Let’s be honest, coming up with five reasons why the Indianapolis Colts will NOT win their division for the seventh time in eight years is about as easy as making the case for how the people of Indianapolis will enjoy paying for Conseco Fieldhouse for the next few years. It ranks somewhere between the tasks of attempting to convince you that the Brickyard 400 will have more than four lead changes and that Larry Bird is doing a standup job with the Pacers. It’s just not an easy thing to do, and why would it be?
In the past decade the Colts have shown the National Football League something remarkable that’s just not heard of anymore, and that’s consistency. Their league leading 115 wins in the past decade has been nothing short of incredible and as long as Peyton Manning is behind center there’s no reason to think they won’t win the division again right? Let’s give it a try.
1. ANYONE FEELING A LITTLE HUNGOVER?
-While New Orleans Saints fans have spent the offseason kneeling on the floor worshiping the one they call Breesus, Colts fans have had to shake off the nightmares of Tracy Porter returning every pass Peyton Manning ever throws again in his career. Yeah, the Super Bowl hangover has been that bad for some of you Hoosiers. History has shown that in the past ten years losing the Super Bowl doesn’t result in just a miserable summer. It usually makes for a miserable year. Now the Arizona Cardinals were an exception last year. After a remarkable run to the Super Bowl in 2008, they followed that up with a playoff berth in 2009 and even a zany wildcard win over Green Bay. Get a load of these gems though.
2000 New York Giants: a beat down from the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl XXXV resulted in a less than stellar 7-9 follow up season and no return trip to the playoffs.
2001 St. Louis Rams: They seemingly spent the entire 2002 season trying to figure out how the Patriots upset them in Super Bowl XXXVI
2002 Oakland Raiders: Destroyed by Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVII and haven’t had a winning season since. (Rumor has it that the NFL actually still recognizes them as one of their franchises.)
2003 Carolina Panthers: A surprise run to Super Bowl XXXVIII was followed up with an injury plagued 7-9 campaign that left yours truly clutching his Jake Delhomme jersey and crying all season…I know, I’m sad.
2004 Philadelphia Eagles: Remember when Terrell Owens was relevant and helped the Eagles reach Super Bowl XXXIX? Boy that sure didn’t last did it?
2006 Chicago Bears: Twenty years from now I still won’t understand how Rex Grossman didn’t keep the Bears from playing in a Super Bowl. In 2007 he was a little more Rexy…that wasn’t good for Bears fan.
2007 New England Patriots: They went undefeated, they were upset by the Giants, Colts fans everywhere secretly were thrilled, and then Bernard Pollard ended Tom Brady’s 2008 season.
2009 Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning throws a touchdown pass to Tracy Porter to win Super Bowl XLIV and the trend continues?
2. RUNNING THE BALL AND STOPPING THE RUN
-Ok, admit it. You saw this one coming. The weakness for the Colts in the past decade has always been stopping opponents from running the ball down their throats and lately the Colts haven’t been very efficient at doing that very thing to their opponents. Now that’s not to say that it has ultimately held them back from winning AFC South titles in the past, but it could happen this year. The Colts were ranked 24th in the NFL last season giving up 126.5 yards per game on the ground. The eight teams ranked behind them didn’t make the playoffs and I’m not sure if guys like Fili Moalo and Daniel Muir have improved enough to make thinks tough for Maurice Jones-Drew, Steve Slaton and Chris Johnson.
When it comes to running the football last season the Colts were ranked last in the league. Now with a passing attack as lethal as the one the Colts have had in the past decade the lack of production on the ground gets overshadowed. There’s a possibility that the franchise won’t be so lucky in 2010. After stellar seasons in 2006 and 2007, Joseph Addai just hasn’t been the same. He failed to rush for more than 1000 yards in 2008 and 2009 and some fear he may already be showing some wear. The Colts drafted Donald Brown for that very reason, but Brown didn’t give coaches very much to be confident about in his rookie year when he battled injury issues and struggled in pass blocking situations.
-Believe it or not the Colts are actually the third youngest team in the NFL with an average age of 25.14 years. Sure they have experienced veterans like Manning, Wayne, Saturday, and Freeney, but the lack of experienced depth at certain positions could hurt the team in 2010. The big issue for me is at linebacker.
I stand by the notion that Clint Session is the best player in the league that nobody is talking about or has heard of, but behind him and an aging Gary Bracket there’s not much. The Colts have been very lucky or good depending on who you ask at finding guys like Marcus Washington, David Thornton and Cato June and letting them go after a few years. Ramon Humber and Phillip Wheeler have yet to impress and maybe Pat Angerer will be the answer, but that’s a HUGE question mark.
4. CHARLIE JOHNSON AND TONY UGOH
-It was hard to critique Charlie Johnson in 2006 when he replaced an injured Ryan Diem and the Colts still found a way to win the Super Bowl. He was just a backup thrust into a difficult situation. How can you fault the guy for making mistakes?
- It was hard to critique Tony Ugoh as a rookie in 2007 when he was named the starter and battled injuries. “Give him a few years. He’s got a ton of potential, “I heard.
Well a few years later the verdict is in, and the jury has agreed that neither of these guys can play. Maybe it’s requires a perfect storm, but a disastrous season from this offensive line is realistic possibility. Perhaps Jeff Saturday starts showing his age. Mix in the Ugoh and Johnson struggles with replacing Ryan Lilja and say another Ryan Diem injury and anything can happen.
5. THE HOUSTON TEXANS
-The Texans have quickly become that annoying, blood sucking, flea on the pages of Colts fans’ NFL preview magazines for the past couple years. None of that has materialized into the Texans knocking the Colts from their AFC South perch but recent seasons have shown that Houston is close…really close.
Last season Houston gave the Colts just about everything they could handle in two losses by a combined 11 points. In fact the Texans were without stud Owen Daniels in both games, and the Colts were a 35-3 run and a Kris Brown field goal from possibly getting swept by Houston. The two teams play each other twice before the halfway mark this season and the week one matchup has to be a major training camp motivation tool for the Texans. Maybe, just maybe this is the breakout year for a franchise that has never made the playoffs. They remind me of that same Arizona team from two years ago.
Now who knows if Houston can get the job done this year? Who knows if the Colts show their weaknesses at certain sports across the board? Who knows if the Super Bowl hangover is a curse or nothing more than a coincidence? Who knows if this story was a waste of time to write?My risky, out on a limb, don’t take this one to the bank prediction? I’m going to shock you with this one: Expect another 12-4 season…and yes, a seventh AFC South title in eight years.