Wilson's Word: Can Colts keep it close?

When popular opinion suggests the Colts don't have a realistic shot, Chuck Pagano's resilient bunch typically surprises.

Before I hop a flight for Denver, thought it best to check in on what’s been happening at the Colts complex.

Now that we in the media have beaten the center question into the ground, it seems pretty obvious that A.Q. Shipley will get the nod. The fact that Khaled Holmes was limited for two days and then didn’t practice Friday, coupled with the notion that a guy who has never started an NFL game isn’t ready to face the altitude in Denver, well, this seems like a no-brainer.

My take on Chuck Pagano saying, “Not yet” when asked if he had decided on a starter struck me as expected gamesmanship. Why bother telling the opponent anything?

If anything has been overlooked this week, it’s probably been the lack of focus on the Colts’ run game. We all have concerns about the pass rush, but that’s been written about and discussed, facing such a challenging season-opener against Peyton Manning without Robert Mathis. And the interior of the O-line has many of us worried, too. That’s a constant conversation.

But what has raised my eyebrow a time or two is how everyone associated with the running game has expressed this supreme confidence that Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw will get the job done. You expect NFL players to be confident, but this has seemed more than that.

I certainly hope they indeed know something that we don’t because I’ve kind of set my mind to expecting the Colts need to pass to set up the run, same as in the past, and count on Andrew Luck and his receivers to keep this team in high-scoring games. Sunday night’s season opener sure looks like it will have plenty of points scored.

For the record, once again, I’ll repeat I think Bradshaw is the Colts’ best back. People mention his injuries, but he’s played hurt in the past, and it’s unfair to blame the guy for playing so hard at San Francisco that he cracked his neck last year. If nothing else, I hope to see some sort of life in Richardson. That may seem a bit optimistic, but here’s hoping he sees how hard Bradshaw plays and the intensity with which No. 44 goes about his business and it resonates with No. 34.

I know, probably a reach. But as most of us have thought or discussed with others, the Colts have no reason to keep T-Rich after this season if he doesn’t produce. He’s got one year remaining on his contract, and if he gets jettisoned from Indy for poor play, he won’t get paid big bucks again unless he puts up big numbers. Simple as that. And I can’t imagine a better situation than this year — Luck and his receivers are the strength. Richardson just needs to be steady, not a workhorse. If that’s asking too much, well, see ya.

The sentiment among seemingly everyone I’ve spoken to or overheard in the last few days is that the Colts are in for a long night Sunday. I get that. Manning is Manning, they’ve added some defensive help, and the Broncos are at home. That should be enough.

Call me crazy, though, but the gut instinct has been telling me the Colts are going to make a game of it. They might not win, but they might just show more than most expect. That won’t keep the critics from over-analyzing every move and play call, but if the Colts put up some points on this Denver defense, it would be a promising indication of better things to come. I mentioned this on radio a couple of times this week, that Denver is probably the toughest opponent other than New England that the Colts will face in the regular season. And you could make the argument the Broncos could be the toughest because it’s the opening game and on the road. At least Mr. Bill Belichick and friends come to Indy this year.

If the Colts are in this game come the fourth quarter, they’ve given us reason to think they could be a contender come January, barring serious injuries. One constant in two years of the Chuck Pagano era — when everyone counts the Colts out, they tend to surprise us.

We shall see. Let’s get this party started.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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