Sean Pendergast

NFL QB Crisis: Assessing Playoff Chances Of Teams With Injured Quarterbacks

Andrew Luck's retirement, in the short term, is a good thing for the Texans.
Andrew Luck's retirement, in the short term, is a good thing for the Texans. Photo by Eric Sauseda
The two most important entities in professional team sports are the superstar player in the NBA and quarterbacks in the NFL. They are the most important employees in their respective buildings, and when they're really good, any decision made by a team needs to be made with their best interests in mind. Conversely, when they are injured or absent for any period of time, it feels like the sky is falling.

The NBA season gets started in October, so we will talk about NBA superstars some other time. For now, we are in Week 3 of the NFL season, and already there is a mini crisis of absence at the NFL's quarterback position. Through games in Week 2, five NFL teams are now missing the quarterback they'd planned on having as their starter during training camp — Indianapolis, Jacksonville, New Orleans, the New York Jets, and Pittsburgh.

The good news for Houstonians is that three of these five situations directly (and positively) affect the Houston Texans. Injury to Nick Foles and the retirement of Andrew Luck have made four of the Texans' six AFC South division games easier, and the season ending injury to Ben Roethlisberger essentially wipes out another AFC playoff contender in Pittsburgh. This is great for us here in Houston, and reason enough for us to pray to the football gods that Deshaun Watson survives behind this offensive line.

For now, let's take a look at what these injuries mean to the five teams affected by them:

Incumbent Starting QB: Andrew Luck
Cause of Absence: Retired on August 24
How Long: Presumably forever
Backup QB: Jacoby Brissett
Playoff Prognosis: When Luck retired suddenly during Week 3 of the preseason, the Colts went from favorites in the AFC South to predictions of a 7-9 season. Through the first two games with Brissett as QB, the signs are encouraging, with a road OT loss to the Chargers and a road win over the Titans. The ceiling is probably still 9-7, but the playoffs are a definite possibility if Brissett can stay solid.

Incumbent Starting QB:
Nick Foles
Cause of Absence: Broken clavicle in Week 1, on injured reserve
How Long: Out until at least Week 11
Backup QB: Gardner Minshew
Playoff Prognosis: Man, if Leonard Fournette had just been able to extend the football over the goal line on Sunday against the Texans on that two point conversion try, things look so much different for Jacksonville at 1-1. As it is, Minshew has been, at the very least, intriguing as an option behind Foles. The Jags' next six games include just one 2018 playoff team, and that's the Saints, who are without Drew Brees (more on them in a minute). If the Jags can get to the bow week (Week 10, for them) at 5-4, then they're in the mix. Jalen Ramsey wanting a trade isn't going to help, though. I'd say the Jags' season is on life support.

Incumbent Starting QB: Drew Brees
Cause of Absence: Thumb injury in Week 2
How Long: Approximately six weeks
Backup QB: Teddy Bridgewater
Playoff Prognosis: Brees is expected to miss the next six weeks, which would take the Saints up to their Week 9 bye. The schedule for those six weeks is not kind — at Seattle, vs Dallas, vs Tampa Bay, @Jacksonville, @ Chicago, vs Arizona. If they can go 3-3 in those six games and get Brees back for the second half of the season, then 10-6 is doable, and that should be good enough to win the AFC South. Ultimately, I expect the Saints to still make the postseason, but unfortunately for them, the road to the Super Bowl will not go through New Orleans.

Incumbent Starting QB: Sam Darnold
Cause of Absence: Mononucleosis suffered in lead up to Week 2
How Long: Three to seven weeks
Backup QB: Luke Falk (after Trevor Siemian was knocked out on Monday night)
Playoff Prognosis: I'm not sure the Jets had much in the way of playoff hope, even WITH Darnold. With Falk now at QB for the foreseeable future, and with an 0-2 start, their season is over.

Incumbent Starting QB: Ben Roethlisberger
Cause of Absence: Elbow ligament damage in Week 2
How Long: Out for the season
Backup QB:  Mason Rudolph
Playoff Prognosis: The Steelers' season is probably over, what with Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown all gone from last season. However, you'd never know it from the team's behavior, as they just traded a first round pick on Monday night for Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Steelers are likely missing the playoffs, but I admire their continued effort to be as competitive as possible. They must feel at least decent about the team's chances with Rudolph at QB.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast