Time To Give Thanks

For Colts fans, it's time to take a step back and appreciate what has gone right this season. Brad Keller has five reasons to be thankful to be a Colts fan.

1. Peyton Manning is Back: Manning's early struggles this season can be attributed to anything from injury to lack of practice time to poor game planning to a young and wounded offensive line.  But the important thing to bear in mind that he has re-gained his timing with his receivers, is starting to feel and react to pressure appropriately, and is once again doing a masterful job of reading the defense, both before and after the snap.

Since the running game and Joseph Addai have not rebounded as quickly or thoroughly as Manning has, this team will only go as far for the remainder of the regular season and post season as Manning's right arm will carry them.

The schedule gets easier for him for the rest of the way and it will be important for him and the offense to continue to gain traction and confidence as they head towards the playoffs.

Even with all the problems this season, Tony Dungy's system seems to be working again
Stephen Dunn/Getty

2. Scheme Over Substance:

Although the run defense is still the weakest link of the defense as a whole, it has certainly improved since the early part of the season, regardless of the injuries it has had to deal with.  It looks as though Antonio Johnson might be the replacement for Ed Johnson that the Colts have been searching for since they released him and the eventual return of Bob Sanders will bolster the unit as a whole.

Even though numerous members of the secondary have been placed on injured reserve and/or missed significant time due to injury, the Colts still rank in the top five in pass defense and have only allowed four passing touchdowns through 11 games this season.

The credit for this success in light of the injuries and other issues that the defense has faced needs to go to the coaches, specifically Tony Dungy and Ron Meeks, who have kept the defense on an even keel no matter how inexperienced or awestruck the men they were coaching were.  Additionally, Bill Bolian deserves a lot of credit for continuing to unearth players that fit the schemes and systems that Dungy and Meeks deploy.

3. The Pass Rush Has Returned:

Dwight Freeney is finally returning to his pre-Lisfranc form, Robert Mathis is making the most of his time on the field, and Raheem Brock has established himself as an excellent third option at the end position.

Curtis Johnson and Marcus Howard are also working their way back into the rotation and Josh Thomas, though not as flashy or exciting as the other players at his position, is still a consistent force that helps to steady the front four.

The back seven defenders have done well thus far without much of a pass rush to speak of.  As it continues to improve and Freeney and Mathis slowly work their way back to being Freeney and Mathis — not to mention the infusion of youth and explosiveness they bring to the defense — the unit will improve as a whole.

Indianapolis places a great deal of emphasis on the four men up front in their version of the Cover 2 defense.  The front four is finally proving itself worthy of such emphasis.

4. They Have Only Two Conference Losses:

In the past few seasons, conference losses, division records, and point differentials were things that other teams had to worry about when it came to the playoffs.

However, with four losses already this season, the Colts find themselves needing to do a little scoreboard watching and need to figure out how the other teams in the league stack up to them in terms of tie breakers.

With losses against Green Bay and Chicago, Indianapolis has only two losses in the AFC, which actually would put them ahead of the New York Jets should they lose a game, since the Jets already have three conference losses.

If they win out and the Jets lose a game in there somewhere — they also would need to fall out of the division lead in the AFC East, that would catapult the Colts in front of the Jets for that last spot.

It's unlikely that they'll lose to Detroit, but that would be their least damaging loss if they need to lose one between now and the end of the season.

5. Luck is on Their Side:

They could very easily have lost against Minnesota and Houston.  Adam Vinatieri made a 52-yard and 51-yard game winning kick after not making a field goal attempt of 40 yards or longer for the entire 2007 season.

Just about every call went their way in the game against the Chargers.  They were on the positive side of a few favorable bounces against Pittsburgh.

After a tough opening schedule, they managed to escape the first 11 games with seven wins and are fortunate enough to face the lightest part of their schedule in the stretch run.

Indianapolis has generally made their own luck throughout the Dungy era, but it is definitely helpful for their Super Bowl hopes that lady luck seems to be on their side.

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