Commentary

Few teams can weather loss of a QB

But here are five better positioned than Packers, whose playoff hopes took a hit

Originally Published: November 8, 2013
By Adam Schefter | ESPN.com

It was "Monday Night Football," Chicago Bears versus the Green Bay Packers, historic Lambeau Field, first place on the line.

And it featured Josh McCown versus Seneca Wallace.

This was not what the NFL was planning. But as the season drags on -- former Colts executive Bill Polian said we are now in the NFL dog days of November, equivalent to what baseball goes through in August, before the playoff stretch run begins -- injuries change the quarterbacking landscape.

Nowhere is that more evident than in Green Bay, where Aaron Rodgers will be sidelined indefinitely. He has told people he wants to play as soon as possible, as long as the pain is manageable. He is hoping it's before the Thanksgiving Day game versus Detroit, but that's uncertain.

Until then, Green Bay will have to rely on Rodgers' replacement, Wallace, who will become the Packers' fourth starting quarterback in 21 years -- one more than the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills have started this season.

[+] EnlargeWallace
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsUntil Aaron Rodgers can return, the Packers' playoff hopes are in the hands of Seneca Wallace.
Rodgers took a hit, and so did Green Bay's chances of winning the NFC North. With Rodgers out, Detroit and Chicago now become the favorites to win a division that has three teams tied for first.

Green Bay is about to learn what other teams already have: Any team that loses an elite quarterback cannot sustain its level of success. The drop-off is just too great.

But here are the five teams that might be best positioned to sustain success in the unfortunate event of losing their starting quarterback:

•Buffalo: This season alone, the Bills have gone through Kevin Kolb, EJ Manuel, Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel and now plan to go back to Manuel as the starter with Lewis backing him up. When Lewis played, he proved to be every bit as capable as Manuel. Buffalo could start Lewis and not lose much. He's a starting-caliber NFL quarterback.

•Washington: When Robert Griffin III was injured last season, Kirk Cousins filled in admirably. Cousins might be the league's most desirable backup quarterback -- if Washington were willing to entertain trade offers this offseason. Cousins is to RGIII what Matt Schaub once was to Michael Vick in Atlanta.

•Kansas City: The Chiefs paid former Saints backup Chase Daniel top dollar last offseason with the idea he was good enough to start. If the Chiefs lost Alex Smith, they would not lose much by turning to Daniel.

•New England: Some who have watched Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett in practice insist that he's as good as, if not better than, half the starting quarterbacks in the league. New England hasn't come close to dealing him, in part because it values him so much.

•Indianapolis: Matt Hasselbeck has proved to be a solid starter in the NFL, and he would be able to step in for the Colts if Andrew Luck had to miss any time. Tennessee should not have let Hasselbeck leave last offseason; with Ryan Fitzpatrick filling in for Jake Locker, the Titans went 0-2. Hasselbeck is a steadying influence on and off the field.

Big losses for Bengals: When Cincinnati lost at Miami, it lost far more than a game. Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins might not have the name recognition of Ndamukong Suh, but he was the game's best defensive tackle until he suffered a season-ending torn ACL. Since 2010, Atkins has 29 sacks, 3.5 more than Suh, and the most of any defensive tackle in the league. By a wide margin.

Now the question is how many losses the AFC North-leading Bengals can sustain on defense. This season, they have placed eight players on injured reserve, all on the defensive side of the football: Atkins, nose tackle Larry Black, defensive end Robert Geathers, cornerback Leon Hall, linebacker Brandon Joiner, linebacker Emmanuel Lamur, safety Taylor Mays and linebacker Sean Porter. Cincinnati was viewed as a sleeper Super Bowl contender. And it still might be. But it will need contributions from its backup defensive players.

Foles' future: Eagles quarterback Nick Foles made his claim Sunday to be Philadelphia's quarterback of the future, throwing seven touchdown passes. But last week, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said his team still is looking for a franchise quarterback. Remember this should Foles not maintain success in the second half of the season. Back in September 2010, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly got a verbal commitment from Texas high school standout Johnny Manziel. Yet before Manziel could join Kelly at Oregon, he decided he would be more comfortable closer to home in Texas and switched his commitment to Texas A&M. But Manziel was as interested in Kelly as Kelly was in Manziel. Marcus Mariota, a top quarterback prospect who committed to Oregon just months after Manziel and did go on to play for Kelly, is not expected to last until the Eagles' pick in the April draft. But Kelly might just be in prime position to land the quarterback who once committed to him at Oregon months before Mariota did.

The Schef's specialties

Game of the Week: Cowboys at Saints -- Two high-flying, high-scoring teams with Tony Romo and Drew Brees square off Sunday night in an aerial assault.

Upset of the Week: Bucs over Dolphins -- Tampa has dealt with distractions for most of this season; Miami is dealing with them now.

Player of the Week: Packers running back Eddie Lacy -- With Rodgers sidelined, the Packers need to ride Lacy until their quarterback returns.

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