How Colts used roster depth to overcome COVID on Christmas, defeat Cardinals


NFL 2021, in Omicronland:

Last Friday, a robotic NFL Films camera in the Indianapolis Colts quarterback room caught the unvarnished real of this NFL season. NFL Films for the first time is doing an in-season “Hard Knocks” show on HBO every Wednesday night, and this debut series is with the Colts. Last Friday, a few hours before the team’s charter left for the Saturday game at Arizona, offensive coordinator Marcus Brady got some unsettling news about one of the most important players on the team and relayed the information to head coach Frank Reich.

Brady: “It is a Covid thing, Frank.”
Reich: “Excuse me?”
Brady: “It is Covid.”
Reich: “Is it? What is it?”
Brady: “Q.”
Reich: “Who?”
Brady: “Q.”
Reich: “Who?!”
Brady: “Q. Quenton.” [All-pro guard Quenton Nelson.]
Reich: (Long pause) “Okay. (Pause.) We’re good.”
Minutes later…
Reich: “Moments like this … I’m not happy about Q testing positive, but I love overcoming those things.”

Full video here, exclusively:

The Colts, in a dogfight for the playoffs, flew to Phoenix around 4 p.m. Friday, busing to the team hotel, the posh Phoenician resort, for an odd football Christmas Eve.

On Christmas morning, three players tested positive for Covid-19. One was the best defensive player on the team, linebacker Darius Leonard, and the other two were starters: safety Khari Willis and receiver Zach Pascal. Leonard, Willis and Pascal were isolated from the team when the results were known by mid-day. They were dispatched back to Indianapolis on owner Jim Irsay’s private plane before the game. Merry Christmas. You’ve got to play the 10-4 Cardinals with most of your boldface names in quarantine or hurt … and that was only about half the drama.

This wasn’t the most dramatic NFL weekend, but it had its moments. The Colts turned out to be a fortuitous pick by NFL Films and HBO for lots of the action in Week 16.

Imagine the angst inside the Colts when told three starters were out before an important game with major playoff implications. Even more, by midway through the second quarter against Arizona on Saturday night, four of Indy’s five starting offensive linemen and excellent blocking tight end Jack Doyle were all out with injuries, Covid or personal reasons. And the Colts still outscored the Cardinals 15-10 over the last 35 minutes in a game that, on the surface, the Colts had no business winning. Against a desperate Arizona team that had lost two in a row, Indy triumphed 22-16.

Leonard was replaced by E.J. Speed, making his first career start. Speed led the Colts in tackles with nine.

Willis was replaced by Jahleel Addae, while Andrew Sendejo, out with a concussion, was replaced by George Odum, starting his eighth game in four years. In the fourth quarter, with the Colts nursing a 15-13 lead, Odum tipped a deep ball from the grasp of Cards receiver Christian Kirk, saving a big gain. Odum was second on the Colts with eight tackles.

Pascal was replaced by several players. One of them, T.Y. Hilton, scored the first touchdown of the game for the Colts. Another, Dezmon Patmon, scored the eventual game-winning TD, the first scoring pass of his NFL career, on a great throw from quarterback Carson Wentz.

Talking to his team in the locker room post-game, coach Frank Reich said, “We got a roster full of winning football players.” Depth won Saturday night for the Colts. Depth will determine a lot as this suddenly strange season lurches toward a conclusion. That’s a big reason why Coach Reich gave a game ball Saturday night to GM Chris Ballard. “When you have a day like this, and you need everyone on the roster, you thank the man who put it together,” Reich said.

The postscript: “Hard Knocks” (Wednesday, 10 p.m. ET on HBO, or streaming on HBO Max) got either very lucky or very smart. Maybe it was a bit of both. Ballard and Reich don’t mind opening their world to the outside. Ballard has done it consistently with an excellent video department, figuring it’s not going to give away trade secrets, and figuring he wants the Indy fans to see for themselves the kinds of people the franchise has and the way the franchise works. He’s not scared of holding up a mirror (albeit a mirror that has some editing control) to the way the Colts work and operate. We’re the beneficiaries. In a week like this, we see how an NFL team handled and overcame the Omicron variant that’s sweeping the country.

I don’t look for rose-colored lessons. I look for how people like Reich, who I’d call an honest and optimistic realist, handle the things that chop some people down. And in this show, I like what I see.

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column

NFL quarterback rankings 2023: Chris Simms’ top 40 QB countdown ahead of upcoming NFL season


While the NFL is a league that is ever-changing, some things are set to stay the same in 2023 — like the revealing of Chris Simms’ top 40 QB countdown.

Last year’s list saw Josh Allen take his place atop the quarterback throne, with Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Los Angeles’ Justin Herbert not far behind at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. It was, however, Mahomes who would ultimately reign over all NFL quarterbacks at the end of the season, as the 27-year-old collected both the NFL MVP honors and his second Lombardi Trophy.

This NFL offseason, however, has brought some intriguing adjustments that are likely to shake up Simms’ rankings.

While some signal-callers such as Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson found their prolonged home with massive contract signings, others will be venturing to a new franchise in search of a fresh start. Aaron Rodgers‘ trade to the New York Jets is unquestionably the most staggering shift, but other quarterbacks on the move such as Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo cannot be forgotten.

RELATED: Mike Florio gives an inside look into the Lamar Jackson deal

And with three of the first four picks in the 2023 NFL Draft being spent on a quarterback, emerging talent will likely turn the tides for some franchises this upcoming season.

See below for Chris Simms’ top 40 QB countdown ahead of the upcoming season. Be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for more on the 2023 NFL season as well as an unfiltered look at the NFL featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown and stories from a life in and around football.

RELATED: Peter King’s latest offseason NFL power rankings

Chris Simms’ 2023 Top 40 QB Countdown:

40. Desmond Ridder (ATL)

39. Sam Howell (WAS)

38. Bryce Young (CAR)

37. CJ Stroud (HOU)

36. Anthony Richardson (IND)

35. Mike White (MIA)

34. Gardner Minshew (IND)

33. Taylor Heinicke (ATL)

32. Jarrett Stidham (DEN)

31. Jordan Love (GB)

30. Davis Mills (HOU)

29. Tyler Huntley (BAL)

28. Andy Dalton (CAR)

27. Sam Darnold (SF)

26. Brock Purdy (SF)

25. Kenny Pickett (PIT)

24. Baker Mayfield (TB)

23. Justin Fields (CHI)

22. Jimmy Garoppolo (LV)

21. Tua Tagovailoa (MIA)

20. Mac Jones (NE)

2023 NFL Schedule Release: Start time, how to watch, live stream, channel


With another exciting NFL Draft in the books, teams can now turn their gaze toward the road to Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas. The path to Super Bowl glory, however, is about to become abundantly more clear with the 2023 NFL season schedule release.

This year’s NFL season schedule release is nearly here, with the entirety of the 2023 NFL schedule being unveiled on Thursday, May 11 at 8 p.m. ET on both Peacock and NFL Network. See below for everything you need to know for one of the offseason’s most anticipated events.

RELATED: Click here for full analysis on Rounds 1-7 of the 2023 NFL Draft

When will the 2023 NFL season schedule be released?

While all 272 matchups have been known since the conclusion of the 2022 regular season, the order and dates for these games have remained a mystery. The secret is nearly out, however, with every NFL game on the brink of revelation.

The full 2023 NFL schedule will be released on Thursday, May 11 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

How can I watch the 2023 NFL season schedule release?

The 2023 NFL season schedule release will take place Thursday, May 11 on Peacock, NFL Network, and the NFL app at 8 p.m. ET.

While the entirety of the schedule will be unveiled at that time, select games have already been and will continue to be released prior to the official event. Ahead of the 2023 NFL season schedule release, the following games will be announced:

Who will play in the 2023 NFL Kickoff game?

The first game of the 2023-24 NFL season will see the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs take the field in Arrowhead Stadium.

The opponent that will meet Patrick Mahomes and company in Kansas City, however, remains to be revealed.

Which NFL teams have international games in 2023?

While the majority of the matchups set to take place next season have yet to be announced, the league has already revealed which teams will head overseas for international showdowns.

Below is the full list of international NFL games for the 2023-24 season, with three in London, U.K., and two in Frankfurt, Germany.

Falcons vs. Jaguars: Week 4, Oct. 1 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Wembley Stadium in London, U.K.

Jaguars vs. Bills: Week 5, Oct. 8 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, U.K.

Ravens vs. Titans: Week 6, Oct. 15 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, U.K.

Dolphins vs. Chiefs: Week 9, Nov. 5 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Frankfurt Stadium in Frankfurt, Germany

Colts vs. Patriots: Week 10, Nov. 12 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Frankfurt Stadium in Frankfurt, Germany

RELATED: NFL’s 2023 international games full of “star power”

When is the Super Bowl and where will it be taking place?

Stars will be shining bright in Las Vegas, Nevada, for Super Bowl LVIII, set to take place on Feb. 11, 2024, at the home of the Raiders in Allegiant Stadium.

This will be the first Super Bowl to ever take place in Las Vegas, which hosted the 2023 Pro Bowl and 2022 NFL Draft.

Be sure to follow ProFootballTalk for the latest news, updates, and storylines about the upcoming NFL season!