A Little Help from His Friends: Peyton Manning Can't Do It Alone for the Colts

Kevan LeeSenior Analyst IAugust 19, 2007

IconLost in the talk of Peyton Manning winning his first Super Bowl last season was the way the Colts actually captured the title:

Despite Peyton Manning.

In years past, Indianapolis suffered plenty of playoff disappointment as a result of Manning's miscues. In 2006, their postseason approach didn't lean so heavily on their superstar quarterback.

In wins over the Chiefs and Ravens, Manning was conservative and unspectacular. His defense kept the other team off the scoreboard, and the Indy running game worked the ball down the field.

All Peyton had to do was not turn it over.

Manning still got much of the credit for the Colts' success, but he was far from the keystone—Joseph Addai, Bob Sanders, Dominic Rhodes, and the offensive and defensive lines were all just as influential.

If anything, in fact, Manning's self-aggrandizing style makes him unfit for playoff football. But that doesn't mean he doesn't still own the regular season.

Before January, Peyton takes more risks, dominates inferior competition, and always gives his team a chance to win. With Manning being Manning, the Colts should always find themselves in the thick of the playoff race.

And in 2007, the QB's supporting cast will still be one of the league’s best.

Addai, in just his second year, has people talking as if he were Edgerrin James incarnate. He’s good, and he has every opportunity to be great. Last year, he rushed for over 1,000 yards in a backup role, and will be the main ball carrier this season.

If Addai holds up for 16 games, he could do something special.

Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison return at wideout, and they'll be joined by rookie Anthony Gonzalez in the slot. With Dallas Clark at tight end, this is one of the best receiving groups in the NFL.

The Colts defense, meanwhile, was a revelation in the playoffs after collapsing at the end of the regular season. Indy found a way to stop the run more or less overnight. Just as quickly, they developed a standout D.

Unfortunately, the offseason robbed the unit of starters Cato June, Nick Harper, Jason David, Montae Reagor, and Anthony McFarland (injury). They weren't replaced with anyone other than last year’s backups, so the defense could take a step back.

A less-stout D won’t cause too many problems in the regular season with Manning and a new-look offense at the controls. The postseason, though, might be a different story.

Last year, the defensive turnaround was sparked almost entirely by the addition of Bob Sanders at safety. If the Colts D was pedestrian minus one significant player, what will happen minus five starters?

Take away Sanders and the 2006 Colts don’t make the Super Bowl. Take away June, Harper, David, and McFarland and the Colts may not make it out of the first round.

Defending a Super Bowl title is hard enough—the schedule is unfavorable, free agents leave for more money, and everyone is gunning to beat you. With several important offseason losses to boot, these Colts look much more mortal than they did in January.

The Jaguars are nipping at Indy's heels in the South, and AFC powers New England and San Diego are hungry to dethrone the champs.

The regular season, in Manning’s hands, should be a cinch.

The playoffs might be trouble.

Projected finish: 11-5, 1st AFC South

Keep your eyes on
: T Tony Ugoh—Tarik Glenn’s replacement will be good, especially if Manning has anything to say about it.

Take your eyes off: WR Marvin Harrison—His aversion to contact is starting to cost him catches.