Sunday, March 26 2023

By Dr. Matt Provencher
FOX Sports Injury & Performance Analyst

Last week, we went through the NFL’s five healthiest teams and the five most banged-up teams. 

Using @SportsDocMatt and‘s BUS score, we are able to break down how teams climb and fall in health throughout the season. We know from years of data that health plays a huge role in wins, losses and individual performance and that healthy teams are much more likely to win championships. 

Though we will break down the five healthiest and five most banged-up teams again here, remember to check out @NFLonFOX on Twitter and on Sundays for the full picture.

Last week saw the NFL health world turned upside down, as healthy teams let wins slip through their fingers and banged-up teams capitalized with a few needed wins. We know from prior years that the early season can see these types of things happen. 

As we get further into the regular season, health becomes more important and holds even more weight in team records. 

Last week the five healthiest teams were:

  1.  Jacksonville Jaguars — BUS: 90.5 / Record: 2-3
  2.  Minnesota Vikings — BUS: 90.0 / Record: 4-1
  3.  Green Bay Packers — BUS: 86.0 / Record: 3-2
  4.  Chicago Bears — BUS: 83.0 / Record: 2-3
  5.  Kansas City Chiefs — BUS: 82.9 / Record: 4-1

The five most banged-up teams were:

  1. Baltimore Ravens — BUS: 58.3 / Record: 3-2
  2. San Francisco 49ers — BUS: 59.5 / Record: 3-2
  3. Tennessee Titans — BUS: 63.3 / Record: 3-2
  4. New Orleans Saints — BUS 63.8 / Record: 2-3
  5. Denver Broncos — BUS: 65.8 / Record: 2-3

Last season, we saw the banged-up Ravens rally behind quarterback Lamar Jackson, and he has been able to put up offensive numbers and win games despite the team’s injuries. Last year, when they finished last in their division, they had eight wins and were without Jackson for the last four games of the season. They still have players recovering from some of those injuries, in fact. 

Russell Wilson’s Broncos have lost several key pieces to season-ending injuries.

The 49ers are lucky, as their record might not be above .500 had they not had Jimmy Garoppolo as their backup QB following Trey Lance’s season-ending injury. They are also dealing with injuries to their starting running back, offensive tackle and a host of others. This past weekend, they added to that number with a season-ending ACL injury to CB Emmanuel Moseley and a broken hand to Jimmie Ward

The Titans have a long list on the injury report, and it shows. But as long as they continue to hand the ball off to Derrick Henry, they have a chance. The teams they have beaten have a collective record of 4-10, though, not a good sign for when they start playing better teams. With many of their injuries on defense, they are going to have to dig deep to find ways to stop better offenses.

The Saints have lost a lot of high-profile offensive weapons; essentially their entire starting receiving corps is currently on the report with Michael Thomas dealing with a toe injury, Jarvis Landry an ankle and Chris Olave with a head injury this past weekend. Taysom Hill saved them last week, but asking him to do that regularly might be stretching it a bit. 

Denver’s high expectations have just been demolished over the past few weeks. With the loss of Javonte Williams for the season and the reports of Russell Wilson’s lat issues, their offense has struggled to put points on the board and fans are starting to get restless.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the health of two teams sitting at opposite ends of their divisions ahead of their key clash Sunday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Pittsburgh Steelers (1 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app)

The Bucs are currently 3-2 and atop the NFC South, while the Steelers have fallen to 1-4 and to the bottom of the AFC North. What goes into the portrait of their individual records? Talent paints a portion of it. So does coaching strategy and possibly even factors outside of football. But what about health?

As we approach Week 6 of the NFL season, teams are starting to show their true colors, and injuries have taken a toll through the early games. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a clear example of this.

Tampa began its season with an 84.0 BUS. With seven total injuries and four players on IR, Tampa had been pelted by injuries the year before that put them behind the eight-ball early. Players such as wide receiver Chris Godwin and guard Aaron Stinnie were trying to recover from ACL/MCL injuries. Center Ryan Jensen’s knee issue made the early picture look bleak. 

Players were recovering from injuries that even upon return have less than favorable performance stats. Even injuries such as WR Russell Gage’s hamstring issue are ones that can turn into nagging problems for serious lengths of time if not managed slowly.

As Week 2 came around, the wide receiving corps was in shambles. Julio Jones was questionable with a knee injury, and Godwin was out dealing with a hamstring injury following his ligament recovery. Gage was still nursing his hamstring injury, Breshad Perriman had a knee injury and Bucs superstar Mike Evans had a calf injury that was giving him issues as well. 

To top it off, playmaking RB Leonard Fournette also had a hamstring injury. Soft-tissue injuries can be devastating, and Tampa was staring down four of them to their top playmakers. That’s not what Tom Brady had in mind when he decided to come out of retirement. Their BUS took a big hit and dropped to 72.9, leaving Tampa in the bottom five of team health in the NFL at the time.

Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are starting to get some of their playmakers back, which should spark the offense. 

When Week 3 reports were released, most of those playmakers remained on the list. Evans was feeling better, but an altercation with CB Marshon Lattimore of the Saints led to a one-game suspension, keeping him out of the contest. DT Akiem Hicks, a big presence in the trenches, had suffered a plantar fascia injury and was out for the game, further dropping the BUS to 68.4.

It wasn’t until Week 4 that everything started to move in a better direction. Guys were still dealing with ailments, but most were considered available if needed. Evans was back and had a monstrous game, with eight catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to beat the Chiefs, but the offense started to look like the Tom Brady-run offenses we all have come to expect with him behind center. The Bucs’ BUS started working back up to a 74.6.

Finally, we land in Week 5, where Tampa had a few additional injuries, including safety Logan Ryan out with a foot injury and Giovani Bernard with an ankle injury that landed him on IR, dropping their BUS to 73.3. Brady was dealing with a shoulder and finger injury to his throwing arm though he didn’t show up on the Injury report. 

The good news for Tampa fans is that even with the plentiful injuries they have been able to collect wins and stay atop their division.

Turning our attention to Tampa’s opponent this week, the Steelers, we have a team that despite good overall health has been on the losing end of games. When the season began, the Steelers were the seventh-healthiest team with a BUS of 88.2. They didn’t have a single injury-game designation aside from those on IR. They had a total of six players on IR starting the season, including RB Jeremy McNichols (Shoulder), S Damontae Kazee (Arm), S Karl Joseph (Ankle).

Week 1 was a great start on the injury report, but disaster struck soon after when 2021 Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt left the game with a torn pectoral injury. The good news was that after a few separate physician opinions, he and his medical staff concluded that he could forego surgery to the pec and treat it non-operatively as the tendon itself was not torn. The bad news was that he would still be out a minimum of four weeks. The Steelers’ BUS dipped to 82.2 in Week 2. 

Dr. Matt: T.J. Watt injury prognosis

Dr. Matt Provencher discusses the pectoral injury suffered by Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt and how long he could be out.

There were no changes to the BUS for Week 3, but Week 4 saw a new name on the report. CB Ahkello Witherspoon was out with a hamstring injury, which can be very tough for a skill position. Hamstrings are hard enough to play through as a receiver when you know what route you’re running, even worse for a CB who needs to shadow that receiver. The Steelers saw another dip down to 80.8 that week, however, they were still high in health compared to others.

Last week, Pittsburgh had Terrell Edmunds out with a concussion and Cameron Sutton questionable with a hamstring. This was more bad news for a defense that already had been plagued by injury. The cherry on top was seeing the report that Watt had arthroscopic knee surgery while out with his pectoral injury, lengthening his time out.

The Steelers’ situation shows how important even a single player can be to a team. Though the Steelers’ overall health is actually on the higher end when compared to other teams, Watt’s absence alone has been a dramatic one. 

This week, as these two teams go head-to-head, injuries will play a big part. 

The Steelers will look to try and stop an offense that is starting to come together and improving their health while still missing some key pieces to their defense, including the former DPOY. 

Tampa Bay will try to exploit a struggling team and further extend its lead in the NFC South. 

Make sure to check out the BUS on and on Twitter at @NFLonFOX and @SportsDocMatt to find out how these teams look heading into Week 6.

Renowned orthopedist Dr. Matt Provencher and his company,, deliver data-driven injury insights to football fans. In this first-of-a-kind role as Athlete Injury and Performance Analyst for FOX Sports’ digital platforms, Provencher provides important predictive player health and recovery information about post-injury performance, the impact of weather, field conditions and more.

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Source: FOX Sports


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