Injuries are often called “part of the game” and for something as brutal as the NFL, we’re never going to see injuries go to zero. However, reducing NFL Week 1 injuries and reducing the impact of them is something that’s well within the reach of every team.
We’ve seen some teams get much better at reducing injuries in a short period of time, with either new personnel or new techniques. It doesn’t count against the salary cap and is in fact a force multiplier that more teams could check. High-tech equipment isn’t everything – though it often helps – but simple manpower and support can often do more.
As the 2022 season gets underway, we’ll restart the ledgers and see who’s offseason plans and work reap the rewards and who falls apart under the load of injuries and roster depletion. For you, understanding NFL Week 1 injuries can make you more profitable bettors, and understanding injuries in context is what I do here. So let’s get to it.
Click on the odds anywhere in this post to bet now after reading how I’m personally betting and reacting to these NFL Week 1 injuries.
Will Carroll has covered injuries in sports for more than 20 years, working at places like ESPN, Baseball Prospectus, Football Outsiders, and FanDuel. He’s written four books, including the upcoming “The Science of Football” and consults with several pro teams. He is currently the Director of Bioanalytics for Northstarr, a sports science startup company. Follow him on Twitter, @injuryexpert.
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ZACH WILSON QB JETS (torn meniscus)
UPDATE: Jets head coach Robert Saleh said Wedneday after this post was published Wilson would not return until Week 4, at the earliest.Editor’s Note
Coming back quickly from a meniscectomy is not unusual. You can go back to the very dawn of the arthroscope, when American gymnast Mary Lou Retton underwent the new technique just weeks before the 1984 Olympics. Without the surgery, she might not have even had the chance to win gold. Decades later, we’ve gotten a lot better and there’s advances that make it possible that we’ll see another quantum leap.
That means that Zach Wilson playing in Week 1 is not only not impossible, but pretty standard. He had his damaged meniscus shaved down, removing the flap that catches but leaving as much of the meniscus as possible. This wasn’t a repair, which takes much longer to heal since the meniscus doesn’t have great blood flow. For Wilson, there’s more long term concerns and by long term, I mean when he’s in his 30s and 40s. Dwayne Wade famously struggled with his knees late in his career after having his meniscus removed in college. That’s the kind of long term I’m talking about.
The Jets are hoping that Wilson will be with them long term, so if he’s not fully ready (the mythical 100 percent), he won’t play. Simple as that. Being back at practice is a good sign, but we’ll see if he’s back tomorrow or if the knee swells with activity. If he plays, it means the Jets have a lot of confidence in the knee and the line hasn’t adjusted to that possibility. If he practices Tuesday, you might get ahead of the line movement. With a low total and seven points given, Wilson over Flacco might change both of those.
NFL Week 1 Odds: Every spread, moneyline and total
JOE BURROW QB BENGALS (appendix surgery)
Joe Burrow was hoping for a nice, boring offseason, and he almost got there. Only a ruptured appendix at the end of the summer threw things off. That means he had to take some time off, but with laproscopes, the surgery and the recovery is much easier. Because the appendix ruptured, the doctors had to focus on infection risk as well, which can complicate things wildly. The worst of it is behind him and with infection gone, there’s almost no muscular or inflammation issues this far past the surgery date.
Does that mean Burrow is normal? Probably. He’s throwing well and while he didn’t play in the preseason or even much in drills, he’s expected to be ready for the lead up to the opening game this week. If his offensive line is improved, then he’ll take less hits and that would be good for another deep playoff run. By the time Week 1 is over, the appendix issue can be put in the mirror.
Lines should have this baked in, but using The Lines’ Prop Finder Tool, the 4,375 yards feels like they took a game off his 22 stats. I don’t buy that and love the Over here. The Week 1 44.5 O/U feels a bit light too, even with questions about the Steelers’ offense. My model has Burrow pushing for most passing yards in the league, and I’m not changing based on anything injury wise.
TEE HIGGINS WR BENGALS (strained shoulder)
If you like Burrow (and you just read that I do), then his receivers become great plays as well. The mirror of any passing yards prop is receiving yards. So yes, I like Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase, and even Tyler Boyd. Basically anyone expected to catch passes is a good prop Over, but the breaker for any of these is injury. Higgins missed time with ankle and shoulder injuries, with offseason shoulder labrum surgery necessary. The team has been managing that injury pretty conservatively, as they normally do, through the preseason. He should be close to 100 percent and should be getting his share of targets as teams focus on Chase.
For Higgins, targets are everything. He’s not a physical receiver despite his size and while fast, he’s not overly reliant on athleticism. He just has a knack for getting open and catching the ball, even when contested. The shoulder issue shouldn’t be overly tested by anything but a big fall. Again, I like Higgins props and the Bengals Over, as well as some DFS opportunities for Higgins, if you’re into that.
CHRIS GODWIN WR BUCCANEERS (sprained knee/ACL)
The downside of betting or playing Tom Brady receivers is that Brady doesn’t lock in. He finds the open man; that’s his super power and the reason he’s seldom had to rely on a singular talent. The same was true in Tampa. Lose a man, gain a man, Brady just stays Brady. It wins, but it can make it difficult to figure out how. Any receiver can seemingly vanish and going four and five deep, plus backs and ends makes it even tougher to read.
Chris Godwin is coming off his late season ACL sprain and reconstruction. Is he 100 percent now? Probably pretty close. Does that mean much? He could run more non-cut routes, sprints or rounded routes, even rubs and picks. If you follow storylines, then Comeback Player of the Year is an interesting one. He’ll get press and opportunities in Tampa, but there’s a lot of people in that discussion, including Julio Jones with the same situation and opportunity.
Those props aside, Godwin is likely to start slow and be used smartly. We’ll see targets come up slowly as he finds both his legs and his role. I like Brady, but don’t like guessing who he’ll throw to in any given game.
MICHAEL GALLUP WR COWBOYS (sprained knee/ACL)
It’s the early season so we’re really still dealing with last year given all these ACLs. Timing is everything – where is the individual player in their rehab based on time of injury and surgery, and was it an isolated ACL, or part of a bigger knee problem? These are all knowns for the ACL Club. Gallup’s was late and with Mike McCarthy ruling him out for Week 1, no one should be surprised. The surprise is that he’s not on IR, indicating the Cowboys think he’ll be back before Week 5.
There’s not a ton of depth in Dallas, so unless we see a breakout (or an Odell Beckham Jr signing?) Gallup should come back to seeing plenty of targets, but are we looking at 12 games or 15? With most of Gallup’s props, that’s the key question. I think most are slightly know given what we know now and the lack of options for Dak Prescott.
In Week 1, that Bucs defense will be a test. Shootout? Possible, but both teams are figuring things out still. I’ll give away the points and take the Bucs, take the under, and remember how well Tom Brady plays in the spotlight for your prop fun.
JAMESON WILLIAMS WR LIONS (sprained knee/ACL)
It’s not surprise to see Jameson Williams part of NFL Week 1 injuries, but there is reason for midseason optimism. He injured his knee on the Indianapolis turf, but barely dropped in the draft. The Lions could get him back sooner than expected after Williams gave a look at where he is physically:
You’ll often see posts like this, but they’re normally guys running in straight lines. That comes quickly. Cuts like this are a bigger test, but we don’t see any bumping, where the body and knee have to make unconscious adjustments, or hard stops, jumps, or landing. That’s not to say he couldn’t, just that it’s an unknown to us. The one known is that he won’t be back until at least Week 5. Even that’s unlikely with the Lions looking to protect their future WR1.
Most of the props are out of reach. Even Rookie of the Year is a stretch, but some of the available yardage numbers seem low. The presence of Williams should also help Jared Goff’s numbers, which also look slightly low if you assume half a season of Williams on top of Amon-Ra St. Brown and others.
ZACH ERTZ TE CARDINALS (strained calf)
Zach Ertz has played through injuries before but this lingering calf injury has him at day to day, according to Kliff Kingsbury. My guess is he’ll play, with his routes limited to not tax that leg. At age-31, Ertz’s injuries have accumulated, but there should be plenty of targets with Christian Kirk gone and DeAndre Hopkins suspended. Both TEs, plus Rondale Moore could see those targets that would have gone to those two.
What I don’t think we’ll see is Ertz breaking anything off. His line could end up with double digit target numbers, as he did four times while with the Cardinals last year, yet low yardage. He should see more red zone targets with Hopkins out as an option, at least early. There’s little doubt this will be a shootout and Ertz catching a TD is possible.
LOGAN THOMAS TE COMMANDERS (sprained knee/ACL)
A December ACL sprain has Logan Thomas close but still included among NFL Week 1 injuries. Medically, he could play, but is he all the way back? That’s less clear and will be tested in practice. The downside is that if he’s not, the TE2 and TE3 are also question marks – Cole Turner has a hamstring strain and John Bates has a calf strain. Seeing a pattern for the Commanders?
Assuming that Thomas makes it through practice this week without issue, my sources tell me he’ll play. We may see something of a play count or a push for no tight end personnel packages. The offensive line has been getting healthier, but we really don’t know what to expect from a Carson Wentz offense. If Wentz continues to struggle, it won’t matter if Thomas is healthy since Wentz seldom gets to his secondary reads and tends to go downfield.
Thomas is someone that could be the beneficiary of volume targets, if Wentz is back in control of his tendencies. The wide receivers are much deeper than the tight ends, but it all comes back to the quarterback. Thomas and the Commanders are too much of an unknown for me to play anything on them this week.
HAROLD LANDRY LB TITANS (sprained knee/ACL)
The All-Pro linebacker is one of the 17 to go down before NFL Week 1 injuries with a sprained ACL during the preseason. His season is over before it starts, but he should be back in plenty of time for camp next year. The Titans will miss him, especially against improving offenses in division. There is something of a test in Week 1, though one will have to question if you believe more in the Titans’ defense without Landry or that Saquon Barkley is going to make a comeback.
I think there’s more of the latter, but I’m not a believer. I think taking the Under on his rush totals is a good play. Derrick Henry and Saquon Barkley are going to be featured, reducing plays overall. Landry’s absence against rushers should get a test in Week 1, then a passing game test in Week 2 vs Buffalo. Yikes.
Quick Hits: NFL Week 1 Injuries
As the season gets closer, so does the release of The Science of Football. It drops September 6th – that’s today! – and is available wherever you get your books … Giants back-up QB Tyrod Taylor is ready for Week 1 and while his back is still sore and receiving treatment, the hope is that he won’t have to play anyway … Jaguars RB James Robinson is expected to be active and split touches with Travis Etienne. His Achilles has looked good and this is not a rushed timeline … Saints WR Michael Thomas might just be a slow healer. His hamstring is slowly coming along and the hope is he’ll be able to play Week 1, but recurrences happen, especially on turf … The Packers have been very quiet about what’s going on with WR Allen Lazard. Expected to be the Packers WR1, he has to stay on the field to reap the benefits of that … While the Dolphins kept WR Jaylen Waddle on a low workload for the bulk of camp, sources tell me he won’t be limited going into Week 1 … Shaquille Leonard is expected to be on-field for practice Wednesday, but that might not put him in line for a Week 1 game. The Colts are leaning to holding him out until they feel more comfortable with how his back is doing. There’s still issues after activity and loading … The Lions put guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai on the IR, so he’ll miss at least four games. That could affect everyone on the Lions, especially Jared Goff, while he’s out … One of the things I repeat over and over is that the “Official Injury Report” the NFL puts out this week is not about NFL Week 1 injuries. It’s about availability. This goes for every other week too. If a player has an injury that doesn’t affect his chance of playing, it doesn’t have to be listed. Some teams do, even for small chances, but the NFL does take those reports seriously. Hide something that should have been disclosed and there’s fines, even potentially loss of draft picks. Just don’t think it’s a complete list.