[Writer's Note: "Yeah, I Said It" will be a weekly installment in which I make a prediction/analysis of a specific player or NFL team.]
I know we've only seen four weeks of NFL football thus far, but there are several factors that lead me to believe that the Indianapolis Colts will not make the playoffs this season.
The Colts have been an NFL powerhouse for much of the 2000's, finally adding a strong defense to the Peyton Manning-led offense en route to a Superbowl victory during the 2006-2007. In that season, Manning once again dominated the league, throwing for 4397 yards, 31 TDs, and only 9 INT for an impressive QB Rating of 101.0. Marvin Harrison led all Colts WR with 95 Receptions for 1366 yards and 12 TDs, and was always mentioned as a Top 5 WR. RB Joseph Addai had a strong rookie campaign, eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark and rushing for 7 TDs. The overall Offense was among the top in the league (2nd in total points scored, 3rd in yards), while the Defense did just enough to let the Offense win the games (23rd in points allowed, 21st in yards allowed).
Let's fast foward two years to today.
Through three games, Manning has looked mediocre at best, throwing for 784 yds, 3 TDs, and 4 INTs for a paltry QB rating of 73.1 (good for 24th in the league). To give you an idea, Matt Cassel, who prior to this season hadn't started a game since high school, has a QB rating of 87.0 (15th in the NFL). Joseph Addai has gained only 142 yards on the ground (47.3 yds per game), putting him at 36th overall in the league. Harrison has rapidly deteriorated over the past two years, injuring his right knee last season and also undergoing a police investigation during the offseason. He has been leapfrogged by teammates WR Reggie Wayne and WR Anthony Gonzalez, and has thus far only caught 13 balls for 132 yds and 1 TD. At this rate, Harrison will finish the season with 69 Rec, 704 yds, and 5 TDs. The Offense ranks 27th in league in points per game (17.3) and 17th in yards per game (313.0).
The Defense has not fared much better giving up 22.3 points per game (19th in the league) and 340.3 yards per game (23rd in the league). It doesn't help that Defensive MVP and 2007 Defensive Player of the Year, Safety Bob Sanders, is out for at least another month with a bum ankle.
So what has exactly has led the Colts to a 1-2 record and eventual non-playoff season?
1) Pedestrian Offense
Gone are the days when Manning could manipulate defenses any which way he pleased. Gone are the days when Marvin Harrison was uttered in the same sentence as Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. The Colts rushing attack, at only 64 yds/game, good for dead last in the league, will not put much fear in opposing defenses. The Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys have eclipsed the Colts in offenses that truly strike fear in defenses. Opponents know that if you take away the running game (which clearly hasn't been hard thus far) and put pressure on Manning, it will only be a matter of time until the Colts turn the ball over. The Colts are currently tied for 20th in the league in giveaways and their turnover differential is -3, putting them at 24th in that category.
2) Circa 2001 - Jim Mora Defense
In the Week 3 Loss to the Jaguars, The Jags rush offense gashed the Colts for 236 rushing yards. Prior to that game, the Jaguars were averaging only 65.5 rush yds/game and on the season as a whole (not including the Colts game) the Jags are averaging just 90 yds per game (which would put them at 24th in the league if it had not been for the Colts). Heck maybe even Cedric Benson can reach the 100 yd mark against the Colts in Week 14.
With Bob Sanders out for the next month, the defensive situation does not look good.
So, with that analysis out the way, let's look at the Colts remaining schedule.
Week 5 - @ Houston - Even with Matt Schaub improving, the Texans are not good, at all. - WIN
Week 6 - vs. Baltimore - The Ravens would be 3-1 right now had it not been for Hurricane Ike. McClain and McGahee should enjoy playing the Colts rush defense - LOSS
Week 7 - @ Green Bay - As long as Aaron Kampman and AJ Hawk can pressure Manning, GB should win. - LOSS
Week 8 - @ Tennessee - Kerry Collins is 1) not crazy or suicidal (anymore) and 2) can actually manage the game. - LOSS
Week 9 - vs New England - With no Brady, the Pats are lost on the field. - WIN
Week 10 - @ Pittsburgh - By then, Fast Willie Parker should be back healthy and ready to tear up the Colts defense. - LOSS
Week 11 - vs Houston - Refer to Week 5. - WIN
Week 12 - @ San Diego - Yes, SD has struggled a bit early on, but LT, Antonio Gates, and Chris Chambers will simply be too much for the Colts D to handle. - LOSS
Week 14 - vs. Cincinnati - Chad Ocho Cinco is starting to look like Marvin Harrison. And that's not a good thing. - WIN
Week 15 - vs. Detroit - Three weeks, three straight wins for the Colts. - WIN
Week 16 - @ Jacksonville - Despite the Jags rushing for 236 yards in the first contest, it was still close. This one goes to Indy. - WIN
Week 17 - vs. Tennessee - Unless Vince Young comes back, the Titans will win this one. - LOSS
Tallying that up puts the Colts at a final regular season record of 8-8. At 8-8, The Colts aren't getting into the playoffs over Denver, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Baltimore, or San Diego. Unless things change on both offense and defense, the Colts aren't going anywhere and Jim Mora just might have to make a return appearance.