Thursday, September 1, 2011

NFL 32 in 32: Indianapolis Colts

The Colts barely made the playoffs last year, and it took some scratching and clawing to do so. They want to set NFL records for consecutive playoff appearances, but they do have some issues. The whole offseason has been centered on Peyton Manning's health. But this is a whole season preview. Are they going to be able to fend off the challenges from both the Texans and Jaguars in order to stay on top of the AFC South?

What's New: Kerry Collins is in now at Colts camp, as many know by now. He could be starting week 1, if Peyton is not healthy. He brings a veteran presence that the other Colts backups just didn't have, even if other team members didn't really enjoy seeing his addition on the roster. Other additions not centered around Peyton Manning were notably, Anthony Castonzo, the tackle from Boston College, who will try to help fix an offensive line that had problems last season, and went under a ton of change this offseason. The Colts also made some additions on defense, including Tommie Harris, the DT from Chicago, and LB Ernie Sims from Philadelphia. The losses they had were also quite major, including LB Clint Session going to Jacksonville, FS Aaron Francisco going to Detroit, T Charlie Johnson going to Minnesota, and CB Kelvin Hayden going to Atlanta.

Biggest Strength: When Peyton Manning is healthy, and on his game, we all know how good he is. He generates offense from just being on the field, and he can  make other relatively unknown players around him better. It helps that he has decent weapons around him too. The Colts still have an underrated running game with Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, and rookie Delone Carter. Their weapons in the passing game are top notch, with Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, and of course, TE Dallas Clark. On defense, they still have Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who are sack machines, and will be the biggest key on defense all season.

Biggest Weakness: Their offensive line, normally very dependable, had plenty of change this offseason, and with problems still holding over from last season, the situation may not get much better. The rest of their defense aside from Freeney and Mathis are sore spots, as they were last year, and that should hold over to this year. They didn't stop the run very well, and with the losses in the secondary and in the linebacking corps, the defense may not hold up to the standard of the offense.

Outlook: They will go as Peyton Manning goes. If he plays to his standard, then the Colts will be right there to win the AFC South. If not, then they may miss the postseason for the first time since 2001. Peyton Manning's recovery has been on pace with his 2008 recovery from a knee injury, and the Colts started 3-4 that year, but managed to rattle off 9 wins in a row to make the postseason. This season may be very similar, but only if Peyton Manning can hold this fragile team together.

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