Tony Dungy’s scheme is starting to take hold in Indianapolis, and the results are clear. The Colts are 7-1 and second only to Kansas City in points scored. But the real story this year is the defense – they are putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and creating turnovers. When the Colts play with the lead, which is most of the time, they have a defense that’s good enough to put teams away. Will this be the year that Peyton Manning finally breaks his playoff jinx? We can’t tell the future with the microscope, but we can get a pretty clear picture of what makes this team tick.
|Team Stats (numbers in parentheses are NFL Ranking)|
|Rushing Offense||94.2 (24)||6 (t17)|
|Passing Offense||260.8 (3)||16 (t2)|
|Rushing Defense||120.5 (21)||5 (t8)|
|Passing Defense||186.0 (8)||9 (t9)|
|Turnover Stats||Upcoming Schedule|
|16 takeaways (t8)
11 giveaways (t5)
+5 overall (7)
The next three weeks are looking very good. But weeks 13 and 14 can be critical for your fantasy schedule, and the Patriots and Titans both play stout defense. Still, this team can put up some explosive numbers on offense, even against the league’s best defenses. (See Buccaneers, 21-point comeback, Monday Night.) If you do make your playoffs, home games in week 15 and 16 should produce some winning numbers. Atlanta is simply terrible, and if you watched Monday Night’s game, you know that the Broncos are having serious coverage problems with two of their starting linebackers out. Don’t be afraid to play your Colts each and every week.
Peyton Manning, QB – Somehow this guy always slips to 5th or 6th on QB draft lists. Looking at his stats, it’s hard to figure out why. He has thrown for 4,000 yards in four straight seasons, and posted a QB rating over 80 in all four. He’s on pace for more of the same this year. The exception was his rookie year, when he “only” had 3,700 yards and a 71.2 rating. There is no quarterback in the game right now who is more consistent and productive than Peyton Manning.
Brock Huard, QB – Huard has the easiest job in the NFL. Manning has started each and every game in his NFL career – 88 games and counting. Don’t expect to see Huard separated from his clipboard unless the game is a total slaughter.
Edgerrin James, RB – James is an integral part of this offense, and the Colts need him to stay healthy if they’re ever going to fulfill their potential as a playoff team. When healthy, he’s as good as any back in the league. He may never reach the level he was at during his 1999 and 2000 seasons, but the Colts don’t really need him to do that anyway. His numbers will continue to hover around the 100 yard and 1 TD per game level.
Dominic Rhodes/James Mungro/Ricky Williams, RB – All three of these backups are capable, all three have contributed to the offense at some point this year, and all three have had their injury problems. Of this group, it appears that Ricky Williams will be the first to go in, should James get injured again or come out for any reason. But as long as James can stay healthy, none of them have much value.
Marvin Harrison, WR – After 8 games, Marvin Harrison has 55 catches for 757 yards and 6 TD’s. This is considered an off year for Marvelous Marvin. I’ll take Harrison’s off year, any year. And considering that he didn’t break 100 yards until week 4, I would expect Harrison to gain a lot of ground on Randy Moss and Torry Holt in the second half of the season. Don’t worry, Harrison owners, he will be worthy of the first round pick you probably had to spend to get him.
Reggie Wayne, WR – Wayne has made a nice complement to Harrison’s receiving skills this year, and he has even put up two stud-like days against Jacksonville and Houston (two TD’s in each.) Many receivers become productive in their third year, and Wayne has learned next to the best in the business. Expect Harrison and Wayne to be a dangerous receiving tandem for many years to come.
Troy Walters, WR – There are a lot of balls to go around in this offense, so Walters has managed to put up some kind of stats almost every week, and even scored last week against Miami. In very deep leagues, he is worth a look for your 3rd WR or flex position.
Marcus Pollard, TE – Now in his 9th year with the Colts, Pollard continues to be a serviceable tight end for fantasy teams. He will catch a few passes every week, and score the occasional TD. There are better TE’s out there, but none that can be had on the waiver wire.
Dallas Clark, TE – This rookie out of Iowa was really turning some heads in the fantasy world before he sustained a hamstring injury in week 6 against the Panthers. He is listed as questionable on this week’s injury report, so keep an eye on him if you need TE help. He had more catches than Pollard before his injury.
Defense/Special Teams – The Colts hired Tony Dungy to improve both the defense and special teams in Indy, and it is clearly starting to work. The offense can still hang 30+ points on most opponents, but the defense has kept other teams in check, and the Colts are on the plus side of the turnover battle. They have also developed a pass rush that creates sacks and forces opposing quarterbacks into mistakes. Definitely a starting fantasy squad.
The Bottom Line
The Chiefs may be getting all the hype because of their undefeated record, but I will come out right now and say the Colts are the best team in the league. I believe they have more balance, a better defense, and more playmakers than the Chiefs. I also think they have played a tougher schedule, and won in a more impressive manner. There are no unstoppable teams in the NFL anymore, but the Colts are about as close as it gets. Look for Indy to be playing deep into January.
Next Week … I’ll break down a team that I’ve been waiting all year to take a look at, the Seattle Seahawks. Just when it looked like Mike Holmgren might never get it done with this team, all the pieces are coming together and they lead the NFC West with a 6-2 record. But is this team ready to go to the playoffs, or will they falter in November and December when playoff survival is on the line?