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.
Steelers OT Marcus Gilbert suspended for four games (PEDs): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Marcus Gilbert is a very talented right tackle, and the drop-off from him to backup Chris Hubbard is fairly substantial. Not having him for four games would ordinarily hurt the Steelers, but they should be able to survive, considering the circumstances.
The circumstances happen to be the schedule. Their next three games are against easy opponents: Packers (home), Bengals and Ravens (home). Gilbert's absence versus New England in Week 16 is far from ideal, and it's the only reason this isn't a 1/10 Disaster Grade. However, the Patriots don't have a strong pass rush, so I find it unlikely that Gilbert will be the deciding factor in that matchup.
Saints DE Alex Okafor out for season (torn Achilles): 5/10 Disaster Rating
You have to feel bad for Alex Okafor. He was playing well this season, generating quality pressure on the quarterback and playing decent run defense. As a 27-year-old free agent, he was bound to receive a fairly large deal in free agency. That won't be the case now with his torn Achilles.
The Saints are obviously hurt by this as well. Okafor was a solid bookend across from Cameron Jordan. Now, the Saints will need to find someone new to rush the passer on the right side. Perhaps they'll give more snaps to fourth-round rookie Trey Hendrickson, who has performed fairly decently as a first-year player.
I'd say this deserves a 5/10 Disaster Grade. It's not a crushing blow, but New Orleans' defense will regress somewhat because of Okafor's absence.
Seahawks S Kam Chancellor out for season (neck): 8/10 Disaster Rating
Pete Carroll has stated that he hasn't ruled out Kam Chancellor for the season, but Josina Anderson has reported otherwise. Either way, Chancellor will miss at least most of the remaining games of the regular season, which is obviously horrible news for the Seahawks.
We've seen Seattle be a completely different team when one of its star safeties has been out of the lineup. The Seahawks struggled recently without Earl Thomas, and now they'll have similar issues without Chancellor.
This Disaster Grade almost has to be 8/10. The only injury that would've been worse than this would have been to Russell Wilson. Seahawk fans better hope that Carroll is right, or their Super Bowl aspirations have just taken a major hit.
Cowboys LB Sean Lee out for three weeks (hamstring): 6/10 Disaster Rating
Sean Lee will "only" miss three games, but three losses for Dallas will bring them to 5-7, and effectively out of the playoff picture. The question is whether the Cowboys can survive without Lee and win at least one contest.
I'd say that's possible, but it'll be extremely difficult. The Cowboys have to play the Eagles, Chargers and Redskins the next three weeks. All three teams have talented quarterbacks who will surely expose Dallas' stop unit. Lee is the heart and soul (and brains) of that defense, and he'll be missed.
This Disaster Grade has to be 6/10 or 7/10. I initially made it the latter, but I went with 6/10 because if Tyron Smith returns, the Cowboys might be able to sneak out one victory in the next three weeks.
Steelers CB Joe Haden out 4-6 weeks (fractured fibula): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Wow, the Steelers dodged a huge bullet. It was reported earlier in the day that Joe Haden would be out for the season with a broken leg. As it turns out, it was just a slight fracture, so he'll be back in three weeks.
It's important to note which passing attacks Pittsburgh will battle in those three weeks. The quarterbacks are: Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Andy Dalton. And if a fourth week is missed, Joe Flacco.
Meh. This is a 1/10 Disaster Grade. Perhaps 2/10, but I think the Steelers will be fine - as long as they get Haden back for the Week 15 matchup versus the Patriots.
Update: Haden, according to ESPN, will miss more than three weeks, but won't be out for more than six. That ensures that he'll be around during the playoffs, but he'll miss the New England game, which is a big deal. That could allow the Patriots to host the Steelers in the playoffs, which is a big deal.
Dolphins OT Ja'Wuan James out for season (groin): 6/10 Disaster Rating
Ja'Wuan James is out for the season, so Miami can certainly kiss its playoff hopes goodbye. And yes, the Dolphins, at 4-4, do, or at least did, have playoff aspirations. They're just one game back of the wild card, so sneaking into the postseason was possible. That's far less likely without James, however. James was Miami's best offensive lineman, by far, and now he'll be replaced by practice squad-caliber Sam Young in what will be a massive downgrade.
I was going to give the Dolphins a 7/10 Disaster Grade, but I think that losing the majority of their games could be beneficial for them, as it'll allow the team to obtain a better draft choice. Even if they got into the playoffs, they weren't going to advance very far with Jay Cutler, so perhaps this is for the best.
Seahawks CB Richard Sherman out for season (torn Achilles): 8/10 Disaster Rating
There's no official word yet by Seahawks officials, but Richard Sherman was seen on camera telling his teammates that he has a torn Achilles and that he's out for the year. Sherman came into the Thursday night game worrying about his Achilles, so you have to wonder why he was even playing in the first place on a short week. These Thursday night games are a disaster, and Sherman is the latest victim.
Sherman's loss is obviously huge. He wasn't having the best year because he was banged up, but his loss will give the Seahawks a major downgrade in the secondary. If the Cardinals had a viable starting quarterback, they could've taken advantage of Sherman's absence. Teams with superior signal-callers will be able to do that.
I think this warrants an 8/10 Disaster Grade. The Seahawks aren't completely out of Super Bowl contention, but their chances have diminished considerably. They're going to have major problems versus the better offenses in the NFL, as beating the Eagles, Rams or Saints in the playoffs will prove to be a very difficult task.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott suspension reinstated: 5/10 Disaster Rating
Ezekiel Elliott's appeal has been denied, so his suspension has been reinstated. His next hearing is Dec. 1, which means he will miss the next four games for certain.
If the Cowboys had a bunch of cupcakes on their schedule, this wouldn't be a big deal. However, all four games are difficult matchups. They'll play the Falcons, Eagles, Chargers and Redskins without Elliott. The Chargers are the only team with a losing record in that bunch, and they could easily be 5-3. The Redskins, meanwhile, could have a healthy offensive line by Week 13.
That said, I think 2-2 is possible. I think 1-3 is probably the most likely result, but Dallas can win two of its next four. If so, the team will be 7-5 heading into a sure victory against the Giants. Thus, my Disaster Grade isn't as high as the media might think it would be, but I have to acknowledge that there's a chance that this could derail Dallas' season. With Tyron Smith also out, beating any one of those competitive foes will be difficult.
Packers OT Bryan Bulaga out for season (torn ACL): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Bryan Bulaga's nightmare 2017 campaign has come to an end. Bulaga missed some games earlier in the year with an injury, and now he's done for the year with a torn ACL.
If this were just a trivial injury, this would warrant a 0/10 Disaster Grade. The Packers are done without Aaron Rodgers, so a better draft pick is what they should be aiming for. However, this torn ACL occurred midway into the season, so there's a chance Bulaga may not be 100 percent by the 2018 campaign. That would obviously harm Green Bay's chances next year, and as we know, Rodgers is injury-prone enough where he needs all the great protection he can get.
That said, there's a decent chance Bulaga will be ready for the opener. An injury in December would hurt, but a November torn ACL still gives Bulaga the possibility of making it back on time.
Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston out 2-3 weeks; Mike Evans suspended 1 game (shoulder): 0/10 Disaster Rating
Jameis Winston has been playing like crap lately, so the Buccaneers have opted to shut him down for 2-3 weeks, allowing his shoulder to heal. This is probably for the best, and it's not like there are any playoff ramifications. The Buccaneers are 2-6, after all.
This is a 0/10 Disaster Grade because Tampa is hopeless. Losing will actually help the team, as it'll obtain a better draft choice. Perhaps the Buccaneers can get Arden Key or Bradley Chubb, as seen in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft. More importantly, Tampa will have to focus on finding a new head coach, as Dirk Koetter seems utterly clueless.
Update: Mike Evans has been suspended for a game. This also warrants a 0/10 Disaster Grade for the reasons I mentioned above, so I thought I would lump this in with the Winston write-up.
Texans QB Deshaun Watson out for season (torn ACL): 10/10 Disaster Rating
It should be noted that Ian Rapoport is reporting this, so it could be possible that Deshaun Watson just chipped a nail, or something. Still, it sounds legitimate, as there was a non-contact injury in practice. Watson still needs an MRI, but it appears as though he has torn his ACL and will be out for the year.
This Disaster Grade is either a nine or a 10, and it all depends on whether or not Watson can be 100 percent for 2018. This injury occurred at the beginning of November, so there's definitely a decent chance that Watson will be on the field for Houston's season opener next year. However, with 10 months of recovery time, will Watson be completely healthy? That's more of a question mark. He certainly could be, but that's unclear for now.
It's a shame that Watson went down like this. With Watson playing so well, I considered the Texans the favorites to win the AFC South. Now, they won't be making the playoffs. Tom Savage is obviously a major step down, and Watson, because of his terrific talent, covered up a lot of Houston's warts. His mobility made the offensive line's inability to protect less relevant, and his capability of lighting up the scoreboard compensated for a defense that has been reeling without J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus.
If Watson is completely healthy in 2018 (along with Watt and Mercilus), I like Houston's chances of competing for a Super Bowl. However, if the reports are correct, and Watson's ability to perform up to a high level next year is in question, then a 10/10 Disaster Grade is warranted.
Colts QB Andrew Luck out for season: 10/10 Disaster Rating
Remember when the Colts hinted that Andrew Luck would be ready for the season opener? Well, as it turns out, Luck won't play at all this year. He has been placed on injured reserve.
This move is not a surprise. A few days ago, Jay Glazer reported that Luck was still in pain and was seeking further options, which is quite ominous considering that he's 10 months removed from shoulder surgery.
At this point, it's fair to wonder if Luck will ever be the same quarterback again. I'm sure he'll be ready for the 2018 opener, but given that his shoulder continues to give him major problems, he could be going the way of Chad Pennington, who had success before having his career derailed because of a bum shoulder. Luck has been banged around so much in his young career, thanks to the incompetence of Ryan Grigson and Jim Irsay, that it appears as though he may have suffered permanent damage, which would be a huge shame.
I have no choice but to give this a 10/10 Disaster Grade. There's definitely a chance Luck will bounce back, but things look very bleak right now, and I think there's a greater probability that we may never see the same Luck ever again.
Browns screw up trade with Bengals: 0/10 Disaster Rating
The Browns are special. They really are. They tried to trade with the Bengals for A.J. McCarron, but couldn't get the deal done. Why? It wasn't because of compensation; the teams agreed to terms. It was because the Browns didn't call the league office in time about it. The Bengals did - five minutes prior to the deadline - while the Browns were too late to make the call. As a result, the deal became invalidated.
What the hell were the Browns doing prior to 4 p.m. that they couldn't call in the league office? Did they not pay their phone bill? Was someone on the other line? It's amazing that they can be so incompetent. It's one thing to win only one game in the past year-and-a-half. It's another to fail to call the NFL about a trade they wanted to make! If owner Jimmy Haslam weren't so busy committing fraud right now, he would fire his entire front office at this very moment.
The thing is, the Browns deserve a 0/10 Disaster Grade for this - because their sheer incompetence saved them from making a stupid trade! McCarron is not a viable starting quarterback, so acquiring him would have been stupid. Congrats, Cleveland, your own stupidity bailed you out of a horrible trade!
Redskins LB Mason Foster out for season (torn labrum): 5/10 Disaster Rating
Mason Foster has been playing with an injured shoulder since the middle of September. It clearly was affecting his performance on the field, so he has decided to shut down his 2017 campaign, according to Adam Schefter. Foster is expected to be placed on injured reserve with a torn labrum, per Schefter.
This is a big loss for the Redskins, as Foster was an important player on their team. He was a three-down linebacker who specialized in run support. His absence is going to make the two matchups against Ezekiel Elliott extremely difficult.
That said, I wouldn't make this an astronomical number, or anything. Foster was definitely an important player for Washington, but he wasn't playing up to his abilities because of the shoulder. I don't think either Will Compton or Martrell Spaight will be an enormous downgrade from a hobbled Foster. They would be from a completely healthy Foster, but Foster was not as effective as normal.
Patriots LB Dont'a Hightower out for season (torn pectoral): 7/10 Disaster Rating
If there was one player on defense the Patriots couldn't lose, it was Dont'a Hightower. The star linebacker was the only viable player at the position, as New England will have to move forward with the underwhelming trio of Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and David Harris. I'm not sure how the three players are going to cover anyone, but at least Roberts and Harris are fine against the run.
Pass-catching running backs and tight ends have already eaten the Patriots alive - though no one seemed to alert Steve Sarkisian about this - and now it's going to be even worse. New England already had one of the worst defenses in the NFL, and now the unit is even worse after losing one of its most important players.
I had the urge to give this an 8/10 Disaster Grade, but I bumped it down to 7/10 because the Patriots tend to find a solution for injuries, somehow. Remember last year when Rob Gronkowski went down? They still won the Super Bowl. Perhaps they'll do that without Hightower, but Bill Belichick certainly has his work cut out for him now.
Eagles OT Jason Peters out for season (torn ACL and MCL): 9/10 Disaster Rating
There was some optimism last night that Jason Peters may have only been dealing with an MCL tear. Unfortunately, the MRI results revealed that Peters tore both his ACL and MCL.
This is a crushing blow for the Eagles. Carson Wentz had been benefiting from the best offensive line in the NFL, but the unit has taken an obvious hit with Peters out for the year. The Eagles don't have a viable replacement, though perhaps they might be able to trade for Cordy Glenn, who was rumored to be on the NFL trade block.
That said, a Glenn deal is very unlikely, so I'm giving the Eagles a 9/10 Disaster Grade. Philadelphia may not have Peters next year as a result of this injury, so it goes beyond hurting the team's Super Bowl chances this year.
Eagles ILB Jordan Hicks out for season (torn Achilles): 6/10 Disaster Rating
The Eagles improved to 6-1 on Monday night, but it was a very Pyrrhic victory. Jordan Hicks left the game with a foot injury, while Jason Peters was carted off with an air cast around his leg. The good news is that Chris Mortensen is reporting that Peters' injury wasn't as bad as it looked. The bad news is that Hicks has torn his Achilles.
Hicks is out for the year, and part of his 2018 campaign could be in jeopardy. It's unfortunate, as the Eagles blew some coverages with Hicks gone. That said, Mychal Kendricks was out of the lineup, so Philadelphia will be better in that regard once he returns.
Still, this is a harmful injury, especially because the 2018 season is involved. I'm giving the Eagles a 6/10 Disaster Grade for it. By the way, here are the top NFL free agent inside linebackers available. Perry Riley, the best player available at the position, did a good job for the Raiders as a mid-season signing last year. If he's in shape, the Eagles should consider him.
Colts S Malik Hooker out for season (torn ACL, MCL): 5/10 Disaster Rating
Malik Hooker had been enjoying a terrific rookie campaign, but left Sunday's game on a cart. He was eventually ruled out for the season with a torn ACL and MCL.
This is a rough loss for the Colts. Not that they needed Hooker for a playoff push, or anything, as it seems as though Andrew Luck is not going to make it back in time for that. However, Hooker's absence could hurt his development. Even worse, there's a chance Hooker may not make it back by 2018 training camp because he tore two ligaments.
I'm giving the Colts a 5/10 Disaster Grade for this injury. If it were certain that part of Hooker's 2018 season would be in jeopardy, this grade would be much higher. However, there's a chance that Hooker will be fine by July. We'll just have to see what happens.
Cowboys K Dan Bailey out for several weeks (groin): 4/10 Disaster Rating
It seems ridiculous to give a Disaster Grade of 4/10 to a team missing a kicker for several weeks, but I think this is a special case. Dan Bailey is one of the top kickers in the NFL, so anyone the Cowboys bring in - here's a list of the top NFL free agent kickers available - will be a severe downgrade.
Making matters worse, the Cowboys have an extremely difficult schedule coming up. In the next three weeks, they have to battle the Redskins, Chiefs and Falcons. All three games could be close, so a missed field goal could be a deciding factor. If so, a loss could make the difference for the Cowboys as they try to make their playoff push. Remember, they may not have Ezekiel Elliott for six games following Week 8, so things were already stacked against them.
Browns OT Joe Thomas out for season (torn triceps): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Joe Thomas described this injury as a "tough break" on Twitter. That's exactly what it is. Thomas had been a mainstay on Cleveland's offensive line, but now he'll miss the final nine games of the year.
Those of you familiar with my grading policy might wonder why this isn't a 0/10. Thomas' absence, after all, will help Cleveland achieve a better draft pick. That may seem silly at first thought, but the 49ers are 0-7 as well, and the Browns nearly beat the Titans. What if Cleveland accidentally wins a game?
Well, Thomas' streak was the only thing the Browns had going for them. That's now over. Also, Thomas not being in the lineup will make it more difficult for DeShone Kizer to develop. Kizer will likely get another chance in a few weeks, and he won't have Thomas protecting him. None of this probably matters, as the Browns are likely to select a quarterback this April - as seen in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft - but it's just a shame that the Cleveland fans won't get to see Thomas continue his amazing streak.
Cardinals QB Carson Palmer out for 8 weeks (broken arm): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Carson Palmer's career might be over. He broke his arm in the second quarter against the Rams, so he'll be out at least eight weeks. He may not return by then, however, and given his regression, Palmer could decide to hang up the cleats for good.
This is obviously a painful injury for Arizona, as the team is 3-4. With Palmer, the team would've had a chance to potentially compete for a playoff spot. That, however, is no longer a possibility with Palmer hurt.
That said, this is not going to be a high rating. I didn't like the Cardinals' chances very much anyway, and it might be better for them to lose games and improve their positioning in the 2018 NFL Draft so they can grab the best quarterback available. That's why this injury warrants just a 4/10 Disaster Grade.
Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch suspended for one game: 0/10 Disaster Rating
Marshawn Lynch has been suspended for one game for pushing an official in the Thursday night game against the Chiefs. This suspension seems justified, as a player shouldn't be allowed to leave the bench like he did. Anything more would've been overkill, however.
This suspension means nothing. Lynch has struggled with the Raiders, as he has topped 50 rushing yards just once following the opener. In fact, since Week 3, Lynch has averaged just 3.45 yards per carry. It seems like the Raiders are more efficient offensively with DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard on the field, so this could be a blessing in disguise.
Redskins DL Jonathan Allen out for the season (Lisfranc sprain): 5/10 Disaster Rating
The defensive line is definitely a big part of the reason why Washington's stop unit has been better than expected this year. The two linemen who have stood out have been Matt Ioannidis and Jonathan Allen. The latter, the team's first-round rookie, had been playing about half the team's snaps, thriving in both run support and the pass rush. Allen was a bit slow to start the season, but he had been improving each week, so it's a shame that he'll be out for about a month.
The Redskins can survive without Allen, but they'll be a bit worse defensively without him. Considering they have to stop a couple of explosive offenses in the next two weeks - Eagles, Cowboys - they'll definitely miss Allen, which is why I have to give out a 3/10 Disaster Grade. That said, Allen should be back before Thanksgiving, so the Redskins will have him for their stretch run.
Update: Jonathan Allen is out for the year, which increases this to a 5/10 Disaster Grade. The injury is a bummer, as Allen was playing very well. Washington's defense won't be as effective without Allen, but he'll at least be back at full strength in 2018.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers out indefinitely (broken collarbone): 9/10 Disaster Rating
The Packers were 4-1 heading into their game against Minnesota, and because they were getting healthy, it appeared as though they could win numerous consecutive games and make a deep playoff run. However, Aaron Rodgers landed on his shoulder on the second offensive drive of the game, and he was quickly ruled out. It was eventually discovered that he broke his collarbone.
It's quite possible that Rodgers is out for the year. It really depends if he opts to get surgery. If not, he might be able to return at the end of the year, just in time for a potential playoff run. The problem with that scenario is that the Packers may not be in position to reach the playoffs, if the loss to the Vikings is any indication.
I'm grading this as a 9/10. It would be a 10/10 if Rodgers were out for the year for certain, but he could make it back in late December. If he does, the Packers, now 4-2, need to stay afloat with some wins. Three of their next four games are at home (versus the Saints, Lions, Ravens), so that's the good news. The bad news is that Hundley doesn't look like he'll be able to win many games without much support from the defense.
Update: The Packers are hopeful Rodgers will return for Week 15, which is when he'll be eligible to come off injured reserve. This is still a 9/10 Disaster Grade, as the Packers could be out of the playoff mix by then.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott has temporary injunction vacated: 2/10 Disaster Rating
Everyone on Twitter seems to be making a big deal about the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacating Ezekiel Elliott's temporary injunction. The consensus is that Elliott's six-game suspension will hold up, and Dallas' season is over as a consequence.
That simply is not true. At least not yet. Elliott is going to file another appeal, and all this means is that the fun can begin once again in the New York courts rather than those in Texas. This all still might take a while, meaning Elliott may not serve his suspension until 2018. Perhaps things will hasten, but I find that unlikely, considering how long things dragged out in the Tom Brady case.
This is only a 2/10 Disaster Grade because Elliott lost a battle to the NFL. He could still win the war, however, so Cowboy fans shouldn't panic just yet.
Texans DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus out for season (torn pectoral): 8/10 Disaster Rating
As if J.J. Watt's injury wasn't bad enough - we're still waiting on official word on how severe it is - Whitney Mercilus was declared out for the season with a torn pectoral.
Houston failed to apply any sort of pressure on the Chiefs without Mercilus. His backup, Brennan Scarlett, was terrible, and he also inadvertently was responsible for the Watt injury. Mercilus was Houston's top edge rusher in 2017, with Jadeveon Clowney not playing at his highest level this year, so the Texans' defense took a substantial hit.
This is an 8/10 at the very least. The silver lining is that, unlike the Watt injury, this particular malady is guaranteed not to linger into 2018, so Mercilus will be back at full strength next year.
Texans DE/DT J.J. Watt out indefinitely (left tibial plateau fracture): 4/10 or 10/10 Disaster Rating
It's rare that I hand out a 10/10 Disaster Grade. This is the third one this year, with the other two being for Teddy Bridgewater's injury and Rolando McClain's arrest. If the injury is as bad as it sounds, this is definitely worthy of a 10/10. There's a chance Watt could end up missing just a few games, but all the reports are grim.
Watt played just three contests last year, but he was back to his pre-2016 form this season. He was absolutely dominant, and his matchup against Cameron Erving was why I thought the Texans would beat the Chiefs. When Watt left the game, the life got sucked out of the stadium, and the Texans couldn't get off the field. This is going to be a trend going forward if Watt is out for the year, per reports. Yes, the Texans were terrific defensively last year without Watt, but they lost numerous players this past offseason, including A.J. Bouye, Quintin Demps and John Simon. Watt's prolific play made up for that. His absence will transform Houston's defense into a mediocre unit.
If Watt isn't out for the season - the best-case scenario sounds like he could be out 3-4 weeks like Dez Bryant was in 2016 - I'll change my grade for sure to a 4/10 or so. On the other end of the spectrum, I don't think it can be a guarantee that Watt will be 100 percent for 2018 if ths injury was as bad as it looked, which is why this warrants a 10/10 in a worst-case scenario.
Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. out for the year (broken ankle): 0/10 Disaster Rating
Odell Beckham Jr. will seek a second opinion prior to undergoing surgery on his broken ankle, but it's certainly not looking good. Beckham could be out for the rest of the 2017 season, though that's not a certainty yet.
In a vacuum, this would be a 9/10 Disaster Grade, and it wouldn't be 10/10 only because Beckham's 2018 campaign wouldn't be in jeopardy. However, the Giants are now 0-5. Their season is over. They need to tank, and they can do that easily - unlike the other New York team - if Beckham is out of the lineup.
With Beckham out, the Giants can forget about this disastrous year and worry about more pressing matters. That would be whether they'll select Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Saquon Barkley with the first- or second-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Update: Beckham has been ruled out for the year. Let the rebuilding process begin!
Redskins CB Josh Norman out for four weeks (ribs): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Fortunately for the Redskins, one of those weeks is their bye, so Josh Norman is expected to miss three games instead of four. That's the good news. The bad news is that the Redskins will have to battle talented receivers like Pierre Garcon, Alshon Jeffery and Dez Bryant in Norman's absence. If Norman is out for two contests after that, Washington will have to stop Doug Baldwin and Stefon Diggs.
This injury is obviously a big deal. The Redskins should be fine against the 49ers without Norman, but the following two matchups will be extremely difficult. If the Redskins are 3-4 in Norman's return, that's not the worst thing, but what will hurt is that they'll be 0-3 in the division, meaning they'll likely lose all tie-breakers.
I'm giving the Redskins a 4/10 Disaster Grade. I know that may seem a lot for a 4-week injury, but the Redskins struggled to stop the pass once Norman left the Monday night game, and that's a trend that is likely to continue.
Saints LB Alex Anzalone out for season (shoulder): 6/10 Disaster Rating
Alex Anzalone played just a handful of snaps against the Dolphins in London, leaving the game early with a shoulder injury. Anzalone, unfortunately, is finished for the season.
Anzalone was just a third-round rookie, but he was a key member of New Orleans' defense. He was playing well, so it's a shame that his year is over. His replacement will be Craig Robertson, who isn't nearly as good. This is definitely bad news for the Saints.
Making matters worse, Anzalone had a history of shoulder problems in college. Teams had him flagged as an injury concern, so this is bothersome. Hopefully Anzalone can get over these problems, but it's not looking very promising for him.
Saints OT Zach Strief out for season (knee): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Zach Strief is a very talented right tackle, so this is a harmful loss for the Saints. Strief missed half the opener and Weeks 2-3, and New Orleans struggled without him for the most part. Strief returned for the London game, but was lost to a nasty knee injury.
That said, this isn't going to be a huge deal, depending on what happens with Terron Armstead. The talented left tackle is due back after the bye. Once he returns, the Saints can use Ryan Ramczyk at right tackle. It would be ideal to have Strief there, but the Saints will have a nice setup with Armstead and Ramczyk as the bookends.
I'm giving the Saints a 4/10 Disaster Grade. This is not a big problem at all if both tackles can stay healthy. However, this depletes the depth, so if either Armstead or Ramczyk gets hurt, the Saints will be in trouble.
Raiders QB Derek Carr out 2-6 weeks (transverse process fracture in back): 7/10 Disaster Rating
I think there are two ways to look at this injury. The glass half-full mindset is to say that two of the Raiders' next three opponents are the hobbled Ravens and winless Chargers. The Chiefs are involved, but going 2-1 isn't impossible, and a 1-2 run in that stretch won't kill the Raiders. If they're 3-4 after Week 7, they can still make the playoffs.
The glass half-empty thought process is that Carr will be out for longer than three games. He could be out for the full six weeks, and when he returns, he may not be 100 percent. If so, the Raiders are done for 2017.
Coming up with a number was hard, so I just averaged the two scenarios. They're 4/10 and 9/10, so 6.5 rounded up is 7/10. That's some infallible math!
Cardinals DE/OLB Markus Golden out for season (torn ACL): 5/10 Disaster Rating
The Cardinals are still somehow in the playoff mix, trailing the upstart Rams by one game in the division despite never winning at the end of regulation in any contest this year. However, it feels like they're hanging on by a thread because of all their injuries. This one doesn't help matters.
Markus Golden hasn't been playing well this year, but he's an important part of Arizona's defense as a talented edge rusher across from Chandler Jones. The Cardinals don't really have anyone behind him, as Kareem Martin, the likely replacement, isn't a viable NFL starter. He's more of a replacement-level player, so this is definitely a big blow for Arizona.
This is a tricky grade. I'm going to give it a 5/10 because you never know, but the Cardinals are very close to being 0-4 right now, and if that were the case, this injury wouldn't matter whatsoever for their 2017 outlook.
Vikings RB Dalvin Cook out for season (torn ACL): 8/10 Disaster Rating
Dalvin Cook is presumably out for the year, as the Vikings fear that he has a torn ACL. Unfortunately, that's the injury it appears to be. Assuming all the reports are right, this is a huge blow to Minnesota's playoff chances.
Cook was a big part of the Viking offense. He rushed for 4.7 yards per carry entering the contest, and he also played a part on third down, catching 10 balls for 82 receiving yards. Latavius Murray will take over for Cook, and while he's a big name, he's not even close in talent. Murray, who struggled versus the Lions, came into the Detroit game averaging just 2.4 yards per carry.
I'm giving the Vikings an 8/10 Disaster Grade. They had a legitimate chance to make a playoff push once Sam Bradford and/or Teddy Bridgewater returned from injury. That won't happen now with a lackluster running game. Defenses will be able to focus more on stopping Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, which will worsen Minnesota's offense substantially. The good news, however, is that this injury occurred fairly early in the year, so Cook should be 100 percent by the preseason.
Update: Cook does indeed have a torn ACL, which is a shame. Again, it's good news that he should be 100 percent by September 2018.
Bears LB Danny Trevathan suspended for 2 games: 0/10 Disaster Rating
Meh. Danny Trevathan's suspension is meaningless. The Bears are now 1-3, and they trail each team in the division by multiple games. The Packers, Vikings and Lions all have winning records right now, and given the horrible combination of John Fox and Mike Glennon, Chicago isn't going to prevail in many more games this year.
Trevathan's suspension warrants a 0/10 Disaster Grade. Losses will help the Bears in the long run. Plus, it's not like Trevathan's penalty wasn't deserved. It was a dirty hit, and he should've been ejected.
Bengals TE Tyler Eifert out multiple weeks (back): 6/10 Disaster Rating
Some may point out that losses for the Bengals might be beneficial going forward because they might be out of the playoff picture. However, four of their next five opponents are the Browns, Bills, Colts and Jaguars, so they have a chance to rack up some wins. That will be much more difficult without Tyler Eifert.
Eifert is dealing with a back injury and will miss several games. Andy Dalton is so much worse in the red zone without Eifert, so this will make it more likely that Cincinnati loses to some of those weaker opponents.
Also, it needs to be noted that Eifert has been dealing with back problems for a while now, so there are long-term ramifications as well. That would explain why this Disaster Grade is so high.
Buccaneers LB Lavonte David will miss one month (high-ankle sprain): 2/10 Disaster Rating
The Buccaneers had a number of defensive players either injured or stricken with the flu entering Week 3, which would explain why the team couldn't stop Case Keenum at all. Things just keep getting worse, as Lavonte David was diagnosed with a high-ankle sprain. He'll be out for a month.
David will be missed, but the good news is the Buccaneers still have two other talented linebackers in Kendell Beckwith and Kwon Alexander, though the latter has to return from a hamstring. Still, I think Tampa can tread water until David returns. The team gets the offensively inept Giants this upcoming week, and it's likely it was going to lose to the Patriots anyway in Week 5. After that, the Buccaneers get the Cardinals, Bills and Panthers, which are all winnable games without David.
If David were out for much longer than a month, I'd rate this higher. Conversely, if the Buccaneers didn't have many other injuries, I would've listed this as a 3/10. Under the circumstances, I'd say a 4/10 Disaster Grade is warranted.
Update: It turns out Ian Rapoport was wrong (sigh), as the Buccaneers have stated that David has a medial sprain instead of a high-ankle sprain. David will miss a week or two, but that's it. I'm cutting this Disaster Grade in half as a result, and it's only a 2/10 instead of a 1/10 because of the other injuries.
Eagles RB Darren Sproles out for season (broken arm, torn ACL): 5/10 Disaster Rating
Ian Rapoport is reporting this, so we'll have to wait until Monday's MRI confirms it, but it sounds like Darren Sproles will be out for several weeks with a broken arm.
As long as Sproles doesn't miss too much time, I don't think is a huge deal. An extended absence would be bad, but if it's several games, it could be a blessing in disguise, as it'll give the Eagles to involve Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement more in the offense. Both players are young, promising runners, and it's important for Philadelphia to find out if either is the long-term answer, since Sproles has made it known that he'll retire after this year.
I'm giving this a 3/10 Disaster Grade, but I may adjust this Monday once the diagnosis and injury time table are confirmed.
Update: Sproles has somehow torn his ACL in addition to breaking his arm. It's a shame that he has to go out like this; he stated that he'll retire after this season, so his career might be over. Perhaps he'll change his mind like Steve Smith did.
Nevertheless, I have to increase this Disaster Grade to 5/10. This is a painful loss, but I think the Eagles can survive it using a platoon of LeGarrette Blount, Smallwood and Clement. The injuries to Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks are more of a concern - the Giants moved the ball easily after they left the game - and we don't have updates on those yet. Stay tuned.
Chargers CB Jason Verrett out for season (knee surgery): 4/10 Disaster Rating
The Chargers accumulate injuries like no other team except the Ravens, and now they've lost their second-best cornerback, Jason Verrett.
This would be a big blow for the Chargers if they had a good chance of making the playoffs, but they're 0-2 and trail three 2-0 squads right now. The secondary already had issues at both positions, and now the cornerback depth will be even weaker than before.
I'm going to give the Chargers a 4/10 Disaster Grade, though I could understand the argument for a 0/10, as losses from here on out will be beneficial for the long term. The good news is that this injury occurred so early in the season that Verrett should be 100 percent for the start of 2018.
Vikings QB Sam Bradford having knee problems (out for Week 3): 7/10 Disaster Rating
The Vikings had a very impressive Week 1 victory versus the Saints in which their offense scored 29 points. Sam Bradford was shred New Orleans' defense, as he had tons of time in the pocket for a change.
Bradford, unfortunately, will miss another game after sitting out Week 2. His knee isn't responding well to practice work, and now it sounds like the Vikings are concerned for his availability going forward. Bradford could make a recovery, but his history says otherwise.
If Bradford can't play anytime soon, this is obviously a major blow to Minnesota's season, as a Disaster Grade of 10/10 would be warranted. Case Keenum has proven to be incompetent, while Teddy Bridgewater is on the PUP list and may not be available anytime soon either. It's a shame, as the Vikings looked like they could actually be a threat with Bradford playing behind an improved offensive line.
I'm giving the Vikings a 7/10 Disaster Grade with the hope that Bradford will recover soon. Unfortunately, given Bradford's medical history, the odds are certainly against him.
Packers OLB Nick Perry out for a couple of weeks (hand surgery): 2/10 Disaster Rating
Packer players keep dropping like flies. They've suffered a slew of injuries over the past couple of weeks, and now Nick Perry has been added to the list, as he will undergo surgery on his hand.
Fortunately for the Packers, this is the right time for players to get hurt if such a moment exists. They battle the Bengals and Bears as huge home favorites over the next seven days, and they should be able to win both games easily without Perry. The question is whether Perry will be able to return Week 5 for an important game against the Cowboys. Perry's possible absence for that contest is the only reason why this Disaster Grade is a positive number.
Broncos OT Garett Bolles out 2-4 weeks (high-ankle sprain, deep bone bruise): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Wow, the Broncos really lucked out. When Garett Bolles was seen crying as he was carted off into the locker room, it was assumed that he was done for the year. Instead, Bolles will miss up to a month with a high-ankle sprain.
Denver will certainly miss Bolles, as replacement Allen Barbre wasn't nearly as good. Not that Bolles was dominant, or anything, but Barbre was worse than the first-round rookie (though still better than Donald Stephenson would've been.)
I think the Broncos can tread water with Bolles out. They play the Raiders in a couple of weeks, so his absence will hurt then, but they otherwise battle the Bills prior to their Week 5 bye. If they can get Bolles back for their Week 6 matchup versus the Giants and their edge rushers, or perhaps their Week 7 battle against the Chargers and Joey Bosa, that would be huge.
Falcons DE/OLB Vic Beasley out for a month (torn hamstring): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Vic Beasley is a big name, so people in the media might make a huge deal out of him being ruled out for a month with a torn hamstring. However, I don't think it's a huge concern.
If Beasley can recover in time, his injury could be a blessing in disguise because it'll allow first-round rookie Takk McKinley to play more often. I think McKinley could be better than Beasley in the long run, so getting McKinley more snaps is important for his development. Besides, the Falcons also have Brooks Reed, so he and McKinley should do a good job of pressuring quarterbacks.
I thought about making this a 2/10 Disaster Grade, but I figured 3/10 might make more sense, just in case Beasley takes longer to return than expected. Plus, if Reed or McKinely gets hurt before Beasley returns, the pass rush will definitely take a hit.
Browns WR Corey Coleman out six weeks (broken hand): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Normally, an injury to a terrible team like this would warrant a 0/10 Disaster Grade. Corey Coleman's absence will make it easier for the Browns to secure a better draft pick, after all.
So, why the 3/10 Disaster Grade? Coleman's absence may prevent Hue Jackson from moving on from both Kenny Britt and Sammie Coates, who put forth ZERO effort against the Ravens. What they did on the field was absolutely embarrassing, and they both deserve to be cut. That might not happen now with Coleman hurt.
Still, the Browns should get rid of both of them. They're poisoning DeShone Kizer, and they need to go.
Panthers TE Greg Olsen out 6-8 weeks (broken foot): 7/10 Disaster Rating
Non-contact injuries always seem to be the worst. When Olsen suffered one and limped off the field, it didn't look good, and things only seemed worse when he was on crutches in the second half. As it turns out, Olsen has broken his foot, and will be out indefinitely. Olsen will likely be placed on injured reserve, so he'll miss at least eight weeks.
This is a crushing blow to a Carolina offense that currently features an inaccurate quarterback and an offensive line that can't protect. Cam Newton, whose passes were all over the place against the Bills, was sacked a half-a-dozen times. Now, he'll have to survive without his favorite safety valve.
I'm giving the Panthers a 7/10 Disaster Grade. This is a major blow, but I think they can survive. They're 2-0, and they get the Saints at home next week. Once 3-0, if they can tread water for a while, they could get Olsen back for a possible playoff push late in the year. However, it's also possible that things could collapse for them.
Update: Olsen is out 6-8 weeks, which was the expected timetable. This will remain as a 7/10 Disaster Grade.
Ravens G Marshal Yanda out for season (fractured ankle): 9/10 Disaster Rating
The Ravens lost several offensive linemen this offseason. Now, they've lost their best one. Marshal Yanda is out for the year with a fractured ankle.
This injury is catastrophic for the Ravens, as it effectively ends all hope they had of making the playoffs. Yanda is the primary reason why Joe Flacco isn't pressured on most plays, and Baltimore's offense will be abysmal without him.
The one silver lining is that this injury shouldn't carry over into 2018. Yanda will be back next year. However, this season has been lost.
Texans CB Kevin Johnson out 4-6 weeks (MCL sprain): 1/10 Disaster Rating
The Texans keep losing lots of players to injury, but none of them happen to be overly significant. That may seem odd to say about Kevin Johnson, a starting cornerback who was a first-round pick in 2015, but I don't think Houston will suffer at all in his absence.
Johnson hadn't been playing well at all through two weeks, and that is an understatement. Routinely torched, Johnson's injury won't matter because of his poor play. In fact, Marcus Burley, who replaced Johnson on Thursday night, was better than Johnson, so I'm giving this injury a 1/10 Disaster Grade for depth purposes only.
Texans LB Brian Cushing suspended 10 games (PEDs): 1/10 Disaster Rating
Brian Cushing has been suspended for PEDs for the second time in his career. A third infraction of this sort would get him banned for two years, but based on how he's played recently, it doesn't appear as though he'll get to that.
Cushing has been a declining player for years now, and he was awful in the opener. Now 30, Cushing likely won't bounce back, and I think this suspension will be a blessing in disguise because it'll get rookie Zach Cunningham on the field. I'd normally have this as a 0/10 Disaster Grade, but I'm bumping it up to 1/10 just solely for depth purposes.
Ravens RB Danny Woodhead out 6-8 weeks (hamstring): 6/10 Disaster Rating
Surprise, surprise, Danny Woodhead is injured. Woodhead looked great in Baltimore's offense for one whole drive against the Bengals. However, he grabbed his hamstring on a failed pass in the red zone, and it was immediately apparent that he would be out a while. He'll miss at least six weeks, and he could be headed for injured reserve. If he's placed on that list, he'll be out for two months.
This is very harmful for the Ravens, based on Joe Flacco's condition. Flacco clearly isn't 100 percent; he seldom took shots downfield versus Cincinnati, and his mechanics are way off. He needs a threat like Woodhead for the offense to function properly. Now, Woodhead won't be around for an extended period of time, and there's no guarantee that he'll be fully healthy when he returns.
I'm listing this as a 6/10 Disaster Grade. Flacco could heal up as the season progresses, but Woodhead's absence in the near future will make it difficult for Baltimore to rack up victories.
Cardinals RB David Johnson out 2-3 months (dislocated wrist): 9/10 Disaster Rating
Ian Rapoport reported Monday morning that David Johnson could play in Week 2. That, apparently, is not the case. Johnson will actually be out either 2-4 weeks or 3-4 months, depending on which recommendation the Cardinals follow.
If Johnson misses 2-4 weeks, Arizona won't have him for the Colts and Cowboys, and then possibly the 49ers and Eagles. They can split those four games, so if the Cardinals emerge at 2-3 after five weeks, that won't be the end of the world. What will hurt is if Johnson isn't 100 percent and has to miss more time following his return. What if his offseason work is compromised as a result of waiting? That's why I have to give this scenario a 5/10 Disaster Grade.
Johnson being knocked out for the year would effectively end Arizona's season. There is no way the Cardinals would reach the playoffs without Johnson; not with their struggling offensive line. This scenario warrants a 9/10 Disaster Grade, and the only reason it's not a 10/10 is because Johnson's 2018 season won't be affected.
Update: R.I.P. 2017 Cardinals. Johnson is out 2-3 months with his wrist injury, so Arizona's season is finished. This is a 9/10 Disaster Grade, but not 10/10 because Johnson will be completely healthy for 2018.
Eagles CB Ronald Darby out 4-6 weeks (dislocated ankle): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Wow. When this injury occurred, I thought Ronald Darby could be done for the year. It looked very severe, and if you're squeamish at all, I wouldn't recommend looking up any pictures of Darby's foot.
Fortunately for the Eagles, Darby is out just 4-6 weeks. A likely return date is Week 7. It's a Monday night affair versus the Redskins, so Darby will have an extra day to heal. Philadelphia plays Thursday night in Week 6, so that might be too early for Darby.
A Disaster Grade would have to be determined after looking at the schedule. In Weeks 2-6, Darby would've been charged with covering Tyreek Hill, Odell Beckham, Keenan Allen, Larry Fitzgerald and Kelvin Benjamin. Those are all talented wideouts who will know have much easier matchups. The Eagles, however, have a terrific front seven that should be able to take advantage of some poor offensive lines (Giants, Cardinals and Panthers in particular). I'm giving the Eagles a 4/10 Disaster Grade, as this could've been far worse.
Jaguars WR Allen Robinson out for season (torn ACL): 0/10 Disaster Rating
Allen Robinson suffered a knee injury early in the Houston game, and Adam Schefter is reporting that it's significant. It was of the non-contact variety, which is usually quite devastating.
Robinson could be out for the year, but I'm giving the Jaguars a 0/10 Disaster Grade. They have almost no chance of making the playoffs, and even if they do, they'll be one-and-done. This would actually be horrible for the long term because it'll take them out of the sweepstakes for one of the elite quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft (go here for our 2018 NFL Mock Draft.) Robinson's absence will make it more difficult for the Jaguars to win this year, which is for the best.
It's also worth noting that because this injury occurred so early, Robinson should be 100 percent for the start of 2018. If so, Jacksonville's new quarterback will be able to target Robinson right away, which is most important.
Update: Robinson has a torn ACL, and he's out for the year. This is a blessing in diguise, as it should get the Jaguars closer to Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson or Josh Rosen.
Cardinals OT D.J. Humphries suffers sprained knee: 5/10 Disaster Rating
D.J. Humphries moved to left tackle for this season, but he won't get to play there in the near future because of a sprained knee. He'll likely be out a few weeks, which will be pretty devastating for Arizona. The Cardinals struggled to move the ball without Humphries despite battling the defensively challenged Lions, as they struggled to block.
The good news is that Arizona can move Jared Veldheer to the blind side. The bad news is that the Cardinals won't have a replacement for Veldheer. John Wetzel stepped in for Humphries against the Lions and was woeful.
I have to give the Cardinals a 5/10 Disaster Grade for this, as they could be buried in an early hole because of poor protection. The only reason this number isn't higher is because Humphries may not be out for that long.
Raiders K Sebastian Janikowski out for 6 weeks (back): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Sebastian Janikowski won't be kicking for the Raiders for what seems like the first time in centuries. Janikowski hadn't missed a game for Oakland since 2001, but he'll be out for six weeks with a back problem.
Replacing Janikowski will be some guy named Giorgio Tavecchio. This preseason, Tavecchio hit three of his four field goal tries, but failed to convert on anything longer than 43 yards. He also whiffed on an extra point. It's safe to say he's a clear downgrade from Janikowski.
It feels silly to grade this above a 3/10 because I'm talking about a kicker, but I did consider a 4/10 Disaster Grade. I went with three, but the Raiders could lose a game as a result of this injury. Because Oakland's defense is terrible, the team will be in some very tight games, and a whiffed kick at the end of one will have the Raiders wishing Janikowski were available.
Chiefs S Eric Berry out for season (torn Achilles): 8/10 Disaster Rating
The Chiefs had a great upset victory over the Patriots, but the dark cloud over it was Eric Berry's non-contact Achilles injury. Berry was carted off into the locker room after he couldn't stand on his own. Berry was having a dominant performance against Rob Gronkowski, so it's a shame that he suffered this sort of an injury, especially after he came back from his life-threatening condition.
This loss would be enormous if Berry is out for the year, and that appears to be the case. I don't think the Chiefs can make a deep playoff push without Berry. His loss would be a huge downgrade to the defense.
I was debating between an 8/10 and a 9/10 Disaster Grade. I went with the former because if there's a silver lining, it's that this injury occurred so early in the season that Berry could be completely healthy for the 2018 opener.
Update: Berry does indeed have a raptured Achilles. It's a shame, as it's a huge loss for the Chiefs. Like I said before, however, Berry could be 100 percent (or close to it) by the season opener.
Patriots LB Dont'a Hightower week to week (sprained MCL): 1/10 Disaster Rating
The Patriots were completely lost defensively in the season opener when Dont'a Hightower was knocked out with a knee injury. Fortunately for New England, the team received some great news when it discovered that all Hightower suffered was a sprained MCL.
Hightower is considered week to week with this injury, and given that the Patriots have nine days off prior to battling the Saints, he could suit up Week 2. I'm giving this a 1/10 Disaster Grade because Hightower's absence would be very harmful versus the Saints - if the Patriots couldn't stop Alex Smith, how will they deal with Drew Brees? - but it sounds like Hightower has a realistic chance of playing next Sunday.
Browns DE Myles Garrett out about a month (high ankle sprain): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Myles Garrett suffered an ankle injury in practice Wednesday. He underwent an MRI, which the Browns are awaiting the results for, but they reportedly fear that the injury is serious.
Garrett could miss several weeks or more with this malady. I ordinarily wouldn't give a positive grade for this, given that the Browns are not making the playoffs this year, and thus would stand to benefit from a better draft pick. However, Garrett has a history of foot and ankle problems dating back to his college days. It's actually the right ankle, as opposed to the left one that gave him issues at Texas A&M, but it's still a concern. That said, it's just a minor worry at the moment, and a 3/10 Disaster Grade might even be a bit too excessive.
Update: Garrett has been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain and will likely be out for a month. Again, this isn't a major injury by itself, but it's still a bit alarming that his ankle/foot injuries continue to persist.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott six-game suspension upheld: 0/10 Disaster Rating
Much is being made of the Ezekiel Elliott six-game suspension behind upheld, as first reported by Chris Mortensen. In fact, I just received an e-mail from someone in one of my fantasy leagues, talking crap because I have Elliott on my roster.
All of this, however, is irrelevant. Elliott is likely to play Sunday against the Giants. The suspension appeal process wasn't finalized prior to 4 p.m. Tuesday, so it's too late to ban Elliott for Week 1. Furthermore, there's still a chance Elliott plays the entire year. The Texas court still has to decide on Elliott's restraining order, and if they grant it, it'll be very difficult for the NFL to ban Elliott at any point this year.
As you can see, this development doesn't deserve any sort of Disaster Grade. This process could take a very long time.
Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict suspended for three games: 3/10 Disaster Rating
Only Vontaze Burfict could be suspended for a dirty hit in the preseason. Burfict has gotten hit with a ban for blasting Anthony Sherman in his team's second preseason affair against the Chiefs. If you want to see it, check out the left side of the screen during the 25-26-second mark of this video.
There was no need for Burfict to hit Sherman like that, as he had nothing to do with the play. Thus, I'm not going to argue the suspension; only what it'll mean for Cincinnati's season.
Burfict is arguably the Bengals' best defensive player. When they were missing him in the first three weeks of the season last year, they surrendered 22, 24 and 29 to the Jets, Steelers and Broncos. The Pittsburgh output is understandable, but the other two teams had Ryan Fitzpatrick and Trevor Siemian at the helm. If the Bengals couldn't stop them, how will they survive the first five games?
Well, the silver lining is that the Bengals are going to battle only one elite offense during the first five games of the 2017 campaign. Their opponents during Burfict's ban will be the Ravens, Texans, Packers, Browns and Bills. Only Green Bay poses a major challenge, and the Bengals were unlikely to win in Lambeau anyway. Thus, it's still possible that Cincinnati can salvage a 3-2 record in that span. It won't be easy, but it could happen.
I was going to grade this based on Cincinnati's competition. Had four of their first five opponents been tough foes, I would've gone as high as 6/10, but I think the Bengals can survive. They may not, so I'm still going 4/10, but this won't be guaranteed to conclude Cincinnati's season, or anything.
Update: Burfict's suspension has been reduced to three games. I almost forgot to post an updated Disaster Grade, so thanks to Awesome Kelly from Arizona for reminded me. I'm going to drop this from a 4/10 to a 3/10. I didn't want to go to 2/10 because there's a chance Burfict's absence prevents the Bengals from beating the Ravens and/or Texans. The race for the sixth and final wild-card spot will be a tight one, so a defeat to one of these squads - both of whom could also be competing for the sixth seed - could prove to be costly. Still, Burfict is out for just three weeks now, and even if the Bengals come out of the stretch with a 1-2 record, they can certainly rebound from it.
Bills cut RB Jonathan Williams: 5/10 Disaster Rating
This was a shocking move, to say the least. Jonathan Williams, a fifth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, was a promising young player who looked good in preseason action. I even thought the 23-year-old would be starting at some point this season when the inevitable LeSean McCoy trade would occur. The Bills, however, had different ideas. They cut Williams, opting to keep 32-year-old plodder Mike Tolbert as their backup running back instead.
This Disaster Grade is for the Bills' incompetence. It's clear that the new regime has no idea what it's doing. It appeared to be tanking, which was smart, but then they came out and said they weren't trading McCoy, which made no sense. Now, they've opted to cut Williams over the useless Tolbert. This is a 5/10 Disaster Grade, and I could be talked into it being much higher.
Bears DE/OLB Lamarr Houston out for season (knee): 0/10 Disaster Rating
Like Tamba Hali, Lamarr Houston (not Pernell McPhee, as Ian Rapoport incorrectly reported earlier) is an edge rusher who will miss action because of an injury (knee surgery, in his case). Unlike Hali, this injury doesn't mean anything to the player's team.
Houston is talented, but any injury to Chicago that doesn't have long-term ramifications will warrant a 0/10 Disaster Grade. This doesn't have a long-term impact, only because it was suspected that Houston was already done. He has missed 22 games in the past three seasons. Plus, Houston being out actually helps the Bears, as they'll be able to secure a better selection in a great draft class (check out my 2018 NFL Mock Draft.) They have no playoff aspirations, so adding a better piece next April is more helpful than maybe winning a meaningless game.
Chiefs DE/OLB Tamba Hali out for six weeks: 5/10 Disaster Rating
Tamba Hali has been placed on the PUP list with some sort of undisclosed injury, so he's going to miss the first six weeks of the season. Hali hasn't practiced this summer, so something is going on, and the conspiracy theorists on Twitter would seem to agree.
There's good news, bad news and worst news concerning this injury. The good news is that the Chiefs have Dee Ford to take Hali's place in the starting lineup across from a healthy Justin Houston. The bad news is that Hali will still be missed. Hali is 33 now, but he's still a potent edge rusher. Plus, what's going to happen if either Houston or Ford has to miss time? The Chiefs don't have anything behind them, so depth is a big concern until Hali returns.
The worst news? Kansas City's schedule! Check out the quarterbacks the Chiefs have to battle in their first six weeks: Tom Brady, Carson Wentz, Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, Tom Savage/Deshaun Watson and Ben Roethlisberger. Only the Texans don't pose a challenge for the pass defense. Not being able to put as much pressure on Brady, Wentz, Rivers, Cousins and Roethlisberger will hurt Kansas City's chances of winning, hence the 5/10 Disaster Grade.
Saints WR Willie Snead suspended for three games (DUI): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Willie Snead was quietly suspended for four games, but had a semi-victory in an appeal to get the penalty reduced to three contests. Thus, the Saints will be without their No. 2 wideout against the Vikings, Patriots and Panthers.
Considering that the Saints are underdogs (on the advance line versus New England and Carolina) in all three games suggests that they need all hands on deck, so it'll be harmful that Drew Brees won't have one of his favorite weapons at his disposal.
Snead's suspension definitely hurts the Saints, as a possible victory might turn into a loss because of this, but there's also a decent chance they can survive and come out of this stretch with a 2-1 record. Even if it's 1-2, the Saints will have just one road game after that until Week 10, as their schedule softens up a bit. I'm giving this a 3/10 Disaster Grade as a result, though I considered making it a 4/10.
Patriots PR Cyrus Jones out for season (torn ACL, meniscus): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Cyrus Jones was a second-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, but he hasn't lived up to that as a defensive player. Jones has been frequently torched, even in the preseason against scrub offensive players. He won't be missed as a cornerback at all.
However, Jones' contribution to the Patriots was set to be as a punt returner, and he was going to be important in that regard in the wake of Julian Edelman's season-ending injury. Now, New England is going to have to find another return specialist, and it could be difficult to unearth someone as dynamic as either Edelman or Jones.
This isn't a huge deal for the Patriots, but it is a deal. A great return versus a tough opponent could be the difference between a win and a loss, and the Patriots likely won't have that luxury.
Colts CB Vontae Davis out multiple games (groin): 6/10 Disaster Rating
If there wasn't already a nail in the Colts' coffin, this appears to be it. Andrew Luck is unlikely to play in the opener, and it's unclear when he'll be back. The Colts needed all hands on deck to win a game in Luck's absence, but now they'll be missing their top cornerback for multiple games. Even worse, when Davis returns, he probably won't be 100 percent. We've seen lingering injuries affect Davis' play last year, and it wasn't pretty, as he endured a brutal season.
Indianapolis' defense was already terrible without Davis, and now the team's only reliable cornerback is out. The Colts' top corners in Davis' absence are Rashaan Melvin (undrafted free agent in 2016), declining has-been Chris Culliver, and rookies Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston. Throw in the fact that talented safety Michael Adams departed for Carolina this offseason, and Indianapolis clearly won't be able to stop the pass at all.
At this point, I'm wondering if the Colts should just redshirt Luck. They should allow him to heal up and return at 100 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, they can work on upgrading the offensive line and defense next offseason so they'll have a legitimate chance to make another deep playoff run.
Ravens LB Albert McClellan out for season (torn ACL): 2/10 Disaster Rating
It's too late now, but next offseason, the Ravens should cancel all of their practices and exhibition games, and instead place all of their players in bubble wrap. Perhaps they'd be able to avoid a slew of injuries using that strategy.
This injury isn't especially impactful. Albert McClellan provides sub-par depth at linebacker, but he's an important special-teams player, so he'll be missed in that regard.
This Disaster Grade is worth either a 1/10 or a 2/10. If the Ravens didn't have so many casualties already, I probably would've gone with the former. At this point, however, it's fair to wonder if they'll be able to field a viable team by November.
Bears WR Cameron Meredith out for season (torn ACL): 7/10 Disaster Rating
I normally wouldn't give the Bears any sort of disaster grade for an injury because they don't have a realistic chance of making the playoffs. Thus, any player getting hurt would help the team obtain a better draft prospect in April. The exception would be any player suffering an injury that would last beyond 2017, and that appears to be the case with Cameron Meredith.
Meredith's knee injury was horrifying. His knee had to be immobilized, and then he was carted into the locker room. He's believed to have suffered an ACL, and I've heard doctors comment that he also likely tore his MCL as well. Thus, Meredith could miss action in 2018.
Hopefully Meredith will be fine, but it definitely doesn't look good. It's a shame, as he's a talented, young receiver who was expected to take the next step this year. Now, all the Bears have at wideout is the disappointing Kevin White and Kendall Wright. Wide receiver will have to be addressed next offseason. Here's a link to the 2018 NFL Wide Receiver Prospect Rankings.
Chiefs RB Spencer Ware out for the season (torn PCL): 2/10 Disaster Rating
Spencer Ware was reported to be out 4-6 weeks yesterday, but it turns out that he indeed had a torn liagment (PCL). He's out for the year.
I didn't think this was a big deal at all yesterday, grading it 1/10. It was more of a 0.5/10 though, as I only made it a 1/10 because of depth concerns. I'll move this up to 2/10 with Ware gone for the year.
Again, this injury won't matter unless Kareem Hunt gets hurt. Ware going down sucks for him, but it's a blessing in disguise for the Chiefs, as it'll allow the more-talented Hunt to be the starter. However, if Hunt gets hurt too, Kansas City's running back depth will be very tested, as only Charcandrick West will remain.
Patriots WR Julian Edelman out for season (torn ACL): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Non-contact leg injuries tend to be horrible, and that appears to be the case for Julian Edelman. The slot receiver went down in the third preseason game on his own, grabbing the back of his knee. He was taken into the locker room, and the Patriots now believe that he has a torn ACL.
This is obviously not ideal for the Patriots, as Edelman has been a very important weapon for Tom Brady. He'll be missed for sure. That said, this isn't a devastating injury for the team whatsoever. We're talking about a New England squad that just won the Super Bowl without Rob Gronkowski, after all, and Gronkowski is a much better player than Edelman is. The Patriots are a machine, and the next man up - seemingly Chris Hogan - should be just as effective as Edelman, just as Edelman proved to be an adequate replacement for Wes Welker.
I started with a 6/10 Disaster Grade, but kept talking myself down, and I went to a 4/10. That might even be too high. As long as Brady is the quarterback, and Bill Belichick is the head coach, the Patriots will be in position to win the Super Bowl no matter what injuries occur. Edelman's absence makes it very slightly less likely that the Patriots will repeat, but I don't think this injury will come close to precluding them from winning their sixth in the Brady-Belichick era.
Update: Edelman has, in fact, torn his ACL. He's out for 2017. I still stand by my 4/10 Disaster Grade, though I will acknowledge that I think 3/10 is more correct than 5/10.
Browns LB Tank Carder out for season (torn ACL): 0/10 Disaster Rating
There's been some talk about Tank Carder's injury hurting the Browns, but that's definitely not the case. Never mind the fact that making the playoffs is nearly impossible for Cleveland, and thus losing more games is helpful in the long run; Carder wasn't even expected to be a starter.
Carder was penciled in with the first team to start the offseason, but there was no way that was going to last. Joe Schobert, chosen in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, has been excellent this preseason. He was likely to win the job over Carder anyway, so this effectively hands him the job without Hue Jackson making the decision. It's for the best, as it'll guarantee more playing time for Schobert.
Dolphins Gs Ted Larsen and Kraig Urbik out indefinitely (torn biceps, knee): 5/10 Disaster Rating
I somehow missed the Ted Larsen injury from two weeks ago, so I thought I'd group him along with Kraig Urbik. Larsen tore his biceps and will likely be placed on injured reserve, which he can return from after eight games. Urbik, meanwhile, is dealing with a knee injury that may require a scope. It's unclear when he'll return to action.
Larsen's injury constitutes the bulk of this Disaster Grade. He's the only halfway-decent player the Dolphins have at guard, so he'll be missed. It's nice that he can possibly return for the second half of the season, but will he be 100 percent? And will the Dolphins be out of contention by then? Urbik, meanwhile, isn't very good, but he's better than the alternatives. In the wake of his knee issue, some guy named Jesse Davis will have to start in his place.
I have no idea how the Dolphins are going to block against teams with dynamic defensive tackles. The Buccaneers in Week 1, in particular, pose a great challenge with Gerald McCoy and Chris Baker. The same goes for the Chargers in Week 2 (Corey Liuget, Brandon Mebane). Despite getting their quarterbacking problems resolved, the Dolphins could still be in trouble because of the state of their offensive line.
Bills WR Anquan Boldin announces retirement: 0/10 Disaster Rating
The Bills envisioned Anquan Boldin as their third receiver when they signed him two weeks ago, but he won't be playing for them at all. Boldin informed the team Sunday night that he would be retiring.
It's unclear why Boldin has elected to retire, but I can't help but think that he was discouraged by what he saw with the team, especially after the Bills dealt their top receiver and cornerback, then proceeded to play horribly in Thursday's preseason game.
Regardless of the reason, this Disaster Grade is easily a 0/10 for a couple of reasons. First, Boldin turns 37 in October and wasn't projected to be a huge factor. He was projected to be a decent third wideout, but I don't know how much of an impact he would've made on the win total. And second, the Bills appear to be tanking, so any reduction of talent will actually help them in the long run, especially considering how packed the upcoming class appears to be in talent (check out my 2018 NFL Mock Draft for more.)
Bengals S Shawn Williams out 4-6 weeks (elbow): 2/10 Disaster Rating
Shawn Williams dislocated his elbow against the Chiefs, and it was ruled he would be out 4-6 weeks. He's almost certain to miss the first two games of the season, especially since the second contest is a Thursday night affair. At the very worst, it seems like he'll be missing until the team's Week 6 bye, but that's a worst-case scenario.
Even if Williams is out for the first five games, it's not a huge deal based on the fact that four of the initial five opponents don't have dynamic passing offenses. The Ravens, Texans, Browns and Bills don't throw the ball especially well, so Williams won't be missed very much. The one exception is the Packers in Week 3, but it's unlikely the Bengals were going to win in Green Bay anyway.
Thanks to scheduling dynamics, I'm giving this a 2/10 Disaster Grade. Williams could be back for the Packer game anyway, so 2/10 might even be a bit too high.
Seahawks OT George Fant out for season (torn ACL): 7/10 Disaster Rating
There have been a number of teams who have lost important offensive linemen this summer, and the Seahawks are the latest victims. Left tackle George Fant had his leg rolled up by teammate Justin Britt during Friday night's game. His leg was put in an air cast, and he was carted off the field. It was later revealed that he suffered a torn ACL and would be out for the year.
This is a huge blow for the Seahawks, who already had offensive line woes. Fant struggled last year, but worked hard this offseason and improved during training camp and the preseason games. Fant's absence creates a big hole for Seattle, which was filled by second-year Rees Odhiambo, who was abused by the Viking backups.
It doesn't appear as though Seattle has many options. The team just missed out on Austin Pasztor, the top remaining player in the NFL Free Agent Tackle Rankings, as he was signed today by the Falcons. The other options are either retired (Ryan Clady, Branden Albert, Sebastian Vollmer, King Dunlap) or injured (Michael Oher). Given the lacking replacements, I had to go with a 7/10 Disaster Grade.
Patriots DE Derek Rivers out for season (torn ACL): 5/10 Disaster Rating
Derek Rivers is a third-round rookie, but he was expected to make a big impact this season. The Patriots don't have a very good edge rush outside of Trey Flowers, and Rivers had performed very well in training camp and during the first preseason game. Unfortunately for Rivers, he'll have to wait until 2018 to make an impact because he tore his ACL and is out for the year.
This is definitely a blow for the Patriots, who will struggle to muster a consistent pass rush with Rivers gone. Perhaps they'll get something out of Kony Ealy, but he's been a big disappointment thus far. They could always trade for an edge rusher, but it's unclear who will be available.
I'm giving this a 5/10 Disaster Grade, which is par for the course for what I've given second-day draft choices who have been ruled out for the season (Forrest Lamp, Raekwon McMillan). The silver lining is that Rivers should be at full strength by the 2018 season opener.
Raiders CB Sean Smith arrested (felony assault): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Sean Smith was charged with felony assault today for an incident that allegedly took place on July 4 weekend. Smith allegedly stomped on the head of his sister's boyfriend, and he could face up to seven years in prison.
It's safe to assume that the Raiders will be cutting Smith shortly. Smith had gotten benched in favor of T.J. Carrie anyway, so it's likely that Oakland could have released him. Thus, I can't give a very high Disaster Grade for this arrest.
The thing is, the Raiders really needed Smith to step up. He was woeful at the beginning of the 2016 campaign, but improved as the year went on. I thought there was a chance that could happen again, so I have to give Oakland some sort of a Disaster Grade because that won't be a possibility now. However, the odds of Smith repeating what he did last year were somewhat slim.
Colts C Ryan Kelly out until Week 9 (foot surgery): 5/10 Disaster Rating
Several weeks ago, I graded Ryan Kelly being out a couple of weeks as a 2/10. It was not known then that he would need surgery, however. It's apparent now that he will, and Chuck Pagano said Kelly would miss a part of the regular season.
Pagano wasn't very specific about Kelly's timetable, but what's clear is that the Colts are in big trouble. Andrew Luck's Week 1 status is in doubt, and now Indianapolis will be without one of the few talented blockers. Furthermore, the Colts don't really have much behind Kelly.
I considered marking this down as a 7/10, but the Colts have some options. Jeremy Zuttah and Nick Mangold are currently free agents, and both would make sense as replacements for Kelly. There's a chance Indianapolis won't be able to obtain either, however, so I can't go below a 5/10.
Update: Ian Rapoport has reported that Kelly will likely be placed on injured reserve, so his first opportunity to return to action will be Week 9. This doesn't impact this Disaster Grade, though it's nice to hear that Kelly could make it back for a potential playoff run if Luck somehow stays healthy and doesn't miss any action. Unfortunately for the Colts, that doesn't appear to be the case.
Saints CB Delvin Breaux out 4-6 weeks (fractured fibula): 2/10 Disaster Rating
The Saints already had massive issues with their defense prior to Nick Fairley's unfortunate heart condition. Now, they'll be without one of their top defensive backs, as Delvin Breaux will be out 4-6 weeks with a fractured fibula. This means he'll likely miss at least a couple regular-season games, and he could be out until the team's Week 5 bye in a worst-case scenario.
That said, I don't think this is a huge deal, based on the schedule. New Orleans' opponents prior to the bye are the Vikings, Patriots, Panthers and Dolphins. Excluding New England, whom the Saints were unlikely to beat anyway, none of those teams have dynamic aerial attacks. Thus, the Saints can survive without Breaux, though they'll need him right after the bye because they have to take on the Lions and Packers in consecutive weeks.
Breaux will be missed, but this isn't a devastating injury by any means. It's fortunate that the Saints don't have to battle multiple great passing attacks during Breaux's absence, so that makes this a 2/10 Disaster Grade.
Dolphins CB Tony Lippett out for season (torn Achilles): 1/10 Disaster Rating
It sucks to lose a young player to a severe injury like a torn Achilles. This will surely stunt Tony Lippett's growth, and he may not be 100 percent for 2018. Just 25, Lippett had some potential despite struggling last year, so it's far from ideal to see him hurt.
That's why I'm giving this a positive Disaster Grade. Otherwise, this injury doesn't seem significant for Miami. Lippett wasn't expected to start this year; he was just a depth player, and it's not like the Dolphins didn't have other young cornerbacks. Xavien Howard (2016 second-rounder) and third-round rookie Cordrea Tankersley are on the roster, and the front office also signed Alterraun Verner, so the team's depth at corner seems fine even without Lippett.
Chargers ILB Denzel Perryman out for 4 games (ankle): 3/10 Disaster Rating
Wow, when is the last time the Chargers have been this lucky with an injury? When Denzel Perryman suffered a non-contact injury to his foot and was subsequently carted into the locker room, things looked grim for the Chargers, and even the preseason TV announcers speculated that it might be an Achilles. As it turns out, Perryman has a minor injury to his ankle, and will "only" be out 4-6 weeks.
Perryman is a talented linebacker and will be missed. The six weeks portion of the timetable puts him on track to play in either the third or fourth game of the season, so if the Chargers miss him for just two contests, that's not a big deal. Still, not having him around Week 1 (Broncos) or Week 3 (Chiefs) would hurt their playoff chances because those are obviously two very important games.
That said, I can't go above a 2/10 Disaster Grade. Perryman may miss only one game in a best-case scenario. Plus, Jatavis Brown played well in relief of injured players last year, so there might not be much of a drop-off. If either Brown or Korey Toomer goes down, however, the Chargers will be in some serious trouble until Perryman returns.
Update: Ian Rapoport has reported that Perryman will miss four games. He'll be missing for the matchups against the Broncos, Dolphins, Chiefs and Eagles. I'm bumping this up to a 3/10. The Chargers still have Jatavis Brown and Korey Toomer, so the Chargers should be OK. Like I said, however, another injury to the linebacking corps could mean trouble.
Lions DE Kerry Hyder out for season (Achilles): 6/10 Disaster Rating
The Ravens and Chargers are known as the teams that have been the most snake-bitten by injuries, but the Lions are certainly up there. They suffered a number of casualties last year, especially down the stretch when they lost every game following a promising 9-4 start. With Taylor Decker already out, Detroit couldn't afford to lose any more talented players, but that's exactly what happened when Kerry Hyder tore his Achilles.
Hyder wasn't the best player on the defensive line, but his absence will certainly be felt. Hyder led the Lions in sacks last year with eight, and without him, Detroit doesn't really have anyone who can put consistent pressure on the quarterback outside of Ziggy Ansah. Making matters worse, an Achilles could prevent Hyder from being 100 percent in 2018.
I was debating between this being a 6/10 or a 7/10. I was going to lean toward 7/10, but realized that the Lions could trade for a defensive end if they can start the year off well. Someone like Jerry Hughes could be available, as the Bills are having a fire sale. So, despite things looking grim right now, Detroit definitely has some options.
Bills WR Jordan Matthews out for several weeks (chipped sternum): 0/10 Disaster Rating
Talk about bad trading luck, Jordan Matthews suffered this injury 15 minutes into his first practice. The good news is that this isn't a very serious injury, and Matthews could be available Week 2 or 3 at the latest. The bad news is that Matthews won't be able to get acclimated to the offense, so his learning curve will be pretty steep.
This would be a problem for most teams, but not Buffalo. The Bills are blatantly in tank mode, as they've obtained what appears to be four of the top 40 picks in a terrific 2018 NFL Draft class (check out my 2018 NFL Mock Draft.) Anything that helps them lose at this point is beneficial, and that would be the case with this injury.
Broncos DE/DT Billy Winn out for season (torn ACL, MCL and meniscus): 1/10 Disaster Rating
You have to feel bad for Billy Winn, who suffered a major knee injury during the preseason opener. He tore two ligaments and a meniscus, so he has a very long recovery time ahead of him. He may never be the same player again.
However, this is not a big deal for the Broncos at all. Winn was a pedestrian player who was below average versus the run and a non-factor as a pass-rusher. This is only a 1/10 because it affects depth, but Winn's absence almost certainly won't impact Denver's win total in 2017.
Ravens G Alex Lewis out for season (torn labrum): 0/10 Disaster Rating
And another Raven bites the dust. I normally wouldn't trivialize an injury to a starting offensive lineman like this, but I feel inclined to give Baltimore a 0/10 Disaster Rating, as this could be a blessing in disguise.
Following the news that Lewis would be out for the season, a report broke that the Ravens were discussing the possibility of bringing back Jeremy Zuttah. That would be huge for the team, as Zuttah made the Pro Bowl last year, yet was oddly cut by the 49ers. Zuttah, familiar with the system, would be a nice re-signing, and having him on the roster would be a huge upgrade over Lewis, who was absolutely terrible in 2016.
Redskins DE/OLB Trent Murphy out for season (torn ACL, MCL): 4/10 Disaster Rating
The Redskins lost some key personnel on both sides of the ball this offseason, and now they'll be without Trent Murphy, who tore his ACL and MCL in the preseason opener against the Ravens.
This injury definitely hurts, as Murphy was Washington's best edge rusher not named Ryan Kerrigan. Also, given that Murphy tore multiple ligaments, it could be difficult for him to return to 100 percent, though he'll have plenty of time to do so.
The one piece of good news for the Redskins is that they have some options to replace Murphy. Preston Smith is a former second-round pick and has some potential despite struggling last year. Ryan Anderson is a second-round rookie and could contribute right away. Thus, I'm not going to grade this too highly, despite the severity of the injury.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott suspended for six games (domestic violence): 6/10 Disaster Rating
There were varying opinions on what sort of suspension Ezekiel Elliott would receive for domestic violence. Anything from a slap on the wrist to six games was suggested, and it turns out that the NFL has given him the harshest of the predicted penalties.
This is obviously a crushing blow for the Cowboys. They had a pair of Pro Bowl rookies in their backfield last year, but Elliott was the better of the two. He led the NFL in rushing, after all. Part of that was because of how prolific the offensive line was, but that may not be the case in 2017. Ronald Leary is gone, while Tyron Smith is dealing with his infamous bulging dick disc issue. With a weaker rushing attack, Dak Prescott will find it more difficult to move the chains aerially, so he could be in for a sophomore slump - at least until Elliott returns in Week 8.
Of course, Dallas' opponents in the six games must be considered as well. Those foes are the Giants, Broncos (road), Cardinals (road), Rams, Packers and 49ers (road). There are two apparent sure victories there (Rams, 49ers), so the Cowboys' goal should be going 1-3 in the other four contests; if they can come out of the first six games with a 3-3 record, they have to consider that a victory. And I think that's definitely possible. The Giants and Broncos have major offensive line issues as well, while the Cardinals are an unknown commodity because of Carson Palmer's age.
With that in mind, I'm still giving the Cowboys a 6/10 Disaster Grade for this suspension. I believe they can survive this year, but the fact remains that one more incident, per the league's guidelines, could lead to a season-long suspension for Elliott, which would obviously be devastating. Dallas will be hoping that Elliott will be able to stay out of trouble, but he hasn't been able to do that yet.
Dolphins ILB Raekwon McMillan out for season (torn ACL): 5/10 Disaster Rating
It's official now that Raekwon McMillan is out for the year with a torn ACL. This is a huge blow for the Dolphins, as they were counting on their second-round pick to provide an upgrade in their linebacking corps.
The Dolphins now have a big concern at linebacker. Kiko Alonso is the only reliable starter they have remaining, and he's not the most durable player there is. Lawrence Timmons is also there, but he's decrepit and played poorly last year.
If there's a silver lining, it's that this injury occurred so early that McMillan will likely be 100 percent for 2018. However, his absence will stunt his growth a bit, and it'll also make it more difficult for the Dolphins to reach the playoffs again.
Jets WR Quincy Enunwa out for season (neck): 4/10 Disaster Rating
It seemed like the Jets were in full tank mode this offseason when they let go of some key veterans and then went to sign Josh McCown to compete with Christian Hackenberg to be the starting quarterback. This will only expedite matters, as New York will now be without its top three wideouts from a year ago.
Quincy Enunwa is far from a household name, and he was slated to be the weakest No. 1 receiver in the NFL, but he at least had some promise. A 25-year-old, Enunwa had 58 catches for 857 yards and four touchdowns last season despite playing with poor quarterbacks. He had some potential, and this could stunt his growth.
That said, this is only a 2/10 Disaster Grade for that reason. Enunwa should be fine in 2018, especially if the Jets are able to land Sam Darnold (as seen in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft.) There's a great chance that will happen; the Jets are the worst team in the NFL, and that was before this injury.
Update: I'm increasing this to 4/10 because neck injuries can be difficult to come back from on occasion. It's unknown how severe this is, and I'll have another update if there's any developing news.
Falcons CB Jalen Collins suspended for 10 games (PEDs): 5/10 Disaster Rating
If this sounds familiar, it's because it happened last year. Jalen Collins was also suspended for PEDs in 2016, only he was slapped with just a four-game ban. This time, it's 10, and Collins now stands at risk for being out an entire year if he's caught one more time.
Collins, a second-round pick in 2015, was steallar at the end of this past season. Desmond Trufant was knocked out with an injury, but it didn't matter because Collins performed like a No. 1 corner. Collins' injury will hurt a bit, but not so much because Trufant is back. Atlanta will be in serious trouble this time if Trufant gets hurt in the first 10 games of the season. The good news is that Collins will be available in the final six contests.
I don't think this suspension is a huge deal in a vacuum because of Collins' impending availability, but as mentioned, an early injury to Trufant would hurt. Also, a year-long ban for Collins is now a possibility, so that would explain why this is a 5/10 Disaster Grade.
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill likely out for season (knee): 4/10 Disaster Rating
It's not official yet, but Adam Schefter is reporting that the Dolphins are considering season-ending knee surgery for Ryan Tannehill. No decision has been made yet, but it looks grim for Miami.
Most starting quarterbacks getting knocked out for the year would earn an extremely high Disaster Grade. I wouldn't call a 6/10 "extremely high," and it's a 6/10 because the Dolphins have one of the best No. 2 signal-callers in the league. There was no drop-off from Tannehill to Matt Moore last season, and Moore handled himself well in a playoff loss to Pittsburgh. The Dolphins averaged 21.6 points in the games Tannehill started last year, and that number increased to 23.5 in Moore's starts. That's not to say that Moore is better or equal to Tannehill, but he's not much worse.
That said, the Dolphins have to feel discouraged that they won't get to see Tannehill progress in the second year of Adam Gase's offense. He should be fine for 2018, but it's too bad that he won't get to improve in 2017.
Update: I'm cutting this Disaster Grade down from 6/10 to 4/10 in the wake of the Jay Cutler signing. I actually think Cutler could be an upgrade for Miami's offense, especially considering his familiarity with Adam Gase's system. However, it still sucks for the Dolphins that Tannehill won't be able to progress in 2017. Also, there has to be some concern with Tannehill's knee going forward, as he's had multiple injuries on it in the past eight months.
49ers G Joshua Garnett and LB Malcolm Smith out indefinitely (knee, chest): 0/10 Disaster Rating
I thought I'd group these two together because they both deserve the same Disaster Grade. And that would be a zero.
Any non-long-term injury is a good injury for the 49ers. Though they'll be more competitive this season, they still stand no chance of making the playoffs, so they need to lose as many games as possible. If they can't get Kirk Cousins, they'll need to be in a position to draft Sam Darnold, or at least Josh Allen. If they do get Cousins, they'll need to give him the best support possible, whether that's with Trey Adams or Saquon Barkley.
Chargers G Forrest Lamp out for season (torn ACL): 5/10 Disaster Rating
I gave the Ravens a 4/10 Disaster Grade for fourth-round rookie guard Nico Siragusa being out for the year. As with Siragusa, Forrest Lamp was projected to start, but he was a better prospect as a second-rounder. Thus, this hurts a bit more.
The Chargers, like the Ravens, are very used to injuries. There should be major concerns with their training staff, and it's doubtful that Lamp's ACL will be the final major injury of the summer. The Chargers made a great effort to upgrade their offensive line, so it's disheartening to see a projected starter go down.
Texans WR Will Fuller out indefinitely (broken collarbone): 3/10 Disaster Rating
It's not yet clear how long Will Fuller be out, but most broken collarbones take 6-12 weeks to return from. If that's going to be the case for Fuller, this is a painful injury for the Texans, but not one they can't overcome to reach the playoffs.
Fuller has major problems hanging on to the football, as drops plagued his rookie campaign. However, he's been working on his hands so that he can fully take advantage of his game-breaking speed. Deshaun Watson will wish he could have Fuller at his disposal, but considering that Watson is merely a rookie, the Texans were planning on winning with a strong defense and a steady running game anyway. Fuller's presence would have stretched the field and opened things up for Lamar Miller (and Watson) running the ball, but the Texans can survive. Besides, Fuller should be able to return for the second half of the season, so I think a 3/10 Disaster Grade feels right.
Rams DT Dominique Easley out for season (torn ACL): 2/10 Disaster Rating
This injury hurts Dominique Easley a lot more than it hinders the Rams. Easley was expected to start along with Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers on Los Angeles' new three-man front. That won't be the case anymore, as the talented Easley tore an ACL for the third time since his college days.
Easley's absence will create a huge hole on the defensive line, where the pedestrian Ethan Westbrooks will have to start. However, given that the Rams weren't expected to compete for a playoff spot this year, Easley's injury could actually help them secure a better selection in what looks like a terrific NFL Draft. If Jared Goof is awful, the Rams could be in a position to select Sam Darnold or Josh Allen. If not, Trey Adams, Arden Key, Christian Kirk and Calvin Ridley would all be great choices.
There are no long-term ramifications for Los Angeles with Easley's injury, since Easley was signed for just one year. Easley, meanwhile, has a tough recovery ahead of him, considering that this is his third major knee injury. He may never be the same again, so this is an 8/10 or 9/10 Disaster Grade for him personally. The Rams, on the other hand, get just a 2/10 because there was only an extremely slim chance they'd be competitive enough to be in position for a wild-card spot. This injury could actually help them in the long run.
Colts QB Andrew Luck rumored to begin season on PUP list (shoulder): 8/10 Disaster Rating
There are conflicting reports on Andrew Luck. Jason La Canfora said he has heard rumblings about Luck beginning the year on the reserve/PUP list because of his shoulder issues. That would mean he would miss six games, which would almost certainly cost the Colts their 2017 season. If Luck is out for six games, Indianapolis would likely have to go 10-0 or 9-1 when Luck returns to make the playoffs, which is highly unlikely to happen.
Meanwhile, general manager Chris Ballard told the media that Luck will be activated from the active/PUP list prior to Week 1. This could be wishful thinking on Ballard's part, however, and even if Luck is activated, there's no guarantee that he'll play early on. And even if he does, he may not be 100 percent.
As you can tell, Indianapolis' season is in jeopardy right now unless Luck's situation rapidly improves in the near future. I'm grading this as an 8/10, and it could easily be 9/10 if La Canfora's reports are confirmed.
Ravens G Nico Siragusa out for season (torn ACL, MCL, PCL): 4/10 Disaster Rating
Forgive me if I'm missing anyone, but this is now Nico Siragusa, Tavon Young, Kenneth Dixon, Crockett Gillmore and Dennis Pitta all out for the season, with Joe Flacco nursing a bad back, Breshad Perriman dealing with a hamstring, and John Urschel retiring. I mentioned the Redskins as having one of the worst offseasons in the NFL, but Baltimore trumps Washington for that distinction.
Losing Siragusa hurts. He was only a fourth-round pick, but he was expected to start at left guard. With Siragusa out, Alex Lewis will likely have to get the nod, which is horrible news because he was atrocious last season. Baltimore now has three holes on the offensive line at left guard, center and right tackle.
I can't give this a very high Disaster Grade because it's unclear how good Siragusa would have been, but without him, there's no help at the position this year. Furthermore, Siragusa's massively torn knee could mean that he won't even be fully healthy for 2018.
Redskins TE Jordan Reed week-to-week (toe): 2/10 Disaster Rating
Several teams can argue that they've had the worst offseason of 2017. The Redskins are one of those franchises. Between numerous key departures, the controversy surrounding the former general manager, and the dispute with Kirk Cousins, Washington has been in complete turmoil. Now, things appear to be getting worse, as Jordan Reed could be out for a few weeks.
Reed, according to Jay Gruden, has no timetable for a return after seeing a specialist. The injury was supposed to be a simple toe malady, but it's apparently more complicated than that. It's possible that Reed could miss the opening game of the season, and even if he comes back by then, there's no telling if he'll be 100 percent.
With no clear injury timetable, this is a difficult grade to give, but a 4/10 sounds right for now. Perhaps Reed will be fine, but there's a good chance he could be out or limited for a while. If so, that's a crushing blow for a Redskin offense that lost Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson.
Update: Reed is considered "day to day" now, which is obviously good news. He's still a major injury risk, however, so this still needs to be a positive number, but I've cut it in half from 4/10.
Patriots DE Rob Ninkovich announces retirement: 0/10 Disaster Rating
A reader pointed out that I had Rob Ninkovich as an offseason departure in my New England Patriots NFL Season Preview, as I forgot that he was extended for a year last September. Then, I saw his retirement and was going to do a grade, but I forgot to do so until another reader, Warren K., reminded me.
Considering how forgetful I've been about Ninkovich, it just goes to show how insignificant I thought he was to New England's plans going forward. Ninkovich had been a very solid role player for the Patriots over the years, but he had slowed down in recent seasons. Ninkovich struggled immensely last year, so I didn't give it a second thought about New England parting ways with him. At 33, Ninkovich didn't have anything remaining in the tank, which is why this is a 0/10 Disaster Grade.
Jaguars OT Branden Albert announces retirement: 5/10 Disaster Rating
Well, I guess we can definitively say that the Dolphins won the Branden Albert-Julius Thomas trade. Albert has announced his retirement after nine seasons with the Chiefs and Dolphins (plus a couple of months with Jacksonville.)
This is a tough grade to make because of Albert's injury history. Albert was slated to be Jacksonville's starting left tackle, but there's no guarantee how effective he would've been. Albert was woeful in 2016, as he was just beaten up as a byproduct of being hurt so much throughout his career. When the Jaguars acquired him, I thought it was a mistake because Albert has been very unreliable. There was some potential for him rebounding in 2017, but I didn't think there was a high-percentage chance of that happening.
That said, the Jaguars still lost their projected starting left tackle, so second-round rookie Cam Robinson will undergo trial by fire. He'll be the blind-side protector in Week 1, meaning he'll be going up against one of Houston's elite edge rushers. That obviously doesn't bode well for Jacksonville. Also, Robinson moving to left tackle means that the team is very thin at guard. Thus, Albert's retirement is more about just the blind-side protector missing. It means that Jacksonville has to re-shuffle its offensive line about a month prior to the start of the season, which is why I've graded this as a 5/10.
Ravens TE Crockett Gillmore out indefinitely (torn meniscus): 0/10 Disaster Rating
Today is a day that ends in "Y," so that means that the Ravens have incurred another injury. This time, it's Crockett Gillmore, who will be out a while with meniscus surgery.
The Ravens really need to consider rehauling their entire training staff because their injury rates have been unbelievably high over the past couple of seasons. Some injuries have crushed them, but this one won't. In fact, it might be a blessing in disguise, which is why I've graded this 0/10. Crockett Gillmore is a decent player, but perhaps his meniscus surgery will prompt Baltimore to sign Gary Barnidge, who would be a clear upgrade over what the team currently has at tight end.
Seahawks DT Malik McDowell likely out for season (ATV accident): 2/10 Disaster Rating
Second-round rookie Malik McDowell suffered injuries in an ATV accident and is likely out for the year, according to Pete Carroll. Fortunately, the injuries are not career-threatening, but it's sounding like Seattle won't have its new defensive tackle until 2018.
The Seahawks didn't have much of an interior pass-rushing presence entering the draft, so McDowell was a logical fit from a needs perspective. He'll be out though, so Seattle will still struggle in that regard. That said, I can't go above 2/10 here because it wasn't known how effective McDowell would be. McDowell had some alarming work ethic concerns coming out of Michigan State, so the odds of him producing right away were pretty slim.
Broncos DE Shane Ray out 6-8 weeks (wrist): 4/10 Disaster Rating
I can't believe I'm writing an entry here about a team not named the Ravens. It's an AFC West squad, and I'm equally shocked it's not the Chargers.
The Broncos lost DeMarcus Ware this offseason, while fellow edge rusher Shaq Barrett was also dealing with an injury. Now, Shane Ray is out 6-8 weeks with a torn ligament in his wrist. If Ray is sidelined for the latter part of that range, he could be out until Week 6, since Denver has a Week 5 bye.
Ware's departure wasn't seen as a big deal because of Ray, who performed on a high level last year. Not having Ray will hurt, especially when considering the caliber of quarterbacks the Broncos will battle prior to their bye. Three of the four signal-callers are Philip Rivers, Dak Prescott and Derek Carr. All three quarterbacks can beat Denver if its only pass rush is coming from Von Miller.
I'm grading this as a 4/10. It could be possible that Ray will return as early as Week 2, but the possibility of him not seeing the field until the middle of October is no laughing matter, as it could cost Denver a wild-card spot.
Ravens C John Urschel announces retirement: 2/10 Disaster Rating
I mean, how long will it be until I have to rename this page "Baltimore Ravens Disaster Ratings?" It seems like there's something dubious with this team each passing day. Today, it's presumed starting center John Urschel calling it quits to pursue a doctorate in mathematics at MIT.
Losing a starting center would be a crushing blow for most teams, but that already happened to the Ravens this offseason when Jeremy Zuttah joined the 49ers. Urschel was expected to replace him, but he wasn't a strong option. He wasn't a horrible blocker, by any means, but he's been pretty pedestrian. Ryan Jensen, expected to replace him, is the same caliber player.
I'm giving the Ravens a 2/10 grade because an injury now to Jensen would potentially be disastrous. Urschel's retirement has hurt depth more than anything, and Baltimore no longer has any backup plan at center. Then again, Jensen going down could prompt the Ravens to sign Nick Mangold, which they probably should have done already.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco out 3-6 weeks (back): 5/10 Disaster Rating
What was I saying yesterday about Baltimore's training staff? The Ravens have suffered yet another injury, as Joe Flacco is dealing with a back issue. He's expected to miss anywhere between one and six weeks, according to various reports.
There's a wide range of expected absence for Flacco because back problems are weird. They sometimes linger for a very long time, as I very well know. It could be possible that Flacco's back could flare up later this season. Then again, this could be nothing, and Flacco could be completely healthy by the opener, which, as it so happens, is about six weeks from now.
I thought about making this a 6/10 Disaster Grade when the report was first released, but the recent news about Flacco being out maybe just one week made me drop it to a 5/10. There's a good chance Flacco will be just fine, but the concern of him being banged up is keeping me from making this a lesser grade than 5/10.
Ravens RB Kenneth Dixon out for season (torn meniscus): 3/10 Disaster Rating
The Ravens really need to look at what's going on with their training staff because the rate at which their players suffer injuries is higher than any other team in the NFL, save for perhaps the Chargers. Tavon Young is already out for the year, and now Kenneth Dixon will join him because of his torn meniscus.
It was initially reported that Dixon would be out 6-8 weeks, but the meniscus needs a full repair. This is obviously unfortunate for the Ravens, who were counting on Dixon to carry the load once he returned from suspension in Week 5. Instead, Baltimore will have to rely on the pedestrian Terrance West and the 32-year-old Danny Woodhead, who is coming off a knee procedure of his own. It would be nice if Baltimore could sign someone viable, but the top NFL Free Agent Running Backs are DeAngelo Williams and Rashad Jennings. Karlos Williams is also listed there, but he's suspended indefinitely, so he's not a real option. Someone who might be an option, as Facebook friend Alex C. pointed out, is Carlos Hyde, who sounds like he'll be available via trade because San Francisco doesn't deem him as a good fit for its offense.
This is bad news for the Ravens, as they won't have much of a running game without Dixon. It's not the end of the world, as I think there might be an opportunity to obtain Hyde. Still, it sucks that they'd have to surrender a draft pick for him, so I can't grade this lower than a 3/10.
Chargers WR Mike Williams out for season (back surgery): 3/10 Disaster Rating
The Chargers are in a new city, but they apparently have the same injury woes. The latest player to get hurt is seventh-overall rookie Mike Williams, who, according to Adam Schefter, is likely out for the year because he needs back surgery.
It goes without saying that this is absolutely brutal for the Chargers, a team that has sustained countless injuries over the past several seasons. It's tough to blame this one on the training staff, but it's unfortunate nonetheless. Williams was expected to be a big-time end-zone threat for Philip Rivers across from Keenan Allen. With Williams and Allen, as well as Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates at tight end and Melvin Gordon in the backfield, the Chargers were seen as having one of the best offensive arsenals in the league. They still have plenty of talent, but Williams' absence will hurt.
Of course, the bigger concern for Williams is the future. Back surgery is nothing to scoff at, and it could be possible that Williams will never be 100 percent because of his ailing back. That would be a shame, though also par for the course for the Chargers. Long-term effects is why I'm giving this a 7/10 Disaster Grade.
Update: Ian Rapoport has contradicted Adam Schefter, reporting that surgery is no longer on the table for Williams. It was an option 3-4 weeks ago, but Williams has apparently improved enough for it to be no longer in consideration.
This is obviously great news for the Chargers. Williams is not out of the woods quite yet, and it's sounding like he could miss several games, but it appears as though he'll be able to play at some point in 2017. Whether his back flares up remains to be seen, but Charger fans have to be feeling much better about this situation now.
Jaguars DE Dante Fowler arrested: 2/10 Disaster Rating
Dante Fowler has been a disappointment as an NFL player thus far, as the Jaguars have gotten nothing out of him. Fowler missed all of 2015 with a torn ACL, and he was horrible last year. Now, Fowler has just been arrested for the second time in 16 months.
Fowler was charged with assault in March 2016, though he had the charge dropped. Now, he's been slapped with simple battery for hitting a man with glasses and then stepping on them. While Fowler isn't likely to receive a lengthy suspension from knocking out Steve Urkel, it's troubling that he continues to show a great deal of immaturity. Fowler's work ethic has also come into question, and it appears as though the 23-year-old (in August) just doesn't get it. Fortunately for the Jaguars, they have a more promising player at the position in Yannick Ngakoue; not to mention third-round rookie Dawuane Smoot.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott involved in altercation: 1/10 Disaster Rating
TMZ has reported that a witness saw Ezekiel Elliott punch a man at a bar Sunday night. The man suffered a broken nose. It must be noted that there is no video of this, and the witness was reportedly intoxicated. No charges were filed.
People were making a big deal out of this on Twitter, with some even complaining that Elliott still has a job in the NFL, while Colin Kaepernick doesn't. Equating the two doesn't make any sense. Never mind the massive talent disparity; it's not even clear if Elliott has ever done anything wrong. Elliott is being investigated for some domestic abuse charges, but he's never been found guilty of anything yet. And it's obviously unclear if he was the one who punched the man in this instance.
This is a 1/10 Disaster Grade at best. I'd say a 0/10, but it's troubling that Elliott continues to put himself in these bad situations. He really needs to evaluate whom he hangs out with before he actually gets into trouble.
Cowboys DT David Irving suspended for 4 games (PEDs): 4/10 Disaster Rating
It was reported in May that David Irving would be facing a possible four-game suspension. Well, it's official now, as Irving will be banned for a quarter of the upcoming season.
This is painful for the Cowboys, as it'll definitely harm their chances of repeating as divisional champions. Irving was the team's top defensive lineman last year, as he was the only player who generated a consistent pass rush. He was particularly dominant down the stretch, and at only 23 (24 in August), it seemed like he would take a big step forward in 2017. He'll have to wait until Week 5 to showcase his talents, however.
If there's a silver lining here, it's that the Cowboys' first four games are winnable, even without Irving; they play the Giants (home), Broncos (road), Cardinals (road) and Rams (home). None of those teams seem particularly strong. However, there's definitely a chance Dallas gets tripped up in at least one of those contests. Given that the Cowboys are expected to be in a very tight divisional race with the Eagles, one loss could make all the difference.
Saints DT Nick Fairley likely out for season (heart condition): 7/10 Disaster Rating
There's been some dubious news out of New Orleans, as Nick Fairley's future is in doubt. He's dealing with a heart condition, and one doctor said he might have to retire.
If the doctor is right, this is obviously horrible news for Fairley, who obviously needs to do what's in his best interest. He's getting opinions from other doctors, but it's sounding like he could walk away from the game forever.
As for the Saints, this would be a painful loss worthy of a 7/10 Disaster Grade. Fairley was their best interior defender last year. Sheldon Rankins is expected to improve if he's healthy next season, but New Orleans thought enough of Fairley to give him a 4-year, $28 million contract this offseason. The Saints made some improvements to their defense this spring, but all of their hard work could be for naught because they'll be missing a key member of their stop unit if Fairley has to retire.
Update: Fairley has been placed on the reserve/NFI list, meaning he's likely to miss all of 2017. His career could also be over. This is obviously a huge blow, as the Saints lost their top interior presence on what happens to be a poor defense. It also obviously sucks for Fairley, so hopefully his condition isn't as dire as it sounds.
Saints OT Terron Armstead out 4-6 months (torn labrum): 6/10 Disaster Rating
Two prominent left tackles are out for 4-6 months with the same exact injury. Terron Armstead joins Detroit's Taylor Decker in being sidelined with a torn labrum.
This is obviously horrible news for the Saints. Armstead is extremely talented. It could crush whatever playoff hopes they had, though this Disaster Grade of 6/10 is slightly lower than Detroit's 7/10. There are several reasons for this.
First of all, Armstead being hurt is hardly a surprise. Armstead has never played a full NFL season, as he was on the field for just seven contests in 2016. Second, New Orleans prepared for this, selecting Ryan Ramczyk with the 32nd-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. It's unclear how well Ramczyk will play, but there is at least some hope that he'll be a capable replacement, as at least one team saw him as a first-round talent. And third, Drew Brees hates interior pressure much more than heat off the edge. Losing Max Unger for 4-6 months would be more devastating, though it's worth noting that Unger is hurt as well.
Lions OT Taylor Decker out 4-6 months (shoulder surgery): 7/10 Disaster Rating
The Lions had a ton of optimism coming out of free agency and the draft. They seemed like they owned one of the top offensive lines in the NFL, which is crucial in the post-CBA football world. Unfortunately for them, their blocking unit took a hit when it was announced that Taylor Decker would have shoulder surgery.
Decker, the team's left tackle, had an amazing rookie campaign in 2016 and was expected to be even better this upcoming season. That almost certainly won't be the case now, as it's unclear when Decker will return to action. Jim Caldwell wouldn't commit to Decker being ready for the season opener.
Decker's timetable is shrouded in mystery right now, so it's difficult to assign a particular Disaster Grade. If he misses one or two games, this will be a 4/10, as his absence will likely result in losses to the Cardinals and Giants, both of whom possess terrific edge rushers. If, however, Decker is out for close to half the season, the Lions can probably kiss their playoff aspirations goodbye.
Update: Decker is out 4-6 months, making this a 7/10 Disaster Grade at the very least. I even considered bumping this up to an 8/10, but there's a chance (albeit a slight one) Decker could return in early October. Decker's absence will create a huge hole at left tackle, making Detroit's offense far less potent. I liked the Lions to perhaps make a deep run into the playoffs, but not anymore. They may fail to qualify for the postseason now with Decker out for at least half of 2017.
Jets cut ILB David Harris: 0/10 Disaster Rating
I like to look at instant reactions to things like this on Twitter to gauge what fans are thinking. Some responses to David Harris' release from Jets fans were, "This makes no sense!" and "We're going to be horrible now!" Well, that apparently seems to be the plan.
The Jets appear to be in full tank mode, 76ers style. They've gutted their roster and appear to be on track to having the worst record in the NFL this season. That's a great thing in this instance, as Sam Darnold is projected to be the top pick next April (here's my 2018 NFL Mock Draft.) Landing Darnold would be enormous for the Jets, and even Wyoming's Josh Allen wouldn't be a bad consolation prize. Missing out on either would be devastating, so the Jets are doing well to making sure that doesn't happen.
This is a 0/10 Disaster Grade. Harris is 33, so he doesn't have much time left in the NFL. By the time the Jets are competitive again, he wouldn't have been on the team anyway, so it's a nice move to let a veteran like this have a shot at winning a Super Bowl with the Patriots, Raiders, Packers, etc.
Chiefs cut WR Jeremy Maclin: 4/10 Disaster Rating
This release doesn't make much sense. Jeremy Maclin, at 29, is still a passable No. 1 receiver at this stage of his career. He struggled last year, but only because he dealt with injuries. He was looking healthy at OTAs, so he was bound to bounce back with a strong 2017 campaign. Maclin's release saves $10 million, but also creates $7.2 million in dead money over the next two seasons.
The Chiefs qualified for the playoffs with Maclin struggling last year, so they can get back to the postseason without him. However, their potential for advancing deep into January is very limited without him. The only capable receiver left on the roster is Tyreek Hill, and he's far from being a finished product. Plus, if Patrick Mahomes has to take over in the event of an injury to Alex Smith, it'll hurt if the rookie quarterback won't have a legitimate No. 1 wideout at his disposal.
I think this is a 4 or a 5 on the Disaster Rating scale. It's not a killer, as the Chiefs could still make the playoffs, but their upside is more capped now than it already was with Smith.
Ravens TE Dennis Pitta out for season (fractured hip): 2/10 Disaster Rating
The Ravens have lost two players in as many days. Tavon Young suffered a torn ACL yesterday, and now Dennis Pitta fractured and dislocated his hip for the third time in his career. He's done for the year, and he may never play again.
Though Pitta suffered a more severe injury than Young, this Disaster Grade isn't nearly as high. Pitta caught 86 passes last season, but the Ravens are deep at tight end. Ben Watson is coming back from injury, while Crockett Gillmore is a steady player. Maxx Williams still has potential. If none of these players are particularly promising, the Ravens could always sign Gary Barnidge, who would actually be an upgrade over Pitta.
Ravens CB Tavon Young out for season (torn ACL): 5/10 Disaster Rating
And so it begins again. The Ravens have suffered through more injuries than most teams over the past couple of seasons, and it appears as though history is repeating itself. Tavon Young is out for the year with a torn ACL after bumping into another player during practice.
This is a tough loss for the Ravens, but it's not an overly painful one. Young is a good player - he had a great rookie campaign this past season as the team's slot cornerback - but Baltimore is pretty set at the position. The Ravens signed Brandon Carr and drafted Marlon Humphrey in the first round this offseason, so they're pretty deep there and can sustain a loss like Young's. That said, Carr has had an up-and-down career, and Humphrey is an unknown because he's never played in the NFL. If both struggle in 2017, the Ravens will really wish they had Young.
Colts S Clayton Geathers uncertain for Week 1 (neck): 1/10 to 5/10 Disaster Rating
Clayton Geathers may not be a household name, but he's a talented, young safety who was expected to take a leap forward this season next to Malik Hooker. Geathers, just 25 (on June 1), performed well last year, and he and Hooker could make for a stellar safety tandem in 2017.
However, there's some concern with Geathers' availability in Week 1. He has a neck injury that required surgery, and issues of that sort can always be tricky to recover from.
If Geathers misses the first few games this season, it actually won't be a big deal. Four of Indianapolis' first five opponents are the Rams, Cardinals, Browns and 49ers, and those teams feature terrible, sub-par, or rapidly declining quarterbacks. So, the Colts can survive without Geathers until Week 6, when their schedule starts becoming more difficult as far as defending the pass is concerned. That said, Geathers will really be missed if he's out for most or all of the 2017 season. Hence, the wide range in this Disaster Grade.
Bengals TE Tyler Eifert unsure if he'll be ready for training camp (back surgery): 2/10 to 6/10 Disaster Rating
Tyler Eifert was on the field for only eight games last season, and it appears as though he could be in danger of missing more action in 2017. Eifert, coming off back surgery, said he wasn't sure if he would be ready for training camp.
This is potentially horrible news, as Cincinnati's offense struggled immensely without Eifert last year. The Bengals did add some firepower in John Ross and Joe Mixon, but Eifert is Andy Dalton's preferred red-zone target, so the Bengals' scoring attack would definitely take a hit if Eifert were to miss more games this upcoming season.
I'm treating this similarly to the Mike Pouncey grade below. Perhaps Eifert will return in the middle of training camp, and everything will be all right. However, there's also a chance that he won't be 100 percent for the entire season. Eifert is not durable at all - he has missed 26 games the past three years - and back surgery is no laughing matter. Even if he makes it back to the field, he may not be quite himself.
Dolphins C Mike Pouncey injured (hip): 2/10 to 6/10 Disaster Rating
Mike Pouncey is one of the better centers in the NFL when healthy, but he has had trouble staying on the field. Pouncey played in just five contests last year and hasn't been on the field for the entire season since 2012. It appears as though that tradition will continue, as Pouncey reportedly could sit out the preseason with a troublesome hip injury. This problem could leak into the regular season, whether that's Pouncey being limited or completely out.
This is a huge deal. Center is arguably the second-most-important position in the NFL, and Pouncey is the key to Miami's offense. If you want proof, the Dolphins were 4-1 last year with Pouncey on the field, with the sole loss happening during the Hurricane Matthew distraction. In the other four games, the Dolphins averaged 29 points. In the Pouncey-less contests, Miami was 6-5, averaging 20.9 points.
It's hard to judge this Disaster Grade because it's unknown how severe this injury is. However, given that the Dolphins already fear that Pouncey could be out throughout the entire preseason, it's likely that he won't be healthy come September. If he misses a fair amount of games, this is a 6/10 Disaster Grade. However, if Pouncey is just dinged up early on and healthy by Weeks 3 or 4, this isn't a huge deal.
Rams Stadium Delayed One Year: 5/10 Disaster Rating
If you ask most people, they would've said that they thought moving one team to Los Angeles was an idiotic idea, given that the city had never supported professional football. Despite this, the league re-located two teams to Los Angeles, with the hope of generating revenue from a large TV market and a new stadium. Well, that new stadium has been delayed until 2020, thanks to supposed record rainfall.
This is not a good look for the league. No one in Los Angeles cares about the Rams or Chargers, and now both teams will have to play in front of empty seats for three more seasons. By 2020, most people might even forget that there are teams in the city, and it's likely that the new stadium opening will be a flop.
Cardinals LB Deone Bucannon undergoes ankle surgery: 2/10 or 5/10 Disaster Rating
The Cardinals lost several key pieces of their defense this offseason, namely Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson and Kevin Minter. They could be without a fourth starter for several weeks, as Deone Bucannon underwent ankle surgery.
Bucannon could begin the year on the PUP list, but the Cardinals are more optimistic, as they're hopeful he can return at some point in September. It's worth noting that this does not mean that he'll be 100 percent.
With several key players gone, this could be a harmful blow to Arizona's playoff aspirations. It really depends on how long Bucannon is out. If he misses two or three games, it's not a big deal, hence the 2/10 rating. If, however, he lands on the PUP list, this would really hurt Arizona. It's not nearly as devastating as losing someone like Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu or Chandler Jones, but Bucannon is an important player in the Cardinals' defense.
Browns CB Howard Wilson likely out for season (fractured kneecap): 1/10 Disaster Rating
This is obviously horrible news for Howard Wilson, who now faces an uphill battle to become a viable NFL player. Wilson already has a torn ACL in his past, and now he has to recover from this knee injury. He may never be the player the Browns thought he would be as a result. For Wilson himself, this is probably an 8/10 Disaster Grade.
However, this isn't a big deal for the Browns. Wilson was just a fourth-round pick, so it's not like he was expected to contribute this year. And even if that weren't the case, the Browns won't be making any sort of playoff push. Perhaps Wilson can heal up and be a factor in 2018, which is the earliest Cleveland can be pretty competitive anyway. If not, losing out on a fourth-round pick isn't the end of the world, especially for a team with so many assets in the superior 2018 NFL Draft (click here for my 2018 NFL Mock Draft.)
Cowboys ILB Rolando McClain arrested (drug possession, firearm without permit): 10/10 Disaster Rating
Let me be clear that this is not a Disaster Grade for the Cowboys. Dallas had to be fully aware that it wasn't going to have Rolando McClain available anytime soon. After all, McClain was suspended for a full season back in December.
Given these recent arrests, it's unlikely McClain will ever play again. Marijuana possession obviously isn't the worst thing, but the fact that McClain keeps getting into trouble will keep him from playing in the NFL for a very long time. This is a 10/10 grade for McClain because I don't think he'll play another down again.
Saints C Max Unger questionable for start of season (foot surgery): 5/10 Disaster Rating
Ian Rapoport created quite the buzz Monday morning when he said Max Unger would be doubtful for the season opener because of foot surgery. The Saints' beat writers are a bit more optimistic, calling Unger questionable. If the 2017 NFL Draft has taught us anything, it's that local reporters are much more reliable than the national guys. However, Unger being questionable for the start of the season because of a foot injury is still potentially damaging for the Saints' 2017 chances.
Unger is a talented center and a very key member of the offense. It's my belief that center is the second-most-important position on offense, especially for the Saints, as Drew Brees hates interior pressure more than heat coming from the edge. Unger's absence would be especially damaging for New Orleans because of that reason. Good offensive line play has become extremely crucial in the post-CBA NFL, as teams that can't block have major issues sustaining success. If Unger is out or hurt, New Orleans' offense won't be nearly as potent as it could be.
There's a chance that Unger will make it back in time and be 100 percent, which is why this grade is "only" a 5/10. However, Unger could just as easily be absent, and even if he makes it back, he could rush to return and fail to be healthy as a consequence. That would be a crushing blow for the Saints' 2017 aspirations, as their defense is so bad that they'll need to rely on their offense to outscore everyone.
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.