The next team up on our Gridiron Blitz is the Indianapolis Colts
Music to listen to: Rain on the Scarecrow by John Cougar Mellencamp
Weak options for the city. It came down to Babyface and John Cougar Mellencamp. I couldn’t pick some soft music. Give me the Cougar!
Current State: The last time we saw the Colts, we saw them blow a first-half lead to New Orleans in the Super Bowl. Since then, minimal attention has been paid to a franchise that returns the only-ever four-time NFL MVP and arguably the best ever at his position and returns nearly everybody from its conference winning squad. More attention has been paid to New England, the Jets, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Minnesota, New Orleans and even San Diego and Green Bay before the Colts. This is the same team that was only two games away from finishing the regular season undefeated and has been the class of the entire conference the past decade besides New England and maybe Pittsburgh.
The Colts may be the most under-publicized preseason Super Bowl favorite in recent memory.
Biggest Change: The thing about the Colts is they don’t make changes.
If you want to be critical, you can say that they released left tackle Ryan Lilja in the offseason, which did happen, but that wasn’t a change worthy of significant attention.
The biggest change is that the Colts may finally have its two best defensive players back healthy this season in defensive end Dwight Freeney and safety Bob Sanders. If they get those two players back in full form, there isn’t a reason for the Colts to not return to the Super Bowl.
For the coaching personnel, the Colts have brought in a new “play-caller” named Clyde Christensen on to the offensive staff. However, long-time offensive coordinator Tom Moore is still around and Peyton Manning has the most control any quarterback has on any offense in the league. Once again a change is technically made but doesn’t register high on the overall impact of the team.
Uniform Grade: They have the most basic uniforms outside of Cleveland in the entire league. I’ve seen the new unis that they displayed last week in its first preseason game. If anything, they look even plainer than the normal ones. Uniform designers, please add something to this year’s kit. A black jersey. An all-blue look. A blue-based colored helmet not like the one in the preseason. Let’s take some chances out there. Grade: C-
Best Player: I’ve always said when you have a discussion of the best player at a particular position and you start it with “besides player X, who is the best position Y in the league?”
We’ve reached the point where you have to say “Besides Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, who are the best quarterbacks in the league.”
In football, only Jerry Rice and Jim Brown get that distinction in all-time discussions. Manning has done it for the current quarterbacks today.
That’s a big compliment to Manning but what will his legacy ultimately be?
He has one championship so he doesn’t have to deal with the same thing that guys like Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Dan Fouts and others have to. Manning will own nearly every passing record when he completes his career. Brett Farve has to retire at some point and Manning will pass him.
However, Manning has three things working against him. First, he will always be compared with Brady as a contemporary and will most likely finish with less championships than the Patriots quarterback. Fans and analysts who look as championships as the ultimate determinant on ranking quarterbacks will look down on Manning.
Second, he has played in the same era as Brett Farve, a media darling who will be remembered as a top-five quarterback, deserved or not.
The most tangible issue is that Manning has played twelve full seasons, starting in 192 consecutive games and is 34 years old. While he has showed some amazing durability and has the desire to keep playing, the physical demands of the position will eventually wear him down.
However, that won’t happen this year.
Most Important Player: Its definitely Manning but we’ll look a bit further into the team.
Offensive players such as Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Jeff Saturday serve as very productive players at their positions but the defense also has to play at an elite level for the Colts to reach its top goals.
When he’s completely healthy, Freeney may be the best defensive end in the entire league and anchors the Colts defensive unit. Robert Mathis is also an elite defender.
Best Case: Everything that happened last year, top-line offense, excellent defense, another MVP season from Manning, continues this year. Throw in a more productive rushing attack and you have not only an AFC South title but the best record in the NFL. A return trip to a Super Bowl happens but this time a victory and the core unit has its second title in the past few years.
Worst Case: Injuries continue to hamper the defense. Manning gets dinged up and is mortal. The offensive line continues to show some struggles from last year. Wins the AFC South but bows out of the playoffs early.
Coaching: Jim Caldwell has been the head coach that realizes that if you have an efficient organization from top to bottom with a Hall of Fame quarterback and maybe the top general manager ever in the sport, you keep things the same. Some may criticize Caldwell’s quiet approach but if things work, why would you change it.
I will say that the only thing that may be held against him from some including myself was the lack of effort to preserve the undefeated season. By giving up the regular season game to the Jets to rest for the playoffs was not a smart move because your players wanted to reach that record. There may be a slight dissection in the locker room if the same situation takes place this year but that’s a minor critique.
First memory of team: I had no opinion of the Colts until they made a run in 1995 to the AFC Championship Game. At that time, I always went for the underdog and jumped on the bandwagon when they won at San Diego and Kansas City in the playoffs.
They eventually fell to the Steelers but I liked the spunk of Jim Harbaugh, the starting quarterback at that time.
Schedule: They have to deal with Tennessee, Houston and Jacksonville in the division.
As far as home games, they get the New York Giants, Kansas City, Cincinnati, San Diego and Dallas. That’s an average slate with the Chargers and Cowboys looking like the most trouble. The road games will be at Denver, Washington, Philadelphia, New England and Oakland. Those are tough games against traditionally strong home teams.
City Nicknames: The city has several including Indy, The Circle City, The Indy City, Crossroads of America, The Racing Capital of the World, Naptown and Amateur Sports Capital of the World. I like none of them accept maybe The Circle City.
Fantasy Focus: This is one of the stronger fantasy football teams in the league. Manning should be one of the first quarterbacks taken alongside Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and maybe Tony Romo. Don’t like the running back situation because Donald Brown and Joseph Addai will be splitting carries. Reggie Wayne is a top-receiver and if Dallas Clark is considered a tight end in your league, you have to jump on that.
Overall Outlook: Similar to my Pittsburgh Steelers preview, you know exactly what you’re going to get from the Colts. Their true season begins in the playoffs. Expect another division title and possibly a top-seed in the playoffs.
Final Record: 12-4
Gridiron Blitz 2010 Season Previews: