The Dime Package: Indianapolis Colts Questions Heading into the Bye

Nick SouthCorrespondent IOctober 13, 2009

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 11:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts is pictured during the NFL game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on October 11, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Another week. Another win. Another round of Colts questions.

Don't think I could get tired of this routine.

10. Titans To Be a Big Test, Huh?

I was a little off on that one, yes. In the past, this would have been a down to the wire game.

The Colts started off sluggish—muffed punt, Peyton's interception. If not for a brilliant play by Antoine Bethea to cause the fumble that set up a short field for the Colts' first touchdown, it could have been a brutal start.

Still, the Titans never capitalized on the early miscues. Good teams find a way to win when they start poorly. Apparently the Colts are beyond good since they not only found a way to win, but they found a way to humiliate the Titans in what was essentially Tennessee's season defining game.

It was a statement of how good the Colts are, just as much as how bad the Titans are. 13-3 to 5-11 seems quite conceivable for them.

9. Could This Be the Best Indianapolis Colts Team Ever?

The Indianapolis Star's Eddie Kravitz initially asked the question. A lot of fans, including myself, have always felt the 2005 team was the best team Indianapolis has had—definitely better than the 2006 team that managed to gel in time for the playoffs.

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The 2005 was a very dominant team, starting the year off 13-0, before finishing 14-2. Too bad a great season was soured by the opening playoff loss to Pittsburgh.

Through five games, the 2005 team was averaging 21.2 ppg on offense and allowed an amazing 5.8 ppg on defense. That's a difference of 15.4 ppg.

The 2009 version of the Colts is averaging 27.4 ppg on offense and allowing 14.2 ppg on defense. That's a difference of 13.2 ppg.

The 2005 team was off to a better start, but it should be noted their numbers slid a little as the season went on. If the '09 Colts can keep up the pace, they could perform better statistically than their 2005 counterparts.

Not that anyone would really care as long as they performed better in the playoffs.

There's no doubting this current team has a lot of potential.

8. Could Manning Win a Historic Fourth NFL MVP?

He's certainly the front runner. Drew Brees cooled off after his blistering two game start. There's several other good stories, but Manning is starting the year off on a tremendous pace.

He's completing 73.5 percent of his passes. His career best is 67.6. He's on pace to throw for over 5,200 yards, 45 yards per game over his career best.

Manning may not make the touchdown record, but he's off to a remarkable start in nearly every other category.

Since it's never been done, it'll obviously be hard for Manning to win a fourth MVP award. They'll be a ton of sentiment for Brett Favre, I imagine, if he leads the Vikings to a 12 win season, but I hope that doesn't happen.

Manning's numbers will dwarf Favre's. Baring a disaster, I see only Brees as his main competition.

7. Who's The Best Rookie So Far?

Tough question. I'll say this first. This may go down as Bill Polian's best draft in Indianapolis. Donald Brown, Austin Collie, and Jerraud Powers are all being very productive rookies.

Throw in undrafted Jacob Lacey, and this rookie class has been extremely impressive.

Also, consider this. After the Colts' draft, most media were praising the Colts for drafting big defensive tackles Fili Moala and Terrence Taylor. Taylor got cut, and Moala has been inactive.

Even with those big blemishes, it's been a successful group thus far.

That said, I'd have to give the early nod to Lacey. All four of the guys I mentioned have been solid, but the other three were all drafted in the top four rounds.

Few, if any, could have expected Lacey to be productive, let alone play significant minutes for a defense ranked in the top 10 in passing yards allowed. Lacey, who is tied for the team lead with five defensed passes, has been a pleasant surprise.

6. Any of The Vets Surprise You?

Okay, I have this to say:

Sorry, Charlie.

I'm really sorry I doubted Caldwell's decision to bench Tony Ugoh for Charlie Johnson. Johnson was supposed to be a stop gap replacement. It was feared that LT would be the weak link along the line.

Johnson, though, has been spectacular.

Anyone noticed how the Titan's Kyle Vanden Bosch got consistent pressure on Manning last night? Anyone also notice how Ugoh struggled with him.

Sure, Ugoh looks like a bust, but I think Manning's blind side is safe with Johnson.

5. So, Assuming Manning is The Offensive MVP Thus Far, Who is The Defensive MVP?

Antoine Bethea. He leads the team in tackles, has two interceptions, and had a huge forced fumble in last night's games.

His impact on the defense goes way beyond the stats though.

His leadership has been instrumental as the secondary has had to play with two rookies on many occasions. He's the strength of a unit allowing a mere 5.6 yards per pass attempt.

Think about it. They've been without Kelvin Hayden and Bob Sanders, yet the defense is one of the best units against the pass in the league. Bethea's leadership has a lot to do with that.

4. Okay, Enough With The Praise and Sunshine. What's Been Disappointing So Far?

Is there anything disappointing about a 5-0 start? Everything you could nit pick about, this team has improved itself.

The defense plays one of its worst games ever against Miami, allowing 239 yards rushing. Since then? Three games, 163 total yards rushing allowed. Sure, the Titans got 4.4 yards per rush last night, but the longest run allowed was just 11 yards.

On offense, the running game could be better. However, with Manning and his receivers, the running game really only needs to be effective, not game changing.

It has been effective. Joseph Addai and Donald Brown have both had some good runs, and it helps they've combined for over 30 catches and nearly 300 yards receiving.

Individually, even much maligned Tim Jennings has improved. Jennings was almost a goat in last night's Titans game after backing into a punt that gave Tennessee the ball and a cheap three points. Jennings made up for it in the second half with a great interception that set up the game icing touchdown.

Nit picks, nothing more.

3. Changes Were The Headline Heading Into The Season. What About Now?

Oh, the changes are still the headline, but for the opposite reason. As usual, I have yet to hear the pundits who predicted a slide in the Colts' production because of the changes in personnel and in the coaching staff make amends by pointing out how those changes have actually improved the squad.

No Marvin Harrison. His replacement, Anthony Gonzalez is out. No matter—the Colts have continued on with great play from Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon.

No Tony Dungy. No matter—coach Jim Caldwell has been a solid, quiet leader. It's obvious he expects his players to take responsibility for their duties. It's shown on the field.

New Defensive Coordinator. No Bob Sanders. No matter—Larry Coyer has made the defense more aggressive. No longer do the Colts need Sanders to provide the defensive fire. They have a multitude of guys that can make game changing plays now.

Change has definitely been good.

2. Bold Predictions For The Rest of The Season?

Well, I'd say the division championship is a foregone conclusion. Jacksonville looked like it had a chance after winning two straight division games until they laid a goose egg against Seattle.

That's not exactly a bold prediction.

Given the rest of the schedule, I see only three games that the Colts could lose. Two are at home (New England, Denver), and one is away (Baltimore). The Colts don't lose all three of those games.

14-2 is my prediction for the season, if the Colts continue their strong start.

From there, they should be the favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. This team can win the Super Bowl.

1. Given The Colts' Playoff History, What Makes This Team Different?

In the past, the Colts seemed to be going through the motions in the regular season. Since the bitter defeat against the Steelers in the 2005 playoffs, the Colts have always seemed to play the regular season out just to get a shot in the playoffs. It worked in 2006 but not in 2007 or 2008.

This year, they seem hungry. A lot of the young guys weren't on the Super Bowl winning team. They aren't just playing games to win them to make the playoffs. They are actively trying to make themselves a better team.

In the past, it looked like a job. This team looks like it's having fun. That could mean the difference between bitter playoff memories, or championship parades in February.

Yes, they're this good.

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