Peyton Manning Injury: Season-Long Impact of Colts QB's Absence on Team and NFL

Allen KimSenior Analyst ISeptember 26, 2011

Peyton Manning Injury: Season-Long Impact of Colts QB's Absence on Team and NFL

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    The Indianapolis Colts’ Jim Irsay set the sports world on fire after he reportedly told Super Bowl donors that Peyton Manning would miss the entire 2011-12 NFL season.

    Irsay went on to back off the rumors swirling around by tweeting, “I didn't say Peyton out 4season FOR SURE,keeping him on ActiveRoster n taking it month by month/Outside chance of return n December possible.”

    While Manning’s injury has been no secret, his recovery timetable and potential return has long been disputed. However, with the Colts winless and trailing the rest of the league—let alone their division—by a significant margin, the chances of Manning returning for a meaningless season are slim to none.

    So for the remainder of the 2011-12 NFL season, who is impacted by Manning’s absence?

Opposing Defenses

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    Opposing defenses have long feared the arm of Peyton Manning.

    Now, teams facing off against the Colts can rest easy knowing that Manning won’t be confusing them with his audibles and orchestrating the Colts offense with utter precision.

    Defenses will now be able to regularly stack the box knowing they don’t need to focus on the Colts receivers. While they can’t ignore the Colts receivers completely, they can put an emphasis on controlling the run game and putting pressure on Manning’s replacement.

    Also, without Manning to orchestrate long, clock-killing drives, defenses can spend more time watching from the sidelines instead of on the field sucking air.

Indianapolis Colts Running Backs

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    Running backs lucky enough to have found themselves in the Indianapolis backfield have long enjoyed the luxury of playing alongside Peyton Manning.

    With Manning behind center, opposing defenses cannot consistently stack the box for fear of getting burned by Manning’s arm and his receivers. This opens up more running lanes and gives tailbacks more breathing room to do damage on the ground.

    While Joseph Addai and Delone Carter will likely carry the rock more, they’ll also see more seven- and eight-man fronts crowding the box to keep them from moving the chains. They’ll also be forced into pass protection more often to buy Manning’s replacement more time on passing plays.

Indianapolis Colts Offensive Line

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    The Indianapolis Colts offensive line has long had the enormous burden of being tasked to protect the franchise’s most precious commodity: Peyton Manning.

    While they have tremendous expectations facing them on practically every down, Manning makes their lives easier too. His ability to recognize defensive formations and audible into more favorable situations eases the burden off them.

    Manning also keeps a ton of pressure off the offensive line by keeping defenses honest and forcing them to avoid stacking the box.

    Not to mention, Manning's ability to avoid sacks and make the right play makes them look like a more effective unit.

Indianapolis Colts Defense

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    The Indianapolis defense looked elite at times against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they ultimately faltered down the stretch as Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers took advantage of their miscues to come back and win the game.

    With Peyton Manning potentially out for the entire season, the Colts defense is surely not looking forward to the long grind of a losing season.

    Manning’s ability to control the clock and piece together lengthy drives that kept the Colts defense off the field was a luxury. Now, the Colts defense will spend more time and possessions attempting to keep the opposing team out of their end zone, since the Colts offense will undoubtedly be giving up more three-and-outs.

AFC South Division

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    When Peyton Manning entered the NFL in 1998, the Indianapolis Colts were a part of the AFC East division. However, after league realignment in 2002, the Colts found themselves a part of the AFC South.

    The Colts have maintained near absolute dominance over the AFC South division since making the transition—the Colts have won the division every single year with the exception of the 2008-09 NFL season.

    Now, the Colts are in an 0-3 hole trailing behind the division-leading Houston Texans, and they face an uphill battle to climb out of the NFL’s basement.

    Once one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, the AFC South—with the exception of legitimate contenders, the Houston Texans—is quickly becoming one of, if not the weakest in the league.

Indianapolis Colts Receivers

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    Peyton Manning is one of the rare athletes capable of elevating the play of his teammates—that cannot be more apparent than watching any receiver blessed to be playing alongside him enjoy tremendous success being on the receiving end of his throws.

    Players like Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, while good players in their own right, aren’t nearly as effective with another signal-caller under center—looking at their numbers through the first three weeks of the NFL season is proof of this.

    Even elite receivers Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark are not as effective without their captain coordinating the team’s offense and making the type of throws that only he and a few other quarterbacks can make.