NFL Preseason Impact (8/31/16)

By Rob Pizzola @robpizzola
Three weeks of the NFL preseason are in the books, and with it, there has been a variety of injuries and coaches' decisions that could have a lasting impact on the season. Each week, we will simulate the rest of the regular season 50,000 times using the latest injury and depth charts news, as to always be on top of the current NFL landscape. Here are projected outcomes of some of the most impactful preseason news to-date.

Social media was set ablaze on Tuesday afternoon when Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a non-contact knee injury in practice. Soon afterwards, it was revealed that Bridgewater suffered a dislocated knee and a torn ACL, ending his season before it even began. It's no secret that the strength of this Vikings team is their defense, but that doesn't mean that Bridgewater's absence won't be a big blow.

Minnesota was projected to average 24.5 points per game with Bridgewater under center, but that number drops to approximately 21.8 points per game if veteran journeyman Shaun Hill assumes the role of starting quarterback for the entire season. Minnesota, who originally ranked seventh overall in our initial Power Rankings, sees their chances of winning the NFC North cut down by a whopping 10.3% (28.3% with Bridgewater, 18.0% with Hill). In fact, the Predictalator now projects a third place finish in the division for the Vikings, as they drop from 8.9 projected wins to 8.1 projected wins, finishing behind both the Packers and Bears.

Bridgewater wasn't the only starting quarterback to hit the shelf this week. Tony Romo left the Cowboys third preseason game in the first quarter of Dallas' tilt against Seattle. While Romo was originally thought to have just had a tight back, it was later deemed that he had broken a small bone in his back and would miss at least the first six weeks of the regular season. Though Dak Prescott has looked more than serviceable in the preseason and ranked as the second-best quarterback in our draft rankings, the Predictalator sees this as a punch in the gut to the Cowboys.

With Romo under center, the Cowboys were expected to score 27.2 points per game against a league average defense, but that number falls to approximately 22.5 expected points per game with Prescott taking Dallas' snaps. In fact, the downgrade from Romo to Prescott is worth approximately 10.9% to the Cowboys' win expectancy in their Week 1 home tilt against the Giants. Dallas also sees its Super Bowl chances drop from 3.4% to 1.1% if Romo misses eight games or more.

Dallas and Minnesota aren't the only teams with a dicey quarterback situation, as the Denver Broncos are stuck with three less than preferable options to choose from. Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak announced earlier this week that Trevor Siemian, a 2015 seventh round draft pick out of Northwestern, would get the nod for Denver in their season opener against Carolina. The Predictalator had originally projected the Broncos for 8.7 wins with Mark Sanchez at the helm, and despite the quarterback shuffle, the Predictalator is holding firm with Denver at an average of 8.7 wins in 50,000 simulations. The Broncos' Super Bowl chances take a slight hit with Siemian however; dropping from 5.8% to 5.2%. It should be noted that there are other factors at play here as well, including the Steelers having Le'Veon Bell's suspension reduced from four games to three games.

Indianapolis suffered a blow on the defensive end of the ball this week as it was announced that cornerback Vontae Davis would miss at least a month with an ankle injury. Davis' injury is a big blow to the Colts as he is the top cornerback in what was an already weak secondary. Indianapolis signed 32-year-old free agent Antonio Cromartie to fill the void, and while we're not convinced that Cromartie is as much of a liability as he appeared to be last season, he certainly is not the caliber of Vontae Davis. Prior to Davis' injury, the Predictalator expected the Colts to allow 26.2 points per game, but that number has since risen to 27.6 points per game. Indianapolis is also expected to win an average of 0.3 less games if Davis is on the shelf for a month (and it's possible he may miss even more time).

We will continue to monitor injuries and changes in depth charts so as to always have the most current NFL numbers that we can.