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NFL Early Look - Are the Indianapolis Colts falling apart?

7-04-09

Indianapolis Falling From Grace

When I wrote that the Texans actually have the inside track on claiming the vaunted AFC South Title, one of the many contingents was that the Colts fall from grace. While I’ve previewed a fair amount of teams in the NFL with reasonable scrutiny, the Colts have escaped my wrath thus far. Well, I’m not going to wait any longer to dish out the pain to the Colts.

Understand that I write everything with unfathomable respect for Peyton Manning and everything the Colts have done as a playoff mainstay for nine of the last ten seasons. They will be three seasons removed from their glorious Superbowl Run in 2006 when the 2009 season kicks off. So what can you expect from your beloved Colts? Look no further than what the oddsmakers’ opinion of them was last season.

The Colts averaged a -6.5 point spread last season, and went 7-9 ATS despite a polished 12-4 SU record. For the second straight year, Manning’s Colts bowed out against the Chargers as a Wildcard entrant. The oddsmakers were free to give them bigger spreads because public perception was, “It’s PEYTON MANNING!!!!!!!”. Little did the BetUS Sportsbook betting community understand that Manning wasn’t the issue.

Marvin Harrison was literally a ghost last season, and Anthony Gonzalez did little to step up and relive Reggie Wayne of the many double-teams he faced last season. The Colts offense has always been one of the most feared in the league, but they dipped to 15th overall with 335.5 yards per game and 23.6 points (13th in the NFL). News out of camp is that Gonzalez hasn’t made marginal improvements, which was always going to be the case given his limited athleticism coming out of Ohio State. Sorry, Reggie, but you’re on your own this season.

The injury to Joseph Addai in the off-season hasn’t helped. After building so much hype around himself as the heir apparent to Edgerrin James, Addai totaled just 554 yards and 5 touchdowns in an injury riddled season that saw him endure arthroscopic knee surgery a few weeks ago. They’re saying that he’ll be back for training camp, but that’s wishful thinking if you ask me. Addai is a cut-back runner who relies on shiftiness and solid foot work to escape tackles. A bad knee means bad things for the Colts offense. Addai missed four games last season, and had two games with two carries or less as well.

Addai isn’t the only one who’s been battling the injury bug. Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders are the cornerstones of the Colts defense. Sanders is an incredible talent, but at 5-foot-9, the toll of the NFL’s brutalities are wearing thing on his small frame. Sanders played in just six games lasts season and was a no-show for the playoffs. Freeney, a blisteringly fast defensive end, managed just 28 tackles and 2 sacks last season. Without either of those two, the Colts don’t have a chance in hell of stopping anyone.

The departure of Tony Dungy also kills the buzz in Indy. Dungy is one of the most beloved coaches in NFL history, and has decided to hang up the clip board at the right time for himself and his family. Too bad that this is the time where the Colts needed him the most. Jim Caldwell, the quarterbacks coach for the last seven seasons, assumes the mantle with his only head coaching experience between 1993-2000 at Wake Forest.

Between injuries to three major stars, limitations to Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne, and a new coaching regimen, the immediate future does not look bright for the Colts. Then again, no team shows more alligator blood in their veins. At +155 in the AFC South, they are the favorites. But in my books, they are a favorite to take a swan dive from the grace of NFL betting picks.

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