Indianapolis—With Peyton Manning on the sidelines for the season opener, some say it's like going to war without a weapon. Sports analyst Howie Long made that point clear when he raided the ESPN radio waves Wednesday morning.
"Just the thought of him forces armies to retreat," said Long. "I've heard some of the quotes that have come out of the locker room that it's not about one player... I've got to tell you, that’s delusional."
This Sunday's game against Houston is the first regular season game in 14 years the star quarterback hasn't started for the Colts.
"If he doesn't play, it means you're no longer a Superbowl contender," said sports radio host Michael Grady. "You'll still be competitive in the AFC South, but in terms of the Superbowl, it looks like it's almost out of reach."
That's the likely case if Manning's neck injury keeps him off the field for more than a handful of games, especially considering the extreme competitiveness of the division.
"It was going to be tough with Peyton Manning. It's going to be really tough with Kerry Collins," said Grady.
According to Grady, Collins, the Colts' newly signed quarterback, will need to step it up big time, regardless of having minimal practice time with the team. He said success will also depend on a strong defense and running game.
While it is unknown when Manning will be cleared to play, Long warns fans not to count on his return any time soon.
"I call it the 'Humpty Dumpty Effect'," said Long. "At some point all the king's horses and all the king's men can't put you back together again."
Despite all this negativity, some fans remain optimistic about the season.
"The Colts got a good pick up in Kerry Collins," said Andrew Burdett. "I think he can keep the team at least at 500 until Peyton comes back."
By missing this regular season game, Manning puts an end to his consecutive start record, which currently stands at 208 games.