I’ve been finding myself using the cliche, “won the battle, lost the war” a lot during the 2013-14 NFL regular season. It seems like every time someone wins a big game, one of their star players gets injured. That’s certainly the case for the Green Bay Packers, who lost another starter when Jermichael Finley suffered a neck injury against the Cleveland Browns. He spent an overnight at the ICU. Tests came back negative.
Throw the Indianapolis Colts into that cliche. They improved to 5-2 with a 39-33 victory over the Denver Broncos. That gives them a two-game lead on the Tennessee Titans. Unfortunately, they lost wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who tore his ACL in the fourth quarter. He’ll miss the remainder of the season.
The 34-year-old Wayne has played in 189 straight games, the most among active players. His streak was the third longest by a wide receiver in NFL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
As a Titans fan, it makes me think of Jake Locker when he was down with his hip and knee injuries. Despite needing to get carted off, he came back in three weeks. Wayne was able to walk off the field under his own power. He’s gone for the season. At age 35 (in November), who knows how this will affect the remainder of his career. Best wishes to him and may he have a full recovery.
How does this impact the AFC South race, Colts and Titans? The Colts and Titans will play each other on Nov. 14 and Dec. 1. Those games are in Week 11 and Week 13, respectively. At 5-2, the Colts have a two-game lead on Tennessee. For the Titans to win the division, there’s a decent chance that they’ll have to sweep Indianapolis. That’s a difficult assignment when one considers that the Titans couldn’t even beat the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium when they were 0-13 (Dec. 2011).
Losing Wayne means that the Colts’ top two wide receivers are T.Y. Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Heyward-Bey was a free-agent addition from this offseason. In 2013, Heyward-Bey has 18 receptions for 190 yards with one touchdown. He hasn’t been nearly as productive with total amount of targets as Wayne. The Colts will need him to make more plays on passes thrown to him.
Barring injuries, Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner are both capable of covering these receivers in 1-on-1 coverages. Trent Richardson hasn’t experienced any type of resurgence since he left the Cleveland Browns. Even with Wayne, the Titans have a defense that could’ve kept any game with Indianapolis in the mid-20s. Now they just need their offense to score more than one touchdown every eight quarters.
We’ll see how this injury impacts the Colts. They’ve overcome plenty of obstacles, including the departure of Peyton Manning. For this to even matter, the Titans must take care of their own business against a second half schedule that includes a much softer slate of teams. There’s no reason that this team can’t finished with a 9-7, even 10-6 record.