from Dr. Matt Provencher
FOX Sports Injury and Performance Analyst
Last season, thepredictors.com and FOX Sports introduced the Banged Up Score (BUS™), a tool that uses a proprietary algorithm to measure the health of NFL players and their teams.
We know from years of historical data, as well as our team’s experience on the NFL sideline, that player health greatly affects team performance. Different injuries to different players lead to different results and the BUS reflects that.
In the end, it all 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 play a role in performance. Talent and coaching are obviously extremely important. But health is a huge piece of the puzzle. FOX Sports and thepredictors.com are here to highlight it.
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This week, we’ll take a look at the Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Commanders matchup (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 matchup approaches.
The 2022 season began with some major injuries on both teams, but Dallas had the 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 torn hamstring with an associated avulsion fracture in August, leading to subsequent surgery that effectively ended his 2022 campaign. As a key veteran and arguably their most reliable O-line asset , it 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 Jason Peters, but bringing in 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 were also missing receiver Michael Gallup, a solid player who suffered a torn ACL in Week 17 last season. He is expected to finally return to action this week against Washington.
Before the games began, Dallas also lost LB Damone Clark (neck), LB Devante Bond (knee), TE Ian Bunting (neck), CB Isaac Taylor-Stuart (ankle), WR James Washington (foot) and FB Ryan Nall (shoulder ).
Meanwhile, Washington was dealing with its own problems. Star defensive end Chase Young was still recovering from an ACL/MCL injury in his right knee. He began 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 en route to being named the 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year. His absence on the field creates a huge void for commanders.
Running back Brian Robinson also started the year injured after being shot twice in the leg during a carjacking. Robinson looked like Washington’s most likely starter before the incident. Tight end Logan Thomas also remains on the injury report due to an ACL tear suffered last December. Thomas has played, but injuries could limit performance in the first few games back.
Washington also had TE Cole Turner (hamstring), TE Curtis Hodges (thigh), S Kamren Curl (thumb), C Tyler Larsen (Achilles) and OG Willie Beavers (undisclosed) on their injury report for this game.
Disaster struck the Cowboys in Week 1 when starting quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a Bennett fracture of 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 finished with 10 players on the injury report for Week 2 and slipped slightly ahead of Dallas in terms of health with a BUS of 76.4 to Dallas’ 76.2.
Entering Week 3, some thought Gallup and tight end Dalton Schultz would likely play for Dallas, but that didn’t happen. There’s a chance both will play against Washington, though both will likely face limited snaps and possibly a lower level of performance.
Washington, meanwhile, had to bench DE Casey Toohill with a concussion and Daniel Wise with an ankle injury. James Smith-Williams (abdomen) and David Mayo (ankle) were listed as questionable for the game, significantly reducing their defensive depth.
As a result, Dallas’ BUS fell to 74.7, but Washington’s fell even further, to 72.4, in Week 3.
Waiting for Sunday
As we turn our sights to Week 4, Prescott says he could return, but based on the swelling from the seam on his thumb and the lack of practice time, it’s highly unlikely he’ll make it. It is much more likely that Gallup will return and Schultz will take the field to test the stability of his knee.
Washington has since placed center Chase Roullier on IR and added center Nick Martin for depth. It’s a big loss for a team whose offense has already struggled with injuries this year.
Young and Robinson will also remain out. As mentioned above, their defensive line took some hits, reducing their depth.
Washington’s injuries, combined with Dallas likely bringing back Gallup and Schultz, could give the Cowboys an edge in health — even if Prescott is sidelined. Washington is hoping to rebuild some defensive depth, with some “questionable” designations potentially leading to game-time assets while multiple players go through concussion protocol and others try to heal from soft tissue injuries.
Both teams remained 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, provide soccer fans with data-driven injury insights. In this first-ever role as an injury and athlete performance analyst for FOX Sports’ digital platforms, Provencher provides critical predictive information for player health and recovery regarding post-injury performance, the impact of weather, field conditions and more.
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