Breaking Down Each Super Bowl Team’s Injured Players
All the Injuries That Will Affect Super Bowl XLVIII
At the beginning of the 2013-14 NFL season, tons of fans, analysts, commentators and writers picked the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks to square off in Super Bowl XLVIII. Well, here we are six months later and those are indeed the two teams battling for the Lombardi Trophy on the game’s biggest stage. And although they are just the third pair of No. 1 playoff seeds to meet in the Super Bowl over the past 20 years, they didn’t get there easily, and we’re not just talking about tough competition; these two teams battled through injuries better than the other 30 teams and that’s why they’re still standing.
Before the season even began, both teams lost critical starters to season-ending injuries and each have been dealt critical blows since then while watching important players get carted off the field. Really and truly, it’s incredible that these two teams made it to the Super Bowl considering the major production they lost due to injury before and during this past season. Most teams don’t overcome those types of losses on their way to Super Bowl runs (ex. New England Patriots after Rob Gronkowski was played in IR).
So as the Big Game nears, we’re looking at exactly how both teams got here and how those injuries will affect them when they take the snowy field at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 2 for the final game of the season.
Before the season began, the only man to ever snap the ball to both Manning and Brady was placed on IR with a torn ACL. The Broncos have survived without him as Manning was the least-sacked quarterback in the NFL this season. However, a starting center is a player every team wants healthy in the Super Bowl and you can bet Koppen’s absence will have some sort of effect on the game, even if it’s small.
The Broncos’ formidable defensive line took a major hit in Week 12 when Vickerson was placed on IR with a dislocated hip. Fortunately for Denver, rookie Sylvester Williams has stepped up admirably in Vickerson’s place, but the veteran has been missed all season for depth purposes if nothing else. That will undoubtedly be the case again when the Broncos and Seahawks take the field in the Super Bowl.
Although his absence hasn’t made a huge dent in the stat sheet, a starting fullback is a luxury in the NFL these days and the Seahawks have had to overcome the absence of theirs since Week 2. Ware may not light up the scoreboard for fantasy owners, but he is Marshawn Lynch’s best friend and you can bet that Beast Mode misses him dearly, even though he’s still tearing it up.
The Broncos got the job done in the offseason by re-signing Clady to a five-year, $57.5 million deal to keep him in Denver, but he didn’t last long as he was placed on IR in mid-September with a lisfranc injury. As expected, the Broncos survived thanks to Peyton Manning’s ability to make up for the lost protection through intelligence and timing, but Clady’s absence will be more visible than ever against the Seahawks’ top-ranked defense in the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks don’t really have any elite receivers to begin with, but Rice was their top receiving option until he was placed on IR after tearing his ACL in late October. Since then, the Seahawks have leaned even heavier on Marshawn Lynch and it’s paid off, but they have definitely missed their top receiver and will certainly continue to do so in February.
Miller has been a polarizing Denver figure this season after missing the first six games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, especially since the Broncos went 6-0 in his absence. His return actually resulted in the team’s first loss of the season to the Colts in Week 7, but he quickly became a contributor on the defense again, although he never really retuned to form as a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber player before tearing his ACL in late December.
Again, Denver won without him during his suspension and has won after his injury, but just his presence on the field changes the blocking schemes of opposing offenses and that will be missed against the Seahawks’ vulnerable offensive line in the Super Bowl.
No one expected Chris Harris to become the player he is today when he stepped in for an injured Tracy Porter in 2012. But now in his third season, he’s become arguably the best defensive back in Denver and his absence was evident in the AFC title game.
Losing a starting cornerback of Harris’ caliber is huge for the Broncos, who overcame his absence to beat the Patriots, but will certainly miss him in the Super Bowl. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Champ Bailey will have to step up their games, which isn’t something the Broncos are thrilled about. Harris’ injury is arguably the most critical for Denver in the Big Game.
After the big trade that sent Harvin to Seattle, he played in part of one game throughout the entire regular season after initially being declared out for the year following hip surgery. He came back and caught one pass against his old team in mid-November, but then was put on the shelf again with a concussion in the first quarter of a division win over the Saints after catching just three passes.
He didn’t play in the NFC title game, but he’s aiming to suit up for the Super Bowl and a variable like that could make the difference in the game, considering no one has really seen how the Seahawks use him since he arrived in Seattle. Harvin could easily be the X-factor in the Big Game if he’s able to play.