The last time Indianapolis played a meaningful game without Peyton Manning in the starting lineup, "Candle in the Wind" was the number one song in America and Barack Hussein Obama was still just a lowly state senator with the most unlikely name in all of politics.
It was 1997, and the Colts were a completely different team than the one we know today.
In the 13 years since Manning was drafted the boys in blue have seen plenty of highs and plenty of lows, but perhaps only one clear constant: This is Manning’s team, and it is with his presence in mind that the team has ever since been built.
Take away number 18, and the whole thing just seems to fall apart. The no-huddle offense. The “stretch” play. The speedy, explosive defense designed to play with a lead. None of it works without a highly skilled maestro to gently pull its strings. And after a decade of absolute brilliance on his part, it’s almost insulting at this point to imagine anyone but Peyton Williams Manning commanding this ship.
Unfortunately for the Colts, however, right now Manning has no business going anywhere near a football field according to his doctors, and a game still must be played this Sunday whether he has permission to participate in it or not.
Assuming Bill Polian can’t just change the rules around somehow so the game can’t be played, somebody is going to have to step up for this team. And if the Colts want a fighting chance of leaving the Lone Star state with a victory on their record, whoever that is just might have to step up big time.
Here are eight potential saviors who could make all the difference.