Tag Archive: ESPN


This is all that remains now that Joe Paterno’s statue has been removed from outside of Penn State’s football stadium.

As everyone with access to the internet, a cell phone, a television or newspaper is aware, the NCAA and Penn State negotiated severe sanctions for their football program in the wake of the scandal surrounding Jerry Sandusky’s serial child molestation case and the corresponding cover-up by the former Penn State President Graham Spanier, Vice President Gary Schultz, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Head Coach Joe Paterno. The sanctions were intense, including a $60 million fine to be paid over the course of the next five years, scholarship reductions including limiting the Penn State roster to 65 players for the next four seasons and limiting new Head Coach Bill O’Brien to only 15 players that he can sign to scholarships instead of the usual limit of 25. On top of that, Penn State faces a four year ban from bowl games and from the Big-10 championship game, and will be on probation for four seasons after the ban expires. As if that didn’t send a clear enough message, all of the 112 wins Joe Paterno and Penn State earned from the 1998 season through 2012 have been erased from the record books, removing Paterno as the all-time leader in wins in college football history. Ironically, the man who helped set this entire investigation in motion, Mike McQueary, was the last player to officially win a game as the starting quarterback at Penn State under Joe Paterno in 1997. Paterno’s wins have been erased, buildings named after him have been renamed, and the tailgating area has gone from “Paternoville” to “Nittanyville.” Oh yeah, and Paterno’s statue that previously stood as a reminder of all the incredible things he was able to accomplish and all the boys he was able to mold into men as head coach of the Penn State football program was removed, leaving only dirty, faded walls and jutting pieces of metal that previously anchored the statue of a fallen legend.

“Educator. Coach. Humanitarian.” He may have been the first two, but he certainly fell short of the third. Ultimately, Paterno turned out to be another cautionary tale about the corruptive tendencies of power, money and influence. He was considered to be the incorruptible face of morality and the poster boy of “winning the right way” in a time period where stories of recruiting scandals and underhanded dealings are the norm, even if they are rampantly underreported. He even went on an ESPN special with Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke entitled “Difference Makers” in which the coaches talked about how they were able to build programs where they not only molded high school kids into men who could leave their institutions prepared to contribute in a positive way to society, but also win a lot of games and national championships while they did it.

It is hard for me to watch that special in the wake of this scandal because it is hard for me to imagine how Paterno could live out this damning of a lie. He went on a nationally televised special focusing on the importance of integrity and morality while he and other senior Penn State administrators were protecting a serial child rapist that used his football program and all the glitz and glamour that came with it like candy to lure at-risk children from his own charity into his metaphorical van. I can’t imagine how Paterno could walk by his own statue and not be consumed by guilt and shame. “Humanitarian.” What kind of a humanitarian listens to another man describe the sexual assault of anyone, much less a young child, happening in a Penn State facility and doesn’t immediately go to the police? What kind of humanitarian not only tells the administrators of the university but then later manipulates them into inaction in the name of self preservation?

Not only is it hard for me to watch the ESPN special that Paterno was a featured guest on, it is hard for me to watch even the most basic coverage of the sanctions levied against Penn State on ESPN because of Penn State alumni talking about these sanctions creating “new victims” because of the severity of the penalties. Let’s get one thing clear, the players, current coaches, new administrators and the students are innocent bystanders in this situation. Sandusky took advantage of everyone in that community, betraying everyone that trusted him with children and using his reputation as a caretaker and a good man to prey on innocent boys that often needed a positive male role model in their lives. But make no mistake, even though the football program will have to deal with adversity they are in no way, shape, or form victims. They may be frustrated, they may be angry that Sandusky has negatively impacted them without ever even coaching them, but to assert that Sandusky has made them victims is insulting to the young people that he took advantage of in showers, in his house and in hotel rooms. The real victims of this case are every young boy that Sandusky sexually assaulted not only from 1998 on, but likely from 1977 (the year he started the Second Mile charity) until he was finally arrested during the football season this past year.

Let’s put this in perspective: the football team is still intact, albeit weaker than it was a year ago at this time, the players that had scholarships before these sanctions still have scholarships now, and if they don’t wish to deal with any more fallout from this tragedy they are free to transfer whenever they wish. Instead of being deprived of football for up to four seasons, a penalty that would have likely permanently crippled the Penn State football program for decades, Penn State will be playing football this season. Let’s consider that Southern Methodist (SMU) got the death penalty in 1987 and when the football team returned in 1989 the coach Forrest Gregg went 3-19 in his only two seasons as head coach. SMU continued to be largely irrelevant for the next 20 years before reaching its first bowl game since the sanctions in 2009, exactly 22 years after the death penalty was dealt to the program in 1987. That was a two year death penalty, so one can only imagine the damage a four year death penalty might have done to Penn State.

If you want to put your money where your mouth is, donate whatever you can afford here: https://donate.rainn.org/ This is a great organization and it also has plenty of helpful information to help improve awareness of rape, abuse and incest not only for yourself, but for your loved ones.

Penn State will be playing football next year, thousands of people who rely on the football team for jobs and business will not be seriously impacted by this, or at least not as seriously as they would have been had the team been shut down for the next four years. The football players will be fighting for their lives on the football field because the deck is certainly stacked against them when it comes to recruiting and roster size, but Bill O’Brien has echoed my sentiments that these severe sanctions are much better than the death penalty, and he said it succinctly “We will play football this season.” That says it all right there, but it also speaks to one of my problems with these sanctions and this scandal in general. These penalties doled out by the NCAA have drawn more attention to the football program yet again instead of focusing on the crimes Sandusky and those who covered them up committed. Mark Emmert, the President of the NCAA spoke about seeking to show that football had become the priority at Penn State and that it was unacceptable. While these penalties certainly set a precedent that suggest if anything close to this scope happens again it will incur serious penalties from the NCAA, it also draws attention to football and winning again all while talking about how that shouldn’t be the focus. Now everyone is talking about the “victims” that this has caused, and many are expressing sympathy for the football players who are being impacted by something they had nothing to do with. They certainly deserve sympathy, but they are not victims. Things could be much, much worse for them, but the NCAA’s sanctions were fairly player friendly given the circumstances. They can choose to stay at Penn State and help try to keep the football program’s metaphorical head above water or they can go to another school where they can chase more playing time, better academics or the chance to compete for a national title. The players that choose to stay at Penn State are not victims, they are players who are committed to the university, the community and the teammates they have grown to love. They are players who have chosen to remain there, not players who have been chained to the university by the NCAA. They are in fact the opposite, any potential transfer shackles that existed have been removed by the NCAA and speculation has run rampant as media and coaches alike speculate about who might leave the program and who might stay. So the players that walk onto that field wearing Nittany Lion blue and white on September 1st, 2012 are not victims, they are players who had every opportunity to leave and chose to stay. They have chosen to do what they could to heal a community that has been betrayed not only by a predator impersonating a charitable force for good, but by administrators who enabled him to continue to stalk their children that needed protection more than anyone else.

I don’t want to sound like I don’t appreciate the difficulty of what all of the Penn State players and alumni are going through. I can’t imagine the hell that the players have been put through having to try to focus on playing games amidst this scandal, not to mention just living their lives and succeeding in their classes. It isn’t fair and they shouldn’t have to deal with this, but this is an unfortunate lesson that they have to learn: life isn’t fair. All too often the strong prey on the weak, and all too often the strong use their influence to act in their own self interest. We have all had to clean up after someone else’s mess, but most of us are lucky to be able to do so without photographers taking pictures of us, without journalists writing about us and without thousands of people watching us every weekend. Unfortunately, the football players and the new coaching staff will be under a microscope, but I would be shocked if there was not an outpouring of support from the Penn State family and the surrounding community in the wake of this scandal. Everyone wants to move on after a tragedy like this, and this will be no exception. Football will provide an escape from this tragedy, even though in a twisted way it was what helped cause it, and Penn State will likely sell out their first couple of home games if not all of them. The team will likely struggle in the face of all this adversity but Penn State fans are fiercely loyal (as I have found out thanks to some of my tweets about this case and about how the players aren’t actually victims) and will support this team even if they struggle on the field.

This statue of Paterno proved to be evidence of worshiping a false idol, and a reminder of the shortcomings of a coaching icon.

I just don’t want everyone to lose sight of what this case has taught us. Joe Paterno was looked up to by everyone in the Penn State community and was considered to be someone who could do no wrong. He was only human after all, however, and proved why we should not worship false idols. Our society today is too concerned with elevating successful people as beacons of perfection only for them to disappoint us with a scandal or a mistake. No one is perfect, not you, not me and not Joe Paterno. The difference is, Paterno was worshiped as a perfect man who won football games while also shaping young minds into productive members of society and, if you believe the rumors, he controlled Penn State and the athletic department, not the other way around. There is certainly evidence of this, particularly the $5.5 million severance package he received (including Paterno negotiating for additional money after the Sandusky scandal broke) when he was fired from Penn State. It secured his family use of the Penn State private jet, his wife access to the Lasch football facility that Sandusky was caught assaulting a young boy in, and obviously vast financial compensation. And while no one may have had a problem with a football coach controlling an entire university prior to this scandal, clearly it is easy to see that it was a problem now. Paterno’s interest in winning and in preserving his own job prevented him from making a decision to act in the interest of basic human decency and it enabled Sandusky to assault more children before he was finally arrested for his crimes. How anyone could live with themselves after that is beyond me, and I think Paterno finally realized what he had done after he was fired as the Head Coach of the football team. I think that once he was being persecuted by some (though not many) for what he had allowed to happen it finally registered that his actions played a critical role in not just one but multiple young boys having their innocence stolen from them by a predator, and then he passed away shortly after.

This article was not meant to focus only on Joe Paterno and ignore the crimes that Sandusky committed, because clearly Sandusky is the main perpetrator in this tragic case, but the fact remains that the culture permeated by Paterno at Penn State allowed Sandusky to operate in good faith without anyone sniffing around for foul play. That is why no one asked questions when he spent so much one on one time with boys from his charity. That is why no one asked questions about young boys staying in the same hotel room as Sandusky at Penn State away games. That is why no one asked questions about boys sleeping over in Sandusky’s water-bed in his basement. That is why no one asked questions about Sandusky showering with boys alone in Penn State facilities. That is why guidance councilors that his victims went to refused to believe what they alleged he had done to them and didn’t help. That is why Sandusky told his victims that were attempting to resist future advances that no one would believe them if they accused him of assaulting them. Sandusky did many awful things, and I hope he gets over 400 years of prison time even if he won’t live to see but a fraction of it. But one of the most tragic aspects of this case is that it could have been stopped, if not in 1998 or before at least in 2001, but it wasn’t. And while Sandusky is the man who committed many of the crimes, the administrators at Penn State and Joe Paterno certainly committed crimes of their own by harboring a child molester and not reporting him to police. So while some may allege that Sandusky deserves the ire of the media more than Paterno, I would allege that while Sandusky deserves (and has gotten) plenty of attention from the media, Paterno and his colleagues are certainly not exempt.

This case is proof that just because someone establishes a charity doesn’t mean it is for the right reasons. That just because a coach gets significant media praise doesn’t mean he is infallible. And just because a coach has a statue in front of a stadium doesn’t mean he doesn’t make mistakes. That certainly stands true in the case of Joe Paterno, because even though he did a lot of great things over the course of his tenure at Penn State he made at least one critical error choosing to ignore or cover up Sandusky’s heinous crimes. Paterno’s case proves that one can spend a lifetime building trust from friends, family, and your community, but that trust can be fleeting even if you are a legendary football coach. Paterno regularly practiced what he preached, but when he needed to act with morality and integrity the most he made the wrong decision, and instead of stopping multiple assaults and protecting young boys he sought to protect himself, his football program and his legacy. And now THAT is his legacy. He could have been an all-time great football coach and a man who truly practiced what he preached and stopped a monster in his own ranks once he was made aware of it. Instead he inexplicably protected him and now his beloved football program is paying the price.

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– LSU-Mississippi State:

Breakdown:

This game will be a game pitting strength versus strength, as Mississippi State’s run game will be facing a very tough LSU run defense. They are fast enough to take away a speed rushing attack like Oregon, but they are big enough and strong enough to match-up relatively effectively with a more powerful attack like Mississippi State’s. This match-up will be important, but because LSU will be so worried about stopping the run it may be just as critical for Chris Relf to demonstrate the ability to threaten the defense with the pass, especially downfield in the 10-15+ yard range. If they can’t do that, I think that Mississippi State will struggle to run the ball consistently throughout the game.

On the offensive side of the ball for LSU, running the ball will be key as well, but the deciding factor of the game may reside on Jarrett Lee’s ability to stretch the field, move the ball through the air, and keep running lanes open for Spencer Ware and the rest of LSU’s rushing attack. If they can run the ball effectively play action will be a key weapon for Lee and the rest of the offense, but if the burden falls on Lee to loosen up running lanes with downfield passing then LSU could struggle. Lee is an accurate passer but doesn’t have a rocket arm and I would compare him to Matt Flynn, a very successful former LSU Tiger quarterback. If Lee steps up and can carry the offense (this would be significantly easier if his receivers caught passes once they hit them in the hands) then LSU should be fine either way, but if Lee isn’t up to the challenge then LSU could be in trouble in their conference opener.

Key Players- LSU:

Jarrett Lee will be making his third start of the season and he has looked solid thus far, though his statistics have been hurt by some dropped passes in their opening games. This will be my second opportunity to watch him, the first being in the opening week against Oregon. I will be interested to see how he plays and how he has progressed since the opening weekend of the season. I think he has potential, and while he won’t be a first round pick by any means, I do think he warrants mid-late round consideration. He would fit into a West Coast offense very nicely, perhaps similar to Colt McCoy in Cleveland.

I’m a big fan of Tyrann Mathieu, and watching him play is always a treat. I think he has first round potential and I’ve thought that since he was playing at an All-American level early on in his freshman year last year. He is very good in coverage, he blitzes extremely well, he’s a great tackler, and he has a great knack for forcing fumbles and just being around the ball. He is the definition of a ball-hawk. I would be surprised if he didn’t force a turnover in this game.

Spencer Ware will be an important component of this game. He has had a relatively slow start to the season relative to his great cap to his freshman year with a 10 carry, 102 yard performance against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, but I think he will get stronger as the season goes on. He’s definitely a power back as he is relatively compact at 5’11”, 225 pounds and he shows it. I like his running style and I think he will be a key cog in LSU’s offense because if the run game is slowed or ineffective Jarrett Lee won’t be able to utilize play action effectively and the offense may become one dimensional. Considering Lee’s relatively limited amount of starting experience I don’t think that is a path LSU should go down in their conference opener, especially on a national stage. But I think a lot of people underestimate what Lee brings to the table, and I think he is ready to step up should the running game not pace the offense in this game.

Deangelo Peterson, the tight end on LSU, is another key guy to watch. His stat line may not blow you away (5 receptions, 71 yards and 1 TD in 2 games so far) but he has great size at 6’4″, 235 pounds and he is very athletic. I imagine as Lee becomes more comfortable in the starting role that Peterson will become one of his frequent targets, and I don’t think it is out of the ordinary for them to split him out in the slot. He is a very dangerous red zone threat, and because of his size he is an easy target for Lee to throw to. I predict that he will have a touchdown in this game, and I hope that his skills will be on full display tonight.

Morris Claiborne is going to be an interesting guy to watch in this game because if Mississippi State has any success throwing the ball it will probably be going after someone other than him. He is replacing Patrick Peterson as “the” corner on LSU’s defense, and he’s got the size and athletic ability to do it. He had 6 pass break-ups and 5 INT’s last year when defenses targeted him instead of throwing at Peterson consistently, but now this year teams will certainly be avoiding him if they can help it. I don’t know if they will match him up against Mississippi State’s perceived best receiver (I’m a fan of Chris Smith), or if they will just let him attempt to shut down one side of the field, but if Relf decides to test him he had better make sure it’s a good ball because if he makes a mistake Claiborne knows how to make him pay.

Sleeper: Barkevious Mingo, on top of having an absolutely fantastic name, has a boatload of potential as a defensive end. He’s only a sophomore and he is about 6’5”, 240 pounds, but as a freshman last year he had 35 total tackles (18 solo), 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 6 pass break-ups, which is pretty great for a freshman at a position that generally has a long development period. He is very athletic and has chased down some pretty athletic running backs in his day, and seems to have a very good motor as evidenced by his backside pursuit. I’m excited to see how he will do against a Mississippi State offensive line that likes to run the ball, but is missing their best pass protector from a year ago in Derek Sherrod. Mingo could have a big game, though he is pretty raw, but I am excited about his potential so I want to see how he does.

Key Players- Mississippi State:

Chris Relf is a guy who is better known for his running than his passing, but his size definitely helps him in both aspects. He stands at 6’4”, 245 pounds and could probably convert to RB or FB at the next level, but I haven’t watched him enough to specifically project him to any one position yet. I don’t think he will be a QB at the next level, but he has shown some signs of improvement since last season. He threw for 1,776 yards in 13 games (an average of only 136.6 yards per game), completing 59% of his passes (128/217, a low number of passes attempted) for 12 TD’s and 6 INT’s. He was an efficient QB, but he wasn’t throwing the ball very much. This year it seems to be a bit different having already attempted 54 passes in just two games (33/55 for a 61.1% completion) for 397 yards, 3 touchdowns and only one interception. LSU will be a big test for him one week after he had a solid but relatively unspectacular game with 195 yards (60.6% completion with a 5.9 YPA, well below his average from last season) and 1 touchdown and interception against Auburn. LSU has a very tough defense that frequently creates turnovers, so ball security and making smart decisions will be critical for him in this game. I have to say that if Relf ends up throwing 25+ or even 30+ times in this game I think Mississippi State will lose. That will mean their running game is being slowed by LSU’s tough front seven, and the onus will be placed on Relf to move the ball through the air to open up running lanes. Against Memphis (obviously a totally different class of opponent) he threw 21 times, was very efficient and they won easily. Against Auburn in a close game (final score of 41-34) he threw 33 times, was less efficient with one interception and only a 5.9 YPA (which is in stark contrast to his 2010 season average of 8.2 and his 9.6 YPA against Memphis). To drill this point home a bit, when Relf threw 25 times or more last year Mississippi lost both games which accounted for two of their four losses on the season. The other losses were against LSU when he threw the ball only 8 times for 35 yards and 2 interceptions and against Alabama when he threw the ball 16 times for 70 yards and an interception. In the two other losses he threw the ball 25 times or more and lost in a close game (17-14 to Auburn and 38-31 to Arkansas, though he had a good game against them). So that is a trend of three losses in a row when Relf throws the ball 25 times or more, and it will be interesting to see if he is forced to surpass that number of attempts against LSU’s defense.

Vick Ballard is the other key cog to Mississippi State’s offense that focuses intently on the running game. Ballard had a fantastic season last year rushing 187 times for 981 yards (a 5.25 ypc average) and 20 touchdowns. This year, as a senior, he already has 301 yards rushing on just 31 attempts (an astounding 9.71 ypc) and 4 touchdowns. His success tonight against LSU’s tough run defense will set the tone for the game, and if he can find running room and grind out tough yards and first downs then it will make life significantly easier for Relf and the rest of Mississippi State’s passing attack. Don’t be surprised if he ends up with a game with about 20 attempts, 75-80 yards and maybe a score though, because yards are hard to come by against LSU’s defense.

Chris Smith is a receiver on Mississippi State that I came away impressed with after watching him against Michigan last year. He had a relatively mediocre statistical year last year with only 24 receptions, 264 yards and 1 touchdown as a sophomore, but I like his size and his hands impressed me last year as well as his route running. Keep in mind, his 24 receptions were about 11.1% of Relf’s total completions last year, so even though it is a low total and not overly impressive, he still accounted for 11% of Relf’s total completions and almost 15% (14.86%) of Relf’s total passing yards. So while it might not be obvious, he was a target for Mississippi State last year in the passing game. He only has two catches for 11 yards so far this year, so I am really hoping he finds a way to step up and make some plays in this game. I love players that find a way to make plays in critical games like this, especially on big stages, and I am hoping that Smith will find a way to do that tonight even against a talented LSU secondary.

Jonathan Banks is a cornerback that I came away very impressed with last year when I was actually watching the Bulldogs to get a look at Derek Sherrod. He has been very reliable and consistent for the Bulldogs ever since his freshman year. Now a junior, Banks already has an interception and two pass break-ups this year, bringing his career total to 8 interceptions (7 in his previous two seasons) and 12 pass break-ups. He is a very tall, skinny corner as he stands at a listed height and weight of 6’2”, 185 pounds. I mentioned him in a previous post listing potential break-out players for this 2011 season, and mentioned that I am going to be watching him to evaluate his hips, namely his ability to flip his hips in coverage, his ability to click and close on passes in front of him, and his ability to recover if and when he makes a mistake. He has already demonstrated his ability to use his size to his advantage, and he has shown the ability to turn and run with receivers downfield. I just want to see how well he transitions, because it’s pretty obvious when you watch him play that he can locate the ball in the air and make a play on it. He has impressive ball skills, and his size really helps him defend 50/50 balls even against very tall wide receivers. LSU has some big guys like they always do, so look for Banks to mirror them and take away some of Lee’s bigger, more physical targets.

Nickoe Whitley is a safety that I noticed around the same time I noticed Banks last year. He demonstrated impressive ball skills when I watched him last year and seemed to be a pretty good tackler which is evidenced by his 34 solo tackles (52 total). He also had 1.5 sacks, 3 pass break ups, 3 INT’s and 1 forced fumble last year. He already has an INT this year as well as one pass break up (plus a pretty impressive 6 solo tackles out of 7 total). It will be interesting to see if he is tested deep much as Jarrett Lee doesn’t have a very strong arm. I could see him playing up in the box more, so it will be interesting to see if he lets anyone get behind him in this game.

Sleeper: My sleeper for the Bulldogs is Jameon Lewis, a freshman receiver. He already has 5 receptions, 116 yards and 1 TD as well as 2 rushes for 29 yards and 1 TD. In addition, he returns kicks and punts as well though his success has been limited in that aspect so far. He is a smaller guy listed at 5’9”, 185 pounds, though packing 185 pounds onto that small of a frame is actually pretty impressive (has a similar build to Jerrel Jernigan, the WR from Troy who actually was very well built for a small receiver). The Bulldogs have shown that they like to get the ball in his hands any way they can, whether it is throwing it to him, handing it off or letting him return kicks and punts, so look for at least one big play from him in this game.

I apologize for the length of this post. It started out shorter but I got really in depth. Hopefully you enjoyed the read and it got you excited for this SEC matchup tonight. Enjoy!

–Tom

As most of you have heard ESPN confirmed that Peyton Manning underwent an anterior fusion surgical procedure done on his neck which was operated on just a couple months earlier on May 23rd to attempt to repair a damaged nerve in his neck. Nerve injuries are said to be particularly tricky because there is no exact timetable for return. He is expected to be out 2-3 months at which point he could potentially return to football, but it is unclear exactly when he will be back at 100% or if he ever will be. When a player of Manning’s stature is hurt for any extended period of time the impact of the time he misses ripples throughout the league, and this post will be focused on the impact Manning’s injury will have not only on the outcome of this season, the fantasy impact of the players who were around him on offense, but also the impact it could and likely will have on the next NFL Draft in April.

Obviously because Manning is injured he won’t be starting in week one, and he might miss 8-12 weeks of the regular season. While the Colts have been a perennial playoff team for the majority of the last decade, it’s hard to imagine them returning to the playoffs without Manning at the helm. Kerry Collins is a reliable back-up and stop gap, but he isn’t a reliable enough starting candidate to expect him to mesh with the starters quick enough to keep them relevant until Manning gets back this season (if he does get back this season at all). That means that even if Manning is healthy in time for the last 3-4 games of the season he might just be placed on IR and allowed to heal completely in preparation for the 2012-2013 season instead of rushing back for relatively meaningless games at the end of the year. So it is entirely possible that Manning won’t play a single game this season even if he comes back close to 100% within that 2-3 month range. If the Colts do somehow remain competitive the Colts will have a tough decision on their hands for a number of reasons. If they are in range of making the playoffs with Collins, should they bring Manning back once he feels ready even though Collins got them that far? Should they mortgage Manning’s future performances after giving him a substantial contract to salvage a season without a lot of potential for a deep playoff run? There will be a lot of questions for them to answer. Personally I would do everything in my power to make sure Manning isn’t rushed back, but late in the season if there are important games to play that could get the team into the playoffs I would consider playing him.

Obviously Manning’s absence will not only impact the Colts, but the rest of the teams in that division. Suddenly, the Texans schedule has gotten easier without having to match up with Manning twice a year with a secondary that has traditionally struggled to slow him down (however, with Jonathan Joseph in the fold that may have started to change anyways). The Titans and Jaguars both seemed destined to be bottom dwellers in their own special ways due to their uncertainty at the quarterback position, but not having to face Manning twice in a season would be favorable for both squads. I think, due to Manning’s injury, that the Texans are the pretty obvious favorite to win the division. If they can’t pull this off with two weak teams and a Manning-less Colts team then they might need to move to the UFL.

This injury also has a significant fantasy impact. Who knows if Collins will spread the ball around game to game as well as Manning did. It’s hard to imagine Reggie Wayne having the same level of effectiveness, and the same goes for Austin Collie and Dallas Clark. They will probably try to run the ball more, but without Manning there threatening to check out of a run against eight men in the box there might not be as many holes for Joseph Addai and Donald Brown to run though. It will also be particularly interesting to see how Anthony Costanzo does this year. I am not sure if he is expected to be the starter on opening day for the Colts, but I would not be surprised if he was. I was a big fan of his, so I am excited to see how he protects Collins’ blind side over the course of the year. If you have any of the Colts players (I have Collie in one league) their value may never be lower than it is currently. So make sure you don’t panic and trade them, especially if Manning has a freak recovery and comes back healthy sooner than expected or if Collins manages to mesh with the team and gives them an unexpected spark as the starter.

Not only does this injury impact the regular season, fantasy football stats, and the entire landscape of the AFC South division, but it has a significant impact on the 2012 NFL Draft. If you had asked me yesterday if I expected the Colts to have even a remote chance of selecting in the top five, much less #1 overall, in the 2012 Draft I would have told you that Manning would have to get kidnapped or murdered to see such a thing occur. Well, luckily he hasn’t been kidnapped, but he is going to be wearing street clothes on the sideline for a significant period of time. That means it is not inconceivable for the Colts to lose a lot of football games. No one has lost more games during the preseason in recent years than the Colts, and that has a lot to do with them playing Manning extremely sparingly and evaluating their back-ups. Obviously that is not concrete evidence that the Colts are going to go 0-16 by any means, but it serves as evidence that substantiates the monumental impact that Manning has had and continues to have on the Colts franchise. Simply put, there is no way the Colts will be as good this year without Manning as they would be with him. That means they should be expected to lose more games, and possibly miss the playoffs all together.

Naturally, some people will overreact and assume they will lose almost every game and be in the run for the #1 pick. That is where things get interesting, however, as that means they would have a chance at winning the Andrew Luck sweepstakes that will be held over the next 17 weeks. Whoever gets the #1 pick figures to draft Andrew Luck or trade the pick for a wealth of draft picks to a team that desperately wants him. If the Colts ended up with the pick it is hard to imagine they wouldn’t select him, and boy would that be an instance of the rich getting richer. I saw this comparison on Twitter today, so I can’t claim it as my own, but I do think that scenario would be extremely similar to the situation the Spurs found themselves in when they were awarded the #1 pick in the 1999 NBA Draft when they selected Tim Duncan. Duncan then teamed with a healthy David Robinson to lead the Spurs to a NBA Championship, and eventually Duncan took over the Center position when Robinson retired. In this instance, Peyton Manning would be the equivalent of David Robinson, and Andrew Luck would be Tim Duncan. It’s certainly intriguing to think about, and it will surely be something on the mind of everyone who follows the NFL, especially the NFL Draft, as the season progresses. I don’t think it is especially likely that the Colts will end up with the #1 pick, as that would likely mean they lost all but two or maybe three games. I don’t expect them to make the playoffs, especially if Manning doesn’t play all season, but I think they have it in them to win 4-6 games without much fanfare. That would position them high enough in the draft to pick another quarterback if they chose to (Matt Barkley might be in the conversation), but it would require a lot of value to move up from where they would be picking (perhaps #3-7 overall) to move up to #1 overall and select Luck. That’s not to say that it isn’t possible, but perhaps not probable.

So, even though I wouldn’t bet much of my money on the Colts ending up with Andrew Luck as a result of using the #1 pick of the 2012 NFL Draft on him, it sure is interesting to think about the vast impact that one player (though a very important player) can have not only on the games he misses, but on the proceedings that occur long after the season has ended.

Thanks for reading,

–Tom

Jackson is arguably the top safety eligible for the 2012 Draft, so it is great news that he has been reinstated by Tennessee.

About 12 minutes ago I learned from an ESPN alert that Janzen Jackson, arguably the best player on Tennessee’s football roster who left the team in February to deal with personal issues, will be back with the team this season and has been reinstated. I don’t know any details yet and I’m sure they will be announced soon, but this is huge for Tenneseee football as well as the NFL Draft in general. Jackson is widely considered the best draft eligible safety in the 2012 NFL Draft Class and despite some legal troubles early in his career he has incredible potential. He may not be as good as Eric Berry, but he is close and the imapct he will have on Tennessee this year (versus not playing this year) will be very substantial. I can’t wait to watch him play and even though I was not sure that he would be back I still listed him as my top safety in my rankings (which I linked above) because if he came back he was automatically going to be at the top. Now he seems to be back, and I for one am incredibly excited to watch him play. Welcome back Janzen!

Thanks for reading!

–Tom