I really love the time between weeks three and four of the season. We've seen teams enough to start to get a feel for who may or may not have a good year. Still, there's a long season left and even an 0-3 start doesn't mean you should start booking your beach house in January just yet. For the Colts, we've seen a lot, yet you know there's still 13 games left on the schedule. So, without further ado...
1. Are you seriously going back to the question format again?
Why not? Every writer has a niche, right? Fellow BR writer Kyle Winslow has that cool "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" theme to his writing. SI's Peter King has the "Ten Things I Think" gimmick, and ESPN's Bill Simmons has claimed the recycled '80s references as his thing.
What's left but this? So, I came up with The Dime Package and 10 questions to answer about the Colts' season.
Yeah, I like the "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" better too.
2. Okay, so explain yourself. Did you give up on Joseph Addai too soon?
Yes. Yes, I did. Here's a story from the fantasy league I'm in. I had complained that in the one year that I thought it was great to have a Colts player, I didn't. So, I finally traded for one:: Joseph Addai. Sure, I'd rather have had Dallas Clark or Reggie Wayne, but beggars can't be choosers.
So, what did I do with Addai? I promptly cut him and picked up Tim Hightower before the game.
Ouch. Apology letter to Mr. Addai on the way.
But as far as his actual on-field production, what we saw out of Addai against Arizona is what we can expect. He can be productive rushing the ball and can make plays in the passing game. He's not a 20 carry back, but that's really a dying breed anyway.
Frankly though, Addai is going to be pushed all year by Donald Brown. Brown can obviously play, and I think it's a good thing that they are splitting duty.
Still, it's a telling sign that late in games we see Brown, not Addai.
3. The biggest news of the last few days is Dwight Freeney's injury. Will this kill the momentum the Colts have had to start the season?
Not as much as you think. You obviously never want an injury like this to happen, but at least the timing is decent. The next three weeks have Seattle visiting Indianapolis, then a trip to Tennessee, followed with the bye week. Even if he somehow misses four weeks, St. Louis is the opening game following the week off.
That's not a bad schedule to miss your starting defensive end. Seattle will run the ball because they simply aren't a good passing team without Matt Hasselbeck. The Tennessee game will be tough, with or without Freeney, but then you hit the bye. Even with Freeney, I'd say the Colts are in good shape if they hit the bye week at 4-1.
4. Sounds like you think the Titans will win the game in week five. Are the Titans prime to bounce back?
I don't think anyone can argue that the Titans are the league's best 0-3 team. They have talent, but as their three losses have shown, they have issues. Their special teams is surprisingly suspect. Their vaulted defense is showing gaps, but not in the places you'd expect. The defensive line has done decently well without the departed Albert Haynesworth, but the secondary is not as strong as it was last year.
But can they make a comeback? With three losses already in the books, you figure they'll have to go 10-3 the rest of the way to make the playoffs in a stacked AFC. They still have road games against the Colts, Patriots, and a surprisingly good 49ers team. They still have to play at Houston as well. They have some tough home contests against Arizona and San Diego. Can they get through those and their other games with only three losses? I doubt it.
They'll be better than their 0-3 record suggests, but the Jets' loss may be the one that kills the season for them. Nine-and-seven suddenly looks right, and that's not making the playoffs this year.
5. Are you giving the Colts the division already?
Wow, sure does sound like it, doesn't it? I don't see the other two division foes making much noise now. Jacksonville has shown us that they are a one trick pony. Maurice Jones-Drew won them the Houston game, but did little in their two losses.
Meanwhile, Houston has got to be one of the most puzzling teams in the league. You have great defenders like Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans, yet they've given up 86 points in three weeks! Steve Slaton seems to have the sophomore slump, though I can't tell you why they don't involve him more in the passing game. Wasn't Gary Kubiak supposed to be an offensive genius?
And one final note on Tennessee. Do you see Kerry Collins, at 37, leading a 9-0 stretch like Peyton Manning did with the Colts last season? No, I don't either.
I'm not saying the Colts have the division, but it sure is theirs to lose.
6. Do we suddenly have a wide receiver controversy on our hands?
I would think so. Pierre Garcon has been nothing short of spectacular in his relief of Anthony Gonzalez. Seven catches in two games isn't a lot, but it's what he's managed to do in those seven catches: two touchdowns and over 19 yards per reception. Toss in his 17-yard run against the Cardinals in which he literally ran over an Arizona defender, and you really have to wonder how the Colts can justify not getting this guy the ball even when Gonzalez comes back.
Besides, do you see Gonzalez making the 52-yard touchdown play like Garcon did against the Cardinals?
I don't either.
7. Anyone else impress you so far this season?
On offense, obviously the rookie RB Brown has looked good in his limited time. He hits the hole hard and is tough to break down. He's a better between-the-tackles runner than Addai, and can hold his own against no. 29 in the passing game.
However, the real highlight on offense has been Dallas Clark. I thought Clark would be better this year now that Harrison is gone. However, he's on pace for 96 catches and 1500 yards. He won't get those numbers, but it's very realistic for him to reach 80 catches and 1100 yards.
His versatility is going to give defenses fits. Defenses have to account for Clark in multiple spots on the field. This allows the Colts to always play matchups with him and the other receivers. Not only has he done better, but it's making the entire offense better as well. He's a big reason why Manning has been magnificent so far.
On defense, Antoine Bethea is the one that really stands out to me. He doesn't have the presence that Bob Sanders has, but there's no denying that Bethea is a leader when he's on the field. He's made some great plays all over the field. The Colts must make resigning him a top priority in the offseason.
It would be so easy to put Tim Jennings here, but his play improved quite a bit against Arizona. So, my disappoint actually lies with an entire unit: the linebackers.
With our added beef on the defensive line, and Larry Coyer's more aggressive defensive schemes, I was expecting more plays out of our speedy linebackers. Clint Session has done okay, and it hasn't helped that Brackett has been hurt. Still, the linebackers aren't making the plays that they should.
Session is the only linebacker to be in the top five in tackles for the team. For a unit that relies on speed, that isn't a promising sight. Our defensive backs are being forced to come up to make a lot of plays, and that's one of the biggest things to be address moving forward.
9. Speaking of moving forward, how does the Colts' schedule look now?
Based on early returns, I would say the top four teams in the AFC are the Colts, Patriots, Jets, and Ravens. The Colts face each of those other teams later this season. Those will be the barometer games to see how good this team can be. However, the schedule as a whole looks favorable. The Colts get two of those team above at home (Patriots, Jets), and really only have two tough road games left (Tennessee, Baltimore). If the defense plays more like it did in week three, and not like it did in week two, then this is a 12 or 13 win team. The next two opponents, the Seahawks and Titans, will both test the Colts' run defense.
10. Finally, the next opponent is Seattle. Why will this game be special?
It will be special for the one player who will have little impact on the actual game. Edgerrin James signed with Seattle, and has managed only six carries for 13 yards in the last two games. James is at the end of his career, but hopefully Colts fans will remember what a career it was. James did a lot for this franchise, and I'm sure I'm not alone when I felt bad that James left town right before we won the Super Bowl. In fact, I know Colts' owner Jim Irsay felt this way since he gave James a Super Bowl ring.
I hope the Colts do something special when he comes back. He'll probably get a video collage and some kind words. I hope they skip protocol and put James in the Colts' Ring of Honor. He definitely deserves to be there.