The Colts' season has been filled with ups and downs, evidenced by their 7-6 record and Peyton Manning's considerable amount of interceptions (15) compared to last year's season total (16) at this point in the season.
Indianapolis has spoiled it's fan base the last seven years, with at least 12 victories in each of them. So with a record that only stands an inch over .500, a boat load of injuries, and a physical upstart in Jacksonville standing in their way of a seventh AFC South crown, it leaves many feeling like George Costanza's old self: totally inadequate, completely insecure, paranoid, narcotic, and unlike George, it hasn't been a pleasure.
But rest easy Colt nation because it's far from over and this just could be the summer (or winter) of George.
At 7-6, plenty are worried about the state of the Colts. A seven-year streak of 12 wins or more is over and the Colts who are used to injuries, are dealing with more of them than maybe in previous years.
But before everyone gets carried away, remember this; the Colts are only a game out of first place. That's right, with all the screaming and shouting the idiotic prognosticators are doing (I'm looking at you Keyshawn), we forget the Colts despite being bruised and battered, are still just a victory away from being atop the AFC South.
The Colts play Jacksonville this week and with a victory they can pull back into a tie for first place and if they win out, it could very well spell playoffs for the old blue and white.
The reason guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are so good for so many years is because they don't let the grind of the season get to them, the ups and downs will come and for the most part (unless you're a Lions fan) they will fade away. The Colts need not worry about righting any ship, this is the same ship that had them a bad throw away from a Super Bowl victory.
Are they perfect? By no means but this formula has worked before and if Peyton Manning has anything to say about it, it will work again.
Here is a look at the Colts' remaining schedule:
Week 15 vs Jacksonville (8-5)
Week 16 at Oakland (6-7)
Week 17 vs Tennessee (5-8)
Now you may look at that schedule and think the Colts have a rough road ahead of them but I see something entirely different. I see two of the most inconsistent teams in the NFL lining up to play the Colts, only the Jaguars have me worried.
Jacksonville is a wild card because of their tough running game but in all honesty, I could see the Colts winning out and finishing the season with a 10-6 record.
It wouldn't surprise me and it shouldn't surprise you, if the Colts do this. They have been known to reel off several victories in a row and I don't expect this season to be any different.
Colts fans and fantasy owners alike (including myself) went into a panic when Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark was placed on the IR. But Jacob Tamme, as I half-heartedly predicted, has fit the bill after taking Clark's spot.
In his five starts and seven games with significant playing time this season Tamme has racked up 46 catches for 452 yards and three touchdowns (and just in case you were wondering, a beautiful 109 fantasy points for yours truly). He's the definition of a Madden tight end, you know when you decide you're going to make an unknown a superstar and you look through a variety of tight ends looking for a guy with decent speed and excellent hands.
What I'm the only one that does that?
The point is this guy, at least in my opinion, isn't a product of the system because he has talent but his stats obviously have been elevated because of that said system and the man running it. Had this guy started all season long, he would have finished with 104 catches, 1,024 yards and about six touchdowns.
It's more than likely he couldn't maintain his current average over a 16-game schedule but those numbers show you how great of a second half this guy is having. As long as Peyton has this guy as his safety valve, I think the Colts will be alright.
When it comes to statistics along the offensive line, I usually don't concern myself with them for one reason and one reason only: the jersey test. If your quarterback's jersey is clean (for the most part unless we're talking astro turf here) your offensive line did a decent job in pass protection.
Lately the Colts have had more success keeping Peyton upright, even if it has more to do with Peyton's rate of release, rather then stellar protection. The point is, the Colts' link to victory is directly tied to number 18. If he goes down, so do the Colts. There are probably only two other teams in the league that depend on their quarterback as much as the Colts do.
So if Manning finds himself with enough time to connect with his (even if banged up) plethora of weapons, the odds of the Colts winning are obviously far greater than if he did his best Matthew Stafford impression (I love you Matt but it's true).
So you got past the introduction and the first four slides and just as you think you have a pretty good feel as to where this column was going, I threw a behind-the-back bounce pass your way, a la Steve Nash.
Before I confuse you any further, I'll get to the point. If you have read any of my previous columns, from time-to-time I make pop culture references and/or odd comparisons to drive my point home. I have prior to now compared Peyton Manning to Nash and for the purposes of this point, I will again.
No one in their respective sports has quite the control over their offense, they are the kings of distribution, the definition of a field and/or floor general. Another aspect of their games they share is the fast break offense, which is another reason there should be no panic in Indy.
In the span of three minutes and 11 seconds, the Colts turned what seemed like a blowout into a nail biter against New England a month ago. In that span, Peyton Manning hooked up with receiver Blair White for two touchdowns and pulled the Colts within a field goal.
Both Manning and Nash have their critics and their place in history is often disputed but both run their offenses to perfection, despite what would seem to be a less than stellar supporting cast at times. And there are few players that are more trusted and feared with the ball in their hands with the game on the line.
On paper the Jaguars don't exactly have a stiff test after they face-off with Indy Sunday but if you dissect their two remaining games, you could convince yourself that they could drop one, even both games.
Two Club Tie-Breaker for Division Crown
- Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
- Strength of victory.
- Strength of schedule.
- Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
- Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
- Best net points in common games.
Courtesy of NFL.com
First off, they play Indy and if they lose, the Colts pull into a tie which basically adds up to a college football, BCS finale in the last two weeks. If both win out, it comes down to these breakers.
So if you break this three-game playoff race down, after this week if Jacksonville wins, the race is pretty much over. They would have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Indy winning both regular season meetings and would have a two-game lead with two games remaining.
If the Colts win, that makes things a little more interesting. That would mean they would be tied with the Jags with two games remaining, one of which for both teams, is a division game and they would have identical division records going into week 17. This race may just come down to Houston and Tennessee, the Jags will travel to Houston and the Colts will host the Titans.
Jacksonville will play a reeling Washington Redskins team and the Colts will play the dangerous but inconsistent Oakland Raiders next week. Obviously if one team loses in week 16, they have no control over their destiny in week 17. But if Indy beats Jacksonville, Oakland and Tennessee they win the division and obviously make the playoffs.
Peyton Manning called this week's game a playoff game and for all intents and purposes, he's right. This year may not have been as pretty as the last seven but if the Colts find a way to win out, the season will finish with same result, an opportunity to win it all.