Consistency, a word commonly used in terms towards the Indianapolis Colts over the past 10 years or so, otherwise known as the "Manning Years".
The Colts have won 12 or more games seven years in a row, they have won the AFC South seven times in the last eight seasons, and the last time they missed the playoffs was in 2001. So this tells me that they have a good shot of still being around come January.
We all know that they were good enough to be a Super Bowl team last year, and in my opinion they are the clear cut favorites to not only return, but win the Super Bowl this season.
The offense is, and has been, one of the best and most prolific in the NFL over the past decade, and last season was no exception.
Despite the loss of long time colt Marvin Harrison, whose skills were diminishing, the Colts went 14-2 on the shoulders of Peyton Manning, who won his record fourth MVP award last year.
The Colts were able to rely heavily upon two young receivers to replace Harrison and Anthony Gonzalez who missed practically the entire season.
Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie proved that they were ready to step up in 2009, and they were a reliable target for Manning all of last season.
With the healthy return of Gonzalez, the Colts now have the deepest receiving core in the NFL, and quite possibly the best.
In addition to Gonzalez, Garcon, and Collie, Manning will have his favorite deep target Reggie Wayne and his always reliable tight end Dallas Clark, so the Colts will have five legitimate threats when Manning drops back to throw. Good luck covering all of them.
While the receiving core looks good, the Colts will also have a stable of running backs ready to improve upon their poor play last season.
Joseph Addai and Donald Brown are going to surprise a lot of people in 2010; I think that they will prove to be a good tandem out of the Colts backfield this year.
Addai will be motivated to improve his numbers, and I think that we might see him regain his '06 and '07 form. And Brown will be back for his second year in the league, ready to prove himself to the Colts after a few injuries in 2009.
If the Colts put together any running game at all in 2010, they will have the most dangerous offense in the NFL for sure.
With such a great offense, one might think that the defense of such a one sided team would be terrible. Well, you’re wrong.
The defense is certainly the weaker side of the ball for Indianapolis, but that doesn't mean that they aren't good.
Pro Bowlers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis welcome a new protégé to the defensive line in first round draft pick, Jerry Hughes.
So if you thought that the Freeney/Mathis tandem was tough, they just got better, and when one of them comes out of the game you’re going to have your hands full with Hughes. I hope that teams playing the Colts have a good supply of QBs on the bench.
The starting linebackers are all back and healthy once again after a big year in 2009. Gary Brackett continued to lead the defense, while Clint Session developed into a very good linebacker last season. Philip Wheeler looked strong last season as Hagler's replacement and will be the starter heading into this year.
The Colts parted ways with Marlin Jackson this offseason, who had missed a considerable amount of time over the past two seasons. The Colts did not miss Jackson that much though, because they had two young corners step up for them.
Jarraud Powers and Jacob Lacey made some very big plays for the Colts, and along with Kelvin Hayden, Indy has a reliable core of players at cornerback.
As of right now, the Colts expect to have Bob Sanders back in the mix at the start of the 2010 season, but we all know how quickly that could change. If Sanders does return and manages to stay healthy, along with Antoine Bethea, the Colts have the best pair of safeties in the NFL.
The defense may be undersized, but it is still very strong and reliable. I think a lot of credit for the defensive improvement last year is due to Larry Coyer, who took over as defensive coordinator for the Colts a year ago.
This season should also mark the return of another key player that Indy lost in 2009, Adam Vinatieri, one of the most clutch kickers in the game.
Indy has also improved on the return game, an area of weakness that has plagued the Colts for years, but that all could change with Ray Fisher out of Indiana University. He was the FBS kickoff return average leader in 2009, and he is yet another point scoring weapon for the Colts.
Obviously not all of the players will stay healthy (cough, Bob Sanders, cough) but looking at what the Colts have right now, I don't see another team that can match them toe to toe, at least not in the AFC, and that means Colts are headed to Dallas this February.
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