NFC Playoff Preview - SIC Team Health Preview

Sports Injury Central
Jan 8, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) passes
Jan 8, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) passes / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

#1 Seed: Philadelphia Eagles - SIC score 87.8

Offense: All eyes are on the health of quarterback Jalen Hurts, but the Eagles have picked up an injury to an even bigger piece of the offense heading into the playoffs. 

Stud right tackle Lane Johnson is rehabbing an abdominal injury with the hope of playing effectively in the playoffs. Typically this type of injury requires surgery, but Johnson will delay the surgery until the offseason while playing through the pain.

Defense: Slot cornerback Avonte Maddox missed Week 17 with a turf toe injury but will likely be available in the playoffs. 

The potential top seed is also thin at defensive end after the neck injury to Josh Sweat. He should be available in the second round, but anything earlier than that is likely a stretch. 

Veteran defensive end Robert Quinn is on IR after undergoing a knee scope, but will likely be available as early as round one. 

He and C.J. Gardner-Johnson have been designated to return and will likely be near 100% ready for the opening playoff game. Gardner-Johnson missed the previous 5 games with a lacerated kidney.

Overview: Generally healthy heading into the playoffs, Hurts’ shoulder should not be a concern. Lane Johnson and the defensive line depth are the main issues to watch.

#2: San Francisco 49ers - SIC score 87.8

Offense: Rookie Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy is 23 years old, has made five career starts and is the third San Francisco quarterback that Kyle Shanahan has worked with this season… and yet, the 49ers have won 10 games in a row and enter the playoffs as the hottest and – potentially – the healthiest team in the NFC.

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel returned to practice from a Week 14 left MCL/high-ankle sprain ahead of Week 17 while running back Elijah Mitchell was activated from IR in Week 18 after his second MCL sprain of the season. 

Outside of Samuel, the combination of Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and Jauan Jennings have all played in the nine games since the bye week and dealt with only minor ailments. 

In the six games since Purdy took over, the 49ers averaged well over 30 points per game behind 19 touchdowns and 10 field goals (stats through Week 17). 

Starting left guard Aaron Banks suffered an MCL/high-ankle sprain in Week 17 and veteran fill-in Daniel Brunskill will start on the five-man unit that has allowed the fourth-fewest QB pressures this season and powers the No. 8 rushing offense. 

Defense: The 49ers’ defensive formula has been mostly the same since 2019: when Nick Bosa and Fred Warner play, it’s among the best in the NFL. 

A full season of the two all-pros and an 89.3 defense SIC score has been weaponized by Demeco Ryans in 2022 for 26 turnovers and league-low 16.5 points and 78.8 rushing yards per game (note: stats through Week 17) all done with no small assist from a smattering of impact players, including Dre Greenlaw, Charvarius Ward, Talanoa Hufanga, and Azeez Al-Shaair. 

No. 2 and No. 3 cornerbacks Emmanuel Moseley and Jason Verrett each suffered season-ending injuries mid-way through the campaign and young cornerbacks Deommodore Lenoir, Ambry Thomas, and Samuel Womack have played a majority of leftover snaps. 

OverviewThird-string rookie quarterback Brock Purdy will have the full complement of offensive weapons and a red-hot and healthy defense, but will QB injuries turn out to be the 49ers’ undoing? 

#3: Minnesota Vikings - SIC score 90

Offense: Minnesota’s main issue is on the offensive line. The Vikings lost right tackle Brian O’Neill in Week 17 and will be starting Olisaemeka Udoh for the playoffs. Center Garrett Bradbury is dealing with a back issue and his status for the playoffs is up in the air. If he’s not available, the Vikings will have to get by with veteran Greg Mancz.

Irv Smith Jr. is also on IR, but has been designated to return and should be ready for the playoffs.

Defense: Former Texans defensive end Jonathan Bullard is on IR with a biceps injury, but was designated to return on Wednesday. He will likely be on a snap count if he plays in the first round of the playoffs. Other than Bullard, the Vikings are relatively healthy yet they have given up the second most passing yards this season.

They rank 20th in rushing yards allowed and 11th in takeaways.

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Overall: The Vikings are one of the healthiest remaining teams, but are dealing with two big issues on the offensive line. Could leave Kirk Cousins vulnerable to the pass rush.

#4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers - SIC score 83.1

Offense: In the year that he passed more days of his life playing quarterback in the NFL than not, Tom Brady withstood a near-complete breakdown of his offensive line and an oscillating defense to clinch yet another postseason berth. 

Right tackle Tristan Wirfs is back from his Week 12 high-ankle sprain while center Ryan Jensen was activated from IR and will attempt to return from a pre-season knee injury, joining left tackle Donovan Smith as the three linemen holdovers from the 2020 Super Bowl team.

Chris Godwin recently passed the one-year anniversary of his ACL tear and was a top-10 fantasy wideout from Week 10 through Week 17, totalling 56 receptions on 70 targets for 564 yards and three touchdowns. 

Leonard Fournette’s hip pointer injury opened the door for rookie Rachaad White and he has turned the Buccaneers’ into a two-back offense in the five games since Fournette’s return in Week 13.

Defense: The Tampa Bay defense hasn’t been the same since edge Shaquill Barrett suffered a ruptured achilles, but even before his Week 8 injury, the unit struggled with attrition on all three levels. 

Defensive tackle Vita Vea, SIC score 75, returned in Week 17 but is still limited by a Week 14 calf strain

Cornerbacks Jamel Dean, SIC score 72, and Carlton Davis II, SIC score 67, each missed games late in the season but should be available for the Wild Card round. 

OverviewTampa will likely enter the postseason as the least healthy ballclub. However, they could be getting center Ryan Jensen back for a playoff push.

#5: Dallas Cowboys - SIC score 85.9

Offense: Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a mild hyperextension last Thursday against the Titans. But luckily for Cowboys fans, Prescott won’t miss any time due to the injury. Now Presscott’s offensive line is the bigger problem.

After losing right tackle Terrance Steele, who had a 73.9 PFF grade, to an ACL tear the team’s offensive line has struggled. Since Steele went down, the team hasn’t had a player rush over 80 yards. To make matters worse, Cowboys center Tyler Biadasz suffered a right high-ankle sprain in the team’s win over the Titans. 

The injury caused the cowboys to have to shuffle their offensive line even more. But Cowboys running back Tony Pollard’s quad injury seems more precautionary than limiting. He should be a full go for the playoffs.

Defense: The 4k cameras on Amazon's Thursday Night Football couldn't keep their eyes off Micah Parson's club. The superstar linebacker injured his hand in an unknown fashion earlier in the week leading up to the Thursday night game. 

But the club didn't stop Parsons from recovering a fumble and receiving an 85.1 PFF grade. Nevertheless, the Cowboys' biggest problem is the injuries in their cornerback room. Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis are both out for the season. 

This has caused rookie cornerback Daron Bland and sophomore cornerback Nashon Wright to step up. Bland had fared well, tying second in the NFL with interceptions with five, while Wright gave up 105 to one of the worst wide receiver cores in the NFL. 

Lastly, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch will sit the Cowboys' week 18 game versus the Commanders. But Vander Esch is probable to play in the team's playoff game.

Overview: With an outside chance at the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the Cowboys have played well despite the early season injury to Dak Prescott. They have issues on the offensive line, but are overall the healthiest they have been all season.

#6: New York Giants - SIC score 82.8

Offense: The Giants have struggled to find consistent pass catchers all season, especially with the losses of Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson. Isaiah Hodgins has stepped up down the stretch along with Darius Slayton, but they continue to be run-heavy with Saquon Barkley as the main feature.

New York ranks 26th in passing but are 4th in rushing with 149.4 yards per game on the groun.

Defense: The two biggest losses this season have been Adoree’ Jackson and Xavier McKinney. One of those is back in Week 18 and Jackson has a chance to be ready for the first playoff game. 

Leonard Williams has also been bothered by a neck injury down the stretch. He has 2.5 sacks on the season with 5 tackles for a loss.

Overview: New York’s defense has gained strength each week, but the offensive injury issues persist. If they can muster a passing attack outside of Saquon, they’re a dangerous team.

#7: Seattle Seahawks - SIC score 86.7

The surprising Wild Card contender out of the NFC West is down its two top defenders and it’s starting running back, but have a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a Lions win and a win in their Week 18 matchup against the 5-11 Rams.

Offense: Kenneth Walker III has replaced Rashaad Penny’s production admirably, but has been limited by a nagging ankle injury down the stretch.

The bigger issue is with veteran wideout Tyler Lockett, who picked up an issue with his leg in Week 17. Lockett broke his hand in Week 16 and is playing with a plate and screws in his right hand. That plate and screws could still affect his catching ability into the playoffs until the bone is fully healed.

Seattle is also without Marquise Goodwin, who suffered a left shoulder in Week 16 and was placed on IR. 

Defense: Leading tackler Jordyn Brooks was lost to a torn ACL in his right knee during the Week 17 game, while strong safety Jamal Adams was lost to a torn quad tendon in mid-September. 

Starting nose tackle Al Woods has been dealing with Achilles tendinitis for much of the second half of the season and has not been himself. His backup Bryan Mone suffered a torn ACL recently, leaving the team thin on the defensive line. 

Overview: The Seahawks are trending in the wrong direction healthwise. While most of the offensive weapons are intact, they lost leading tackler Jordyn Brooks to a torn ACL last week and have played a majority of the season without Jamaal Adams. Defense is definitely this team’s weakness.

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