Injury Report: Next Man Up, Divisional Round
Jamaal Charles’ injury loomed large over last week’s Chiefs-Colts game, with many wondering if Kansas City would have held onto their lead if they hadn’t lost their best offensive player three minutes into the game. But a bigger injury may have come in the third quarter, when Brandon Flowers had to leave after the Colts cut the deficit to 14.
T.Y. Hilton had already racked up 118 yards by that point, but Flowers had held him to 15 yards with an interception when they matched up. But with Flowers on the sideline, it was open season for Hilton on the rest of the Chiefs secondary. He finished with 219 of his 224 yards coming from the slot, including the game-winning touchdown. The Chiefs fans now have the entire offseason to wonder if the outcome would have been different if they hadn’t lost their best slot cornerback.
We’ve already covered some of this week’s bigger injuries in previous editions of Next Man Up, including Steve Smith, Pierre Thomas, and Carlos Rogers. Let’s dive even further into the injury report as we see which replacements could have the biggest say in whether their teams reach the Conference Championships.
Injury: Parys Haralson, Saints OLB (Torn Pectoral)
Next Man Up: Will Herring
What They’re Losing: Haralson played in just 35.8% of the Saints defensive snaps this season, but he still had the highest run defense grade on a linebacking unit that hasn’t particularly shined in that cateogory. His 15 Run Stops this season are just three fewer than Junior Gallette, despite taking less than half the snaps.
What They’re Getting: Seahawks fans may recognize their former fifth-round pick who spent his first four seasons with Seattle. His +6.5 grade on special teams tied for the ninth-highest in the NFL, but he has yet to distinguish himself as a defender.
Outcome: Haralson played a season-high 43 snaps against the run-happy Seahawks in Week 13 and helped hold Marshawn Lynch to 45 yards on 16 carries. With their best run-stopping lineman, Akiem Hicks, also banged up, the Saints may give up bigger ground gains this time around.
Injury: Greg Toler, Colts CB (Groin)
Next Man Up: Darius Butler
What They’re Losing: Our 10th-best free agent cornerback last offseason, we liked Toler as an under-the-radar signing for the Colts. But a groin injury cost him most of the second half of the season, and he clearly wasn’t healthy against the Chiefs, when he surrendered 142 yards and a touchdown on just 14 coverage snaps before leaving the field.
What They’re Getting: Butler has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career, but has never taken full advantage of the talent that made him a second round draft pick. He had another inconsistent season this year, and allowed 84 yards and a touchdown in coverage last week.
Outcome: Butler’s worst coverage grade last season came against the Patriots, as his former team targeted him 10 times for seven completions and 75 yards. Tom Brady may be light on receiving targets, but his familiarity with Butler could pose a problem for the Colts defense.
Injury: Brandon Spikes, Patriots ILB (Knee)
Next Man Up: Dane Fletcher
What They’re Losing: For the second straight season, Spikes earned the highest run defense grade of any inside linebacker in the league (+11.6). His pass coverage may leave something to be desired, but Paul Posluszny and Lavonte David were the only linebackers to record more run stops this season.
What They’re Getting: Fletcher has played less than 20% of the Patriots defensive snaps this season, but has been an efficient blitzer with seven QB pressures in just 33 pass rush snaps. However, he’s recorded just one stop in 64 run defense snaps.
Outcome: Spikes, Vince Wilfork & Jerod Mayo accounted for 42.0% of the Patriots run stops last season, and their replacements this season (save for Sealver Siliga) have been unimpressive. While the storylines this week have focused on how the Patriots will stop Hilton, Donald Brown could be the bigger problem for New England.
Injury: Nick Hardwick, Chargers C (Strained Groin)
Next Man Up: Rich Ohrnberger
What They’re Losing: A big part of the Chargers turnaround this season stems from their offensive line, and Hardwick helped as much as anyone with a career-high +8.8 PFF grade. He was never dominant, but he held his own in all phases of the game and rarely hurt his team.
What They’re Getting: Ohrnberger has never risen above journeyman injury insurance in his five-year career, but he’s was a savior for the Chargers last week when Hardwick left the game. A quick QB hurry allowed was his only big slip-up, and his +2.1 run block grade led the team.
Outcome: Now that Von Miller is out, the strength of the Broncos front seven lies in their two defensive tackles, Terrance Knighton and Malik Jackson, who earned a combined +18.7 run defense grade and +21.5 pass rush mark this season. If Ohrnberger can replicate his efforts from last week against this powerful duo, the Chargers have a great chance to pull off a huge upset.
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