Thursday 23 November 2017 / 03:20 AM

QB INJURY PLAGUE LIFTS PARITY, HARMS QUALITY

With Week 8 now upon us, and the midway point for most teams around the NFL, there are certainly some movers and sliders among the upper and lower echelon of football. Some teams have gravely disappointed, while others have surprised and moved their way up the rankings.

But this season, we’ve seen a spell of something we haven’t seen at this level in a while: quarterback injuries. This year’s NFL has been marked with injuries to the game’s most important position, and that’s showing on the field: passing numbers are down around the league compared to a year ago, and scoring has taken a slight dip.

We’re getting worse games, and there are more lopsided victories and chances for teams that otherwise probably wouldn’t have one. For example, over in the AFC South, we’ve seen a mash up of teams in the division that was figured to be among the top divisions in football. But with an early QB controversy in Houston, coupled with hampering injuries to Andrew Luck and Marcus Mariota, instead the division has seen everyone huddle around the middle, falling behind the Jaguars.

The Luck injury is particularly hurting, as the Colts haven’t been able to produce any semblance of offense in his absence, and it’s an injury that looks like it may keep him from much of the season. And Mariota’s injury came as the Titans were already struggling, and they would drop two with him gone. They’ve since notched two in Mariota’s return against struggling teams, but the offense still hasn’t bounced back.

Also over in the AFC, the Raiders got another chapter in the ‘Derek Carr Gives Us a Heart Attack book. Carr went down with a pretty gruesome back injury that had Raiders fans again fearing the worst, but unlike the other QBs on our list, he appears to be back at 100 percent after the Raiders stumbled and lost three in his absence. That time missed has thrown the Raiders into the back of the pack and the bottom of the division.

The Dolphins were another team hit with the bug just this week, as Jay Cutler broke ribs and will probably miss multiple weeks. That’s a huge setback to a pretty surprising team in the AFC that has won three straight behind some decent QB play and a great defense to get to 4-2. They’re still in the running for the division, and without Ryan Tannehill, who was already lost in the preseason, and now Cutler, the Dolphins are in real trouble of seeing what they had building go to waste. That is, unless you’re a big David Fales fan…

And then there’s the never-ending problems in the NFC.

In the South, the division has seen some banged up QBs (not even counting the struggling Matt Ryan). Jameis Winston struggled to start the year, and now has been playing on a rough up shoulder that has him side arming some throws en route to a disappointing 2-4 start. Winston’s injury kept him out of a game, and was noticeable in the game against Buffalo.

His division partner Cam Newton isn’t fairing much better. Newton started the year struggling, showing obvious discomfort in the shoulder he had surgery on a year ago and missing throws badly. Since, he’s been wildly up and down, with his throws showing obvious signs of some discomfort late in games. It’s turned the division upside down, with the Saints heading the pack of a group of teams all huddled around .500.

And then, of course, there’s the NFC North. This division has seen QB injuries ravish it the hardest. The Vikings lost yet another QB, with their Teddy Bridgewater replacement in Sam Bradford go down in the second week of the season, and now looking like he might not ever even play football again. Now, the team is trying to hurry back Bridgewater, who may play post-Week 9 for the banged up Vikings offense.

And their rival across the division in Green Bay got devastating news as possibly the league’s best quarterback went down with a nasty collarbone injury that will sideline him the rest of the year. That injury throws everything through a loop, with the Packers looking like one of the best teams in the NFC as the season progressed.

With all the quarterback injuries to some top-level guys in both divisions, we’ve seen much of the league regress to the mean in terms of record. Everyone still has a shot in most divisions, with only a couple divisions separating their first-through-third teams by more than two games.

That’s great for league parity, with more teams seeing themselves having a shot, from the Bears over in the NFC North to the Jets and Bills in the AFC East. But that’s also a problem for the quality around the league: stars aren’t playing – and that means people aren’t watching.

A lot of the games have turned ugly without the usual guns throwing the ball, and that’s turning into a problem around the league. With the rate of injuries to top level QBs, not to mention injuries to star position players like Odell Beckham and JJ Watt, there is more reason to be concerned about the level of play this year.

As the season heads into it’s halfway point, this year may just come down to who’s left standing.

And seriously, no one will just call Kap?

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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