Don’t buy what Irsay is selling – Luck will be the No. 1 pick.

Colts owner Jim Irsay said on Tuesday that it isn’t a foregone conclusion that his team will take Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft. Irsay also suggested that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are in fact real, and Tiger Woods is a virgin.

Here’s what Irsay said: “It’s up in the air. We have to look at this thing completely open-minded. You have two outstanding athletes, two great pure passers, two great guys from families that are incredible.”

Every year around this time an owner, general manager, head coach, or talking head from the media reports that the sure-thing-No.1-overall-pick isn’t such a sure thing at all. I remember last year the Panthers weren’t going to take Cam Newton because they wanted to upgrade their defense. Marcell Dareus, Patrick Peterson, and even Da’Quan Bowers were thrown around as potential choices for Carolina at No. 1. But when the rubber met the road, the Panthers took the obvious choice in Newton.

And so will Irsay and the Colts. (The obvious choice, that is – not Newton.) Irsay is right when he says that Luck and RGIII are two outstanding athletes and two pure passers. But Luck has been a slam-dunk to the Colts for months now and outside of the Stanford QB opting to join the Peace Corps or something, he’ll hold a blue and white No. 1 Indianapolis jersey come April 26.

That said, even though I don’t believe a word of what Irsay is saying, by no means do I think he’s going about this situation the wrong way. Even if what you’re going to do is already a foregone conclusion, you still don’t tip your hand when it comes to the draft. Ever. Outside of hammering out a contract with Luck to ensure that he gets to camp on time, there’s no benefit for the Colts to announce their intentions at No. 1. And now that the NFL has a rookie salary structure, the negotiation process has become simplified, so the Colts have less to worry about when it comes to being able to sign Luck.

Thus, if you’re Irsay, why not give the Redskins and other teams something to think about by suggesting that Luck won’t be your pick? It’s a benefit to keep everyone else on the back of their heels.

But again, Andrew Luck will be an Indianapolis Colt come next month. I don’t care what Jim Irsay is saying right now.

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At this point, a separation might be good for both Manning and the Colts

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (18) runs from the field against the Kansas City Chiefs at a time out during the second quarter of their NFL football game in Indianapolis October 10, 2010. REUTERS/Brent Smith (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Based on some of the comments coming out of Indianapolis these days, it would appear as though Peyton Manning’s career with the Colts is coming to an end.

Such as life. Times change, people separate, memories fade. Why should sports be any different?

According to ESPN NFL Business Analyst Andrew Brandt, it would cost the Colts $50.5 million to keep Manning and Andrew Luck on the same roster in 2012. Manning’s option is $28 million in addition to a $7.4 million salary while the No. 1 overall pick will receive approximately $15.1 million in bonus plus salary in 2012. Thus, it doesn’t make sense financially for the Colts to pay Manning and draft Luck while trying to fill holes all over a depleted roster.

It doesn’t make sense from a risk/reward standpoint either. Manning is 35 and is still trying to recover from neck surgery that he had last May. I’m not a doctor but when you listen to other athletes talk about the same nerve damage that Manning has, it’s feasible that he could have complications the rest of his career. That’s why there’s still plenty of speculation about whether or not he’ll ever play again.

I’m not trying to be cold because I’m very aware of what Manning has meant to the Colts franchise over these past 14 seasons. But former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi said it best when he stated that he would rather be accused of getting rid of a player a year too early rather than a year too late. This is a business decision and the right business decision for the Colts is to part ways with Manning and draft their future signal caller while they have that chance. There are teams like the Browns, Dolphins, Bills and Redskins who continuously fail to address their quarterback situation and the Colts have a golden opportunity to replace one franchise signal caller with another in just one fell swoop. Cold? Probably. But smart? Definitely.

Let’s not overlook the fact that this could be a good thing for Manning as well. During John Elway’s final years he essentially took a backseat to Terrell Davis because the Broncos became Davis’ team. He won two Super Bowls handing the ball off to Davis and throwing when he had to, but Manning doesn’t have that same fortune. The Colts proved last year that they’re a serious rebuilding project. At this point in his career, Manning shouldn’t be at the helm of a rebuilding team: he should be trying to take one more shot at winning a Super Bowl just like Elway did. (Assuming of course that Manning is healthy enough to ever pick up a football again.)

In a perfect world the Colts would already have Manning’s replacement on their roster. But they don’t, and now this is the situation that they find themselves in. Separations are never easy and if the Colts do decide to move on from Manning, it will be a hard decision. But it doesn’t have to be difficult.

Times change, people separate, memories fade. That’s just life.

2012 NFL Draft Order

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck (L) avoids the rush of Oregon State lineman Andrew Seumalo (49) during the second half of their NCAA football game in Corvallis, Oregon, November 5, 2011. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

There will be plenty of time to discuss whether or not the Indianapolis Colts should draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick.

Plenty of nauseating time.

But for now, here’s the official order for the 2012 NFL Draft, minus the 12 playoff teams, that is. I’ll keep this list updated throughout the postseason so you’ll know exactly where your team will be selecting come April.

1. Indianapolis Colts (2-14)
2. St. Louis Rams (2-14)
3. Minnesota Vikings (3-13)
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12)
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)
6. Washington Redskins (5-11)
7. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)
8. Carolina Panthers (6-10)*
9. Miami Dolphins (6-10)*
10. Buffalo Bills (6-10)
11. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)**
12. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)**
13. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
14. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
15. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8)
16. New York Jets (8-8)
17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland)
18. San Diego Chargers (8-8)
19. Chicago Bears (8-8)
20. Tennessee Titans (9-7)

* – Order will be decided by coin flip at the scouting combine in February.

Quick-Hit Reactions from Week 17 in the NFL

Every Sunday throughout the 2011 NFL season I’ll compile quick-hit reactions from the day that was in football. I vow to always overreact, side with sensationalism over rationalism, and draw conclusions based on small sample sizes instead of cold, hard facts. It’s the only way I know how to write…

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow loses the ball while tackled by Kansas City Chiefs safety Kendrick Lewis during the second quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 1, 2012 in Denver. Denver still makes the playoffs despite losing to Kansas City 7-3. UPI/Gary C. Caskey

– Good luck, Broncos. You may have backed into the playoffs because the Raiders just happened to catch the Chargers on one of San Diego’s good days, but don’t make any travel plans for New England or Baltimore. You’re not going to win with a quarterback who can‘t even complete 10 passes in the biggest game of the year. I thought the Tim Tebow storyline was pretty fun for a while but at the end of the day it’s just bad football. The Steelers are severely banged up and their offense is in a major funk, but they only need about 10 points to beat the Broncos next week in the Wild Card round. If Denver somehow finds a way to pull off the upset then I’ll eat as much crow as Broncos fans want to dish out. But with a division title and a playoff berth on the line, Denver managed just one field goal at home against a Kansas City team that had nothing to play for. Thus, I don’t think I’ll have the taste of crow on my lips any time soon.

– Has any team lost three starting quarterbacks to injuries in one season and still host a playoff game? That must be some kind of record. Some kind of cruel, horrific record for a Houston Texans team that must feel like its cursed. The Texans finally make the playoffs and they have to start Jake Delhomme at quarterback because their fifth-round rookie T.J. Yates, who was subbing for the injured Matt Leinart, who was subbing for the injured Matt Schaub, separated his shoulder in the final game of the season. At this point all Houston can do is laugh because really, what else could go wrong? I mean, they’re about to start Jake freaking Delhomme in a playoff game and the guy was signed off the streets about an hour ago. How unfortunate for a Houston franchise that has been waiting a very long time for this moment.

– I was prepared to rip the Bengals after backing into the playoffs and for going 0-4 against the Ravens and Steelers this season. But what does Cincinnati have to be ashamed of? Nobody thought the Bengals would win five games this year, let alone nine and qualify for the playoffs in a tough conference (with a rookie second-round pick starting at quarterback, no less). And seeing as how the Texans will start Jake Delhomme at quarterback next week, the Bengals could advance to the Divisional Round! There’s no sense ripping a team that has a very good chance of winding up among the final eight this season.

– When Eli Manning takes care of the football, the Giants usually win. It’s as simple as that. The G-Men were 4-0 this season when Eli didn’t turn the ball over at all and 5-2 when he “only” turned the ball over once. They were 0-5 when he had multiple turnovers in one game. Granted, I imagine that if I did the same study on all the quarterbacks in the league, I’d probably get similar results. Turnovers are a huge part of the game whether it’s a quarterback, running back or receiver coughing the ball up. But when Eli turns the ball over it seems to have a trickle-down effect that hurts the entire New York team.

Tony Romo comes up short again in a playoff-type situation. Who would have saw that coming?

– The Lions really blew it today. All they had to do was beat Green Bay’s backups and they would have clinched the fifth seed in the NFC. Instead, their defense couldn’t stop Matt Flynn from doing whatever he wanted and now the Lions will have to play in New Orleans next weekend instead of traveling to New York or Dallas. Granted, if they want to advance to the Super Bowl then they’d have to play beat the Saints or Packers at some point anyway. But it would have been nice to let the Falcons try and deal with the Saints right out of the gates instead. Furthermore, even if Detroit does upset New Orleans next week, the Lions haven’t beaten the Packers in Green Bay since 1991. How much confidence do they have heading into the playoffs knowing that they couldn’t even beat the Packers’ JV squad? (Of course, with ultra-sick Calvin Johnson lining up at wide receiver, I still wouldn’t count the Lions out against anyone.)

– Good for the Ravens. This is a Baltimore squad that has looked like a completely different team on the road this year than at home, but it went into hostile territory today and took care of business. Now that they have home field advantage for at least one playoff game, you have to like the Ravens’ chances of making a Super Bowl run. The AFC is incredibly flawed this year and New England’s defense is Charmin Extra Soft. Thanks to the incredible Ray Rice, the Ravens have as good as shot as the Patriots of playing for a NFL title.

– How f’n good are the Packers that they can score 45 points with Flynn as their starting quarterback and several of their starters resting on both sides of the ball? If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a hundred times: Ted Thompson has done one hell of a job building the best depth in football.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn (2nd L) passes against the Detroit Lions during the second half of their NFL football game in Green Bay, Wisconsin January 1, 2012. REUTERS/Darren Hauck (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

– Speaking of Matt Flynn, I’m torn. I wouldn’t blame a quarterback-needy team for trying to acquire him next offseason after what he did today against the Lions, but how much of his success is because of Green Bay’s offense? Everyone looks good driving a Cadillac, know what I mean?

– Should the Patriots be concerned that they’ve spotted opponents double-digit leads in each of their last two games before rallying in the second half? Considering how explosive Tom Brady and the New England offense has looked, I guess not. But if they spot Baltimore a 21-0 lead in the playoffs then the Pats may have some issues staging more comebacks.

– It seems like nobody has mentioned his name among the head coaches that could be fired on “Black Monday” (at least from a national perspective), but what about Chan Gailey? What has he done in Buffalo that merits him keeping his job? That team took a 21-0 lead today in Foxboro and then stood back and admired its work as the Patriots scored the next 49 points. Why should Buffalo be convinced that Gailey is the right man for the job after the way the Bills crashed and burned this season?

– Even though the Steelers have morphed into a passing team over the past couple of years, losing Rashard Mendenhall (knee) for the playoffs would be a crushing blow. They’ll likely get past the punchless Broncos in the Wild Card round, but Mendenhall allows Pittsburgh to stay balanced offensively and gives defensive coordinators something else to think about when game planning to stop the Steelers. With Mendenhall out for at least one week and Ben Roethlisberger hobbled, there’s no doubt the defending AFC champions are limping into the postseason.

– ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that the Rams will fire GM Billy Devaney and head coach Steve Spagnuolo this week, as well they should. St. Louis was absolutely decimated by injuries and it didn’t help that Sam Bradford had little time to learn Josh McDaniels’ offense during the lockout-shortened offseason. But Devaney had a horrible draft and failed to build roster depth, while Spagnuolo made questionable in-game decisions week after week. It’s rumored that Spags will wind up in Philadelphia next season as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, which makes a ton of sense. As of right now it’s clear he isn’t ready to be a head coach in this league.

– The 49ers have had a hell of a season but even their most diehard fans have to admit that there’s something a little off about this San Francisco tea. Maybe it’s because they clinched early and they’ve just been waiting for the postseason to start but this doesn’t seem like the same dominant squad that it was about a month ago. Granted, the Niners did beat the Steelers handily in Week 15, but Pittsburgh is in the midst of a major offensive funk and Ben Roethlisberger played hurt in that game. I’m not suggesting that the Niners won’t reach the NFC Championship Game but compared to the Saints and Packers, this feels like a very beatable San Francisco team.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones runs in for a touchdown in the first half of their NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Atlanta, Georgia January 1, 2012. REUTERS/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

– It’s too bad the Falcons are so intimidated by good competition (they’re 1-4 against playoff teams this year), because they certainly have the weapons on both sides of the ball to make a serious postseason run. Matt Ryan has looked very sharp in the second half of the season, Julio Jones has emerged as a dangerous playmaker the past five weeks and Sean Weatherspoon, John Abraham, Brent Grimes and William Moore are playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. The Falcons clearly aren’t better than New Orleans or Green Bay, but when the offense is firing on all cylinders and the defense plays like the relentless, confident unit that it did today against Tampa Bay, then Atlanta could certainly give the Saints and/or Packers a game. But I know what will happen in the playoffs: The coaching staff will play things conservatively, the players will all wait for the next guy to make a play, and the Falcons will once again be left searching for answers for why they came up short. (See the New Orleans game last Monday night as an example.) It’s frustrating really, because if the Falcons really turned things loose then they could be that dangerous Wild Card team that Green Bay was a year ago. (Or at least a poor man’s version of Green Bay.)

– The Jets’ season ends as Mark Sanchez throws three interceptions – what a shock. For the past two seasons, the Jets’ defense and running game has compensated for Sanchez’s horrendous play, and he fooled people into thinking he was better than what he was because he played well in the postseason in front of a national audience. But now he doesn’t have the playoffs to redeem himself, so maybe the Jets will seriously consider other quarterback options this offseason. They would be foolish not to.

– Great effort by your team over the past three months, Raheem Morris. Job well done.

Jared Allen is worth the price of admission for Minnesota Vikings fans. Whether the Vikings are 3-13 or 13-3, dude never lets up.

– The Indianapolis Colts are now on the clock. Let the 24/7 Andrew Luck discussion begin.

Peyton Manning still hopes to play this season

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning waits on the sidelines late in the game against the Tennessee Titans during their NFL game in Indianapolis December 6, 2009. REUTERS/Brent Smith (UNITED STATES SPORT FOOTBALL)

While the rest of the NFL world is seemingly transfixed on whether or not the Colts would select Stanford’s Andrew Luck if they received the No. 1 overall pick next April, their injured franchise quarterback still hopes to play this season.

Peyton Manning told reporters on Thursday that he hopes to return to practice this year and still holds out hope of playing if doctors deem him clear to play. He underwent a second surgery on his neck on September 8 and even though he hasn’t played a snap, the Colts have yet to place him on injured reserve.

Of course, the Colts face a much bigger issue than whether or not to free up a roster spot by placing Manning on I.R. They must decide whether to opt out of Manning’s five-year contract or pay him a $28 million bonus to keep him on the 53-man roster. Some in Indianapolis who follow the team closely believe that Manning’s chances of playing again are less than 50-percent.

One of those followers is long-time beat writer Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star, who says he’s “maybe even 30-70” on whether or not Manning takes another snap. Considering how close Wilson has been to the situation over the years, it’s rather eye opening to see the beat writer spit out those odds.

For now, it’s still a waiting game. Manning hopes he’ll return next season but surely the Colts would trade one down year for three-to-five more years of Peyton under center. But whether he’ll be able to play ever again is the question.

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