Know Thy Enemy: A Closer Look at the Indianapolis Colts

Every week, I will be contacting the editor of the FanSided team blog the Steelers are playing that Sunday.  This week I wrote five questions (plus a little bonus one) to Adam Hughes, editor of the Colts blog Naptown’s Finest.  Check out what he has to say after the jump, and be sure to visit his site and let him know what you think about what he has to say.

1) Have the Colts really been suffering so much because Manning is absent from the team? Being that football is a team sport, is one player that critical to putting points on the board?

The simple answer is yes, this mess is all because Manning is gone.   He confuses defenses, keeps the defense off the field and can lead the team back from seemingly insurmountable deficits.  Of course, if you read a little deeper into those features of Manning’s game, it’s easy to see that he has allowed the Colts to skate by with some serious weaknesses over the years.   His headiness and quick release means the offensive line didn’t have to be stellar, he allowed a smallish defense to stay fresh and take chances, and he also made many (maybe most) of the decisions on offense.   Without #18, the Colts suddenly look slow, tired, undersized and poorly coached.    Most of that, unfortunately, is true.

2) What match ups should the Steelers be preparing for this week?
Regardless of Pittsburgh’s physical play and typical dominance at the line of scrimmage, the Colts are going to have to win the running battle if they want to have any chance against the Steelers.   Watch for the young offensive line, featuring Anthony Costanzo and probably Ben Ijalana, try to make a statement against the Steelers’ vaunted front three.   Joseph Addai has been putting up better numbers of his own this year, but blocking remains one of his special talents, and he and bruiser rookie Delone Carter will be generating lots of contact on Sunday.
3) How much of an impact will newly acquired safety Stevie Brown make this Sunday?
Although Melvin Bullitt is injured and may miss the game, I think that Joe Lefeged would step in at strong safety in that case.  If that happens, Brown probably becomes Lefeged’s backup, even though Stevie is probably more comfortable at free safety.  Browns real value to this club, though, should be on special teams.    He was one of the Raiders top two ST tacklers last season, and the Colts are notoriously and frustratingly soft on returns of all types.  If Brown can plug a few holes and ease some of the field-position woes, he will be a welcomed addition.
4) Is there really a reason to panic in Indy?  Shouldn’t Kerry Collins and the offense at some point start to click?  Would even Tony Dungy be able to save this season?
I was never really all that sold on Dungy as some sort of master coach, although he did carry a quiet authority that played well in Indianapolis and with this Colts team.   Having said that, Indy did get to the Super Bowl in Jim Caldwell’s first year as head coach, and the biggest difference between now and then is the absence of Peyton Manning.
I think most of us are past the panic point and have moved on to resignation.  I expect that Collins will eventually find some sort of rhythm, and I think he’ll be helped by an improving offensive line.  However, I don’t think the season can be saved, in terms of making a playoff run, by anything less than Manning’s return before mid-season, and that’s not likely to happen.
5) Predictions for this game?

I still think the Colts will get better and start winning a game here or there pretty soon, but it won’t happen against the Steelers.   The Colts’ weaknesses play too well to the Steelers’ strengths, and I see Pittsburgh walking away, 21-3.

Sounds like some Colts fans have already come to terms with the reality of a playoff-less season.  Which (and when would it never not be?) is a shame, especially since Indy is the site of this year’s Super Bowl.  Be sure to visit Naptown this weekend to see how I answered Adam’s questions about the Steelers.

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