The Colts are 8-0. Peyton Manning is arguably having the best year of his great career. The team is ranked in the top 10 in both offense and defense. A #1 seed in the playoffs is looking more and more likely at this point. With all that said, I’d be shocked if the Colts make it to the Super Bowl this season.
Why? Because this team needs Peyton Manning to play at a very high level to win just about any game they play. The Colts simply rely on Manning more than any other team relies on one player. And before anyone says Tom Brady keep in mind that the Patriots went 11-5 without him playing last year. Can anyone honestly say with a straight face that the Colts would finish 11-5 this year without Peyton Manning? Some might say that’s not really a bad thing because it shows just how good Manning is but I have to strongly disagree.
The Colts this year are near the bottom in rushing yards and attempts. Starting running back Joseph Addai is averaging just 3.4 yards a carry. In order to be a good running team you need to work at it which is something the Colts don’t seem to be very interested in doing. In last week’s 20-17 win against the Texans, Manning threw the ball an astounding 40 times in the first half. THE FIRST HALF. Because of that, and the Texans offense stumbling, the Colts outgained the Texans by a good margin in the first 2 quarters but were only leading 13-3 at halftime. The Colts got a couple breaks in the 2nd half and squeaked out the win against an up and coming team, but hardly an elite one right now.
Some might argue that the Patriots pass the ball a lot under Brady and they have a number of Super Bowl wins under their belt to show for it. There’s a couple key differences between the two teams. One, the Patriots have always (at least until recently) put more emphasis on the run than the Colts and two, the Patriots have always run a more controlled, safer passing game than the Colts. Brady, as great as he is, is part of the offensive system, complete with coaching and gameplanning to back him up, whereas Manning IS the Colts offensive system. Yes, the coaching staff does their job in Indianapolis but it’s ultimately Peyton Manning that’s out there calling the plays and running the show. That’s a ton of pressure on just one player. The Colts offense this year reminds me of a modified run and shoot offense. It’s amazing to watch Manning throw precise passes all over the field to blanketed WR’s but it doesn’t bode well for the playoffs. How well have pure passing teams done in the playoffs? Here’s a hint: Not very well.
Ironically, Manning had his worst postseason performance of his career when the Colts won the Super Bowl in 2006 (63% comp, 1034 yards, 3 TD’s, 7 INT’s, 70.5 QB rating). Manning did play well at times, but he also struggled, the difference in 2006 is the Colts had a running game to bail out Manning when he did struggle. Running back’s Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes averaged 4 and 5 yards a carry respectively and combined for 600 yards of rushing during the postseason that year.
Some might argue that the reason the Colts didn’t get to the Super Bowl in other years was because of a mediocre defense. While that may be true to a certain extent, in most of the Colt’s playoff losses under Manning the Colts offense failed to score over 20 points, with the opposing defenses keying in on Manning exclusively and successfully shutting him down. In four successive years from 2002 to 2005 the Colts lost 41-0 to the Jets, 24-14 to the Pats, 20-3 to the Pats and 21-18 to the Steelers. Last year the Colts lost 24-17 to the Chargers. The Colts offense wasn’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard in those games.
This year the Colts will not be getting 600 yards of rushing from their running game in the playoffs like in 2006 (they barely have over 600 rushing yards right now). The defense, while ranked in the top 10 in yards allowed, have some serious question marks in the secondary with two starters out of the lineup and a run defense that was gashed by the Dolphins for over 200 yards.
Peyton Manning may win another MVP award this year but the reason he wins it may also be a big reason the Colts don’t get to the Super Bowl.