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QB Injuries Help Make This NFL Season Even More Unpredictable Than Ever

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Even the biggest Cleveland fan had to feel some sympathy Sunday when Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was carted off the field in the third quarter of Sunday’s Pittsburgh win over the Rams in St. Louis. Roethlisberger went down with a sprained MCL and a bone bruise and will miss four-to-six weeks of action — maybe more.

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The good news is that Big Ben didn’t tear his ACL, which would have ended his season. But since Pittsburgh doesn’t have its bye for another seven weeks, the Steelers will have to hope they can survive without their quarterback into the second half of the season. To do that, Michael Vick must reprise his 2010 performance with the Eagles, when he was outstanding for more than half the year. Unfortunately, he hasn’t approached that level since.

While Roethlisberger’s knee heals, and the Steelers hope Cincinnati doesn’t get too far out ahead in the AFC North, Tony Romo would like his busted clavicle to become sturdy before December. In New Orleans, Drew Brees is vowing to start Sunday, although he still considers himself “day-to-day” and said Monday that if he can’t go, the 0-3 Saints are “in good hands with Luke [McCown].” Isn’t he the guy who’s better known for his backup-QB-explains-a-cell-phone-network commercial than for his play?

Those three injuries are the most recent examples of why the NFL is doing everything it can to protect quarterbacks, short of assigning Secret Service agents to them. (There’s no way I’ll include the Bears’ Jay Cutler and his cranky hamstring in this equation, since Chicago isn’t any good, and neither is Cutler.) The Saints dropped a decision in Carolina Sunday, keeping them winless, it’s hard to imagine a healthy Brees couldn’t have reversed that decision. Atlanta stormed back from an early deficit to dump the Romo-less Cowboys. Though Pittsburgh held on to defeat St. Louis, the Steelers weren’t exactly an offensive force after Roethlisberger got hurt. Not that they were tearing it up with him in the lineup, either.

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Romo’s injury has thrown the NFC East into turmoil. The Cowboys were expected to cruise after whipping the Eagles last week, largely because Philadelphia is stumbling, the 1-2 Giants don’t look special, and Washington appears to be settling into its usual spot in the division’s tar pits. It’s possible the winner of that division could be 8-8, hardly what the NFL wants from a group of its marquee teams.

Speaking of the Cowboys, they play New Orleans Sunday night, and how happy will NBC executives to have a QB matchup between Brandon Weeden and McCown? It doesn’t matter how sweet a ball Jerry Jones thinks Weeden throws, the backup remains completely overmatched. Expect an abundance of advertisements for ABC’s new prime time soap opera “Blood & Oil,” as the network tries to lure those casual viewers who aren’t entranced by a Weeden-McCown showdown.

The Saints couldn’t care less about TV ratings. At 0-3, they are three games behind surprising Atlanta in the NFC South and need some wins right now. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh needs Vick to come alive so that it can hang with the Bengals, or at least make a strong wild card push while Roethlisberger convalesces. It’s just another example of how important star QBs are in the NFL, and how few of them there are.

It’s no coincidence that the Patriots, Broncos, Falcons, Packers, Cardinals, Panthers and Bengals are 3-0. Each has a front-line NFL quarterback. Teams that are struggling have other problems, to be sure, but many of them are suffering from woes under center. Now, Dallas, New Orleans and Pittsburgh can join that club. Even though the Cowboys and Steelers are 2-1, it’s hard to imagine the good times will continue for them. They need their main men back under center.

Just like everybody else does.

— Written by Michael Bradley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bradley is a writer and broadcaster based in suburban Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @DailyHombre.

(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)