2010 NFL Season Preview: Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts have been one of the most successful NFL franchises in recent memory. They are currently riding an astounding seven-season streak of 12 wins or more.
They won the Super Bowl in 2006, and last year they drove all the way back yet lost 31-17 to the New Orleans Saints.
With most of their starters returning, they could very likely have another shot at it.
Biggest Question Heading Into Next Season
Unfortunately, if history repeats itself, as it often does, the Colts are due for a Super Bowl hangover, as only three of the past 10 Super Bowl losers have gone to the playoffs the following year.
Whether or not the Colts are strong enough to overcome that will determine their ultimate success.
T Adam Terry
Terry is a decent offensive tackle who's had starting experience before. He should add quality depth.
G Andy Alleman
Alleman, too, is nothing more than a serviceable backup.
The Colts were pretty passive in free agency, signaling that they were confident in their group moving forward.
QB Jim Sorgi
Sorgi's loss will leave the incompetent (to say the least) Curtis Painter as Manning's backup quarterback.
G Ryan Lilja
Lilja, the team's starting guard last year, was let go because of injury concerns.
DE Raheem Brock
The Colts decided to part ways after Brock's eight seasons with the team.
CB Marlin Jackson
Despite being a talented corner, he's been plagued with injuries, which resulted in his release.
First Round (No. 31 Overall): TCU DE Jerry Hughes
Second Round (No. 63 Overall): Iowa LB Pat Angerer
Third Round (No. 94 Overall): USC CB Kevin Thomas
Fourth Round (No. 129 Overall): Tennessee G Jacques McClendon
Jim Caldwell will be heading into his second season as the Colts' head coach. He inherited a very talented group and picked off where Tony Dungy left off, as he became the first rookie head coach in the Super Bowl.
Larry Coyer will return for his second season as the team's defensive coordinator. One of his biggest responsibilities will be improving their 24th-ranked rush defense.
Clyde Christensen will be entering his first season as the team's offensive coordinator. His only other experience in the league was as the Buccaneers offensive coordinator in 2001. While he didn't so well that time (ranked 26th in total yards), he should do much better this time around.
Note, that Tom Moore, the senior offensive assistant, will be the play-caller.
The Colts have one of the most potent offenses in the league, primarily because of Peyton Manning.
Manning, in my mind, is the best player in the NFL, and he continues to lead the way to dominance.
In his arsenal he has two of the league's best playmakers in Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. Moreover, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon established themselves as reliable targets. Consider the fact that Anthony Gonzalez is coming back from injury, and their passing attack is deadly.
Even though I firmly believe that balance is an integral key to success, the Colts appear to be the exception. Despite ranking dead last in rushing yards, they were seventh in points scored.
The Colts do have a strong offensive line in terms of pass blocking, as the group only allowed a league-best 13 sacks. On the other hand, they are below average in run blocking.
Once again, I expect this offense to rank amongst the league's best.
While the Colts offense may not be great, they do a fantastic job at generating an effective pass rush.
Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis possess the ability to wreak havoc in the opponent's backfield, as last year they racked up 13.5 and 9.5 sacks, respectively.
At defensive tackle they are rather weak, as the Colts prefer undersized players. They rely on a consistent rotation at the position.
They have a solid linebacking core, led by Gary Brackett. Alongside him are Clint Session and Phillip Wheeler, all three of whom are small, fast, and reliable in coverage.
Their secondary is very underrated, in my mind. Kelvin Hayden, Jerraud Powers, and Jacob Lacey form a great trio at corner. Meanwhile, Antoine Bethea and Bob Sanders make up one of the best safety tandems in the league.
Do be aware though that Sanders, a former Defensive Player of the Year, is very injury-prone. In fact, he's missed 37 games overe the past four seasons. If and when he's out, Melvin Bullitt will step in.
Special Teams Outlook
If the Colts have a weakness, it's their special teams unit.
Chad Simpson returned a kickoff for a score last year, but is now gone, leaving the duties to rookie Ray Fisher. In terms of coverage, the team allowed one score last year as well.
Adam Vinatieri, their kicker, nailed 78 percent of his field goals. He is getting older, and his leg strength is diminishing.
Their punter, Pat McAfee, did a decent job last season by pinning nearly 33 percent of his punts inside the 20-yard line.
QB Peyton Manning
Manning is a sure-fire first round pick, and should be the second quarterback drafted behind Drew Brees.
WR Reggie Wayne
Wayne is one of the most consistent receivers in the league and should be good for at least 80 receptions and 1,200 yards.
RB Joseph Addai
Because of his high touchdown production (10 last year), Addai is still a viable fantasy option.
TE Dallas Clark
Clark is one of the top tight ends in the game, and I project him to have at least 80 receptions for 1,000 yards.
WR Pierre Garcon
Garcon is a dangerous deep threat and could push for 1,000 yards.
Week 1 @ Houston Texans
Week 2 vs. New York Giants
Week 3 @ Denver Broncos
Week 4 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 5 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 6 @ Washington Redskins
Week 7 Bye
Week 8 vs. Houston Texans
Week 9 @ Philadelphia
Week 10 vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 11 @ New England Patriots
Week 12 vs. San Diego Chargers
Week 13 vs. Dallas Cowboys
Week 14 @ Tennessee Titans
Week 15 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 16 @ Oakland Raiders
Week 17 vs. Tennessee Titans
While the Colts do have some tough games ahead of them, they have the ability to beat every team on their schedule.
There are several games that you will want to mark on your calendar, such as the Manning sibling rivalry in Week Two and the Manning vs. Brady showdown in Week 11.
In a Nutshell
Simply said, as long as Peyton Manning is with this team, I expect the Colts to win the division. No Super Bowl hangover is going to stop him.
With teams like the Ravens and Jets improving, it will be interesting to see if they can get another chance at a title though.
Final Record: 12-4 (1st in AFC South)