1. The big news of the week is that the consecutive games streak of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning will end at 227 due to his lengthy recovery from neck surgery in the spring. While that news was shocking given Manning’s impressive durability, the bigger shock was a pair of reports indicating that Manning may be out for the entire season. The Colts quickly refuted those reports, denying that Manning had recently undergone an additional surgery on his neck. As it turns out, Manning had cervical fusion surgery on his neck Thursday. What isn’t up for debate is that there is no certainty with regards to the amount of time required to recover from damaged nerves so while it is premature to rule Manning out for the season, it does remain a distinct possibility. Manning owners need to make alternate plans with his replacement Kerry Collins a decent option.
2. Running back Chris Johnson ended his holdout last week and will be in the Titans Week 1 starting line-up. The question is whether or not he will get a full workload. Don’t bank on it. With head coach Mike Munchak in his first year, the last thing he wants on his resume is having Johnson get injured from giving him too many carries after having been through a handful of practices. Munchak has said that the Titans “won’t get carried away” in the number of carries Johnson gets so look for him to get no more than 20 touches during their Week 1 game against the Jaguars.
3. With his job clearly on the line in Jacksonville, Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio chose to release presumed opening day starter David Garrard in favor of veteran journeyman Luke McCown. Garrard’s release was met with shock but in essence the move ended up occurring sooner than expected so it shouldn’t have registered as such a big surprise. When the Jaguars used their 1st round pick on Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, Garrard’s days in Jacksonville were numbered and a poor preseason showing caused Del Rio to cut him loose. An $8-million salary for the current year didn’t help matters and the savings surely will help Del Rio’s case with team owner Wayne Weaver, who has struggled financially given the size of the Jacksonville market.
4. If you’re looking for the fantasy implications of Garrard’s release, it’s pretty simple and can be summed up as bad news for all Jacksonville offensive skill-position players. McCown is a veteran journeyman with seven career starts in seven seasons. Look for him to quickly find himself on the bench behind Gabbert and Gabbert’s insertion into the starting line-up is hardly going to be an elixir for the Jaguars offense. He would be starting on opening day had he had even a decent preseason. With McCown and Gabbert at quarterback, the Jaguars figure to have one of the worst offenses in the league in 2011.
5. Daniel Thomas owners likely breathed a sign of relief when the Dolphins released Larry Johnson since his signing late in the preseason appeared to be an indication that the Dolphins were not prepared to enter the season with Thomas as the top backup behind starter Reggie Bush. With the late breaking news yesterday that Miami had re-signed Johnson, it appears the initial fears of Thomas owners were well-founded with reports of Thomas suffering a slight hamstring injury possibly little more than cover to help shield the rookie from more negative press coverage. Look for Johnson to open the season behind Thomas but with head coach Tony Sparano needing a strong season to save his job, he won’t wait long to move Johnson up the depth chart if Thomas continues to struggle like he did for most of the preseason.
6. With the Rams in need of a true number one wide receiver, they were quick to sign former Jaguar Mike Sims-Walker early in free agency in the hope he would rebound from a lackluster 2010 season. He had a solid preseason and will open the season in the starting line-up with Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola, who emerged as one of the league’s top threats out of the slot last year. While Sims-Walker figures to get a shot to re-establish himself with the Rams, it’s worth noting that the team re-signed Mark Clayton, who was on his way to having a career year in St. Louis before suffering a torn patellar tendon in Week 5. During the first four games of 2010, Clayton was the team’s top threat at wide receiver, catching 22 passes for 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns. If Sims-Walker or Gibson struggles, look for Clayton in the Rams starting line-up shortly after he returns from the physically unable to perform list.
7. When Ryan Williams was lost for the season with a knee injury, it was only a matter of time before Arizona replenished their running back depth chart with an established veteran runner. Starter Beanie Wells has a lengthy injury history and top backup LaRod Stephens-Howling lacks the size necessary to handle a heavy workload. The team chose to sign Chester Taylor, who spent the 2010 season in Chicago. The question is – how much does Taylor have left? He was the first player to average less than 2.4 yards per carry on more than 100 carries since the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, gaining just 267 yards and three touchdowns on 112 carries. Look for Stephens-Howling to be Wells’ primary backup with Taylor earning a share of the work if Wells were to suffer an injury.
8. The Chiefs passing attack suffered a big blow with the loss of tight end Tony Moeaki for the year to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Kansas City was expecting for Moeaki to build on an impressive rookie campaign and was valued for his versatility in lining up as a tight end, in the slot or out of the backfield. Neither Leonard Pope (career highs of 23 receptions, 238 yards and five touchdowns back in 2007) or Jake O’Connell (five receptions in two years) are receiving threats which will allow opposing safeties to double team wide receiver Dwayne Bowe or drop down in the box to shut down Jamaal Charles in the running game. Suffice it to say that head coach Todd Haley will need to get creative to make up for Moeaki’s loss.