With a the kickoff to the NFL Regular Season now just a month and a week away, let’s take a look at some serious players in the AFC who are either dealing with Injuries or Suspensions or potential Suspensions.
We’ll also provide a couple AFC Futures Book picks from the Regular Season Team Total marketplace with an overlooked Over from one of the league’s elite and an underlooked Under from a perennial last-place team.
As the NFL Regular Season creeps up on us, now just 37 days away, it appears that the AFC has seemingly suffered many more significant Injuries to both Rookies and Veterans that have literally, and sometimes figuratively hamstrung these teams before the first kickoff has even happened. Of course, all football teams at all levels have Injuries and other issues that keep players off the field, and teams in the NFC have their share of hurts, as we’ll look at here on Thursday. But as far as possible Suspensions, season-ending injuries and Rookies not faring well in Training Camp, the AFC really takes the Band-Aid Cake this Offseason. Let’s look at some of the big names who are either already done for the season or in trouble of missing some games early on in the NFL season either because of Injuries, or in New England Patriots QB Tom Brady’s case, a potential 4-game Suspension because of the Deflategate situation in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts last season. Let’s dive in.
QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots (Potential Suspension)
If you haven’t heard about this, then you must live in Tonga or something. New England Patriots QB Tom Brady was given a 4-game Suspension by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his part in the football-PSI reality deemed Deflategate by the media because of the theoretical and alleged deflation of air in the footballs used by New England in the AFC Championship game against those aforementioned Colts. The competitive edge the Patriots allegedly had using those footballs (slightly deflated footballs are easier to grip and squeeze in the hands of skilled position players, especially Receivers) and simply tampering with the air pressure (PSI) in the pigskin is the reason the league suspended Brady for the 4 games originally. And, perceiving that the Brady Deflategate Suspension would take place from Weeks 1-4, starting with the Week 1, Thursday night (Sept. 10), must-watch game against the Pittsburgh Steelers from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT), the betting public drove the point spread in this game from (Patriots) -6 all the way down to -2½. But, Brady and New England appealed the suspension and then the Commish said no, no, no last week, so the NFLPA filed a lawsuit and is suing the NFL to overturn Brady’s suspension. Following? Fun stuff legal pad breath. And maybe this gets resolved in some settlement between the lawyers with a 2-game Suspension and with New England probably being better off to just get this bleeding thing over with so it can concentrate on trying to repeat as Super Bowl champions (Patriots, 9/1 to win Super Bowl, bet365). And, you’ll definitely hear about what happens in the courts with this one because even your dog will be barking to you about it and the clouds will make a formation in the sky of the number of games Brady will be suspended when it finally comes to a thankful end. Expect Brady to likely be suspended for at least 2 games. And you want some more fun brother? NFL odds style? OK. 5Dimes has a couple of Proposition wagers up for this whole Deflategate debacle and the potential Brady suspension: Tom Brady Suspended in Any Game of 2015/16 NFL Season -600, Suspension Eliminated +400; and, Tom Brady Will Be Suspended For Steelers Game -180, Tom Brady Will Not Be Suspended For Steelers Game +140.
DE Dante Fowler, Jacksonville Jaguars (Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament, Left Knee)
The Jacksonville Jaguars (250/1 to win Super Bowl, William Hill) suffered what may be the biggest disappointment of the Offseason when Round 1 Draft Pick and #3 overall pick Dante Fowler Jr. of Florida tore the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in his left knee on the first day of Rookie Minicamp in non-contact 11-on-11 drills, forcing the former Gators star OLB to miss the entire 2015/16 NFL season. Fowler (6-3, 267 pounds), an expected DE who wisely signed a fully guaranteed 4-year, $23.5 million contract with the Jaguars (including a $15.3 million signing bonus), had successful surgery on the knee on May 28 in Pensacola, Florida in a procedure done by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews and is now undergoing Rehab with Jaguars team medical staff and doctors at team camp in Jacksonville. The 21-year-old Fowler is expected to be put on the Injured Reserve List in September.
WR Devin Smith, New York Jets (Partially punctured Lung, broken Ribs)
WR Devin Smith, a Round 2 Draft Pick from Ohio State (37th Pick overall), suffered broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung in New York Jets practice on Friday when the back of his helmet rammed into the front of Safety Jaiquawn Jarrett’s helmet while the Rookie was trying to make a leaping catch in a freak accident. The 23-year-old had 33 receptions for 931 yards for the national champion Buckeyes last season and Smith—who has a 39-inch Vertical Jump and is from the same hometown (Akron) as NBA superstar LeBron James—also led the Big Ten in TD receptions with 12 and led the entire nation with a Ohio State school-record average 28.2 yards per reception last season. Reports indicate that the 6-foot, 196-pound Smith (4.42 40-Yard Dash, tied for 7th best among all Rookie receivers in the Draft) is expected to miss 4-6 weeks and the remainder of the Jets Training Camp with the speedy Rookie aiming to be healthy by New York’s Week 1 opening game against the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Sept. 13 (Jets -3, Total: 41, Pinnacle). Sportsbook operator 5Dimes offers up Smith at +2500 (25/1) to be the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year this season.
WR DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins (Right Foot Surgery)
Along with the Jaguars Fowler and the Jets Smith, Miami Dolphins WR and Round 1 Draft Pick DeVante Parker (Louisville) has some Injury issues, Parker’s a recurring right foot problem which required surgery and insertion of a screw in June to try to alleviate some of the pain. The operation and Rehab has Parker expected to miss the Dolphins (33/1 to win Super Bowl, Boylesports) Training Camp, but both he and his Agent James Gould expect the 6-foot-3-inch, 209-pound Rookie—who missed the first 7 games of Louisville’s season his Senior year (43 receptions, 833 yards, 5 TDs)—to be ready come opening day, when the Dolphins face the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland (Dolphins -2½, Total: 44, Pinnacle). Parker is currently on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list and expect Miami to rightfully go slow and careful with their new prized toy. Parker (4.45 40-Yard Dash) is listed as +2500 (25/1) to be the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.
SS Erik Berry, Kansas City Chiefs (Hodgkins Lymphoma Cancer)
As tragic as the news was of Jaguars Rookie Fowler hurting himself in the first day of practice earlier this Offseason, the news last week that Kansas City Chiefs Strong Safety and team heartbeat Erik Berry would be returning was absolutely monumental for the AFC West team. Playing against the Oakland Raiders in a game last season, the 26-year-old Chiefs veteran was injured on a hit by Raiders RB Marcel Reece, but stayed in the game. Berry then had the thought-to-be injury checked after the game, only to find out that he had cancer—Hodgkin’s lymphoma to be specific, a disease that affects the immune system. Kansas City’s All-Pro DB then missed the final 5 games of the NFL season and began treatment for the disease, including Chemotherapy. And then, last week, several rounds of tests showed that Berry (+1500, AP NFL Comeback Player of the year, 5Dimes) was now cancer-free and the Chiefs legend is surprisingly back with the team and practicing when just a month ago, his presumed return to the Chiefs and the NFL was a mystery and still in some doubt to most. And, in the whole scheme of things, this truly was the best thing to happen in the NFL this Offseason and a story which has received little attention despite the miraculous nature of the 6-foot, 211-pound Berry’s recovery and his return to Kansas City (40/1 to win Super Bowl, Sky Bet) and his potential impact on the Chiefs Defense. If University of Tennessee product Berry starts or even plays on Sept. 14th in the Chiefs Regular Season opener at NRG Stadium in Houston against the Texans (Texans -1½, Total: 42, Pinnacle)—and it’s expected he will now—then his “Injury,” cancer in this case, will have truly lost. This is really something special.
OLB Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans (Microfracture Surgery on Right Knee)
Highly projected OLB Jadeveon Clowney had microfracture surgery on his right knee in December and his return to the playing field for the Houston Texans (50/1 to win Super Bowl, bet365) wasn’t anticipated until September. But now Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien has said that 2nd-year man out of South Carolina will ”...be back on the playing field on August 17th,” to practice with the team, adding, “...and then we’ll go from there” about Clowney, the 6-foot-5-inch, 266-pound #1 overall Pick in the 2014 NFL Draft who played in just 4 games last season for Houston and who has reportedly been practicing on the side of the field, away from his Texans teammates. With a healthy Clowney and stud DE JJ Watt and some nice additions on Defense like Free Agent S Stevie Brown (Giants), NT Brandon Deaderick (Saints), CB Kevin Johnson (Rookie, Wake Forest) and LB Benardrick McKinney (Rookie, Mississippi State), the Texans have some quality on that side of the ball and may be able to have one of the best Defenses in the NFL is they really put their minds to it. And we’ll see if the athletic freak Clowney is just an enigma, injury-prone, or maybe a little of both in the coming 2015 NFL season. He showed such great promise in college.
Other Suspensions and Other Notable AFC Hurts
Besides Brady’s potential Suspension, Patriots teammate and RB LeGarrette Blount, Chargers TE Antonio Gates (4 games), Jets DT Sheldon Richardson and Steelers sensational RB Le’veon Bell (2 games) are also Suspended, so that aforementioned NFL Kickoff Opener from Gillette Stadium on Sept. 10 could be without some if its biggest Offensive skill position players. Steelers WR Martavis Bryant (elbow) had a minor procedure for an elbow infection and is out 10 days, but will be ready for the opener at New England. Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta is currently on PUP list while LB CJ Mosley (Wrist) is back and has been cleared for contact. Buffalo Bills K Dan Carpenter (Hamstring) is currently out and recovering from a tweak in his hamstring and on the team’s Injured List along with teammates DE Mario Williams and DB Leodis McKelvin while Bills (40/1 to win Super Bowl, Sky Bet) WR Sammy Watkins (Hip Surgery) is recovering marvelously says he’s 100% and “...I feel like I am 17” so no worries in Buffalo on Offense really except who’s going to be the starting QB.
The injury to New York Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson (Hamstring) does not appear to be serious according to Head Coach Todd Bowles and WR Brandon Marshall (Toe) is still recovering from his injury and did not participate in team drills last Thursday. Along with Rookie Parker’s aforementioned problems at WR, the Miami Dolphins also have undisclosed issues with WR Kenny Stills, but he will likely be ready for Week 1. And Cleveland Browns RB Terrance West (Calf) is expected to return Tuesday (August 4), Oakland Raiders QB David Carr (Finger) is practicing and fine and Tennessee Titans FS Michael Griffin (Labrum, Left Knee) had surgery for his torn Labrum and a procedure to deal with his chronic tendinitis and he and fellow DB Blidi Wreh-Wilson (CB) are both testing their recovering Shoulders in Titans’ Training Camp. But while Griffin is expected to again start at Free Safety for the Titans, Wreh-Wilson has reportedly lost his starting spot to Free Agent addition Perrish Cox (49ers).
AFC Futures Book Pick: New England Patriots Regular Season Team Wins Total Over 10½ -115; Cleveland Browns Regular Season Team Wins Total Under 6½ -150 (Bovada)