David Chao, MD: Top Five Actionable NFL Story Lines

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Whether you play fantasy, DFS or wager, knowing about hidden injury mismatches will put you on the right side of the action. Below are the top five injury adjusted story lines for Sunday’s games.

For an example on how injury analysis can translate to wins, revisit the ProFootballDoc analysis in the Thursday morning Outkick article that foreshadowed an offensive explosion . Joe Burrow was a fantasy juggernaut, taking advantage of the Browns injured secondary while Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt dominated due to the Bengals top two defensive lineman missing action.

We already indicated the Steelers should not be distracted by Conner’s ankle injury or a decal controversy but instead should worry about the right side of their offensive line versus the Broncos. . Here are the top five new actionable injury dependent story lines:

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SF vs. NYJ — Lack of pass catchers for both squads
Both clubs go into today’s matchup without at their top two pass catchers with George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder all out. The 49ers should have Brandon Aiyuk back after missing Week 1 with a hamstring injury but he is a rookie in his first NFL game. The newly acquired Mohamed Sanu is pressed immediately into action in his reunion with Kyle Shanahan. Expect San Francisco to turn to its power run game as their line and fullback Kyle Juszczyk are a mismatch for the injury depleted Jets linebackers.

Meanwhile the Jets will not have Le’Veon Bell (hamstring) meaning ageless Frank Gore will shoulder the load and tight end Chris Herndon may be the go to target for Sam Darnold as they go against a relatively healthy 49ers defense. However, Richard Sherman will not play due to a calf injury.

ATL vs. DAL — Cowboys injury woes spread
With 4 out of 5 offensive line spots impacted, the Cowboys strength has become a weakness and it showed in a Week 1 loss. Right tackle La’El Collins is on IR (hip), original starting center Travis Frederick surprised the team with retirement after beating Guillain-Barre, left guard Connor Williams is nowhere near fully recovered from his ACL but playing and now left tackle Tyron Smith with a history of back issues is a game-time decision with a neck injury. Zack Martin is the last fully healthy starter and Dallas is trying to bring back Ron Leary but that won’t be until Week 3. Starting tight end Blake Jarwin torn his ACL Week and will be missed in the passing game. Now the injuries are seeping into the defense. Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch broke his collarbone and Sean Lee had sports hernia surgery, Cornerback Anthony Brown was just placed on IR for ribs and defensive line stud Gerald McCoy was lost in training camp with a quad tendon tear. Overall, the Falcons injury issues pale in comparison and Todd Gurley, Matt Ryan and Co. could be poised for a big game. Ezekiel Elliott may not meet his usual high expectations given game flow and a healthy Falcons defensive front.

LAR vs. PHI — Can returning Eagles right the ship?
The Eagles were on the wrong end of the biggest Week 1 upset largely due to an injured offensive line that gave up eight sacks to the Washington team. The likely return of RT Lane Johnson and RB Miles Sanders will help but they are unlikely to be at 100%. Even with the loss of Vinnie Curry, the best Philadelphia injury news might be the return of key defensive lineman including Javon Hargrave Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham. The Rams meanwhile are largely healthy on both sides of the ball. The Eagles need to get the O-line in order but this will be tall task against powerhouses Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers.

BUF vs. MIA — Bills linebacker shortage
The Bills normally stout defense will be without their top two linebackers Tremaine Edmunds (shoulder) and Matt Milano (hamstring) plus have additional depth issues due to injury in their front seven, not to mention that Star Lotuleiei opted out for COVID. The Dolphins are severely short at the wide receiver position and will likely turn to their ground game to take advantage. Look for the downhill style of Jordan Howard to emerge from the trio of Miami running backs to expose the Buffalo defensive backups.

JAX vs. TEN — Key is at cornerback
Gardner Minshew threw for 3 TDs and only had 1 incomplete pass in their upset victory over the Colts. That remarkable trend might continue if our injury projections play out. The Titans may be missing their two top corners. Adoree Jackson is already on IR for a knee issue and in our opinion Malcolm Butler is unlikely to play or be effective given his quad issue. The Jaguars are healthy other than at running back and may be able to make this a contest despite the opening line of more than a touchdown underdog. This could lead to a good day for the receiving corps of D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault Jr. and Chris Conley. The Titans are not built to come from behind and their biggest offensive weapon of Derrick Henry wearing the opposition down in the second half may be neutralized.

Outkick readers can use this link to unlock the visual Field View and matchup specific Injury Index for all games at www.profootballdoc.com.

To get in the action on FanDuel, use this link for the Sports Book or this one for DFS.

Written by Dr. David Chao

David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

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