If you were told the 2005 Indianapolis Colts would not have a 1,000 yard receiver for the first time since 1998 and Peyton Manning will have the least number of passing yards and touchdowns in his career -- what would you believe their record would be heading into their bye week?
4-3, maybe 3-4? Ah, but you also wouldn't have expected that the Colts would have the 4th ranked defense, forcing 16 turnovers and giving up a stingy 11 points per game -- the least in the NFL.
Reggie Wayne or Marvin Harrison, although not on pace to, will likely find their way to 1,000 yards receiving and Peyton Manning will pick up the pace to avoid his worst year statistically, but if not…who cares?
At 7-0 the Colts are doing it a different way, with defense and the top rusher in the NFL.
It seems like yesterday the debate swirled about trading away Edgerrin James. Thank you NFL for inventing the "franchise tag".
While I'm on the "on pace" kick, Mr. James is on pace to run for over 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns which would both be career highs.
The reality of the matter, however, is that things are returning to normal -- and just in time. Let's face it; the Colts are not going to hold the Patriots, Steelers, Seahawks and Bengals to 11 points. It's just not going to happen. And no, Manning's arm isn't shot and Harrison is not over the hill. Looking at the past four weeks, the Colts passing game, and offense as a whole, is getting better -- despite the fact the last four games were already decided heading into the fourth quarter.
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Waiting for the Colts after their bye week are the New England Patriots. While the passing game is picking up steam, the Colts better stick with what is working best -- pounding the ball with Edgerrin James.
Over the Colts last four losses against the Patriots, James has averaged 127 all-purpose yards per contest accounting for 36% of their offense in these games. Further setting the stage for a big day from Edge, the Patriots defense is weaker than ever up the middle. The Patriot run defense ranks 24th in the NFL and has given up over 150 yards per game on the ground over their last four contests, most recently scorched by the likes of Ladanian Tomlinson, Tatum Bell and Willis McGahee.
The Colts ability to attack the Patriots defense on the ground will be pivotal in reversing the disturbing time of possession dominance the Patriots displayed in their last meeting. The Patriots owned possession for an astounding 37:43 in that 20-3 beating of the Colts.
To add to the Patriots home-field advantage, the Monday night match-up will mark the second game of linebacker Teddy Bruschi's improbable comeback, returning to action less than a year after suffering a mild stroke. Additionally, we can expect the weather gods to conjure up some freezing rain or a blizzard for the Colts arrival.
With a comfy two game lead over the rest of the AFC, the Colts can afford a loss, but a loss to the Patriots could be detrimental. Not only would it deflate the exuberance of a fan base unparalleled in Indianapolis Colt history, but it could also be devastating to the psyche of a team running on all cylinders.
One thing the Colts won't have to worry about heading into Foxboro is injuries. Aside from the tight end and backup running back position, the Colts' offense has stayed relatively healthy with the starting offensive line in tact for every contest. The defense, aside from some minor bumps and bruises, has also stayed healthy as the Colts approach the midway point of their season.
Off to a stellar start, the Colts have put themselves in perfect position to earn home-field advantage for the first time in Indianapolis playoff history. After a well deserved rest, they will face their biggest and most challenging hurdle to date as they make the long trip to Foxboro. A win there, while important, guarantees nothing -- but could serve as a psychological springboard for a young, ambitious Colts team.