According to a Pro Football Talk article, former Colts head coach Tony Dungy believes that if Manning misses more than the first two weeks of the season, the Colts will be in too big of a hole to dig out of to make the playoffs. He does also state, however, that if Manning is able to bounce back and just miss the first game or even two games, that he believes the Colts will win the division.
The Colts have made the postseason every year since Dungy came to Indianapolis in 2002. That's nine straight appearances for those of you counting at home.
Dungy understands this team probably better than anyone else. While he hasn't coached them for three years, the same core of players is still mostly intact from when he left. All of the current key players were key players when Dungy was with the team: Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai, Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark, Gary Brackett, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. He knows these players and how they all work together to form a team.
And he knows how much they rely on Manning.
Dungy's argument is valid. Without Manning, this Colts team will really struggle, especially if it is playing without Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez who appear as if they may miss the opening game as well.
But when Manning comes back, he puts this team right back into competition, even if he's not 100 percent. Manning is arguably the greatest signal caller in the history of the NFL. He makes this team what it is. Tony Dungy has seen that first hand. He knows that better than any of us do.
If Manning is able to make it back by Week 3, there is no reason to fear. The season can still be saved. He can lead the team on a run to the playoffs and grind away on a rather weak AFC South (outside of the Texans).
However, if Manning does miss four, five, six games..it will be a bleak season for Colts fans. Not 2008 Lions bad, not Carolina Panthers bad, not New Orleans Saints bad, but bad, especially given the high standard of football Indianapolis fans have come to expect.
It's not even close to time to start talking about throwing the season and going into the running for Andrew Luck yet. Even without Manning, the Colts won't be that bad. But the team would certainly miss the playoffs.
Just ask the man outside of the team who knows the Colts the best.