In the past (including last year), the Colts were always known as the second AFC power behind New England, who typically beat them (with the rare exception) in the AFC Championship game. They were always a great offense, but also a team prone to choking in the big game despite their talent. In this article I won't delve into the power rankings of the AFC, but I will clarify exactly who the Colts are NOW, as opposed to who they were then.
If there is anyone who knows what the NFL is and still doesn't know who Peyton Manning is, I don't know them. He is definitely one of the greatest quarterbacks (statistically) to ever play the game. He's won a Superbowl (and the MVP) and 3 regular season MVPs so to say that he is not a huge part of the Colts is a lie.
Last year, Manning had offseason knee surgery, and began the season much different from "normal". After about 5 to 7 games though, he found his rhythm and the Colts proceeded to finish 12-4 with a playoff spot, typical of them, although this time, 12 wins only gave them the second spot in the division behind Tennessee.
Throughout the season, it was Manning's "laser-rocket-arm" that kept the Colts in the postseason discussion with their running game a dismal 31st in the league. Throwing for over 4000 yards (again) and 27 touchdowns, Manning showed that he could be a great quarterback without his usual thousand yard rusher.
This season, Manning is on pace for possibly the second-best or even best season of his career. After 6 games, his numbers are:
156 of 215 (72.6%) for 1880 yards, 15 TDs and 4 INTs and a rating of 114.5
In 2004 (his record setting career year) his numbers after 6 games were:
131 of 196 (66.4%) for 1689 yards, 17 TDs and 3 INTs and a rating of 116.2
Although he is currently on pace for fewer touchdowns ("only" 40), his yardage is predicted to exceed 5000 and his completion percentage to remain +70%. Both of those are enormous landmarks are commendable no matter who it is throwing the ball. In the MVP race this year, Manning will definitely be in the discussion.
P.S. One of Manning's interceptions this year was on a fade to the end zone that should have been a touchdown (Wayne also dropped a TD in the Tennessee game), 2 of his other interceptions were on passes where protection caused his arm to be hit.
Sadly...no, the Colts are not a "running team" anymore like they were in the days of Edgerrin James or even in Addai's first two years. The offense that picked up where the Greatest Show on Turf left off has gotten remarkably one dimensional over the years (right now they resemble last year's Saints) but defenses still can't stop them. Why? The answer is simple: The Colts can still run the football, they just choose not to (I think the reason is obvious).
The reason I have so much confidence in their running game? Donald Brown. Sure Joe's still got it, but in two runs Sunday, Brown got over 50 yards (one for 13 and one for 45). It took Addai over 20 carries to get 60 yards. If this doesn't indicate potential for Brown I don't know what does.
By the end of this season, I'm willing to bet Donald Brown will have already had a 100 yard game and maybe even a two TD game.
When you look at the backfield the Colts have, it's probably one of the most talented (just not most productive) duos in the NFL. Donald Brown and Joseph Addai are both fast but remarkably strong backs that fit well with the Colt's spread offense. As Brown showed on his only 2 carries today (for 58 yards!), he will eventually be one of the best backs in the NFL, he only needs time. I'm willing to bet that Brown has a decent shot at a 1000 yard season next year, if he is named the starter.
The unsung heroes of the Colts, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis often go unnoticed even in their best games. As probably the most feared pass rushing duo in the NFL, they definitely constitute a big part of the Colts D.
This year, the Colts defense is an amazing second in scoring, allowing just over 12 points a game. Their pass defense is ranked seventh (allowing less than 180 yards per game) and has given up only 2 pass TDs this year. Their yardage defense is also great, ranked ninth and allowing just over 290 yards per game.
It has been a long time since the Colts have had a good D, not to mention a great D like they have right now. Sure their rush defense is ranked very high, but they've face Jacksonville, Miami, Seattle, Tennessee and St. Louis, all of which are very capable of running straight over you.
In short, the Colts are as much a defensive team as they are an offensive team this year. They have not allowed a touchdown in two straight games and with the return of Bob Sanders and Marlin Jackson, they can only get better.
With their characteristic players, the Colts are often seen as an "old team". While this may be true for some of the players (Manning and Saturday for example), the talent on the team is anything but old. Garcon, Collie, Brown, Lacey and Moala are all receiving playing time, and I'm sure they will quickly become starters.
I won't argue that the Colts are the best in the AFC right now, but one thing is for certain, nobody in their right mind would voluntarily choose to play them. As one of the top offensive and defensive powers in the league, the Colts have definitely proved critics wrong this year. I cannot make any long-term predictions. All I have to say is:
I don't think the Colts will go one and done in the playoffs this year.