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Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Panthers running away in I.R. race

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

There were a few house-keeping transactions made around the NFC South today as Carolina put defensive end Everette Brown, linebacker Jason Williams and guard Travelle Wharton on injured reserve and Tampa Bay did the same thing with Quincy Black and Gerald McCoy.

For those keeping sore at home, that means the Panthers lead the NFC South with 14 guys on injured reserve. But before we start sounding like all of Carolina's problems are because of injuries, let's also note that the Buccaneers now have 12 guys on injured reserve. The Bucs are 8-5 and the Panthers are 1-12.

The New Orleans Saints are 10-3 and they have nine guys on injured reserve and the Atlanta Falcons are 11-2 and only have three guys on injured reserve. So, yes, there definitely is some correlation between injuries and success (or lack of it) on the field.

But let's analyze how much of an impact having guys on injured reserve have had on each team. You can find the complete injured reserve list at the bottom of the roster on each team's website and I'm not going to list every guy here. For this discussion, I'm not including guys like Atlanta's Sean Weatherspoon, who have missed significant playing time. I'm only talking significant players who have been placed on the injured reserve.

Carolina. Running back DeAngelo Williams is the biggest name on the list, but he at least played a portion of the season. I think not having right tackle Jeff Otah or linebacker Thomas Davis all season have been the biggest injury influences in Carolina. Of course, it would have been nice if the Panthers had middle linebacker Dan Connor for a longer stretch. Would the Panthers have been better if they didn't have so many injuries? Absolutely, but they wouldn't have been all that much better. Was a healthy Matt Moore any better than Jimmy Clausen? In fact, I'll argue that the Bucs have been hit harder, especially in recent weeks.

Tampa Bay. I'm looking at names like Jeff Faine, Davin Joseph and Aqib Talib and seeing high-level starters. McCoy was the team's first-round draft pick and had turned the corner after a slow start. Fellow defensive tackle Brian Price, a second-round pick, missed almost the entire season. I'm also looking at names like Cody Grimm, Kareem Huggins and Kyle Moore and seeing guys who would be nice contributors if they were healthy.

New Orleans. Things are a bit misleading here. Nine guys on injured reserve might sound like a lot. But cornerback Randall Gay and running back Lynell Hamilton might be the only two the Saints really have missed.

Atlanta. There is no way around it. The Falcons have been lucky when it comes to injuries. Yes, Weatherspoon, cornerback Dunta Robinson, receiver Michael Jenkins and backup running back Jason Snelling have missed time with injuries. But there are only three guys on injured reserve and running back Jerious Norwood is the only name of any significance. But Norwood's been out for so long and had so many injury problems in the past that the Falcons wrote this guy off long ago.