The Colts: Hardly over

By Os Davis  |   Thursday, November 15, 2007  |  Comments( 1 )

Indianapolis Colts
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Without a doubt, the 2007 Indianapolis Colts are the most underrated 7-2 team of all-time ...

After running off seven straight wins, most handily, by an average score of 28-13, Indy has since suffered a two-game losing streak; this has prompted the various Chicken Littles in the sports-chatter sphere to proclaim that perhaps now the Colts won't be the AFC's No. 2 seed, might not even win their division, are perhaps not "for real."

Of course, the current spate of injuries doesn't help, either. The grim reaper is surely sharpening his blade in anticipation of culling the Colts out of Super Bowl contention, right?

Not so fast, oh skeptical ones.

First, let's talk about that record. Aside from our barnyard feathered friends, who would panic over back-to-back losses? Didn't these nearly identical Colts lose three out of four and four of six after starting 9-0 last season? Going back more shows us that after starting 13-0 in 2005, Indy dropped two in a row; the year previous, Colts losses in Weeks 7 and 8 represented were bookended by four- and eight-game winning streaks.

Further, though 16-0 has never been achieved since the NFL went to this longer schedule in 1978, nearly as rare is the 15-1 season. Take notes here, New England Patriots fan: Though one team typically and two teams usually go 14-2 in a given football season, exactly four teams have managed that 93.75 winning percentage in almost 30 seasons, and just two have done it since the eight-division format in 2002. (Which four? Answer at the end of this column.)

Lofty statistics and history aside, the Colts today face the more serious problem of their M*A*S*H unit-looking roster. This week saw gloomy news for Indy fans when Dwight Freeney was put on injured reserve. Last week had already seen the Colts having to face the San Diego Chargers without Marvin Harrison, Rob Morris and with a patchwork offensive line; said line consisted of Michael Toudouze, Ryan Lilja, Jeff Saturday, Dylan Gandy and Jake Scott - a far cry from the All-Pro setup of 2006.

This week, some seven Colts have seen limited or no practice time, including Harrison, Bryan Fletcher (who looked pretty good in Harrison's stead against San Diego), Tim Jennings and the incomparable Bob Sanders. Dallas Clark, still suffering from the effects of a concussion, has seen some reps as well. Several offensive linemen, including Tony Ugoh, Ryan Diem, Dan Federkeil and Charlie Johnson are listed as questionable or worse.

In a word, ouch.

But wait a minute; the hastily assembled O-line mentioned above was on the field during drives that ran up 21 unanswered points. In the second half, Manning wasn't sacked once while Joseph Addai managed to find holes enough for a number of nifty runs on scoring drives.

Jeez, if Adam Vinatieri had made the fourth-quarter try that should have been automatic, we'd still be talking about the amazing comeback Manning had created with the help of his no-name line. And it surely much of the blame for most of Peyton's career-high six picks can be deflected away from the depleted line and the trashed receiving corps.

As for the holey defense out there in Week 10, check out one of the oddest stats of the week: Though San Diego managed just 28 yards of total offense (including exactly zero produced by Chargers not named LaDainian Tomlinson) after the first quarter, the Bolts up 16-0. San Diego won that game despite QB Phillip Rivers turning in a fantasy performance we haven't seen since someone thought Quincy Carter could play.

So, assuming the utterly poor special teams play and Manning's half-dozen picks are an aberration, what's in store for the "done" Colts?

For one, a pretty easy schedule. Sure, Jacksonville's out there in Week 13 and Tennessee in Week 17, but both of those are at home. After this week's home tilt against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Colts get the Falcons, Ravens and Raiders away, plus Houston at home; all of these sound like wins for any team expected to make the playoffs - maybe even the Detroit Lions, much less this Indy team.

Despite the injury blues, the Colts could easily grab a 14-2 mark; at the least, fans should expect a 13-3 record and the AFC South title. The threatening Pittsburgh Steelers, meanwhile, have posted two losses and have a cake-laden schedule. Except (cue "Jaws" theme music) that game at Foxborough in Week 14.

This ain't over for the Colts. Not by a long shot. Expect a shift in game plan to an all-out, 2004-like attack, when Indy was putting up more than 32 points per game. Further, look for Tony Dungy's guile to be tested.

Expect the Colts to win 38-14 on Sunday and for the doubters to be dispelled.

(Four teams that have gone 15-1: 1984 San Francisco 49ers, the 1985 Chicago Bears, the 1998 Minnesota Vikings, and the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers.) Where the lucky blue horseshoe is firmly ensconced.
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About Os Davis

Os Davis has taken a twisted route to get to in his nearly 17 years in professional writing, working in any number of capacities in the sportswriting, news reporting and film criticism worlds. In print media, Os has served as editor at a few publications, including Albuquerque's...
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