A federal judge has ruled that the NFL can suspend the five players that were found to have taken StarCaps last season.
The Williams Wall in Minnesota, Saints DEs Charles Grant and Will Smith, and free agent Deuce McAllister will all be suspended four games to open the 2009 season. It's a major blow to all parties. The suspensions were originally pushed back because the players took their case to a U.S. District court, claiming that the league didn't give fair warning about StarCaps. The league, however, maintains that Bumetanide in StarCaps is a masking agent for steroids and that all players are responsible for anything put in their bodies.
Analysis after the jump.
With the StarCaps suspensions upheld, the Panthers could be getting a small leg up in what should be a tightly contested NFC South race. For the first quarter of the Season, the Saints will be without both of their starting ends. While they're probably more prepared for that this season than last with the signing of Paul Spicer of the Jaguars during the offseason, he's known more as a run-stopping type, and the Saints were actually planning on being able to use him some at DT, perhaps at the expense of Brian Young's job. Now, they'll need to factor in a lot of use for him at DE, because their next option behind he and Bobby McCray (the other second-stringer) is probably Jeff Charleston, a former UFA with just three 2007 starts for the Colts and four career sacks on his resume who bounced on and off the New Orleans roster last year. Next, let's look at their first-quarter schedule:
Week 1: vs. DET. This is probably just as easy a win as it was before, although I guess it leaves a bit more potential for a Kevin Smith blowup and a Lions upset. Further, if it's Matt Stafford's first NFL game, he'd certainly rather play it without a heavy rush in his face.
Week 2: @PHI. Hopefully, NO will be facing a mad Eagles team in their home opener coming off a loss. With a dynamic offense featuring explosive players like Brian Westbrook, DeSean Jackson, and rookie Jeremy Maclin, the Saints can certainly use all the help on defense they can get. If this game might have been a pick 'em before, the Saints should certainly go in as underdogs now.
Week 3: @BUF. Buffalo is talked about as a surprise team that could finally make the leap to true playoff contender, and this may have gone from a game that would have been in NO's favor to a toss-up.
Week 4: vs. NYJ. Again, a rookie QB (Mark Sanchez) may be playing here, and a big-time pass rush is one of the best ways to shut down an inexperienced signal-caller. NO should still win this game, but it won't make it any easier without their bookends.
So, I'd say this probably changes the first quarter for the Saints from 3-1 to 2-2 and possibly 1-3. All in all, that's a good thing in a division that will be a dogfight.
Also, any potential setback this causes to the Vikings without their twin towers clogging the middle of the D-line isn't a bad thing either. They'll likely be in compeition for a wild card slot if we can't take the division and it's automatic playoff bid.