NFL: Cowboys and Vikings are healthiest of playoff teams
By Rick Gosselin
Dallas Morning News
The Cowboys were the healthiest team in the NFL in 1992 and '93. They won the Super Bowl each season.
The Cowboys again are the healthiest team in the NFL, losing a league-low 14 games by starters because of injury this season. And the NFC East champions find themselves three wins away from another Super Bowl.
The Cowboys lost 11 games by starters because of injury in 1992 when they won the first Super Bowl of the Jerry Jones era, then lost just eight games by starters in 1993 in capturing back-to-back Lombardi Trophies.
But don't assume a healthy roster gives the Cowboys an edge in these NFC playoffs.
The three healthiest teams in the NFL won NFC division titles, and all three are in action this weekend. The Cowboys visit NFC North champion Minnesota, which lost only 16 games by starters, and NFC West champ Arizona travels to NFC South champ New Orleans. The Cardinals lost 17 games by starters.
Two other teams that rank among the eight healthiest in the NFL also play this weekend — AFC wild cards Baltimore and the New York Jets. The Jets lost 18 games by starters and the Ravens 26.
The Cowboys were one of two teams that did not place a starter on injured reserve this season, joining the AFC East champion New England Patriots.
Pittsburgh and San Francisco shared the league lead with 12 players who started all 16 games. Arizona had 11 and the Cowboys were in a clump of seven teams with 10 16-game starters.
But 17 of the Cowboys' 22 starters of choice suited up for all 16 games this season. Only offensive tackle Marc Colombo, running back Marion Barber, wide receiver Roy Williams and safeties Ken Hamlin and Gerald Sensabaugh were not available for every game. Colombo missed a team-high seven games with a fractured fibula.
The two top seeds lost the most games by starters because of injury in the 2009 playoff bracket. The AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts lost 65 and the Saints 67.
But the Saints were a long way off from being the most battered team in the NFL. The Buffalo Bills lost 103 games by starters and finished with a league-high eight starters on injured reserve.
Denver fielded the healthiest defense, missing only three games by starters because of injury. The Broncos finished seventh in the NFL in defense. Minnesota fielded the healthiest offense, losing only four games by starters. The Vikings finished fifth in the NFL in offense.
Jacksonville lost 50 games by starters on defense and the Bills lost 47 on offense. Both were league highs. The 7-9 Jaguars finished 23rd in defense and the 6-10 Bills 30th in offense.
Buffalo finished the season with three starting offensive linemen on injured reserve and both outside linebackers. Coach Dick Jauron was doomed from the start as 47 different players started games for the Bills. Jauron was fired in November after a 3-6 start.
In all, NFL starters missed 1,486 games because of injury last season — 683 on offense and 803 on defense. Only 248 of the 704 starters league-wide managed to start all 16 games and 99 starters finished the season on injured reserve.
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