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Deshaun Watson and a new generation of stars are here for you

The league’s not as fun without Aaron Rodgers and Odell Beckham Jr. Or is it?

Cleveland Browns v Houston Texan Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Football is a wonderful sport that has one very unfortunate downside — injuries. The first six weeks of the 2017 season have been unusually cruel to some of the game’s best players.

On Sunday, Aaron Rodgers took a big, but legal, hit from Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr that broke his collarbone. It’s the second time that Rodgers has suffered a collarbone injury that’s caused him to miss significant time, with the first one coming in 2013.

You don’t have to be a fan of the Packers to be bummed about Rodgers’ injury. There hasn’t been a more entertaining quarterback to watch in the NFL the past few seasons. Rodgers carves up defenses, cashes in on free plays regularly, and has been known to convert on a Hail Mary or two.

There could be an endless debate on who the best player in the NFL is, but there’s no question that Rodgers is the best when it comes to making the players around him better. No matter what weapons he has been equipped with since taking over as the team’s starter, he’s made them work.

Brett Hundley might be fine in place of Rodgers, but it would be unreasonable to ask him, or anybody else, to do everything that Rodgers does.

Because nobody else can do everything Aaron Rodgers does.

J.J. Watt breaking his leg isn’t fair

Everything about Watt getting injured seems cruel.

The city of Houston and the surrounding areas were devastated by Hurricane Harvey. He made a heroic effort in raising nearly $40 million in relief and was making his return after playing in just three games in 2016 because of a back injury.

Not to mention it looks like the Texans finally have a quarterback in Deshaun Watson.

It was time for Watt to finally have his big season and be a part of uplifting a city that needed something to root for. Five games into the season, he broke his leg, cutting his year short yet again on a Texans defense that proved to be incredibly stout even without him.

Despite injuries to Watt as well as Whitney Mercilus, the Texans seem to be in better shape than they were last season. The Texans had the best defense in the NFL last season, but it didn’t matter because Brock Osweiler was the quarterback. Watson has shown he’s ready for the NFL stage, and playing alongside a legitimate defense has made things easier on him. Not all is lost for Houston, especially in the AFC South.

Odell Beckham Jr.’s injury timing could not have been worse

This is why OBJ wanted more money this offseason. NFL contracts aren’t guaranteed, and your season could end on one unlucky play. That’s exactly what happened to Beckham, in the midst of an 0-5 start for the Giants.

Beckham is one of the best receivers in the NFL and deserves to get paid as such. After the ankle injury that required surgery, that makes things a little more complicated than the Giants just offering up any large deal. He’ll have a chance to prove himself in 2018 before he’s a free agent in 2019, but there’s no telling how he’s going to come back from the injury.

The Giants also lost Brandon Marshall for the season and have Sterling Shepard nursing an ankle injury himself. The Giants were able to get their first win of the season this past Sunday night against the Broncos, but the outlook isn’t look great for their year.

And of course, any NFL season isn’t the same without Beckham — one of the game’s best players and biggest personalities.

David Johnson never even got a chance

Johnson’s injury surprisingly flew under the radar after the previously mentioned injuries. He had a breakout 2016 season, earning a First-Team All-Pro nod, and he’s the new leader of the Cardinals’ offense with Larry Fitzgerald on the back nine of his career. Unfortunately for Johnson and the Cardinals, it took just one game into the season for him to go down with a wrist injury that would keep him out for the season.

Johnson’s absence has been obvious in Arizona’s running game. It was at the bottom of the NFL in rushing coming into Week 6 with the whole team looking like a lost cause.

His injury is especially frustrating because he wasn’t necessarily a highly-touted prospect coming into the league. The Cardinals drafted him in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft. But he came out of Northern Iowa. There hasn’t exactly been a ton of talent to come out of there — though Kurt Warner worked out pretty well. But it’s fun to root for those guys, and it’s unfortunate Johnson’s follow up to 2016 was cut so short.

The Cardinals might have saved their season with the Adrian Peterson trade. He and the Saints had a toxic relationship from the jump, and now both teams have reaped the benefits of the trade after just one game. Is it going to keep up? Who knows. But that’s going to be the hope for Arizona moving forward.

That, and hoping Johnson comes back better than ever in 2018.

There’s young talent to be excited about, though.

Deshaun Watson is the Texans’ savior. As bad as Bill O’Brien wanted to give Tom Savage a chance, there was really no other option. Watson has made O’Brien look great for the change, and the Texans are now one of the most fun teams in the NFL to watch.

SB Nation’s Jason Kirk really tried to tell y’all — along with the rest of college football fans — Watson is the real deal. The Texans’ losses on the season with Watson under center came to the Patriots and Chiefs, and both were one-score games. That’s damn good for a rookie, or any quarterback for that matter.

The AFC South is anybody’s for the taking, and this is the first time we’ve seen that strong Texans defense with a real quarterback. It should be entertaining.

Kareem Hunt came at just the right time. He’s also kicking ass like nobody could have imagined, except for SB Nation’s MAC blog Hustle Belt, who made a more confident declaration prior to the draft:

Hunt is the steal of this draft.

The Chiefs have looked complete this season, but that doesn’t happen without the emergence of Hunt. Spencer Ware tore his PCL before the start of the season, and Hunt stepped up to the plate, and then some. He leads the NFL in rushing yards with 630, which has opened up the passing game for Alex Smith.

Much like the Texans, the Chiefs are must-watch football.

Malik Hooker is quietly living up to the hype. If you’re looking for a young defensive player to get excited about, look no further than Hooker. He appropriately had an interception in his first career start against the Cardinals in Week 2.

He’s drawn some damn good comparisons too, as SB Nation’s Dan Kadar pointed out before the draft:

You've heard the comparisons plenty. Ed Reed. A bigger Earl Thomas. Those type of comparisons don't get tossed around lightly for a safety, but Hooker has earned them.

The Colts aren’t exactly a fun team to watch, but if you’re going to, keep an eye on Hooker. He was incredibly consistent at Ohio State and has shown he’s doing the same at the pro level. Hooker had three interceptions in three games — that’s tough for any player to accomplish.

Losing these stars is a detriment to the season — there’s no questioning that. But there are other players who you can find joy in for the rest of the 2017 season, while you look forward to the return of guys like Rodgers, Watt, Beckham, and Johnson.

Deshaun Watson is very good, but we knew that already