The Indianapolis Colts won’t have Andrew Luck under center to the start the season. In fact, no one really knows how long it will be until Luck returns to the field. That leaves them with Scott Tolzien as the starting quarterback Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.
Tolzien has two touchdowns and seven interceptions in five NFL seasons. He’s started just three times and has a 0-2-1 record in those games.
And the Indianapolis Colts are somehow OK with Tolzien being their Week 1 starter.
Well maybe not that OK. With the Colts’ 2017 opener — a road game against the Rams — days away, the team made a trade over the weekend that sent 2015 first-round pick Phillip Dorsett to the New England Patriots for quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
But Brissett hasn’t had enough time to learn the offense, and Luck isn’t ready to play after offseason surgery. So the Colts are now stuck beginning the season with a guy who has never won a game and has never even finished a game with more touchdowns than interceptions.
Panic index: Uh yeah, maybe dial up the panic a bit, Indianapolis.
The Luck situation is a little confusing, but the Colts just walked into a disaster while whistling just because they wanted to stay calm. There’s no timetable for Luck’s return, and there’s a strong chance Tolzien will start digging a hole for the team while the team waits.
Let’s check in around the league to see what else fans should, or shouldn’t, be panicking about as the 2017 NFL season begins.
The Jets are going to SUUUUUUCK
At least Christian Hackenberg didn’t make it to No. 2 on the QB depth chart. Not to worry, he’ll make at least three starts this season, probably more. The fate of Gang Green in 2017 is to be terrible, historically bad. The only reason people aren’t making the Jets a lock for 0-16 is because it’s almost impossible to lose every game in the NFL. You have to be awful AND unlucky.
This Jets team has destiny hanging over its head. It is cosmically mandate to lose every game in a slightly more embarrassing fashion than the last one — and this is a team that had the Butt Fumble. That should at least make it fun, sort of, to watch, and you will need some reason to watch.
Panic index: What is there to panic about? Expectations are zero. That’s as liberating as it gets. Enjoy it.
Falcons fans will hear about 283 million Super Bowl jokes on Sunday
It’s been a nice, long offseason for Falcons fans. Plenty of time to put that brutal Super Bowl loss out of your minds, right? That would be the case, except 28-3 has become a meme, and the jokes are everywhere. It’s only going to get worse when the Falcons debut against the Bears on Sunday.
It won’t matter what the Falcons do against the Bears. They could beat Chicago by a 25-point margin and not blow any kind of lead, and the jokes are still going to fly.
Panic index: Brace yourselves, Falcons fans. If you’re not over that humiliating 25-point blown lead, Sunday is going to dredge up a lot of rough memories for you.
Allen Hurns is barely hanging on to a Jaguars roster spot
Last offseason, the Jaguars gave Allen Hurns a five-year, $40.6 million contract. It was a big pay day for a former undrafted free agent who burst on to the scene with 1,708 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons. One year later, Hurns is at the bottom of the team’s wide receiver corps.
Days before Jacksonville opens the season against the Houston Texans, the Jaguars released a depth chart that featured Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee as the starters with rookies Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole as their backups. Then it’s Hurns and Arrelious Benn at the bottom.
So what gives?
Hurns had just 477 yards and three touchdowns during an injury-filled 2016 season and continued to struggle with drops — a problem he’s had for the majority of his NFL career.
Panic index: The end could be near for Hurns in Jacksonville.
The fourth-year receiver will count $7 million against the salary cap in 2017 and would’ve counted for $7 million even if he were cut. The Jaguars can’t save any money right now by cutting him loose.
But next year, the team could avoid another $7 million hit as well as $8 million and $9.65 million hits in 2019 and 2020, respectively, by releasing him and it would come with zero dead money. That means if he can’t bounce back and play like he did in 2015, this is probably it for Hurns in Jacksonville.
The Patriots have to work a whole bunch of new faces into Tom Brady’s offense
Worrying about the Patriots at this point is like wondering which of your yachts will lose its resale value the fastest. New England has a handful of good problems to deal with; foremost among them is the slew of new skill players who will be key players on an already-explosive offense.
Former first-round draft picks Brandin Cooks and Phillip Dorsett have padded out the team’s depth chart at receiver. Dwayne Allen came over from the Colts to be Rob Gronkowski’s insurance policy. Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead will be the latest New England tailbacks to randomly ruin your fantasy football seasons.
As much as you’d want to trust the quarterback whose gravity holds this galaxy together, Brady is entering uncharted territory as a 40-year-old quarterback who can spin a 28:2 TD:INT ratio while hardly breaking a sweat. He lost the player with whom he’s developed the strongest chemistry when Julian Edelman tore his ACL, and another injury to Rob Gronkowski would rob him of his two most reliable targets. In a season where anything short of the Super Bowl would be a disappointment, that’s tremendous pressure.
Panic index: Nah. In 2011, Danny Amendola was only healthy enough to make six starts and he ended up as the team’s second best receiver. Brady still managed to drag that team to the AFC title game.