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Two Minute Warning: Does Colts news make AFC South really that open?

Photo Credit: USA Today

No one saw it coming, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck retiring. It came from out of the blue, shocking even the closest of insiders near to the team. Within minutes, reality stuck down on a team and fanbase that seemed destined to make a postseason run.

But sometimes the clock will strike midnight on even the best too early. And this time, the Colts just ran out Luck.

News broke just before halftime of the Colts/Bears game that Pro Bowl quarterback Luck would retire just seven seasons into his potential Hall of Fame career. After numerous surgeries and a trashing behind the line of scrimmage, the former No.1 overall pick decided it was time to close the chapter on his life known as football.

“I’ve been stuck in this process,” Luck said in an impromptu 25-minute press conference following Saturday’s game. “I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game … the only way forward for me is to remove myself from football.

“This is not an easy decision. It’s the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me.”

When the news broke, reporters were baffled by the report. Even representatives close to the team had no idea by the end of the night, they’d be turning their attention from the action happening on the field.

“This really came out of no where,” One inside source told PFN. “No one was told about this and pretty much everyone found out just like the rest of the world did. We did not see this coming.”

As Luck exited the field one last time in Lucas Oil Stadium, a place he helped breathe life into once more following the departure of Peyton Manning, he was greeted by an unfamiliar sound. Instead of thanks and gratitude from the Colts’ faithful, loud taunts and boos were hurled at the four-time Pro Bowl gunslinger.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hear it,” Luck said of the boos. “Yeah, it hurt.”

A new division favorite?

With Luck’s decision to call it “quits”, speculation began to grow on who would take control of the AFC South. The Colts were planning on starting Jacoby Brissett, the long-term backup, early this season. He’s now likely going to be the permanent starter for the 2019 campaign.

With the Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars all looking to make their mark, fans and analysts across the country began stating their claims on why each team can win the division. The three teams all have resumes that could back up the facts, but also have flaws that could derail their season. Despite the Colts losing Luck for maybe several games, most believed Indianapolis could rebound following his return and run away with the division.

But, the real question is, why change that thought now? Many close to the situation knew Luck was still in the process of returning to his MVP-like form prior to making predictions. Most figured following the report on Luck’s inconclusive injury, time was expected to be missed. Yet still, several media moguls believed the Colts could win with or without Luck.

And now because he’s gone that changes? That doesn’t add up. While Brissett is likely a stepping stone and not the long-term solution, he’s a stronger back up than most teams have and would likely be given the chance to start on a different roster.

Too late, he’ll get his chance now.

Each Achilles heel

While the Colts probably aren’t the lockdown favorites anymore in the division, there are fatal flaws that can be found on every other AFC South roster. Despite each team looking ready to explode onto the scene this season, the three challengers of the AFC South each have an Achilles heel that will set them back.

The Texans have Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins. Their defensive front seven still can wreak havoc and several young pieces on either side of the ball can transform the Bill O’Brien run fiasco.

Not even a full series into Saturday’s game against the Cowboys and Houston is down a runner. Following being carted off with a leg injury, news broke that running back Lamar Miller would be out for the season with a torn ACL.

Duke Johnson was added to Houston’s roster for his pass-catching skills, not his running ability. In his four years with the Cleveland Browns, the former Miami runner finished each season with over 150 more yards through the air rather than on the ground, according to Pro Football Reference.

The only reason Miller will miss the season is due to a poor offensive line. Allowing eight sacks against Dallas’ defense, O’Brien had to pull Watson after one series to salvage the year. It’s not going to be any prettier when the regular season rolls around.

The Jaguars have an elite defense, but the offense falls flat compared to them. Sure, the team finally elected to move on from Blake Bortles, they failed to give Nick Foles any decent weapons to throw to.

Chris Conley was the big free-agent addition at the receiver spot. He’s played 19 snaps this entire preseason. Tyrelle Pryor has felt with a nagging hamstring injury and Marquise Lee is coming back from a torn ACL. Leonard Fournette is hopeful for a big season, but indications could say otherwise.

The Jags have maybe found their future under center, but Foles at least had quality options in Philadelphia to throw to.

The Titans might be the closest when comparing teams to the Colts. They too have flaws under center. it’s a big year for both Marcus Mariota or Ryan Tannehill who are hoping to lead Tennessee back to the postseason. Both have flashed promise in the preseason but expectations are low for either to be the option following 2020.

So, it’s still the Colts division?

The Colts’ offensive line allowed a league-low 18 sacks last season with the additions of Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith. The emergence of Deon Cain gives the offense another weapon to a group that includes T.Y. Hilton, Devin Funchess, Eric Ebron, and Marlon Mack.

The defense rebounded in 2018 after a disastrous 2017 season. Darius Leonard is the new face of the team, Malik Hooker is a rising safety and the team finished just outside the top 10 in total defense.

Again, why are the Colts dropping? Well, simple, Brissett is playing over Luck. The 26-year-old signal-caller will need to exceed expectations to make the Colts a Super Bowl contender, but maybe just average to win the division. Each team can knock each other off weekly until the best roster is standing.

Overall, that’s either Indy or Tennessee, and likely a 10-6 season wins you the South. With more questions on the offensive line and potentially at receiver, it’s still Indianapolis Colts’ division to lose.

Colts fans are throwing in the towel before the season has even begun. They might be regretting flying that white flag when January comes. Sure, the Colts are probably missing a trip to Miami, but they still should be favorites to represent the division in the playoffs.

Guys, you’ve read all my takeaways from the weekend. This was the most important part of the preseason and it was overall a disaster. All you want to talk about right now is the Colts, Luck and where we go from here.

This is going to be a short Two Minute Warning. If you want to know my thoughts from Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, take a quick read. Anyways, here’s what else is going on in the NFL we haven’t covered yet.

Miami garage sale

If you want one of the few good players from the Miami Dolphins roster, you’re in luck. Reports around the league stated that team would listen to offers on several players, including wide receiver Kenny Stills, linebacker Kiko Alonso, safety Reshad Jones and offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.

Stills became the subject of trade talks following his comments on team owner Stephen Ross. A supporter of Colin Kaepernick and his platform, the 27-year-old wideout was against the team owner’s involvement supporting President Donald Trump.

“There’s not much to argue about,” Stills said. “He has his feelings about it, and he stands firm in that, and I respect that. But I disagree, and I told him there’s no hard feelings. There’s no beef, and let’s win some games this year.”

Throw in Dolphins coach Brian Flores blasting Jay-Z at practice just hours after his agreement with the NFL and this Stills’ tenure in South Beach seemed short-term.

Alonso did not speak with reporters Sunday following practice and has been linked to several teams over the past few days. The team also elected to release safety TJ McDonald after failing to find a trading partner.

The team stated Tunsil was available for the right price. What exactly is that? One of the rising blindside protectors, a team would likely have to give up some collateral in order to bring him in for the next two seasons. The New York Giants and Houston Texans both have reached out according to multiple reports.

Miami likely isn’t trading Minkah Fitzpatrick, Jerome Baker, Xavien Howard, Christian Wilkins, and Josh Rosen. The rest of the roster is up for grabs. Flores is a Bill Belichick disciple and probably is not afraid of releasing quality talent. Expect the Dolphins roster to look significantly different Week 1.

Changing of the Guard in the Big Apple?

The New York Giants have made it clear that Eli Manning will start the season under center. Team owner John Mara even said that the plan is for the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback to play every snap while rookie sensation Daniel Jones holds the clipboard.

“I hope Eli has a great year and Daniel never sees the field,” Mara said earlier this month, per Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.

Sure, that’s the report, but at what point might New York start to consider playing the former Duke signal-caller. The 22-year-old has already exceeded expectations in training camp, both with his coaches and with the media.

Three games into the pointless preseason and Jones has only made seven mistakes. Two were on fumbles and five were on overshot passes. Completing 25 of 30 passes for 369 yards and two touchdowns, he currently holds a passer rating of 140.1. For those who don’t know, that’s good.

Granted, a majority of plays have come against reserved defenders, but Jones is thriving under the direction of Pat Shurmur. If Manning struggles but the team can compete, what’s really stopping them for giving their future quarterback a chance to start?

In 2017, everyone believed the benching of Manning meant the end of an era. It likely should have been since he’s regressed each season since. The thankful goodbye might not be in the cards for Manning up at MetLife.

If the team downfalls under Jones once he starts, Manning will likely get one more curtesy to start at home in late December. But Jones is going to play this season. The question now is when and for how long.

AB out of Air, Advantage NFL

The fact that this is still a thing is beyond annoying but hey, it’s a slow Sunday.

The NFL announced that they have denied Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown’s grievance claim for the second time to wear his old helmet this season. The whole “helmet-gate” scandal began earlier this month when the 31-year-old receiver threatened to retire if he could not wear his Schutt Air Advantage in 2019.

See the pun in the title? It all makes sense.

Following the second claim, Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said it was time for AB to be either be “all-in or all out.” He’s going to be all-in now. According to Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, they will be moving forward and find the All-Pro receiver a new helmet to play with this season.

“We’re going to move on. That door is closed,” Rosenhaus said in an interview with SiriusXM NFL. “On the bright side as a result of all the publicity that has accrued from our efforts to get him to wear that helmet, he has multiple offers on the table right now from various helmet companies to custom make a helmet for him.”

Brown is going to play and some helmet company will get the attention of their product. That’s it, it’s over let’s just move on.

Parting Shots

  1. You can’t invest in punters, but man I wish you could in fantasy football. Here’s Titans’ punter Brett Kurn booting a kick 81 yards down the field.

  1. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been looking for a top option to replace Antonio Brown as their new secondary receiver since JuJu Smith-Schuster is moving up in life. James Washington is likely going to be the first option to get a crack at it after a productive preseason.

Ok, it’s not a Super Saiyan route by any means, but Washington has been one of the biggest risers in the preseason.

  1. New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon returned to practice today wearing full pads. Unless something changes soon, he is officially NFI list and will play this season. New England will gain back another top receiver this season and everything else goes up in smoke.

  1. Speaking of New England, you might want to invest some stock in Jakobi Meyers. What some thought was going to be a one-wonder game has turned into a productive preseason. Through three games, Meyers has collected 19 catches for 225 yards and scored two touchdowns.

Yes, he’s going to make the final 53-man roster in New England.

  1. The XFL is hoping to become the first long-term spring football league to last in the modern era. On Wednesday, the eight teams names and logos were officially announced.

While as a former member of a spring football organization, I hope the league actually pans out. With that said:

Best name: St.Louis Battle Hawks

Worst name: Los Angeles Wildcats

Best Logo: New York Guardians

Worst Logo: D.C. Defenders

  1. The Los Angeles Rams took a hit over the weekend on their pass rush. Second-year outside linebacker Josh Carraway suffered a torn Achilles and is out for the season. Despite being a depth player, it does hurt the Rams at a position where age could factor in this season.

  1. The Green Bay Packers released third-year safety Josh Jones after a rough preseason. Jones struggled to play strong safety last season and was mentioned to possibly move down to inside linebacker. The transition went poorly ultimately leading to his release.

  1. While the Texans will be looking for a new lead back, Lamar Miller is still pulling for his team. Thankful for the support from the Houston fanbase, Miller tweeted out his appreciation following the news of a lost season.

  1. These two post are the saddest things you will see today. One for the loss of a teammate. The other for a loss of the best twitter account in the NFL world. Goodnight Captain Andrew Luck, you can rest now.

Wow, three months since Endgame and that line still gets to me.

1) Make sure you check out the PFN’s Podcast network. This week, Jason and Ryan talk on Aaron Rodgers projection in 2019 and Dak Prescott’s contract while Tony and Andy breakdown some of the top quarterback prospects heading into 2019.

Cole Thompson is the Lead NFL writer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter at @MrColeThompson

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