When a team is good for a solid decade, it is only a matter of time before people get tired of them. Fans welcome change, and they want to see new stars and new teams at the top of the standings. This is no different in Indianapolis, where football fans that don't like the Colts are ready to turn the page.
The impressive streak of success that the Colts have had under Peyton Manning is something that is hard to even imagine. What it means to the NFL and the game of football is hard to quantify. Any time you mention AFC contenders over the past decade, you always mention a variation of the same five teams: the Colts, Patriots, Steelers, Chargers and Ravens.
Looking at Baltimore and San Diego, they both still have young quarterbacks and running backs. The Patriots and Steelers always seem to just reload instead of rebuilding. When you look at the Colts though, there are some questions that are going to have to be addressed very soon.
As does everything else in Indy, it all starts with Peyton Manning. His health is the biggest concern this year after neck surgery this summer. He will most likely miss some preseason action, which is going to be extremely difficult for him to overcome, as he is all about timing and accuracy. Not being able to practice with his receivers since January could really be a problem for the offense.
If Peyton does struggle early, they don't really have a reliable running game to turn to. They were able to keep Joseph Addai in town, but he isn't a Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson type of back. Addai's primary job in this organization is to be the last line of defense for Peyton. Basically, he is an extra lineman in the backfield. They still have Donald Brown and rookie Delone Carter from Syracuse, but even Adrian Peterson would have a hard time running behind this offensive line.
The defense has never been great, and they lost their best corner this year in Kelvin Hayden. The linebackers and interior defensive line are going to be another soft spot this year for the Colts. Teams will once again be able to gut the defense right up the middle, and the Colts will have to try to outscore everyone with their offense.
The regular season has been good to the Colts, but the postseason is a different animal. Only once were they able to claim Super Bowl victory, when they defeated Rex Grossman and the Bears. They will need their defense to step up once again like it did during that playoff run. They will need to improve their run-blocking and rush defense. More than anything, they will need to stay healthy.
The AFC will once again be stacked with great teams. You will have the usual teams like New England, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and New York. You also have other rising teams like Kansas City and Houston, who many believe will finally be able to take the division this year away from the Colts.
Peyton Manning is human (I think), and he will age just as Michael Jordan, Brett Favre and Jerry Rice did. If he struggles this year or, God forbid, suffers an injury this year or next, it could be the end of an era in Indianapolis. An era that will undoubtedly go down in history.