Each week of the NFL season, injuries alter the landscape. Football is a rough game, after all, and people frequently get hurt playing it. Oftentimes, those people have a significant impact on subsequent games. Which NFL Week 3 injuries move the needle — or don’t, as the case may be?
TheLines will examine each week’s injury report on Thursday, typically the biggest “swing” day. That is, players who miss practice Thursday often sit out, and those who can practice usually play. We’ll try to divine what effect these injuries should have on markets from game spreads to player props. Games on Thursday Night Football won’t be included in this piece.
Keep in mind this list is by no means exhaustive. There are too many potential impactful injuries each week to keep note of them all in this space.
Impactful NFL Week 3 Injuries
Denver’s Defense Loses Two More Key Players
The Broncos have fielded one of the stronger defenses thus far in the young NFL season. Football Outsiders pegs them as the 10th-best unit in the early going, though they have had a couple of easy assignments in the Giants and Jags.
Will that continue this week?
To be sure, the Jets also present little challenge. QB Zach Wilson has been a turnover machine so far after giving the ball away four more times last weekend. But, things might be clearing up a tad in a matchup that looked very daunting on paper.
Denver lost CB Ronald Darby to short-term IR last week. They started the year deep there, but as they already had a coupe of guys on IR, the depth now consists heavily of rookies. Any further damage could prove catastrophic.
Other levels of the defense have also been hit. LB Josey Jewell has been a competent starter for the Broncos but he just hit IR yesterday with a pectoral injury. Even more damaging, EDGE Bradley Chubb did the same with an ankle injury. Pass rushing duties now fall on the aging Von Miller and a bunch of question marks.
New York may have an easier time moving the ball than many expected. This game features one of the lowest totals of the year at .
Steelers Defensive Front Ravaged By Injury
A line that may open some eyes this week has the Steelers just at home against the Bengals. The idea that these teams could be on the same level would have sounded ludicrous 10 months ago, but life comes at you fast in the NFL.
The market says what it says, and the market says these are two closely matched teams. A big reason for that may be cascading injuries on the Steelers defensive front.
Losing star DT Stephon Tuitt in the preseason was bad enough, but at least the Steelers still had superstar EDGE TJ Watt. Perhaps no longer, as Watt suffered an injury against the Raiders and did not return to the game.
Beat writer Mark Kaboly said Watt’s availability against the Bengals “could go either way.” The Raiders performed starkly better with Watt on the sideline, so keep an eye on this one.
Surprisingly effective 2020 rookie LB Alex Highsmith has also failed to practice and looks likely to miss the game.
Additionally the team may miss WR Diontae Johnson, but that seems less of a concern due to the team’s receiver depth.
Packers Offensive Line Down Top-Two Starters?
Late last season, the Packers lost star LT David Bakhtiari to a serious injury that has kept him out for the early part of this season. As if losing arguably the best pass protecting tackle in the game wasn’t enough, they now may find themselves without his replacement.
The versatile and talented Elgton Jenkins stepped out to left tackle to replace the franchise cornerstone, but he has not suffered an ankle injury and is questionable to play after failing to practice this week. Beat reporter Tom Silverstein said the team is “holding out hope” that Jenkins plays, which sounds less than optimistic.
The Green Bay offensive line has already been a patchwork unit as is, with two rookies starting on the interior. They had a daunting enough assignment as it was against the 49ers and superstar pass rusher Nick Bosa.
Watch early on and see how the line holds up if Jenkins misses the game.
Other NFL Week 3 Injuries To Keep An Eye On
Do These QB Injuries Matter? — Colts Edition
A slew of QB injuries hit NFL teams in Week 2, but trying to figure out how they impact Week 3 isn’t easy. We’ll start with the Colts, which saw Carson Wentz go down with not one but two injured ankles.
Toughing it out through one bum wheel figures to degrade a man’s performance enough, so how is Wentz going to throw effectively with flat tires? He’s struggled enough when upright the past couple of years, when he’s been one of the least effective QBs in the league.
Backup Jacob Eason entered the game against the Rams and promptly threw a disastrous interception. He has the arm, but does he have the know-how if he’s pressed into duty here? Luckily, he does have a few things going for him. As already mentioned, the Wentz bar is rather low. If Eason plays even moderately effectively, this could end up a wash.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports Indy could also play both Eason and third-string QB Brett Hundley in the game.
Second, the Titans sport one of the worst defenses in the league. A year after they got to the passer at record-low levels, the Titans have again been ravaged, albeit by strong offenses in Arizona and Seattle.
Finally, Eason would have a solid offensive mind pulling the strings in Frank Reich. Perhaps given time to prepare, he can devise a way to minimize damage that Eason may cause.
Do These QB Injuries Matter? — Dolphins Edition
The Dolphins entered the season with high hopes that second-year man Tua Tagovailoa would step up his play and look like the franchise QB they needed with the fifth overall pick. He failed to impress in either the opening win over the Patriots or the wipeout loss to the Bills.
To top it off, he got hurt against Buffalo and will miss at least this weekend’s road tilt with Las Vegas.
But, is there a difference between Tagovailoa and Jacoby Brissett? Brissett has plenty of starting experience, having guided the Colts through an entire season without embarrassing himself just a couple of years back.
As bad as Tagovailoa has been — 6.3 YPA with an ugly 7% sack rate — Brissett taking the reins probably doesn’t move the needle a ton.
It will be up to the Dolphins coaching staff to figure out a way to minimize the impact of the team’s poor offensive line here. Expect a game plan oriented around short passes and running.
Do These QB Injuries Matter? — Bears Edition
Bears fans have been clamoring for rookie QB Justin Fields. They get their wish pretty early thanks to and injury to Andy Dalton.
What Fields did do on the field against the Bengals did not impress. He managed 91 yards total on 13 passes and 10 rushes.
First up for Fields: the Browns. Cleveland’s defense has looked a tad leaky so far. We can excuse that against the Chiefs. Not so much against the Texans, who gained 5.2 YPP despite playing half of the game with Davis Mills taking snaps.
Of all the QB injuries, this might be the toughest to figure out. Given how Fields looked in Week 2, it seems likely he’s a downgrade from Dalton. Then again, perhaps the Bears coaching staff will install some more Fields-friendly sets now that they now he’s the man for the time being. And maybe the Browns still don’t have a very good defense — remember, this unit finished 25th in Football Outsiders 2020 rankings.