The Indianapolis Colts should play Peyton Manning if he's healthy enough to go by season's end. Earlier this past week, Manning spoke to reporters and didn't rule out a possible return this season if cleared by team doctors to play. Manning has now had three neck procedures in the past 19 months, and has been trying to heal nerve damage that has led to weakness in his throwing arm.
There are many baffled by Manning's willingness to come back and compete this season, given the severity of his injury, along with the fact that the Colts are sitting at 0-9 with no shot at reaching the post-season. Why would a future first ballot Hall of Famer risk his own health so late in a meaningless season? Peyton Manning owes it to the Colts to play if he can. This past off-season, Manning signed a five-year, $98 million deal. Essentially, it is a one-year contract, with a four-year option. This off-season, it will cost the Colts $28 million to retain Manning on the roster. Before the Colts shell out that kind of money, they should get a glimpse of what they are purchasing. There has been speculation that Manning's injury may be career ending, and that he'll never be able to get his arm strength back to what it was.
The Colts deserve the right to see how Manning's injury affects him on the playing field, and the only way to do that is to watch him in live action. Don't forget, the Colts are still one of two front-runners for the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, and if Manning is in fact unable to compete or perform at an elite level, then the Colts must select Luck as their next franchise QB.
While all of this may seem inhumane to some, by forcing an injured four-time MVP out onto the battle field before he is totally healed, consider this: Peyton Manning wants to play. He has been very vocal this past week regarding his willingness to get back into the huddle. Knowing Peyton Manning, he is just wired that way. It has been killing him being on the sidelines or coaches box each and every Sunday and he wants to get back onto the field, regardless if the Colts haven't won a game by late November yet or not. Manning is a true competitor, and wants to win regardless of the stakes at hand.
In the end the decision will ultimately come down to Peyton Manning. Don't be surprised if you see #18 taking snaps before the New Year.
Protect the Ball
I saw something early in the Cowboys win over Seattle that made me cringe. Tony Romo hit Dez Bryant over the middle of field in the red zone, Bryant made some open field moves working his way to the goal line, and in a valiant effort to score, stretched the football out into the end zone, before being hit hard at the goal line and fumbling. Every week, we see examples of the same thing. Ball carriers are too often being careless with the football down near the end zone, and often times it results in fumbles and loss of possession. Coaches are adamant about ball security, particularly down near the goal line.
Players have to be smart. In the Bryant example, if he gets tackled at the 1-yard line, it's going to be a fresh set of downs, and the team will get at least three cracks at punching the ball into the end zone in a goal line offensive mindset. At worst, the Cowboys will walk away with three points. Instead they got none, because of careless football. Players want to score TD's. I get it. They've worked so hard to get near the goal line, often making multiple defenders miss in the process, and now just need to extend the ball to break the plane to cap off a great individual effort.
Touchdowns equal Sportscentre highlights. TD's equal incentive bonuses in contracts. But stupid play often leads to losses. Players must realize that defenders are going to sell out at their own goal line, launching their bodies at ball carriers to defend their own end zone, doing everything they can to separate the ball from the ball carrier.
These problems don't just happen at the pro level. This season, I've watched the reigning Biletnikoff winner, Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon, fumble the football into the end zone twice! Ball security at the goal line would seem to make a lot of sense, but don't tell that to Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. It is an uphill battle that coaches face with their players at every level.
The Real Deal
If you were watching the NFL Draft back in April, you may have been wondering how TCU QB Andy Dalton was able to climb into the second round and be drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals. After nine weeks of the NFL season, you are probably now wondering why Dalton wasn't a top 10 pick.
The Bengals rookie QB has already thrown 12 TD passes, the most ever by a rookie QB in his first eight games of the season, and a result, the Bengals are 6-2 and tied atop the AFC North division.
How is he doing it? I think Dalton possesses all of the traits required to be successful in the NFL. I remember watching him at the Manning Passing Academy two years ago, and being so impressed with his accuracy, football IQ, and athleticism. What stood out the most to me was his ability to anticipate when throwing to receivers, oftentimes releasing the football long before his intended targets had run out of their breaks. Watching the Bengals this year, what's even more impressive is the chemistry that Dalton has been able to develop with fellow rookie WR AJ Green and TE Jermaine Gresham early this year. The Bengals have a very young core of playmakers at the skill positions on offence, yet they look as if they're seasoned veterans.
In fairness, I think Andy Dalton has also benefited from a great defence, as the Bengals are currently only allowing less than 18 points per game. Dalton is getting more possessions in games, and because of that he doesn't have to take unnecessary risks with the football. The fact that the Bengals were comfortable trading away QB Carson Palmer is a direct indictment on how they feel about their rookie pivot. They believe that he is the future of the franchise, and after acquiring two potential first round picks from the deal, the Bengals can now continue to build around Dalton.
It's important to note that the Bengals have yet to play division rivals Pittsburgh or Baltimore, so we're about to find out just how good Andy Dalton really is. While many people have been raving about Cam Newton's statistics, the other rookie signal caller has been winning games. Because of that, he's been every bit as impressive through the first half of this year's regular season.
One versus Two
It was dubbed the "Game of the Century" as #1 LSU faced #2 Alabama this past Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. LSU was able to prevail, winning 9-6 in OT, while handing the Crimson Tide only the second loss in the past 27 games at home. I've never watched a five field goal game that was so exciting! This game reminded me of the great Steelers vs. Ravens matchups we see each and every year. Hard-hitting, smash mouth, blue-collar football at its best.
Saturday night was a game dominated by defence, as expected. The Crimson Tide forced two LSU interceptions and held the Tigers to 239 total yards. LSU meanwhile, forced two turnovers and held Heisman Trophy hopeful RB Trent Richardson to under 90 yards rushing. I understand that fans want high scoring, explosive action, but the trained eye appreciated how well each defence executed this past Saturday at Bryant Denny Stadium.
In the end, the game came down to special teams and execution. Alabama missed three field goals and had one blocked. LSU hit all three of its field goal attempts, and had four punts downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line. The play of the game may have come from LSU freshman punter Brad Wing, who boomed a 72-yarder from his own goal line, effectively altering the field position battle during the fourth quarter of the contest.
I thought going into the game that experience at QB would be a determining factor in the game. Both Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson of LSU are seniors, while Alabama's AJ McCarron is only a sophomore. McCarron's inexperience showed itself when the game mattered most. In their first possession of overtime, Alabama was flagged for an illegal substitution, after breaking the huddle with 12 players. Two plays later, McCarron was sacked, forcing a 52-yard field goal attempt that would inevitably sail wide of the uprights. Both critical mistakes fall on the QB's shoulders. It was a game littered with mistakes, and tremendous defence, and it may not be the last time we see these two teams meet this season.
After losing Saturday night, Alabama only slid one spot in the BCS standings, dropping to #3. With three games left in the regular season, it is very conceivable that with an upset loss by Oklahoma State and Stanford, we are potentially looking at a rematch between both SEC super powers at the Superdome in Louisiana come early January. Steelers vs. Ravens part II. Stay tuned.