By Dr. Matt Provencher
FOX Sports Injury & Performance Analyst
We know from years of historical data, plus our team’s NFL sideline experience, that player health greatly impacts a team’s performance. Different injuries to different players lead to different results, and the BUS helps reflect this.
Ultimately, it boils down to two simple phrases: “Health Matters” and “Healthy Teams Win Championships.”
Health isn’t the only variable — home-field advantage, travel time and a player’s home life can all play a part in performance. Talent and coaching are obviously extremely important. But health is a huge part of the puzzle. FOX Sports and thepredictors.com are here to highlight it.
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This week, we are going to look at the matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Commanders (Sunday at 1 p.m. ET; FOX and the FOX Sports app) and reveal how each team has dealt with health challenges as their Week 4 game approaches.
The 2022 season started off with some important injuries on both teams, yet Dallas held an edge entering Week 1 with a BUS of 84.6, compared to Washington’s 80.5.
For the Cowboys, left tackle Tyron Smith suffered a hamstring tear with an associated avulsion fracture in August, which resulted in a subsequent surgery, effectively ending his 2022 campaign. As a veteran staple and possibly their most reliable asset on the O-line, this created a lot of questions surrounding a unit that had already lost La’el Collins to the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency.
Dallas was able to sign veteran tackle Jason Peters, but bringing on a new body can’t make up for losing a player like Smith, an eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time First Team All-Pro.
The Cowboys have also been missing receiver Michael Gallup, a solid player who suffered an ACL tear in Week 17 last season. He is expected to finally return to action this week against Washington.
Meanwhile, Washington was dealing with its own issues. Star defensive end Chase Young was still recovering from a ACL/MCL injury to his right knee. He started the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list and continues to rehabilitate the knee as he looks to return this season. Young, who was drafted second overall, finished with 42 total tackles, 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and a touchdown on his way to the 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year title. Not having him on the field creates a huge void for the Commanders.
Running back Brian Robinson also started the year off injured after being shot twice in the leg during a car hijacking. Robinson looked like Washington’s likely starter before the incident. Tight end Logan Thomas also remained on the injury report due to an ACL tear suffered last December. Thomas has played, but injuries can decrease performance the first few games back.
Disaster struck the Cowboys in Week 1 when starting quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a Bennett’s fracture to the thumb on his throwing hand. Other players joined Prescott on the injury report, bringing Dallas’ count from eight players to 11 heading into Week 2.
Washington ended with 10 players on the injury report for Week 2 and slipped slightly ahead of Dallas in health with a BUS of 76.4 to Dallas’ 76.2.
Entering Week 3, some thought Gallup and tight end Dalton Schultz would possibly play for Dallas, but that didn’t happen. There is a chance both could play vs. Washington, though they would both likely face a limited snap count and likely a lower level of performance.
Washington, meanwhile, had to designate DE Casey Toohill out with a concussion and Daniel Wise out with an ankle injury. James Smith-Williams (abdomen) and David Mayo (ankle) were both listed as questionable for the game, significantly decreasing depth in their defense.
As a result, Dallas’ BUS dropped to 74.7, but Washington’s dropped even farther, to 72.4, for Week 3.
Looking ahead to Sunday
As we turn our sights to Week 4, Prescott is saying he could return, but based on the swelling from the stitching in his thumb and lack of practice time, it is highly unlikely he will suit up. It’s much more likely Gallup will return, and Shultz could hit the field to test the stability of his knee.
Young and Robinson will also remain out. As mentioned above, their defensive line has taken some hits, reducing their depth.
Washington’s injuries, combined with Dallas likely getting Gallup and Schultz back, could give an edge in health to the Cowboys — even if Prescott remains on the sideline. Washington hopes to restore some defensive depth, with some “questionable” designations potentially leading to game-time actives, as multiple players move through concussion protocol and others try to heal from soft tissue injuries.
Both teams have stayed close in the health column, with key injuries and depth issues. With both teams trying to improve their record in the NFC East, health could play a big role in the outcome of the game.
Renowned orthopedist Dr. Matt Provencher and his company, ThePredictors.com, 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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