I’ve watched some really good Colts teams since Peyton Manning arrived wearing number 18. More than once I’ve thought the Colts were the best team in football, only to see them exit early from the playoffs. The year they finally won the Super Bowl, I would not have given them a chance when the playoffs started. Having said all that, this Colts team is playing as well as any Colts team I can ever remember covering.
I’ll admit the seasons and the games run together a bit for me after covering the Colts for 18 years. The teams that went 13-0, 7-0, 9-0 and so far 6-0 this season were obviously very good. But I don’t remember a Colts team playing this well in all phases like the Colts are this year.
Where can you begin to be critical of the Colts this year? Peyton Manning is playing almost perfect football, the best he has played in his incredible career. He has plenty of weapons, with Anthony Gonzalez coming back eventually. Reggie Wayne has become a top 5 receiver in the NFL. Dallas Clark will finally be a Pro Bowler this season. Austin Collie is already dependable as a rookie and Pierre Garcon has shown well in flashes.
The running combo of Joseph Addai and Donald Brown is even better than the Addai/Dominic Rhodes rotation from the Super Bowl season. The Colts have even become reliable in short yardage situations.
All this offensive production comes behind an offensive line that is deep and talented. Jeff Saturday is the only player with any name recognition around the league. But Peyton is the safest quarterback in the NFL and the runners are finding enough holes to keep the defense honest.
You could argue the Colts defense is outperforming the Colts offense. With the exception of being baffled by the Dolphins Wildcat offense, the Colts defense has shut down everybody. Outside the Miami game, the Colts defense has allowed just two touchdowns (I’m not counting two late 4th quarter meaningless Seahawks touchdowns).
Dwight Freeney has a sack in every game this season. Robert Mathis causes a fumble it seems every time he touches the quarterback. Steven Jackson gashed the Colts a bit Sunday after the game was already well in hand. But the run defense is not a constant concern like it has been in seasons past. Even with Ed Johnson’s mysterious departure, the Colts have enough big boys on the defensive line.
The defensive secondary is unbelievably deep. Bob Sanders has returned, but no Colts fan should be uncomfortable with Melvin Bullitt in the game. Rookies Jarraud Powers and Jacob Lacey have grown up quickly filling in for Kelvin Hayden and Marlin Jackson. When everyone is healthy, the Colts can put 6 quality defensive backs on the field.
The linebackers are solid, not spectacular, with Clint Session delivering big blows and Gary Brackett keeping the whole defense on the same page.
Pat McAfee has performed well as a rookie punter. And if Matt Stover has some leg left at 42-years-old, the Colts will be fine until Adam Vinatieri returns, if he returns.
Sure, Jim Caldwell inherited a great team. But let’s give him some credit, too. This is not Barry Switzer being handed the Cowboys. Caldwell helped build the Colts into the perennial power they are. His undefeated record as an NFL head coach speaks for itself.
So there, I’ve covered the whole squad with no glaring weak spots or concerns. I picked the Colts 12-4 at the start of the season. I upped that to 13-3 during the bye week. But I honestly find it hard to find three losses left on the schedule, unless the last couple of regular season games become meaningless.
Simply put, this is the best Colts team I’ve covered.
-Rich Nye, WTHR-13 Sports Reporter
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