2015 Super Bowl Injuries: Handicapping and Analysis
by Trevor Whenham - 1/27/2015
What is remarkable about this Super Bowl when it comes to injuries is just how few there are. We hear all the time about how tough the season is on players between the preseason, 16 games and the playoffs. While that is unquestionably true, this year does not provide evidence to support that case. In fact, it is almost shocking how little of a factor injuries play in this game - or at least how little of a factor we can be certain that they will play. As of Tuesday neither team has any players listed as out for the game, and neither even has one listed as doubtful. That doesn't mean that there aren't storylines, of course. It just means that we are left to speculate more than usual.
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New England Patriots
The injury concerns here are decidedly few. Guys like Brandon Browner and Brandon LaFell are listed as questionable, but we have been given no reason at all to believe that they won't be ready. Browner, for example, was hurt against Baltimore but still played against the Colts. Rookie starting center Brian Stork missed the game against the Colts, but he is reportedly showing no signs of injury and is expected to return for this game. Even if he doesn't, Ryan Wendell played well last game against the Colts in relief of Stork, so there isn't a whole lot of cause for concern. At this point, barring a setback in practice in the days leading up to the game, it would be a surprise for the Pats to be missing any piece of significance for the game - or even to have to be particularly concerned about the health of any players.
Things are marginally less positive for the Seahawks. First, the good news. After playing every snap during the regular season, rookie right tackle Justin Britt was out against the Packers, and when Alvin Bailey struggled Britt was clearly missed. Well, Britt has bounced back well, is practicing well, and is expected to be just fine for the Super Bowl.
Now the more complicated situations - Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman. Both came out of the Green Bay game very banged up - Thomas with a dislocated shoulder and Sherman with a hyperextended elbow. Both tried to play through their injuries, but both were clearly hampered. If this was just another regular-season game then I would expect both to take a week off to get back to top form. It's not, of course, so both are on track to play. Thomas is listed as questionable and Sherman as probable.
When thinking of these two in this game it seems fitting that what first comes to mind is one of their foes in this game. In 2012 Rob Gronkowski hurt his ankle in the AFC Championship, and his status was heavily discussed heading into the Super Bowl. An authority no less than his father said that he would be fine, and there was no need to worry. He wasn't. He had just two catches for 26 yards against the Giants and was unable to catch a last-second pass that could have been the difference. By game time it felt like most people were confident Gronkowski would be fine, and his issues really impacted the outcome of the game.
One thing we know for sure this week is that Sherman's mouth is not broken. He always has an opinion, and he has been eager to share them this week. His health in general is less of a concern - both because the injury seemed less severe and because the Seahawks are better positioned to deal with his absence. It's hard to have a lot of faith that Earl Thomas, not the least explosive tackler in the league by any means, won't be at least somewhat affected the shoulder injury. If he is then it could be an issue. Backup safety Jeron Johnson has been dealing with an elbow injury that has kept him out of the playoffs to date, so he is going to be rusty. Even if he weren't, his lack of experience would be a real concern for this secondary against a guy like Brady.
The Seahawks obviously have no interest in being honest about the status of the two players - and no reason to be, either. That makes it tough to know how to deal with them. One way to look at it is to question whether you think the absence of one would, by itself, shift your expected outcome of the game against the spread. If it would then the game is likely too close in your mind to offer any real betting value, and you might be better served looking elsewhere - the total or props - for more value.
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