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What If: Comparing Packers And Cowboys 2010 Injury Problems

Much has been made in recent weeks about the Packers' injury situation. Their march through the playoffs was widely seen as a sign of outstanding depth and a great front office. And while it is true that a team that has won the Super Bowl has generally done everything right, it is also true that the Packers did suffer an inordinate amount of injuries.

The Packers ended the season with 15 players on injured reserve (vs. nine for the Cowboys) and in terms of starter games lost, the Packers had the second highest total in the league.

But they did not lose their quarterback (except for one game). So here's where we do a little exercise and ask ourselves, what would the Cowboys roster have looked like with the the injuries the Packers suffered in 2010?

Every year Football Outsiders compile a list of starter games lost (SGL). In this year's preliminary version, they calculated that the Packers lost 83 starter games due to injury. Dallas had the fifth lowest number in the league with 28.

Below is an overview of the top five and bottom five teams by starter games lost in 2010:

Rank Team SGL Rank Team SGL
1 Colts 89 28 Cowboys 28
2 Packers 83 29 49ers 18
3 Panthers 75 30 Falcons 15
4 Seahawks 69 31T Bears 11
5 Eagles 68 31T Chiefs 11

Not all injuries are equal, and there's little argument that losing your starting quarterback is just about the biggest injury your team can suffer. So comparing and weighing each starter game lost by the Cowboys against the starter games lost by the Packers may not be a particularly worthwhile exercise, and is much too tedious anyway.

What we'll do instead is look at the 15 players the Packers had on injured reserve at the end of the season, and see how those exact same injuries would have impacted the Cowboys.

Opening-Day Starters on IR
Pos Packers Player Injury Games missed Cowboys equivalent
RB Ryan Grant ankle/IR 14 Felix Jones
SS Morgan Burnett (R) knee/IR 12 Gerald Sensabaugh
ILB Nick Barnett wrist/IR 11 Keith Brooking
T Mark Tauscher shoulder/IR 11 Marc Colombo
TE Jermichael Finley knee/IR 10 Jason Witten
OLB Brad Jones shoulder/IR 9 Antony Spencer
Key Reserves on IR
Pos Packers Player Injury Games missed Cowboys equivalent
CB Josh Bell
foot/IR 16 Cletis Gordon
G/T Marshall Newhouse (R) back/IR 16 Sam Young
DE Justin Harrell knee/IR 14 Jason Hatcher
DE Mike Neal (R) shoulder/IR 13 Sean Lissemore
FS Derrick Martin knee/IR 10 Akwasi Owusuh-Ansah
OLB Brady Poppinga knee/IR 9 Victor Butler
LILB Brandon Chillar shoulder/IR 7 Sean Lee
FS Anthony Smith ankle/IR 5 Danny McCray
TE Spencer Havner hamstring/IR 4 John Phillips
Note: I am not intimately familiar with the Packers players and who goes where on the depth chart, so the Cowboys replacement players are my best guess and may contain some inaccuracies.

The Cowboys had three starters on IR in Tony Romo, Marcus Spears and Dez Bryant, who arguably would have become the starter without the injuries. A further six backup/reserve players (Sam Hurd, Sean Lissemore, Kevin Ogletree, Akwasi Owusuh-Ansah, John Phillips, Leon Williams) were also on IR by the end of the season.

Let's assume all of these nine players had stayed healthy, and look at how the Packers' injuries would have affected the Cowboys, leading off with the starters:

At RB, Felix Jones would have been a loss, but with Choice waiting in the wings and Barber for the short stuff, the Cowboys probably would have managed. The quality of the RBs wasn't really the big issue in the running game anyway. At tackle, losing Marc Colombo couldn't have made the situation much worse. Losing Jason Witten would have been a big blow, but staying in the tit-for-tat logic, the healthy combination of Romo and Bryant might have made up for that to some extent.

Safety would have been trickier with Sensabaugh out, as the Cowboys didn't have a lot of depth there to start with. Linebackers is where it would have really started to hurt the Cowboys. Not because the Cowboys couldn't have replaced Brooking or Spencer, but because in this logic, their backups, Victor Butler and Sean Lee, would have been out as well. That might have left Leon Williams playing inside and Brandon Williams outside, and the Cowboys might even have hung on to Jason Williams a little longer. And those three would definitely not have been any kind of Williams Wall.

The list of injured backup/reserve players does not strike me as particularly crippling for the Packers, and, with the exception of Sean Lee and perhaps Victor Butler, would probably not have been that big a deal for the Cowboys either.

Overall, with the Packers' injuries, the Cowboys would have had a healthy Romo and Bryant on offense, likely making the offense better than it actually was, despite the hypothetical injuries at RB and RT. On defense, the Cowboys would have been hit hard, and the lack of depth at inside linebacker and safety would have been brutally exposed.

What's your take, do you think the Cowboys 2010 record would have been better or worse than 6-10 with the Packers' injuries?

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