Team: Indianapolis Colts
Record: 12-4 Home: 6-2 Away: 6-2 Division: 4-2
Coaching Staff – A
A veteran battle tested staff that did not panic after a after a three and four start to the 2008 season. Tony Dungy is not only one of the coaches in the game, but he has also put together a highly skilled group of top assistants including Tom Moore, Howard Mudd, Jim Caldwell, Bill Teerlinck and Ron Meeks.
Offensive Line – C
The Colts due primarily to injuries, free agent defections, retirements and simply do not protect Peyton Manning to the level they once did. Couple that with the fact that the Colts have three rookies on the offensive line, led by Arizona State swingman Mike Pollak.
Wide Receivers / Tight End – A
Reggie Wayne is still at or near the top of his game, but 12 year veteran Marvin Harrison is no longer the vertical threat or Peyton's go to guy in critical situations. Anthony Gonzalez looks like a solid inside receiver, but I don't see him as any better than a number two receiver. Pierre Garcon is a rookie who toiled at the D3 level Mt Union. I like his playing potential but he is at the very least two years away from contributing.
Running Backs – C
Both Joe Addai and Dominic Rhodes, looked rather ordinary in 2008. Both have playing skills but struggled to maintain any level of consistency in is play. Both can catch, ran good routes and will stick their nose in there in pass protection.
Quarterback – A
What do I need to say about Peyton Manning? The top quarterback over the past decade is smart, efficient, consistent, very tough mentally and physically, durable, an accurate passer, has ice water in his veins, and is at his best with the game in the balance. Looking for a possible negative in his game? His arm strength is just adequate and his movement in the pocket (mobility) was marginal. Back up quarterback Jim Sorgi has played little during hi professional career.
Defensive Line – B
Robert Mathis was an outstanding undersized small college player at Alabama A&M, who quickly became an outstanding undersized professional player. Dwight Freeney is no longer the pass rush force he was I his first five seasons, but he might well be a more complete football player. Inside tackle Eric Foster was an undrafted free agent last year, but has a great deal of quickness. I must be getting very old. I scouted Raheem Brock's dad, running back Zach Dixon back in the 70's and later recommended us (Giants) signing him.
Linebackers – C+
The linebacking crew is made up of a bunch of undersized no names, but all they do is make plays. Freddy Keiaho, who is nursing a hamstring injury, has a great nose for the football. His work in the Colts victory over the Chargers earlier in the season, made me a big fan of this player.
Secondary – C+
The secondary has played fairly well throughout the season, but I've got to tell you, I just don't like little guys in the secondary, particularly at the cornerback position. That being said, Bobby Sanders my be the exception to the rule. I physical downhill player, Sanders has exceptional speed and is a fierce competitor and tackler.
Special Teams – B -
Both place kicker Adam Vinatieri and punter Hunter Smith are veteran game tested kickers who handle pressure extremely well. Rookie Pierre Garcon has a chance to become a pretty fair kick and punt return man. The coverage teams have been adequate.
Injury Factor – Other then Ryan Lilja on the physically unable to perform list, the Colts have been relatively injury free throughout the 2008 season. Injuries to starting guard Mike Pollak and key back up Jamie Richard for the playoff opener could be critical.
Team Offensive MVP – Peyton Manning – Wow, what a surprise
Team Defensive MVP – Robert Mathis – Puts a great deal of pressure on the quarterback. A big play performer who never lets up regardless of the score.
Top Rookie – Mike Pollak – Playing like a veteran, the versatile Pollak makes things is a good athlete and at home at either the center or right guard position.
Top Free Agent – Dominic Rhodes – He gave the Colts a much lift offensively when injuries felled back ups Mike Hart, Clifton Dawson and slowed starter Joe Addai. He's no longer the back he was back in 2001 when he ran for 1,104 yards, but his veteran presence was invaluable down the stretch.
Team Strength – Pass offense, red zone offense, pass defense, big game experience, Peyton Manning.
Team Weakness – Run defense, run offense
Final Word – The Colts are extremely hot, riding a nine-game winning streak into the playoffs. While the team is capable of beating anyone on either side of the bracket, their inability at times to both run the ball and stop the opponents run game could be exposed in the playoffs. With Peyton Manning leading this gutsy bunch, you can't count this team out. After an up-and-down season, they could bow out on wild-card weekend, or possibly end up winning the Super Bowl.