DL – JJ Watt, Arik Armstead, Jonathan Allen
The last two seasons have been tough on JJ Watt. After leading the league in sacks in 2015 and with people talking about him possibly being the greatest pass rusher of all time, he had back surgery in 2016 causing him to miss the season and in Week 5 he suffered a tibial plateau fracture in his left leg, ruling him out for the rest of the season. Not only is this a big loss to the Texans’ defence, but it is also a great loss to the city of Houston who, after coming together after Hurricane Harvey with JJ Watt being a symbol of this unity, now are in for another disappointing year having lost Watt, Watson, Whitney Mercilus, and having Duane Brown traded to the Seahawks.
The 49ers are having a poor season but there still is some hope in San Francisco. Most of that hope lies in the defence at the moment and especially the defensive line with Deforest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Armstead. However, with Armstead being placed on IR with a broken hand in mid-October, some of that hope has been damped but they will hope that he comes back stronger next year.
While not the sexiest name on this list, Jonathan Allen became a key player for the Redskins in his rookie season before being placed on IR after suffering a Lisfranc sprain (a foot injury for those like me who have no idea what that is). He adds some juice to a fairly lifeless defensive line for Washington and he should be a superstar in the coming years.
LB – Dont’a Hightower, Jordan Hicks, Whitney Mercilus, Markus Golden
In a porous defence, Hightower is the linchpin that holds it all together. After having a super Super Bowl LI, he missed the first three games with a knee injury and then a few weeks later, he tore a pectoral muscle which means he out of the year. With two time Super Bowl Champion Hightower out, the Patriots linebackers include players such as Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and David Harris which doesn’t inspire confidence. But Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia will undoubtedly scheme up some defence from those guys and probably still be playing football in February.
In a Eagles team that is 8-1, it is hard to imagine that there are any problems. But losing Jordan Hicks in Week 7 to an Achilles injury for the season means that their linebacker core loses some juice but they believe that they can incorporate the loss of Hicks. Achilles injuries are notoriously tough to come back from so it will be interesting to see if Hicks can recover.
That Houston defence that is full of superstars has been ravaged by injuries. They’ve lost Watt, Cushing and Mercilus which has derailed their season, as shown by Sundays loss to the poor Indianapolis Colts. Mercilus really stepped up last season after the loss of Watt and as a recognition, was voted as a Second Team All-Pro. The passing rushing of the Texans has been effectively nullified which means their secondary is under extreme pressure.
Markus Golden is a very underrated player. He has formed a fantastic pass rushing duo with Chandler Jones. Last season Jones recorded 11 sacks and Golden gathered 12.5 sacks, making them one of the most feared pass-rushing tandems. The loss of Golden has meant that the Cardinals have to blitz more often to get pressure on the quarterback, meaning the secondary is under more pressure to cover receivers.
CB – Richard Sherman, Tavon Young
Despite Seattle’s offensive struggles, ‘The Legion of Boom’ has not been a problem this season. One of the key contributors and old heads in the Seattle defence is Richard Sherman, who already has two interceptions on the season. However, during Thursday night’s victory over the Arizona Cardinals, Sherman ruptured his Achilles, leaving the ‘Legion of Boom’ without one of their lock-down defenders, which could possibly through doubt over the rest of the season.
Tavon Young tore his ACL during training camp in preseason and the second-year man was devastated after a solid rookie season where he gathered two interceptions and one fumble recovery. Luckily for the Ravens, corner back is not a position that they lack depth at.
S – Eric Berry, Malik Hooker
Being the key member of the Kansas City Chiefs has put serious pressure on the Chiefs defence after Eric Berry ruptured his achilles. Because of his hard hitting ability and his ability to cover tight-ends, he allowed defensive co-ordinator Bob Sutton to play his nickel defence, meaning the Chiefs defence became pass defenders. As well as the footballing loss, the story of Eric Berry returning to football from cancer brought a level of positivity to the Chiefs which has been lost for this season.
Man the Colts just can’t get a break. Having lost Luck for the season, in Week 7, Malik Hooker – their excellent rookie safety – tore both his ACL and MCL which ruled him out for the rest of the season. In a struggling season and a poor defence, Hooker was a bright spot and gave the secondary some outstanding play that has not been seen before.
With all these injuries, what would their hypothetical regular season record be?
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