Colts Face Golden Opportunity in Monday Night Game at Miami

Nick SouthCorrespondent ISeptember 21, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - SEPTEMBER 13:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts waits for a play form the bench during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Since realignment and the creation of the AFC South in 2002, only two teams have ever won the division: the Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans

The Titans have won two division championships. Every other title has been claimed by the Colts.

What's truly astonishing about the Colts' dominance in the division is this stat: only once, in 2002, have the Colts had a one-game lead in the division and failed to claim the title.

Only once.

Sure, a one-game lead isn't a lot in the NFL. Even a three-game lead wasn't enough for the 2008 Denver Broncos. Once the Colts get the slimmest of leads in the division, history suggests that the Colts will win the division.

Now, before you steal from your kid's college fund to get money ready for playoff tickets, I'm not suggesting the division is wrapped up before the second game even kicks off.

But...look at the rest of the division.

Jacksonville is an atrocious team.

The Colts tried to gift wrap a win in Week One, and the Jaguars politely declined.

In Week Two, the Jags hosted the Arizona Cardinals, a team that went 0-5 in Eastern Time Zone games in 2008. Jacksonville looked like the team in the wrong time zone in an ugly 31-17 loss.

In two games, David Garrard has yet to complete over 54 percent of his passes. Jones-Drew is barely averaging 80 yards rushing.

When the Jacksonville owner is already discussing draft options—he was quoted as having some interest in Florida's Tim Tebow—you have to wonder if the Jags have a better chance of being in the market for a new coach at season's end than they do at being a playoff contender.

Then, of course, there's the curious case of the Tennesse Titans. In most preseason publications, the Titans would have at least been considered co-favorites with the Colts heading into the 2009 season.

After two games, though, the Titans suddenly find themselves at 0-2 with the bottom-dwelling Jaguars.

What's most bizarre is the way the Titans have lost. First, they lost a 13-10 slug match with the Steelers, and then they lose a 34-31 barn burner with the division rival Texans.

Though a professional player would never admit it, I can imagine that every Colt is happy that the Titans have stumbled out of the 2009 gate.

So, how about those Texans, defeaters of the defending AFC South champions? Well, like the team they beat today, the Texans have been a bit of a puzzle early on.

In Week One they looked absolutely horrible in the loss to the New York Jets. Sure, the Jets suddenly look like a legitimate contender after their huge win over the New England Patriots, but this was the Texans' home opener. They were the sexy darkhorse playoff pick.

Playoff darkhorses aren't supposed to lay eggs in home openers.

This week the Texans traveled to Tennessee and came away with a huge win against the Titans. Tennessee isn't exactly the type of team built to score 31 points and put up over 400 yards of offense.

It's the maddening inconsistency you typically see with teams that don't have a history of winning.

How will Houston respond if they suddenly find themselves in a playoff race come December? Remember, the Texans had an opportunity to earn the franchise's first winning record last season, only to lose to a putrid Oakland Raiders squad.

And so, the Colts head into their Monday Night Football game against the Miami Dolphins with a chance to be 2-0 Tuesday morning and own sole possession of the division lead.

Like the Colts' offense, the franchise's philosophy has been to play with the lead. The Colts want the rest of the division looking up at the them all season long, keeping the pressure on Houston, Tennessee, and Jacksonville to keep pace.

A win Monday in Miami will be just one victory, but it could be a huge psychological boost that the Colts could use to sprint out to another fast start.

In four of their title years, the Colts started the season with at least five consecutive wins.

With Miami's famous Wildcat attack struggling after an opening-season loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the Colts have an excellent opportunity to win the game and set the pace.

A win tomorrow, and the rest could be history.


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