Every NFL teams experiences a point in their season where something happens to disrupt their flow. Things are going well. The team is winning. Players are happy, flying around, looking to make plays, etc. Coaches are jovial in press conferences. Media are anointing the club, calling them "the best ever." Yippee-yippee-yay-yay!
Then, something happens.
Usually, it comes in the form of an injury. Or, sometimes, it's a team tragedy or some kind of disaster. Last season, we all saw the Houston Texans' "bump" come in the form of a hurricane that damaged their stadium, their facilities, and (for many players) their homes. The Texans never recovered from that "bump," and missed the playoffs because of a bad start.
In 2007, the our own, beloved Colts looked like they would repeat as world champions. They were 7-1 and flying high. Then, they lost Dwight Freeney for the season. They limped along for the rest of 2007, managed to finish the season 6-1 after the Freeney injury, but lost in the playoffs to the Chargers due in large part because of a lack of pass rush. In 2008, Peyton Manning's knee problems, coupled with the disasters at the defensive tackle spot, provided Indy with their "bump" very early in the NFL campaign. The team fumbled and bumbled their way through a 3-4 start. Though Indy managed to close the season on a 7-0 run, they lost in the playoffs again to the Chargers due in large part because of problems they had as a result of their "bump" early in the season (poor DT play).
Bumps for teams can sometimes be too much to handle. They can throw an entire season off track. However, it is the truly great teams that incur these bumps and, somehow, manage to win games in spite of them.
For my money, no championship team in recent memory was as injured as the 2006 Colts. They lost Brandon Stokley, Mike Doss, Corey Simon, James Mungro, and Montae Reagor for the season. Their secondary was a list of walking wounded. Bob Sanders missed virtually all the 2006 regular season (shocking, I know). Yet, despite the injuries, they persevered and won the Super Bowl.
Last season, we saw the Pittsburgh Steelers lose both their first and second round picks in the 2008 draft (Rashard Mendenhall and Limas Sweed, respectively). They also played games in 2008 without Willie Parker, using castoff Mewelde Moore as their feature back. They lost Casey Hampton and Heath Miller for long stretches of time. Starting offensive guard Kendall Simmons was lost for the season with an Achilles injury. Steelers starters missed over 31 games in 2008 due to injuries. In Week Sixteen, they were dominated by the Tennessee Titans, and many wondered if the Steelers were as good as others said they were.
Yet, I distinctly remember seeing the Steelers hoist the Lombardi trophy this past February.
Obviously, too many injuries, or one devastating injury, can kill your football team. But just because you loose a few starters, or because some other players are down for a while, does not mean that is an excuse to lose. The great teams win despite injuries, and even though the 2009 Colts have lost some players this week, this roster is still good enough to win it all.
More importantly, with this current roster, I expect them to win it all.
I love players like Marlin Jackson and Tyjuan Hagler. But this is the NFL. Injuries happen. For eight weeks, this team has been able to get by without having a serious injury smack them upside the head. Now, they have two. We'll see how tough they are overcoming this "bump" in the coming weeks. Personally, I think they will be fine.