is actually a blessing in disguise, as it'll allow Arizona to get better running backs on the field more often. Andre Ellington should be the starter when he returns from his own injury, while David Johnson offers an upgrade as well. Thus, Chris Johnson being out 6-8 weeks doesn't matter much at all. The only reason this is a 2/10 instead of a 1/10 is because of depth purposes.
Cowboys QB Tony Romo out for season (collarbone): 4/10 Disaster Rating
ESPN's Ed Werder is reporting that Tony Romo is out for the year with a broken collarbone, so I'm going to roll with it. If Friday's CT scan reveals different results, I'll update, but in the meantime...
I'm not going to give this a high rating. A 4/10 seems appropriate. At 3-8, the Cowboys probably weren't getting to the playoffs with Romo. There was a chance, but it would require the Giants to have a late-season meltdown despite having the luxury of battling the Eagles, Redskins, Dolphins and Jets. They should be able to win three of those contests, meaning that would already be eight victories for them. Sure, the Cowboys sneaking into the postseason was possible, but highly unlikely. The chances of that are zero now with Romo out.
The good news is that this is not a long-term injury. Romo will be perfectly fine well before OTAs begin, so he'll be ready to have a strong 2016 campaign. Besides, Romo's absence means that the Cowboys will be in position to draft one of the top defensive backs available next April. Check out my 2016 NFL Mock Draft for more info.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco out for season (torn ACL, possible MCL): 9/10 Disaster Rating
I've given 1/10 Disaster Ratings to Jeremy Zuttah and Justin Forsett for being out for the year because their absences will help improve draft positioning. The Ravens not having Joe Flacco around pretty much guarantees that they won't win again all year, since Matt Schaub is the backup. However, this definitely is not another 1/10.
The difference here is that Flacco may not be ready for the 2016 season opener. And even if he is, he may not be 100 percent. Flacco tore his ACL and potentially his MCL, so coming back from two torn ligaments in his knee could be difficult for him. The 2015 campaign seemed like the season from hell for the Ravens, but it appears as though it might extend into 2016, which is very unfortunate.
Ravens RB Justin Forsett out for season (broken arm): 1/10 Disaster Rating
This is going to echo the Jeremy Zuttah grade. Losing Justin Forsett would ordinarily be a huge blow, but the Ravens are out of playoff contention, so it doesn't matter. This injury is actually beneficial, as Baltimore's draft positioning could improve as a result of Forsett being out of the lineup.
This is an easy 1/10 grade, as there's no long-term concern for Forsett, since he'll be able to bounce back quickly from a broken arm.
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick out for season (shoulder): 8/10 Disaster Rating
It's funny - two years ago, Colin Kaepernick being lost for the season would've warranted this sort of grade because he was seen as one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. Kaepernick has been exposed without Jim Harbaugh, but this season-ending injury still warrants a high disaster rating - but for a completely different reason.
The 49ers want to get rid of Kaepernick, and not just because he has proven to be uncoachable. He's due close to $14 million for 2016 if he's on the roster after April 1. The thing is, his salary is guaranteed for injury, and San Francisco won't be able to release him if he can't pass a physical. Thus, the team might be stuck with his gargantuan contract for another season. That would explain this 8/10 rating, and I might even be a bit low.
Ravens C Jeremy Zuttah out for season (torn pectoral): 1/10 Disaster Rating
Jeremy Zuttah isn't one of the top centers in the NFL, but he's certainly a very good one. The Ravens will be substantially weaker on offense without him going forward, as Zuttah has been lost for the year with a torn pectoral.
However, this is just a 1/10 rating because Zuttah's absence won't matter. Actually, scratch that - it'll be beneficial. The Ravens' chances of winning games will decrease, but that's a good thing at this juncture because they're out of the playoff race. A better draft pick will set up a stronger 2016 campaign. Besides, Zuttah will be ready for the start of next season, so no big deal.
Raiders DE/OLB Aldon Smith suspended for one year: 5/10 Disaster Rating
Roger Goodell has dropped the ban hammer on Aldon Smith for one full season, as Smith got into trouble for a DUI and another undisclosed incident. The latter must have been super serial, though I wonder... if it was very bad, why was Smith allowed to play in the first place? And if it's not horrible, why get rid of Smith for a full season? It seems ridiculous either way.
Goodell is a terrible judge of character - see what he did to Josh Gordon versus DE Woman Beater, Ray Rice, etc. - and he just doesn't seem to understand that disallowing players to be a part of a team for a long time only strengthens their chances of getting into trouble again. If Goodell actually cared about rehabilitating Smith, he wouldn't have made the punishment so severe. Again, I recognize that the undisclosed incident could have been awful, but as I said, if that were the case, Smith shouldn't have been playing anyway. Either way, it seems as though Goodell has screwed up once again. What else is new?
This is a major blow for the Raiders. Smith had been playing extremely well this season in all facets. He and Khalil Mack provided a great one-two punch in the pass rush. Smith's absence will weaken the defense considerably.
Patriots WR Julian Edelman likely out for regular season (broken foot): 6/10 Disaster Rating
New England players are dropping like flies. Several lineman were already hurt, and then Dion Lewis was knocked out for the season a week ago. Julian Edelman, another big part of the scoring unit, has now sustained an injury as well. Playing the Wes Welker role of the New England offense, Edelman will be missed. The Patriots struggled to move the chains at times against the Giants once Edelman broke his foot. If it weren't for a lucky fumble recovery and a dropped Landon Collins interception, the Patriots would've sustained their first loss.
The Edelman injury is obviously painful, but the good news is that it sounds like Edelman might be able to return for the playoff run. That's why this rating isn't 8/10. The Patriots are obviously safe in terms of owning a playoff spot, so it's not like Edelman's injury will derail their postseason chances.
However, there are two things to consider: First, this could cost the Patriots homefield advantage, as the Bengals are also undefeated. I don't think that's a huge deal, though. Second, Edelman might not be 100 percent when he returns. That's obviously way more significant, and that's why this Disaster Rating isn't a 4/10, or something of that nature.
Colts QB Andrew Luck out 2-6 weeks (lacerated kidney): 7/10 Disaster Rating
Wow, when did this happen? Andrew Luck was sharp all game against the Broncos and didn't appear to sustain an injury. Instead, he's out 2-6 weeks with a lacerated kidney.
It goes without saying that this is a huge blow for the Colts. Matt Hasselbeck has done fine in relief, but only against two of the three worst teams in the NFL, the Jaguars and Texans. The Colts won't stand a chance against most other non-divisional opponents. Even the Buccaneers in Week 12 will pose a challenge.
The only reason this isn't a 10/10 is because of the division the Colts play in. Houston and Jacksonville are garbage, while Tennessee appears to be too far behind at the moment to ruin the Colts' chances of winning the AFC South, even with a healthy Marcus Mariota back in the lineup. Thus, there's a good probability that Indianapolis will reach the playoffs, and Luck apparently will be back by then. However, he may not be 100 percent, which is another worry.
Eagles LB Jordan Hicks out for season (torn pectoral): 4/10 Disaster Rating
This came out of nowhere. Jordan Hicks was projected to miss a couple of weeks with a pectoral strain, but it has been confirmed that it is indeed torn. Hicks, as a result, is done for the year.
Hicks' injury is a big blow for the Eagles' defense, as he was the lone bright spot in the linebacking corps. DeMeco Ryans was just OK, while both Mychal Kendricks and Kiko Alonso were both struggling as a result of injuries. Hicks was terrific in coverage, as evidenced by his pick-six of Matt Cassel on Sunday night. He'll be missed.
This is only a 4/10 because there's a chance that the Eagles could rectify their problems at linebacker. Alonso and Kendricks are just coming back from their injuries, so perhaps they'll heal up and return to form. That'll solve the problem of Hicks being gone for the rest of 2015. However, there's definitely a possibility that Alonso and Kendricks could continue to play poorly, so this injury needs to be taken seriously.
Chargers C Chris Watt out for season (shoulder): 2/10 Disaster Rating
San Diego's offensive line continues to struggle with injuries. Chris Watt has been banged up throughout the 2015 campaign, and now he's officially out for the year. This may seem like a big blow, considering that center is the second-most-important position on offense, but the truth of the matter is, Watt hadn't played well when he was in the lineup. Watt was woeful at times, and Trevor Robinson hasn't been much of a downgrade, so this isn't a crucial injury.
The reason this isn't a 0/10 is because of depth issues. Losing Watt for the season in a vacuum is OK, but what'll happen if Robinson also goes down? That'll be a disaster. Thus, I'm giving San Diego a 2/10 rating.
Giants DT Johnathan Hankins out for season (torn pectoral): 5/10 Disaster Rating
Johnathan Hankins played most downs for the Giants, and his absence will be huge. Hankins didn't provide much of a pass rush, but he was the team's top defender against the run. New York's ground defense, which was already shaky, will be so much worse without Hankins. Every opponent the Giants battle following the bye focuses its offense on the running game, so Hankins' absence could cause the Giants to struggle down the stretch.
Patriots RB Dion Lewis out for season (torn ACL): 6/10 Disaster Rating
This is a crushing blow for the Patriots. I know Bill Belichick's teams have survived after losing key players before, but with Tom Brady's arm not being what it once was, Dion Lewis was a crucial piece in New England's dink-and-dunk style of attack. He was a shifty player as a receiver out of the backfield, often helping New England with some big gains. His absence will be huge.
The Patriots are 8-0, but they could be in some serious trouble. Their offensive line has been in shambles, but they've been able to survive because Brady has had some excellent weapons at his disposal. Well, he has one fewer now, with no clear replacement. LeGarrette Blount will definitely continue to run well, but Brady won't have the sort of Kevin Faulk-type threat leaking out of the backfield.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger out for a few weeks (foot sprain): 4/10 Disaster Rating
What a miserable year for the Steelers. A week after losing Le'Veon Bell for the season, Ben Roethlisberger, who put together a great performance, was knocked out with a foot injury. It's a foot sprain, which will keep him out for a few weeks.
The Steelers are definitely thankful that Roethlisberger didn't tear his Achilles, which was initially what was feared, but not having him for several games will obviously hurt, especially in a tight playoff battle. Pittsburgh survived without Bell and Roethlisberger thus far, but they've always had at least one on the field. Can they keep winning without both? Perhaps against the Browns next week, but the Seahawks, Colts, Bengals and Broncos all loom after the bye. If Roethlisberger misses most of those contests, Pittsburgh could easily relinquish control of one of the wild-card spots.
I'm rating this as a 6/10. It would be higher, but with the Browns and a bye the next couple of weeks, perhaps the Steelers can go 1-1 before Roethlisberger returns. However, he could be out longer, which will obviously ruin Pittsburgh's season.
Update: I'm cutting this to 4/10, as Chris Mortensen is reporting that Roethlisberger could be back for the Seattle game right after the bye. There's always a chance that Roethlisberger will sustain a setback, which is why this isn't a 2/10, or anything, but missing Roethlisberger for just the Cleveland matchup is very fortunate.
Chargers WR Keenan Allen out for season (lacerated kidney): 5/10 Disaster Rating
The Chargers are 2-6, but they can't be counted out of the AFC playoff race. No team in the conference can, as a matter of fact, as the two squads that hold the wild-card spots are currently just 4-3. San Diego had a bunch of injuries, so it could've gotten healthy and made a push for the postseason.
Unfortunately for them, it'll be much more difficult now with Keenan Allen out for the year with a lacerated kidney. It was a substantial injury, as he had to undergo surgery to stop the bleeding. He'll reportedly be fine for the long term, but there's no way he could've made it back in the next couple of months.
Losing Allen hurts a lot, obviously, as he was enjoying a terrific season. However, Philip Rivers has been one of the hottest quarterbacks in the NFL this year, and he has plenty of other weapons at his disposal like Antonio Gates, Ladarius Green and Stevie Johnson. Allen being unavailable definitely sets the Chargers back, but it won't necessarily preclude them from ripping off some wins to close out the season.
Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell out for season (torn MCL): 9/10 Disaster Rating
Le'Veon Bell suffering a season-ending injury is obviously a crushing blow for Pittburgh's Super Bowl chances. Bell is one of the most talented running backs in the NFL, and he also happens to be terrific on third down, both in terms of being a receiver out of the backfield and a pass-protector for Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers had no chance last year when Bell got knocked out, and they are similarly done for 2015, barring some sort of miracle.
This would be a 10/10, but that's reserved for a Roethlisberger season-ending injury. Besides, Bell avoided ACL damage, so it sounds like he'll be ready for the start of the 2016 campaign, so that's at least a silver lining.
Ravens WR Steve Smith out for season (torn Achilles): 2/10 Disaster Rating
It's unfortunate, but it seems as though Steve Smith's career has come to an end. Smith told reporters that this would be his final year, and his torn Achilles could sideline him forever. Even if he changes his mind, coming off this injury at his age would be extremely difficult. This is almost certainly the last time we've ever seen Smith, which is a shame.
However, this isn't a huge deal in terms of the Ravens' immediate future. It's highly unlikely that they were going to make the playoffs, and not having Smith could help their eventual draft position. I can't say they had no chance at the postseason, given how bad the AFC is beyond the top few teams, which is why I can't give this a 1/10. However, Smith's injury probably won't have an impact on the rest of Baltimore's season, given that the team is in a 2-6 hole.
Dolphins OT Ja'Wuan James out for 4-6 games (toe): 4/10 Disaster Rating
The news for the Dolphins just keeps getting worse. When Ja'Wuan James went out of the Thursday night game with a toe injury in the first quarter, it was clear that Miami was going to have trouble moving the ball consistently. That turned out to be the case, as the Dolphins were limited to just seven points, with Jason Fox being a massive downgrade from James.
Now, the Dolphins won't have James for 4-6 weeks because of that toe malady. Their offensive line is in shambles, with Branden Albert and Mike Pouncey being the only quality blockers. James was Miami's top offensive lineman outside of Pouncey this season, so he'll sorely be missed.
Dolphins DE Cameron Wake out for season (torn Achilles): 8/10 Disaster Rating
The Dolphins came into the New England game with so much momentum, but now their season is pretty much over. That's because they lost Cameron Wake, who is out for the year with a torn Achilles.
Wake got off to a slow start in 2015 because he was banged up, but his health was a major reason why Miami was able to get back on track following its bye. Wake was performing like one of the top pass-rushers in football, so he'll be missed. This is a crushing blow for the Dolphins, who are just one game out of the second wild-card spot in the AFC. They'll have a tough time claiming that spot, as the defense will be substantially worse without Wake.
Making matters worse, this could be the end for Wake as a Dolphin. He counts close to $10 million against the cap in 2016, so the front office could deem him too expensive to keep at 34. Coming off a torn Achilles is challenging, so releasing Wake seems like the right move because he'll probably never be the same player again.
Texans RB Arian Foster out for season (torn Achilles): 1/10 Disaster Rating
Arian Foster is a terrific player, so this low grade may surprise you. However, consider two things:
1. The Texans were already set to give up on Foster. Turning 30 in August, Foster has been extremely injury-prone ever since starting his horrible eating habits. Todd Gurley was going to be a target if he happened to be available, so Houston will undoubtedly draft a new running back next spring, perhaps in the second round.
2. Houston has no chance to make the playoffs, so not having Foster around could help the team secure a better draft pick in order to obtain a franchise quarterback. Thus, Foster's torn Achilles may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
Raiders DE Justin Tuck out for season (torn pectoral): 4/10 Disaster Rating
This is a tough loss for the Raiders. Despite being 32, Justin Tuck has played well thus far. He's been decent in terms of being a pass-rusher, despite his one lonely sack, but he's been at his best defending the run. He'll definitely be missed in that regard. Oakland will also wish it had his leadership on the field. Tuck being gone means someone else needs to step up and provide locker-room leadership.
The Raiders will use rookie Mario Edwards as a replacement. Edwards hasn't looked very good thus far, but he hasn't been terrible. Perhaps he'll improve, but I'm going to be conservative with this rating and give Oakland a 4/10.
Rams G Rodger Saffold out for season (shoulder): 1/10 Disaster Rating
Rodger Saffold is a good player, so this 1/10 Disaster Rating may surprise you. If it does, you haven't watched Saffold this season.
Saffold has been an abomination in every regard in 2015. He's a major reason why Nick Foles has been under pressure so much. Saffold has regressed significantly, but it's not because of age, since he's 27. Saffold, quite simply, has never been healthy. He had shoulder surgery in the offseason and has never recovered from that. That would explain why he's looked like a shell of his former self all year.
Saffold undergoing shoulder surgery again this early could be a blessing in disguise, as it'll allow him to come back completely healthy in 2016.
Patriots OT Nate Solder out for season (torn bicep): 6/10 Disaster Rating
The downgrade from Nate Solder to Marcus Cannon may seem extreme, but it's really not. Solder has struggled immensely this season, especially in terms of pass protection. He was heavily abused in Dallas before exiting with what was deemed an elbow injury. That was apparently a torn bicep, and he's now out for the year.
Cannon isn't nearly as talented as Solder, and the upside won't be there, but once again, Solder hadn't been playing well thus far in 2015. The reason this is a 6/10 rating, however, is that the depth at tackle is now shot. If either Cannon or Sebastian Vollmer goes down, who is stepping up? New England really has no one to do so, meaning it'll have to sign a street free agent.
Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles out for season (torn ACL): 10/10 Disaster Rating
Kansas City's season is officially over. Jamaal Charles is out for the year with a torn ACL, which is a shame because he was enjoying a great season. Through four-and-a-half games, Charles had 364 rushing yards on a 5.1 YPC to go along with 21 catches for 177 receiving yards and five total touchdowns. Charles was the Chiefs' entire offense, as evidenced when they couldn't score a single point against Chicago's anemic defense when he was no longer on the field.
This has to be a 10/10. Not only does it derail Kansas City's 2015 campaign; it could have long-term ramifications as well. Charles will be 29 in December, and he'll be coming off his second torn ACL. He may never be the same again. It's quite possible that Charles could bounce back to his former self, but it's definitely not a given.
Ravens CB Will Davis out for season (torn ACL): 3/10 Disaster Rating
I'm waiting for official word on Jamaal Charles to post a Disaster Rating, but another player tore his ACL. The Ravens spent a seventh-round pick to acquire Will Davis from the Dolphins a couple of weeks ago to help with their dreadful cornerback situation. However, Davis is now out for the season after shredding his knee in the loss to Cleveland.
This definitely hurts the Ravens. Davis had been playing well, and he was needed with Jimmy Smith banged up and Lardarius Webb injured as well. The Ravens, now 1-4, still have a chance to climb into a wild-card slot, but it appears as though they are cooked because of how many players (especially defensive backs) are hurt.
Cowboys RB Lance Dunbar out for season (torn ACL, MCL): 3/10 Disaster Rating
And another Cowboy bites the dust. Losing Lance Dunbar isn't a huge deal, but it will be somewhat significant. Dunbar has been one of the top receiving options for Tony Romo and Brandon Weeden. He caught 21 passes in his first three games and served well as a third-down blocker. This injury itself wouldn't be so bad, but the Cowboys are dealing with so many other players who happen to be hurt. You have to wonder, when will enough be enough?
The Cowboys don't have a great receiving back to fill in, so they'll be relying on Darren McFadden more in that role. McFadden won't be as effective, but he's not the worst option in the world. Christine Michael will also be worked in for more carries.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger injured knee (out 4-6 weeks): 7/10 Disaster Rating
Ben Roethlisberger sustained a nasty-looking knee injury in the third quarter of the team's win at St. Louis. Adam Schefter is reporting that Roethlisberger could be out four weeks at the very least. It was possible that an MRI could've revealed a torn ACL, but that proved not to be the case. As a result, Roethlisberger will miss 4-6 weeks.
I think this is worth a 7/10 rating. The Steelers' next five opponents - Ravens, Chargers, Cardinals, Chiefs, Bengals - aren't cupcakes, and the team could realistically be looking at a 1-4 stretch because the backup, QBDK, isn't any good. Dropping to 3-5 won't be the end of the world, but it'll be a very difficult - but not impossible - hole for the team to crawl out of.
Still, this could have been much worse. Had Roethlisberger been lost for the season, this would've been an easy 10/10. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, its season is still alive.
Saints QB Drew Brees out (shoulder): 8/10 Disaster Rating
Drew Brees is out for Sunday's game, and he could be unavailable for the foreseeable future with a shoulder injury. Brees was very ineffective in a home loss to the Buccaneers, so it's good that the Saints are keeping him out and letting him heal, unlike Jim Schwartz a few years ago, who risked Matthew Stafford's health by rushing him back too soon. Unfortunately for New Orleans, this injury is catastrophic for the team's chances in 2015.
With Luke McCown at the helm, the Saints are now eight-point underdogs in Carolina. It's hard to imagine McCown beating such a strong defense with poor pass protection, so New Orleans will almost certainly be 0-3 after Sunday. That means they'll be three back behind the Panthers, and they could trail the Falcons by three games as well. Being three back behind one team that already won the first matchup is bad enough, but trailing two squads by three is almost the nail in the coffin. And then there's the fact that Brees could be out next week as well, and even if he plays, he may not be 100 percent versus a tough Dallas defense.
It's too soon to pronounce any team officially dead for 2015 - aside from the Bears - but the Saints are very close. The silver lining is that with a potential top-five pick, they'll be able to obtain someone like Joey Bosa or Vernon Hargreaves. Either would bolster their defense tremendously and give New Orleans some hope for 2016.
Buccaneers TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins out 4-6 weeks (shoulder): 2/10 Disaster Rating
Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be back after a while this season, so this isn't a huge deal. It's not like the Buccaneers have playoff aspirations, so losing Seferian-Jenkins for about a month won't be detrimental at all, as far as the team as a whole is concerned.
What Seferian-Jenkins' absence could impact is Jameis Winston's development. Winston has shown a great rapport with the second-year tight end, so not having him around may hurt, especially with Mike Evans hobbling. I'm not saying this will hurt Winston's career or anything, hence why this is just a 2/10, but it's not an ideal situation for the rookie quarterback.
Cowboys DT Terrell McClain out for season (toe): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Dallas players are dropping like flies. Terrell McClain's absence obviously won't be as impactful as Tony Romo and Dez Bryant's, but McClain is a solid player who will be missed. McClain was on the field for just two downs, but he's a quality run-plugger. He doesn't do much else, but the Cowboys' ground defense won't be as strong without him in the lineup.
Bears QB Jay Cutler out 2 weeks (hamstring): -5/10 Disaster Rating
If you're confused, that's not a 5/10; that's a minus-5. Jay Cutler's injury might have been the best thing to happen to the Bears, though the short time period is why this isn't a minus-10; a season-long injury would've warranted such a perfect minus "disaster" rating.
The Bears will be better off without Cutler. I'm not saying that the other quarterbacks they have are better talents, but Cutler is a turnover-prone player who sucks the life out of a team. Cutler being sidelined gives Chicago a better chance at landing the No. 1 overall pick. The Bears' rebuilding process will be smoother that way.
Cowboys QB Tony Romo out 8 weeks (broken clavicle): 8/10 Disaster Rating
When it was initially announced that Tony Romo broke his clavicle, it sounded like he could be lost for the season. As it turns out, he'll be gone for about eight games, according to Ian Rapoport.
I obviously don't need to tell you how terrible this is for the Cowboys. However, there are some positives. First and foremost, this could have been much worse. Had Romo been lost for all of 2015, this would have warranted a 10/10 rating. Second, Dallas is 2-0, so even if it doesn't compile a good record with Romo gone, it'll be able to weather the storm, especially in a division in which both the Eagles and Giants are 0-2. And third, the Cowboys will be getting Rolando McClain and Greg Hardy back in Week 5, so their defense will be able to carry them in some of the games that Romo will miss.
Packers ILB Sam Barrington likely out for season (foot): 2/10 Disaster Rating
Losing a starting linebacker for an entire season - FOX Sports' Alex Marvez first had the report - is usually a big deal. However, Sam Barrington is not a very good player. We saw how much of a liability he was when Chip Kelly went crazy and schemed against him in the dress rehearsal for some reason. Barrington looked helpless in coverage, and he's not strong versus the run either.
The only reason this is a 2/10 is because Green Bay's depth at the position took a hit. However, the team will be able to sign someone - Mason Foster or Brandon Spikes are the top inside linebackers available - who will be nearly as effective as Barrington would have been.
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant out 8-12 weeks (broken foot): 7/10 Disaster Rating
Dez Bryant broke a bone in his foot and will be out 4-6 weeks. This is obviously not good news, as Bryant is one of the top play-makers in the NFL. Having said that, this is not a death sentence for Dallas, or anything remotely close to that. Bryant should be back by the end of October. The team has a Week 6 bye, so Bryant figures to return right after that, and Week 7 isn't even the exact middle of the season.
Bryant misses some tough matchups, including a battle against the Eagles, but Tony Romo proved Sunday night that he can drive the field and win the game without his top receiver. Besides, the Cowboys won their opener, so they can afford a loss they normally wouldn't have sustained with Bryant.
I'm updating this grade and moving it up to 5/10. Chris Mortsensen reported that Bryant's timetable is closer to 6-8 weeks, which obviously hurts a lot more than the initially speculated 4-6 weeks. The Cowboys will be OK because they'll likely have Bryant down the stretch, but they better not lose too many games in the meantime.
Bryant's timetable keeps getting pushed back. His initial diagnosis was 4-6 weeks, then 6-8 weeks. Now, ESPN's doctor is predicting an 8-12 week period. At this rate, Bryant may not play again until 2025.
It's sounding like Bryant won't be back until December now, which is horrible news. The Cowboys might be able to survive until then with their defense, which will be much better when Rolando McClain and Greg Hardy return in Week 5, but there's a chance Bryant may not even be healthy for a potential playoff run, which is obviously very problematic.
Redskins WR DeSean Jackson out 3-4 weeks (hamstring): 0/10 Disaster Rating
Losing a player of DeSean Jackson's caliber would normally hurt a team - assuming it happened to be immune to the problems he creates in the locker room - but Jackson's absence for the next month could be a blessing in disguise for Washington.
There's very little doubt that the Redskins will be picking in the top 10 in the 2016 NFL Draft. Jackson being out could guarantee that Washington will be in the top five - perhaps even No. 1 overall. The Redskins need a new franchise quarterback, so completely bottoming out seems like the best solution. Check out my 2016 NFL Mock Draft for more.
Chargers G/OT D.J. Fluker out 4-6 weeks (high-ankle sprain): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Everyone knows who Dez Bryant is, while most casual fans aren't even aware of which team D.J. Fluker plays for. Yet, they both receive the same Disaster Rating for being out 4-6 weeks. Bryant is obviously the better talent, but these injuries are equally impactful.
Fluker's high-ankle sprain is potentially very hazardous. We saw what happened last year when Philip Rivers got banged up - San Diego's promising season went down the drain. The same could happen now. The Chargers made sure to upgrade their offensive front this offseason, but now have a huge hole at right guard in the wake of Fluker's injury. If Rivers gets hit too hard over the next 4-6 weeks, San Diego can kiss its playoff aspirations goodbye.
Ravens DE/OLB Terrell Suggs out for season (torn Achilles): 8/10 Disaster Rating
Say goodbye to Baltimore's Super Bowl chances. I don't want to overreact to one injury, but Terrell Suggs is one of the top pass-rushers in the NFL, and he's also one of the primary leaders in the locker room. The Ravens' defense was projected to carry the team with the offense being so sluggish, but that's going to be difficult to do now.
Baltimore still has numerous quality players on its stop unit, but the defense as a whole won't be nearly as potent without Suggs. I think winning the division could still be a possibility, but the team's chances aren't looking as good, and a deep playoff run appears very improbable.
What sucks the most for the Ravens is that Suggs may never be the same again. He already tore an Achilles in the past and managed to recover from it, but he was in his prime back then. He's now 33 (next month), so it's difficult to imagine a bigger player in his mid-30s coming back at 100 percent from a second Achilles.
Patriots QB Tom Brady has suspension overturned: 2/10 (Pats), 7/10 (NFL) Disaster Rating
Tom Brady's four-game suspension has been overturned, so I have two grades for you. One concerns the Patriots; the other is for the league itself.
Beginning with New England, I was beginning to think that Bill Belichick was hoping that he'd be able to use Jimmy Garoppolo in the first four games. Many would scoff at that, but if you're one of those people, you haven't seen how truly putrid Brady has been in the preseason. In my Fantasy Football Busts list, I described him as a rotting corpse, and I'm not exaggerating. He can barely complete passes beyond five or so yards anymore. On top of that, Brady has been in court all summer, and now it's been revealed that his wife has threatened him with divorce. There is no way Brady is prepared for the 2015 season, and I have to think that Belichick wants to escape this circus and just move forward with Garoppolo. He can't do that now.
This is only a 2/10, however, because I highly doubt that Belichick could've justified benching Brady permanently. His only hope was if Garoppolo began the year 4-0, and even then, he'd have to deal with idiots in the media constantly hounding him and his team about the quarterback controversy. So maybe it's best that Brady won't miss games? Then again, the Patriots' chances have diminished considerably. A 2/10 seems right.
As for the NFL, well, this makes Roger Goodell look terrible, and that's saying a lot because he already had a huge negative image. The judge absolutely made Goodell look like a clown in this ruling. The league, after all, spent tons of money and countless resources on an investigation, and yet it still couldn't provide 100-percent proof that Brady cheated. It's ridiculous, and I'm wondering that if the NFL loses its appeal, Goodell could be forced to resign.
For the record, the suspension was completely just. In fact, I think Brady got off pretty easy. Not only did he cheat, but he failed to cooperate with a league investigation and destroyed evidence. If he didn't cheat, and was completely innocent, he would've cooperated, and he wouldn't have destroyed evidence. That's just common sense, and if any non-Patriot fan believes Brady shouldn't have been suspended, they are insane. Alas, the judge is apparently insane (or a Patriots fan), but perhaps the NFL will win its appeal and save face somehow.
Colts DE/DT Arthur Jones out indefinitely (ankle): 2/10 Disaster Rating
Arthur Jones will be out for some time with an ankle injury. He could be lost for the entire year, though there's a chance he could be back for the second half of the season. Either way, it's not a big deal for the Colts.
Now, that may sound strange given that Jones signed a 5-year, $33 million contract last spring, but he just hasn't lived up to the money. He struggled in all regards in 2014, and he didn't exactly show much promise this preseason. Indianapolis spent a third-round pick on Henry Anderson, who could step in right away. If not, Zach Kerr proved that he wasn't much of a downgrade last year.
So, why is this a 2/10 instead of 1/10? Just because of depth, plus the possible upside that came with Jones being in the lineup. Jones was great with the Ravens, so perhaps he could've rebounded, but it seems like he's yet another of these big linemen who mail it in after obtaining a huge deal.
Saints CB Keenan Lewis out 4-6 weeks (hip surgery): 4/10 Disaster Rating
This is a pretty significant loss for the Saints. Keenan Lewis happens to be their top cornerback, so not having him available for the first six weeks or so - it'll be tough for him to return on a Thursday night in Week 6 - will definitely hurt, especially since third-round rookie corner P.J. Williams was lost for the year recently.
The Saints will now roll with the penalty-prone Brandon Browner, Delvin Breaux, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Damian Swann as their top four corners. That doesn't sound too promising, especially considering that some of their first six opponents are the Cardinals (Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown), Buccaneers (Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans), Cowboys (Dez Bryant), Eagles (Jordan Matthews) and Falcons (Julio Jones). And if Lewis isn't completely healed right away upon his return, dealing with the Colts (T.Y. Hilton) and Giants (Odell Beckham Jr.) will be quite challenging.
The good news is that Lewis will return at some point. However, it's unclear if he'll be 100 percent this season, given that hip surgery doesn't sound like it's trivial at all.
Jets TE Jace Amaro out for the season (shoulder surgery): 1/10 Disaster Rating
I considered giving this a 0/10, but the 1/10 is for Jace Amaro's development being hindered by this lost season. Not that I had much faith in him anyway. Amaro isn't very good, so I don't think the Jets' 2015 season will be impacted at all by the tight end's injury. New York, quite frankly, doesn't have any sort of chance to make the playoffs, so Amaro's absence means nothing in terms of the near future.
Jaguars TE Julius Thomas out 4-5 weeks (broken hand): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Man, I did not like the Julius Thomas acquisition when it was made earlier in the offseason - I gave the Jaguars a C Grade for signing Julius Thomas - and it's looking worse and worse. Thomas hasn't been healthy at all, and now he'll need surgery on his broken hand. Thomas has been a slow healer in the past, so his Week 4-5 return timetable could be optimistic.
This obviously hurts the Jaguars, who could use Thomas' 6-5 frame in the end zone. Considering that Blake Bortles still has shaky protection, he needs all the help he can get, so not having his talented tight end until mid-October will make the offense less efficient, especially in the red zone.
Having said that, I still like Bortles to improve; he can still throw to Allen Robinson, and he figures to have a better running game to complement him this year. Plus, offensive coordinator Greg Olson has always gotten the most out of his quarterbacks, so I don't expect Bortles to struggle very much - at least, not in between the 20s.
Raiders OT Menelik Watson out for season (torn Achilles): 3/10 Disaster Rating
If the Raiders absolutely had to pick one offensive lineman to lose for the season, I think they would've chosen Menelik Watson. The former second-rounder struggled early on in his career. He enjoyed a terrific training camp, so things were looking promising for him, but seeing anyone on the left side of the front go out would have been far more devastating.
Having said that, this is still a significant loss. It'll force Austin Howard to move to right tackle, which would be fine if it didn't cause J'Marcus Webb into the starting lineup in Howard's old spot. Webb is awful, and his poor blocking could hinder Derek Carr's development. I'm definitely not saying Carr will bust because of this, but having a much better pocket would've helped him evolve into a capable starting quarterback.
Steelers WR Martavis Bryant suspended for 4 games: 3/10 Disaster Rating
Martavis Bryant will sit out for four games because of multiple failed drug tests, according to Ian Rapoport. Not having Bryant will have a minimal impact on Pittsburgh's season. Bryant was slated to be the team's third receiver, and he'll be back for the team's fifth game, so it's not like Ben Roethlisberger will miss Bryant's presence in the end zone for too long.
This would normally be a 1/10 (maybe 1.5?), but I've upgraded it to a 3/10 because this could be a bad sign for the future. If Bryant gets caught again, his suspension will be longer, and he could head down the same path that ruined Josh Gordon's career.
Redskins DE/OLB Junior Galette out for season (torn Achilles): 5/10 Disaster Rating
I almost never cheer for injuries, but I can't say that I'm too upset about this one. Junior Galette shouldn't be in the NFL right now, and it appears as though he'll have to wait until 2016 to take the field again, as he's done for the year with a torn Achilles.
I say good riddance, but the Redskins are obviously hurt by this. Their defense was already weak, so losing one of their few play-makers will make the unit substantially weaker. They'll have to use a rotation of Trent Murphy and Preston Smith across from Ryan Kerrigan, which is not ideal; otherwise, they would not have signed Galette in the first place.
Now, I don't think this matters all that much because Washington wasn't going to make the playoffs anyway, so why the 5/10? Because the Redskins look so incredibly stupid. They gave a proven scumbag a second chance just to improve their horrible chances - effectively, a deal with the devil - but now they won't get anything out of it. This is karmic justice at its finest.
Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick out for season (torn ACL): 6/10 Disaster Rating
The Cowboys have lost Orlando Scandrick for the season. He went down with a knee injury in practice with what they feared was a torn ACL. The MRI revealed that it is indeed the worst-case scenario.
Losing Scandrick is obviously huge. He's coming off a terrific year, and he happens to be the team's top cornerback. Dallas' secondary will be substantially weaker without Scandrick, as the team has issues at the corner position otherwise.
Having said that, this doesn't doom the Cowboys' season. They might be able to survive. They are strong elsewhere on defense, and they spent a first-round pick on corner Byron Jones. It's unknown if Jones will pan out, but the team also likes Tyler Patmon. Scandrick's absence will decrease Dallas' chances of winning it all, but a Super Bowl could still be a possibility.
Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey out indefinitely (ankle): 5/10 - 7/10 Disaster Rating
Maurkice Pouncey sustained an ankle injury on Pittsburgh's second drive against the Packers and was carted into the locker room. It was initially diagnosed as a high ankle sprain, but now it sounds like his ankle might be broken all together. Pouncey, as a consequence, could miss the entire season.
I've graded this as a 5/10 or 7/10 because the severity of Pouncey's injury isn't clear yet. If he's out for the year, this is an obvious 7/10. Pouncey is one of the top centers in the NFL, and he happens to be Pittsburgh's top offensive lineman. The center position is a highly important one, so the offense definitely won't be the same without him. He'll be replaced by Cody Wallace, who struggled last year.
Pouncey could be out for half the year, which is sounding like the best-case scenario right now. If so, this is a 5/10. Wallace will hinder Pittsburgh's offense, but at least Pouncey would fix that upon his return. It goes without saying that the Steelers will be hoping that they can get him back at some point; otherwise, even getting to the Super Bowl could be extremely difficult.
Packers WR Jordy Nelson out for season (torn ACL): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Losing Jordy Nelson obviously sucks because Aaron Rodgers has such a great rapport with him. He and Nelson are so effective together, so Nelson's reported torn ACL will definitely hurt Green Bay's offense.
Having said that, this injury won't prevent the Packers from winning a Super Bowl this year. Not by any means. That's because Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL right now, and he's capable of transforming average talents into good receivers. Davante Adams is more than just an "average talent," so he could have a huge year.
I also question how good Nelson is, exactly. He's a high-quality player, but he's not as great as the stats make him out to be because of Rodgers; it was no coincidence that Nelson didn't produce very much without Rodgers in the past. That's why I listed him in my NFL Top 10 Overrated Players list.
Panthers DE Frank Alexander out for season (torn Achilles): 1/10 Disaster Rating
Frank Alexander's season-ending Achilles injury is drawing headlines on NFL Network, but I can't really understand why. It's unfortunate for Alexander, but his absence won't really affect the Panthers all that much. He might have been considered the favorite to start across from Charles Johnson, but 2014 second-rounder Kony Ealy can easily step in. Ealy looked good in the team's second preseason game, so he should be fine there. And besides, Alexander barely played last season and has just 3.5 career sacks. This also doesn't hurt depth all that much, as Carolina has some quality players at defensive end.
Cardinals G Mike Iupati out 3-8 weeks (torn meniscus): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Arizona players are dropping like flies. Corey Peters is done for the season, and now Mike Iupati has been declared out for 3-8 weeks with a torn meniscus.
Though Iupati is expected back in October, or perhaps just prior to it, this injury is more significant. Iupati is a much better player than Peters; in fact, he's considered one of the best run-blocking guards in the NFL. Losing him will be a big blow to Arizona's already-questionable rushing attack. Fortunately for the Cardinals, Iupati is only expected to be out for 2-4 regular-season games, so this Disaster Rating can't be too high.
Cardinals DL Corey Peters out for season (torn Achilles): 2/10 Disaster Rating
This may be a 2/10 for the Cardinals, but it's a 10/10 for Corey Peters, who just tore his left Achilles a couple of years after tearing his right Achilles. Peters' career is now in jeopardy.
As for Arizona, this would have been a 1/10 if the team's defensive line depth wasn't already shot. Peters isn't a very good player, but he was expected to play a somewhat significant role in the Cardinals' rotation. Now, the team will have one fewer option up front, though it might be easy to replace Peters.
Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin (torn ACL): 7/10 Disaster Rating
Kelvin Benjamin went down with a knee injury during Wednesday's practice, but there was some hope for optimism when there was speculation that it was only a sprain. That turned out not to be the case, as Benjamin has been lost for the entire 2015 campaign with a torn ACL.
This is the worst thing that could have happened to the Panthers, minus injuries to Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly. Benjamin's absence will change the entire dynamic of Carolina's offense. Benjamin is Carolina's only proven downfield play-maker; he was targeted more than all but four receivers in the NFL last year despite being a rookie. Newton, after all, didn't have any other receivers to throw to, so he had to fire countless passes to Benjamin, and he had success doing so because the rookie wideout was so dynamic.
With Benjamin gone, Newton is likely to struggle more as a passer. Unless second-round rookie Devin Funchess emerges, opposing defenses will be able to play closer to the line of scrimmage, allowing them to focus more on shutting down Newton's scrambles and Jonathan Stewart's runs. This will be the first time Newton won't have a respected wideout at his disposal (Steve Smith, then Benjamin), so he could have his worst season as a pro as a result. If so, it's safe to say that the Panthers won't be repeating as NFC South champions.
Dolphins S Louis Delmas out for season (torn ACL): 4/10 Disaster Rating
No one should be surprised by this. Louis Delmas, who was already fragile, tore his right ACL in early December and attempted to come back way too soon. The arrogance has cost him even more playing time, as he re-tore the same ligament. If he had been patient, he might have been able to play half the 2015 campaign, but he's now out for the entire season.
While predictable, this is unfortunate for the Dolphins. Delmas is a talented safety, and his presence in the secondary will be missed. Miami already had a taste of what it's like without Delmas; the team surrendered just 19.3 points per game with him in 2014, and a whopping 35.3 without him. Granted, that wasn't all him - Jared Odrick getting banged up also hurt - but there's no question that the defensive backfield struggled when Delmas went down.
That'll once again be the case in 2015. Delmas' replacement looks to be Walt Aikens, a 2014 fourth-round selection. Aikens could pan out, but he didn't show much promise as a rookie, albeit in limited action.
I'm giving this a 4/10. It would be a 5/10, matching the Phil Loadholt injury, but it was pretty much a given that Delmas would miss at least some action this year because he never truly recovered from his previous ACL tear.
Buccaneers OT Demar Dotson out for 6 weeks (knee): 3/10 Disaster Rating
This looked like it could have been a lot worse. Demar Dotson was carted off the field Saturday night with what appeared to be a possible ACL tear, which would've been disastrous for both the Buccaneers and Dotson himself, as he's a candidate to receive a big extension from the team.
Dotson, as it turns out, has just an MCL sprain. That's the good news. The bad news is that he'll miss approximately six weeks of action, meaning Tampa won't have his services for 2-4 regular-season games. It's only about a quarter of the season, but it's still a big deal because Dotson is Tampa Bay's top lineman. The Buccaneers, of course, have a rookie quarterback, so it could hurt Jameis Winston that he won't have very good protection for his first few starts. Winston struggled enough in his preseason debut - read all about it in my NFL Preseason Recaps - so he needs all the help he can get right now.
Rams CB E.J. Gaines out for season (Lisfranc): 5/10 Disaster Rating
This one seemingly came out of nowhere, as it was initially reported that E.J. Gaines simply had a minor foot problem. Gaines will have Lisfranc surgery and will miss the entire year as a result.
This is a big loss. Gaines was St. Louis' top cornerback last year despite being a sixth-round rookie, so the defense will be much worse without him in 2015. The Rams still have Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson at the position, so they're not completely helpless there, but the back end of the stop unit definitely suffered a major blow.
Vikings OT Phil Loadholt out for season (torn Achilles): 5/10 Disaster Rating
Phil Loadholt tore his Achilles in the Vikings' second exhibition game and is out for the season as a result. Minnesota had blocking issues last year, and this latest injury definitely won't help the unit rebound.
Loadholt is a terrific run-blocker and will be missed. He may even have trouble making it back in 2016, as such an injury could be difficult for a 340-pound man to come back from. I'm not saying his career is over, but there's a realistic chance that he may never be the same.
If you want to call this a silver lining, the Vikings spent a fourth-round selection on Pittsburgh tackle T.J. Clemmings, who is the favorite to replace Loadholt. Clemmings has upside, but he slipped in the draft because many teams deemed him too raw, so rushing him into action is not ideal.
Bears WR Kevin White out indefinitely (shin): 2/10 Disaster Rating
Kevin White will have surgery on his shins. He'll be placed on the PUP list, and it's sounding like there's a chance that he could miss the entire season. White was chosen No. 7 overall in this past draft, but I'm not going to give the Bears a high Disaster Rating. In fact, I don't think this injury will matter at all.
John Fox hates playing rookies. He just doesn't do it. White already had missed time with shin splints, so there was no way he was going to see the field any time soon anyway. Perhaps he would've gained some experience late in the year, and that's why this is a 2/10 instead of just a 1/10.
Besides, White missing time could be beneficial for the long term. The Bears have no chance of reaching the playoffs this year, so the worse they are, the better position they'll be in to obtain an upgrade over Jay Cutler next April (go here for my 2016 NFL Mock Draft).
Redskins TE Niles Paul out for season (ankle): 3/10 Disaster Rating
So much for Jordan Reed being the injury-prone tight end. Niles Paul, viewed more as the more reliable intermediate option for the Redskins, is done for the year with what Jay Gruden called an "ankle fracture dislocation."
Paul is a good player, but this is not the end of the world for the team. Not even close. Losing Reed would've been more detrimental, as he's a play-maker. Paul is more well-rounded, but he's a blocking tight end. It's very easy to find a replacement at that position, and I'm sure Washington will easily find a substitute. The new player won't be as skilled as Paul, but the downgrade will be negligible.
Cardinals OT Bobby Massie suspended for 3 games: 2/10 Disaster Rating
Bobby Massie will miss three games as a result of being suspended for the NFL's substance-abuse policy. This means that first-round rookie D.J. Humphries will have an opportunity to start in his place.
So, with that in mind, isn't this a good thing, especially when considering that Massie was the one responsible for Carson Palmer's season-ending injury last year? Well, it could be a positive, but Humphries, unfortunately, hasn't taken well to coaching thus far; Bruce Arians even said that he's had to go to extreme measures just to motivate the Florida product. Humphries may not be ready to start right away as a consequence, so it's possible that he could be even worse than Massie. Not having Massie will hurt depth as well. That's why I'm giving the Cardinals a 2/10 Disaster Rating, but it's not a huge deal by any means.
Jets QB Geno Smith out 6-10 weeks (broken jaw): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Geno Smith will miss 6-10 weeks because he was sucker punched in the locker room by some scrub linebacker named IK Enemkpali. Wait... wait just one second. I need to check the calendar to see if it's April 1. Because this report sounds like an April Fools' Day joke. Oh... it's not April 1? This really happened? Wow... this is one of the most absurd stories I've heard in quite a long time, almost as if I came up with it myself in Emmitt on the Brink.
For those who are thinking, Walt, Geno Smith sucks, so how does this deserve a 4/10 rating?, I agree with you. Smith does suck. He had been enjoying a great training camp, but he is also one of the most up-and-down players in the NFL. Once the interceptions begin arriving, they come in bunches. See the first Buffalo game last year, as an example.
Having said that, I think this event says a lot about the lack of leadership in the Jets' locker room, hence the 4/10 rating. You'll never hear that Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, etc. have been sucker punched by a teammate because they actually command respect in the locker room. Smith, apparently, does not, and the Jets are in complete turmoil as a result.
The silver lining is that this could be a blessing in disguise. The Jets could get a look at Bryce Petty if they realize starting Ryan Fitzpatrick is a waste of time; the fourth-round rookie was deemed undraftable by several teams we spoke to, but there's a chance he could succeed. And if Petty sucks (Fitzpatrick definitely will), New York will be in a better spot to pick one of the quarterbacks available next April (go here for my 2016 NFL Mock Draft for more.)
Steelers K Shaun Suisham out for the year with torn ACL: 3/10 Disaster Rating
Something that wasn't mentioned at all during the Sunday Night Football telecast was that Shaun Suisham left the game with a knee injury that he sustained while trying to make a tackle. Well, that attempted tackle has ruined Suisham's 2015 campaign; he's done for the season with a torn ACL.
This will obviously hurt the Steelers in the short term. Ask the Lions and Broncos how it felt not to have a reliable kicker during the early stages of a season, as both teams dealt with this problem in 2014. And Suisham is definitely reliable - he has drilled at least 90 percent of his field goals in each of the past three years.
Having said that, it's important to note that both the Lions and Broncos qualified for the playoffs despite their kicking issues. Both teams were able to find solutions, and I'm sure Pittsburgh will as well. Not having a kicker could cost the Steelers an early win, but they'll be able to remedy this problem at some point in the near future.
Eagles CB JaCorey Shepherd out for the year with torn ACL: 2/10 Disaster Rating
Apparently, one of the reasons the Eagles foolishly traded Brandon Boykin away to the Steelers was because they were comfortable with sixth-round rookie JaCorey Shepherd starting at nickel. Well, that plan has definitely gone awry, as Shepherd is out for the year with a torn right ACL.
The Eagles, who already had issues in their secondary, are definitely hurt by this. I'd give them a higher Disaster Rating, but it's not clear how good Shepherd was exactly. He was just a sixth-round pick, after all, so he could have easily been terrible. Philadelphia will have to go with either E.J. Biggers or Jaylen Watkins to replace Shepherd, and either might not be much of a downgrade. The only thing that's clear is that the Eagles suffered a blow to their depth in their defensive backfield.
49ers DE/OLB Aldon Smith arrested, released: 7/10 Disaster Rating
The 49ers aren't having the greatest offseason, are they? The team has watched many of its talented players leave via retirement or free agency, but it still had some skilled players remaining on the roster, including Aldon Smith, who was a fantastic pass-rusher. Smith, who had gotten into trouble off the field in the past, vowed to stay clean from now on. Smith, apparently, is a liar in addition to being a moron.
Smith was arrested Thursday night on DUI, hit-and-run and vandalism charges. He'll be suspended for a long period of time, and this could prompt the 49ers to cut him. Obviously, Smith won't be playing much - if at all - for San Francisco this upcoming season, which will really hurt a pass rush that already lost Justin Smith and Ray McDonald.
I'm giving this a 6/10. I initially was going to rate it an eight, but I figured that it didn't matter as much as I initially thought. The 49ers were already a train wreck with no playoff aspirations, so this just means they'll be in a better position to draft Joey Bosa - No. 2 pick in my 2016 NFL Mock Draft - come April.
Update: Aldon Smith has been released, which can't be a surprise. Smith is an idiot who has pissed away his pro career, and the 49ers are pretty much assured to be one of the worst teams in the NFL this upcoming season. Like I said though, the silver lining is that Bosa can be obtained to replace Justin Smith to begin the rebuilding process. I'm increasing the Disaster Grade to 7/10 because the 49ers have permanently lost another one of their top players.
Texans RB Arian Foster suffers groin injury: 8/10 Disaster Rating
Arian Foster sustained a groin injury in Monday's practice, and according to ESPN's Tania Ganguli, it's significant enough that it could require surgery. Foster, as a consequence, could be out until November.
While this injury is devastating to Houston's wild-card chances, it was a pretty predictable one. Foster had been enjoying a healthy offseason, but he hasn't been able to avoid soft-tissue maladies like this ever since he foolishly changed his diet. The team wasn't completely optimistic about him either, as the front office would've considered picking Todd Gurley with the No. 16 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft had the Georgia running back dropped to their choice. We made note of this back in February, but Gurley never made it to the 16th pick.
The Texans don't have a starting-caliber quarterback, so they needed to rely on their running game and defense to carry them to a possible 10-6 record. That's not happening now, as Alfred Blue isn't good enough to carry the load. Jonathan Grimes and Kenny Hilliard probably aren't either. Thus, Foster's injury pretty much eliminates Houston from playoff contention.
This rating is 8/10, but not 10/10 because it could be a blessing in disguise. The Texans will be substantially worse without Foster, but perhaps this will allow them to be in position to land Christian Hackenberg or one of the other quarterbacks in the 2016 NFL Draft - go here for my 2016 NFL Mock Draft - and that may ultimately allow them to legitimately challenge the Colts for the AFC South crown.
Patriots QB Tom Brady suspended for 4 games (upheld): 5/10 Disaster Rating
I'm not sure what took Roger Goodell so long, but he decided to uphold the four-game suspension he initially issued to Tom Brady for Deflategate. Goodell is making the correct the decision in this matter - Brady destroyed his cell phone instead of cooperating with the investigation, for crying out loud - but what does this mean for the Patriots?
Well, it's not insignificant, but it shouldn't be the end of the world, either. For those with short memories, the Patriots went 11-5 with Matt Cassel at quarterback in 2008 - and we've all seen how awful Cassel has been since separating from the Bill Belichick-Charlie Weis coaching tree. Jimmy Garoppolo is much more talented than Cassel, and if last year's preseason is any indication, New England will be fine for the four games.
The schedule helps as well. The Patriots battle the Steelers (home), Bills (road), Jaguars (home) and Cowboys (road) in their first four games, and they'll have an extra week to prepare for the latter foe. A 2-2 record is definitely feasible, and that's perfectly acceptable, considering New England was 2-2 after four contests last year and went on to win the Super Bowl. Even if the Patriots begin with a 1-3 mark, they'll have three-consecutive home games against the Jets, Dolphins and Redskins beginning in Week 7, so they'll be able to get back on track.
It should be noted that Brady plans on suing the NFL for upholding his suspension. If his punishment is changed, I'll provide an updated disaster grade. But for now, a 5/10 grade makes sense, as the Patriots should be able to survive this.
Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell suspended for 2 games (reduced): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Le'Veon Bell was initially suspended for three games, but his punishment, unlike Tom Brady's, was reduced to two contests.
This is extremely significant. Bell isn't just a talented running back; he's excellent as both a pass-protector and a receiver coming out of the backfield. The Steelers missed him in their playoff loss to the Ravens; without Bell, they couldn't block the Baltimore pass-rushers, causing Ben Roethlisberger to get knocked around far too often. Their offense couldn't sustain drives as a consequence.
Bell will be missed in the season opener at New England, but the Steelers should be able to pull out a victory when they host the Justin Smith-, Ray McDonald- and Patrick Willis-less 49ers the following week. The big difference will be the following Sunday. The Steelers will travel to St. Louis, where they'll have to deal with one of the league's best pass rushes. Having Bell available in that contest will help immeasurably.
I'm giving this a 3/10. Not having Bell around almost certainly means Pittsburgh won't start 2-0, but a 1-1 record after two contests isn't the end of the world. Plus, Bell will be available for all six divisional contests, so having him miss two games isn't a huge deal.
Chiefs CB Sean Smith suspended for 3 games: 4/10 Disaster Rating
This is not good news for the Chiefs. Sean Smith will be gone for only three games, but they happened to be a trio of important ones. Two of the opponents are the Broncos and Packers, and you better believe that Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers are extremely excited to go up against a defense missing its top cornerback. The other foe is Houston, but that contest is on the road, so Kansas City now stands a good chance to begin the year at 0-3.
As I chronicled in my Chiefs NFL Season Preview, it gets worse after that. Ignoring a home contest against the Bears, Kansas City's next opponents are the Bengals (road), Vikings (road), Steelers, Lions, Broncos (road) and Chargers (road). That's an incredibly taxing slate, and with the opener versus Houston now much tougher with Smith out of the lineup, the Chiefs could easily be looking at a 1-9 or 2-8 start to their season.
Broncos DE/DT Derek Wolfe suspended for 4 games: 2/10 Disaster Rating
Derek Wolfe is a tremendous run defender, so I naturally looked at the rushing attacks Denver would battle during his four-game absence. The Broncos will take on Justin Forsett (Ravens), Jamaal Charles (Chiefs), Ameer Abdullah (Lions) and Adrian Peterson (Vikings). Obviously, the team will wish that it could have Wolfe in the lineup for that stretch.
Then again, the Broncos will only miss Wolfe for four games, so it's not the end of the world. It also has to be considered that the front office signed Antonio Smith and Vance Walker this offseason, and both were added to provide quality depth. One of them will step in and do a decent job by Wolfe is away. Thus, this suspension isn't a huge deal.
Packers DE/DT Letroy Guion suspended for 3 games: 1/10 Disaster Rating
Letroy Guion was suspended for three games because he was arrested back in February for possession of both marijuana and a firearm. This isn't a big deal though, as the Packers knew that a suspension was looming, given that they re-signed him following the arrest. With B.J. Raji healthy, Guion was just going to be a rotational player anyway, so losing him isn't much of an issue, especially since it's just for three games. Things will get bad if Raji suffers another injury, but as for right now, this is just a 1/10 disaster rating.
Cowboys DE Greg Hardy suspended for 4 games: 0/10 & 8/10 Disaster Rating
There are two grades for this. The first concerns the Cowboys, who received unbelievably great news about Hardy's suspension reduction. Hardy was initially suspended for 10 games, so Dallas wasn't expected to have him back until late in the year. Now, he'll return for the big Week 5 matchup against New England. Hardy is one of the league's top pass-rushers, so the Cowboy defense will be much stronger once he steps into the lineup.
And now, for the 8/10, which belongs to the NFL. The league already has a bad image problem concerning violence against women. The Ray Rice video turned some people off from football. I'm not kidding when I say this, but some fair-weather NFL fans have told me that they're just too sick of players getting into trouble and beating women to watch anymore. And it's not helping that Roger Goodell - and I'd be fired from ESPN like Bill Simmons and Keith Olbermann for saying this - doesn't give a damn when it comes to domestic violence. He tried to sweep the Rice video under the rug, and now he's shrugging off what Hardy did. He just doesn't get it.
I understand that Hardy didn't play in 15 games last season, but reducing his suspension from 10 to four contests just looks awful. If they wanted to cut a couple of games off and make him sit out for half the year, that would've been fine, but the fact that he's going to miss just a quarter of the 2015 campaign is just going to make people angrier.
Chargers TE Antonio Gates suspended for 4 games: 0/10 Disaster Rating
This one gets a "zero" on the disaster rating scale. Why? Because it could be a blessing in disguise.
Antonio Gates has been a great weapon for both Drew Brees and Philip Rivers over the years, but he just turned 35. He enjoyed a solid 2014 campaign, but it's likely that his production was going to drop off this upcoming season anyway. With that in mind, it's good that the Chargers will get to see what Gates' eventual replacement, Ladarius Green, is capable of doing. Green is a highly athletic tight end who has the potential to become a star in the NFL. He's been marooned behind Gates the past three years, but he'll finally have his chance. If he performs up to expectations, Gates may not get his job back.
Possible Video of Saints DE/OLB Junior Galette Surfaces: 7/10 Disaster Rating
If you haven't seen this video yet, here's a man appearing to be Junior Galette whipping a woman with his belt on the beach:
It's not 100-percent clear if that's Galette, but considering that the Saints sent this video to the league office, it's probably him. If so, Galette won't be playing football for quite some time. Galette was already slated to miss about five months with a torn pectoral, but he's definitely gone for the entire season if that's indeed him. New Orleans will probably even decide that he's not worth the headache and just release him.
Unlike Ray Rice, Galette can still play well, so I imagine that he'll be on an NFL roster again at some point. To do that, however, he'll need to undergo therapy/rehab and show contrition. It's hard to imagine him playing again for the Saints though, which means that their putrid defense will lose one of its best talents. Galette was expected to join the team off injury in November to help make a playoff push, but that's unlikely to happen now. New Orleans, consequently, could find itself watching the postseason on TV for the second year in a row.
Giants OT Will Beatty injures pectoral; out 5 months: 2/10 Disaster Rating
Having an immobile quarterback lose his blind-side protector is usually detrimental, but it's not in this scenario. Will Beatty's injury will hurt, but not as much as it would have prior to April. That's because the Giants spent their first-round pick on tackle Ereck Flowers.
The original plan was for Flowers to start at right tackle, with Justin Pugh moving inside, where he'd be more comfortable. However, with Beatty out until the end of October at the earliest, Pugh will stay where he was last year. Pugh wasn't awful at right tackle, but placing him at guard would have upgraded two positions. Now, New York is right back where it started - at least temporarily. If the Giants begin the 2015 season OK and then get Beatty back for a playoff push down the stretch, this injury won't seem like such a big deal.
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant threatening to hold out: 2/10 Disaster Rating
Chris Mortensen was the first to report that Dez Bryant has threatened to hold out if he doesn't get a new contract. Bryant apparently is even willing to miss the season opener if he doesn't get the money he feels he deserves.
This is not a big deal. The Cowboys will ultimately give Bryant a mega contract, and everything will work itself out. The only concern is if Bryant's holdout lasts too long and then he gets injured because he wasn't working out properly as a result, but that's just a minor worry. This issue will be resolved before September, in all likelihood.
Eagles cut G Evan Mathis: 7/10 Disaster Rating
Chip Kelly is losing control of his team, and at this rate, he's going to be back coaching college in a couple of years. In an offseason of disastrous transactions that have downgraded the roster, this one might be the worst. At least it'll make LeSean McCoy shut up about Kelly being racist.
Evan Mathis is unquestionably one of the top guards in the NFL. He will turn 34 during the 2015 season, but he still has a couple of strong years in the tank. He was exceptional in 2014, though he missed half the campaign with an injury. Mathis' impact was obvious; McCoy struggled to run the ball during the first half of the season and then was able to find rushing room once Mathis returned. Mathis was also excellent in pass protection, surrendering just one sack after his first game back.
Kelly released Mathis because he wouldn't fall in line; the Pro Bowl guard skipped voluntary workouts because he wanted more money, which angered the overbearing coach. Kelly's "my way or the highway" approach, which led to Mathis' departure, will not work. Talent wins in the NFL; not systems. It's always been that way, and it will continue to be that way. Depleting the roster of mega talents like Mathis is detrimental to the team and will lead to the Eagles' - and Kelly's - demise.
I don't understand why the Eagles didn't hold out for a trade. They could've dealt one of the elite guards in the NFL for something. Moving him still would've been a bad decision because the team wouldn't have been able to obtain proper value for him, but at least the Eagles would've gotten something. Kelly, apparently, doesn't understand this. He has proven to be overmatched as a personnel decision-maker, and it's becoming quite apparent that he just doesn't belong in the NFL.
Eagles QB Sam Bradford injured at OTAs: 4/10 Disaster Rating
I thought I'd weigh in on Sam Bradford, who, according to multiple reports, has been "hobbling" at OTAs. One reporter noted that Bradford had a severe limp, while CBS' Jason La Canfora cited that he barely did anything at practice, all while wearing a large brace on his leg.
This is obviously bad news. It's predictable news, but bad nonetheless. Everyone, save for Chip Kelly, was aware of the risks of obtaining Bradford. It's unclear why Kelly thought Bradford would suddenly stay healthy in Philadelphia, but it's looking like Mark Sanchez could be the starter in the opener. Sanchez has looked good at practice, but he has a history of doing so and then capsizing during real action. This upcoming season won't be any different.
I'm only grading this as a four out of 10 right now because it's still too early. Perhaps Bradford will heal up as the summer progresses and show everyone why the Eagles made the right decision in trading for him. That, however, is wishful thinking for Kelly and all Eagle fans.
Dolphins WR DeVante Parker has foot surgery; out 8-12 weeks: 1/10 Disaster Rating
An injury like this wouldn't be a big deal for a veteran, but it does affect DeVante Parker because he'll be behind by the time he returns to action. There's no guarantee he'll be ready for the season opener, and even if he is, he wouldn't have had enough of an opportunity to impress the coaching staff. He'll consequently have to wait well into the year to see some extensive playing action.
Having said that, Parker could still have a big rookie campaign if he manages to heal on time. Just look at what Odell Beckham Jr. did last year. I don't want to compare Parker to Beckham in terms of talent, but their situations are the same. Beckham was hurt throughout training camp and didn't play much early on as a result. However, he exploded late in the season, and Parker could have a big impact on the offense as the team tries to make a playoff push.
It's also worth noting that Parker's foot injury isn't serious at all. Julio Jones and Demaryius Thomas had similar procedures and weren't affected. And as for the Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill will still have Jarvis Landry, Jordan Cameron, Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings at his disposal, so he'll be fine without Parker for the time being.
Patriots ILB Brandon Spikes released for off-the-field incident: 2/10 Disaster Rating
For those wondering about Tom Brady, I'm going to rate his suspension once his appeal is heard, though I may provide a rating sooner because I have a feeling that Roger Goodell may let this drag on like everything else.
As for New England's most-recent matter, Brandon Spikes was released because he's being investigated for a hit-and-run. Perhaps the Patriots released him prematurely - he could be cleared, after all - but considering the Aaron Hernandez fiasco and the Deflategate fallout, I can't blame the team for not wanting more bad PR.
Spikes is a limited player at this point of his career. He's still stout versus the run, but happens to be a liability in coverage. However, the Patriots needed him in the middle of their defense because A) Vince Wilfork is gone, so they had to find all the help they could get to contain opposing ground attacks, and B) Jerod Mayo tore his patellar tendon last year and may never be the same player. Having said that, the Patriots might be able to find a viable replacement after final roster cuts late in the summer.
Jaguars DE Dante Fowler tears ACL; out for season: 1/10 Disaster Rating
The Jaguars have needed a premier pass-rusher for years, and it figures that when they'd finally get one, he wouldn't even be able to play. Dante Fowler, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, is done for the year with a torn ACL.
This rates as only a one out of 10 on the disaster scale for a couple of reasons. First of all, while the Jaguars will be improved this year, they weren't going to contend for a playoff spot. Thus, they'll be able to obtain a better draft choice next April - go here for my 2016 NFL Mock Draft - because Fowler is out, and with that superior prospect, they could be in a better position to make a push for the postseason in 2016 and beyond. Thus, Fowler's injury could be a blessing in disguise, as long as there are no complications with his knee, of course.
The second reason why this injury isn't a big deal is because of when it occurred. If Fowler had torn his knee in December, he'd be questionable for the 2016 campaign. Suffering the injury now, however, almost certainly means that he'll be ready for next year's opener - and again, the following season is going to be a much more important one for this franchise.
49ers OT Anthony Davis retires: 4/10 Disaster Rating
Jim Harbaugh, Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Perrish Cox, Chris Culliver, Frank Gore and Mike Iupati were all gone. And now Anthony Davis has joined them. The rate the 49ers have lost personnel this offseason has been ridiculous. They've said goodbye to a top-five head coach, as well as numerous, productive starters. Some of the departures were predictable, like Smith, McDonald and Gore, but losing Willis, Borland and now Davis will hurt because their retirements were so shocking.
The 49ers will now have to move on with two new starters on their offensive line. They were prepared for Iupati's defection, but the team currently has no plan to replace Davis at right tackle. An inept blocker like Erik Pears may start in his place, though there's a chance sixth-round rookie Ian Silberman could win the job.
There's no doubt that San Francisco is in major trouble. Losing so many key players, as well as a top coach, will be too much to handle. As a consequence, the 49ers may have trouble even winning six games in 2015, despite the fact that they were in the NFC Championship just 16 months ago. Not having Davis around will play a factor in the team's rapid decline, but the 49ers were screwed even before his retirement. Besides, Davis was available for only seven games in 2014, so San Francisco at least knows how life will be without him.
Broncos OT Ryan Clady tears ACL; out for season 6/10 Disaster Rating
Denver's offensive line was a mess even before Ryan Clady's injury. Now, it's so much worse. The concern about how the Broncos will be able to protect a 39-year-old Peyton Manning has increased substantially.
Clady is one of the more-talented left tackles in the NFL. He didn't enjoy his best season in 2014, but he still surrendered just two sacks. At just 28, there was no reason to think that he couldn't rebound, especially in Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme.
Clady's absence will cause a big problem, but things would be even more dire if Kubiak wasn't the head coach. Kubiak is an expert at piecing strong offensive lines together, and the team managed to sign one of his former players, Ryan Harris, to take Clady's spot this upcoming season. Denver also spent a second-round choice on tackle Ty Sambrailo, so the Colorado State product could start this season.
The Broncos have options, but they better hope that one of them works out. They saw what happened to Manning when the aging signal-caller was battered and bruised late last season. History could very well repeat itself with the entire left side of the offensive line gone.
Saints DE/OLB Junior Galette injures pectoral; out 5-6 months: 3/10 Disaster Rating
Junior Galette was one of the few bright spots in the Saints' defense last season. He led the team with 10 sacks, which isn't nearly indicative of how much pressure he put on opposing signal-callers. He was a liability in run support, but with all of the heat he brought on quarterbacks, it wasn't much of a factor.
Galette's absence, which will last 5-6 months, will be felt. However, the Saints spent a second-round choice on edge rusher Hau'oli Kikaha, who might be able to step in and start right away. New Orleans also has fifth-round rookie Davis Tull, as well as former Cowboy Anthony Spencer, who might be able to fill the void. It's also worth noting that if the Saints are making a playoff push, they'll definitely have Galette back at the end of the season to help get the team as far as possible.