In many ways, the 2010 season has been a disaster for the Colts.

A loss Sunday and it's curtains for the Colts, something that hasn't happened in the regular season in nearly a decade.

Fifteen players have been put on the injured reserve list and countless others have missed substantial time.

Peyton Manning went on a three-game bender that included 11 interceptions and four pick-sixes.

Their offensive line is giving Manning an average of three-tenths of a second to throw.

Their running game is the worst in the NFL.

Houston’s Arian Foster trampled them for 231 rushing yards in Week 1.

Jacksonville’s Josh Scobee drilled a 59-yard field goal as time expired to beat them in Week 4.

The visiting Chargers handed them their worst home loss during the Manning era in Week 12.

A leverage penalty on a late field goal attempt cost them a victory over the Cowboys in Week 13 – either that or Peyton’s brutal interception in overtime. The penalty was probably karmic payback from the leaping call that enabled the Colts to pull off one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history over the Buccaneers in 2003.

It’s strange to think the Colts are still in contention as they certainly don’t look like a contender.

Luckily for them, the entire division – except for the Jaguars – has imploded.

Once upon a time the Texans were 4-2, but thanks to a barrage of bad luck – including a David Garrard Hail Mary touchdown pass as time expired – they now sit at 5-8.

The Titans were 5-2 and had just crushed the Eagles before the wheels fell off. Eight weeks and a Randy Moss acquisition later and they are 5-8.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars are surging. After dropping to 3-4 and losing consecutive games to the Titans and Chiefs by a combined score of 72-23, they looked hopeless. Now they’ve won five of their last six and can clinch the division with a win over the Colts on Sunday.

For the Colts a victory does nothing but keep hope alive, as they and the Jaguars will both be 8-6. Though a win allows the Colts to control their own destiny, they still have a trip to Oakland – the league’s third-best rushing team – and a rematch with the Titans looming.

A Colts loss, however, virtually guarantees them a seat on the couch for the playoffs in January, an occurrence that hasn’t happened since 2001.

Strange days in Indianapolis, indeed.

 

Advertisements

After another 3-5 week, the Sure-fire picks reaching the .500 mark is looking more and more improbable with the season mark at 47-54-1. Four more weeks remain in the regular season and I’ve got some catching up to do.

Tampa Bay (-1) at Washington, 1 p.m. Sunday

All season the Bucs have beaten the teams they should. That will continue Sunday.

Picking games against the spread is tough, but the Bucs make it easy with a very clear pattern they’ve stuck to all season long. They lose to good teams and beat bad ones. Bucs -1.

Green Bay (-7) at Detroit, 1 p.m. Sunday

If you watched Detroit on Thanksgiving you probably realize what Aaron Rodgers is going to do to the Lions secondary in the Dome. It’s not going to be pretty. Packers -7.

Atlanta (-8.5) at Carolina, 1 p.m. Sunday

Things just keep getting more pathetic for the Panthers. In line for the No. 1 pick, there’s no reason to think they’ll pull an upset here. Falcons -8.5.

Seattle at San Francisco (-5.5), 4:05 p.m. Sunday

I double checked to make sure this wasn’t a misprint – the 49ers are favored over another football team. Sure, the Seahawks are nothing to write home about either, but I’ll take the points. Seahawks +5.5.

St. Louis at New Orleans (-9), 4:05 p.m. Sunday

The Saints are long overdue to run somebody over. While the Rams are a pleasant surprise this season, they don’t stand a chance in New Orleans. Saints -9.

Miami at N.Y. Jets (-5), 4:15 p.m. Sunday

The Patriots beat down the Jets in a bad way Monday. They'll take out their frustrations on the Dolphins.

After getting humiliated by the Patriots on Monday, you’d have to think the Jets will come out with a fury. The Dolphins are painfully average and won’t be able to weather the storm. Jets -5.

Kansas City at San Diego (-9.5), 4:15 p.m. Sunday

Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel had an appendectomy Wednesday, but there’s still talk he may play Sunday. I don’t believe it. With Brody Croyle at the helm, things won’t go well for the Chiefs. Chargers -9.5.

Philadelphia (-3.5) at Dallas, 8:20 p.m. Sunday

The Cowboys are playing better, but they are still the Cowboys. The Eagles haven’t played since last Thursday and Mike Vick will dissect the Dallas secondary. Eagles -3.5.

The Colts were in unfamiliar territory at Tennessee Thursday.

The Colts got it together Thursday but have plenty of work to do if they want to keep their playoff streak alive.

After throwing 11 interceptions in three games, Peyton Manning had been getting hammered by everyone, even the Colts’ radio announcer allegedly. Speculation was swirling – maybe he’s over the hill … maybe he’s hiding an injury.

People couldn’t bury the Colts quickly enough. A flustered Manning, a roster decimated by injury, an offensive line as sturdy as a house of cards – their playoff streak was as good as gone.

Not so fast.

As they usually do when they’re on the ropes, the Colts survived, edging the Titans 30-28.

It was an indecisive win against a bad team. It was hard to tell if it was a Colts resurgence or a Titans meltdown. Either way the Colts are alive … for now at least.

With nine days to prepare, the Colts will be more rested and more prepared than the Jaguars when they come to Indianapolis next Sunday with everything on the line.

Clearly, the Colts are still a flawed football team. They can’t run with any consistency, their return game is atrocious, their defense gave up 28 points to a team that hadn’t scored an offensive touchdown in an eternity, and their secondary is in shambles.

Many view the Colts’ quest for a playoff spot as futile – a one and done waiting to happen. That may be so, but momentum is a funny thing. If the Colts do reach the postseason they’ll certainly have some as they’ll likely have to win their last four to make it.

While many key pieces won’t return for the Colts this season – Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders, Jerraud Powers, Melvin Bullitt, and Anthony Gonzalez among them – some other ones might, including Joseph Addai, Austin Collie, Clint Session, and Kelvin Hayden, who could help provide a much needed boost.

Many things have gone wrong for the Colts this season, but amazingly they still control their own destiny. And at this point in the season, a team can’t ask for much more than that.

 

Heading into Week 14, the NFL playoff picture remains muddled with only one division leader currently holding more than a one-game advantage. Numerous huge games are on the Week 14 slate and things will begin to clear up as we head into Week 15

AFC

After gaining a full head of steam heading into December, the Chargers are suddenly in a do or die situation Sunday.

East leader- New England Patriots, 10-2 (1 seed)

North leader- Pittsburgh Steelers, 9-3 (2 seed)

South leader- Jacksonville Jaguars, 7-5 (4 seed)

West leader- Kansas City Chiefs, 8-4 (3 seed)

Wildcard 1(1 game back in East)– N.Y. Jets, 9-3 (5 seed)

Wildcard 2(1 game back in North)– Baltimore Ravens, 8-4 (6 seed)

1 game back in South- Indianapolis Colts (6-6)

2 games back in South- Tennessee Titans (5-7), Houston Texans (5-7)

2 games back in West– San Diego Chargers (6-6), Oakland Raiders (6-6)

Clinging to life– Miami Dolphins (6-6)

Key Week 14 games– Colts at Titans (Thursday), Raiders at Jaguars, Dolphins at Jets, Chiefs at Chargers, Ravens at Texans (Monday)

Thoughts- Several AFC teams are fighting for their playoff lives this week. The Titans, Texans, Dolphins, and Chargers can be all but eliminated from playoff talks should they lose.

NFC

Sam Bradford and the surprising Rams are seeking their first signature win against the Saints Sunday.

East leader– Philadelphia Eagles, 8-4 (3 seed)

North leader– Chicago Bears, 9-3 (2 seed)

South leader– Atlanta Falcons, 10-2 (1 seed)

West leader– St. Louis Rams, 6-6 (4 seed)

Wildcard 1 (1 game back in South)– New Orleans Saints, 9-3 (5 seed)

Wildcard 2 (Tiebreak loser in East)– N.Y Giants, 8-4 (6 seed)

West tiebreak loser- Seattle Seahawks (6-6)

Wildcard tiebreak loser (1 game back in North)– Green Bay Packers (8-4)

2 games back in West– San Francisco 49ers (4-8)

Key Week 14 games– Seahawks at 49ers, Rams at Saints

Thoughts- The top six teams in the NFC will likely battle for playoff spots till the end. Hopefully the Seahawks put the 49ers out of their misery Sunday.

 

 

 

So much for getting to .500 … a 3-5 week has the Sure-fire picks cemented back in the loss column at 44-49-1. Time is running short to get this back on track.

Chicago (-5) at Detroit, 1 p.m. Sunday

Two things are surprising about the Bears - how well the Culter/Martz experiment is working and how much weight Martz gained while I wasn't paying attention.

The Rodney Dangerfields of the NFL are only favored by five over the Lions. Really? With Detroit starting its third-string quarterback I don’t see how this is possible. Bears -5.

Cleveland at Miami (-5), 1 p.m. Sunday

The Browns have played tough against some of the league’s best teams this season. But after struggling with the league’s worst team last week – the Panthers – I think they will revert back to the Browns of old. Dolphins -5.

Atlanta (-3) at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m. Sunday

The Bucs and Chiefs are the two best stories in the NFL this season, but the Bucs have lost by six points or more against all four teams they’ve faced with a winning record. I see no reason this won’t continue Sunday. Falcons -3.

San Francisco at Green Bay (-9.5), 1 p.m. Sunday

With no Frank Gore the 49ers are going to get slaughtered by a Packers’ team angry after a close loss to the Falcons. Packers -9.5.

Washington at N.Y. Giants (-7.5), 1 p.m. Sunday

With a decimated receiving corps, I don’t think the Giants have enough fire-power to run away from anyone right now – even a team as shaky as the Skins. Redskins +7.5.

St. Louis (-3.5) at Arizona, 4:15 p.m. Sunday

After watching some of the Cardinals’ meltdown against the 49ers Monday, I’m starting to think there actually is an NFC West team considerably worst than all the others. Rams -3.5.

Carolina at Seattle (-4.5), 4:15 Sunday

If the NFC West is as bad as I think it is, the Panthers will not only cover this spread, they’ll go into Carrollville and get a win. Panthers +4.5.

Pittsburgh at Baltimore (-3), 8:20 p.m. Sunday

Big Ben is banged up and the Steelers just aren’t right. The Ravens have their flaws too, but they’ll have enough to pull this off at home. Ravens -3.

There’s been no shortage of scapegoats for the Colts’ struggles in 2010 – injuries, a Super Bowl hangover, the offensive line, the running game, the defense, the offensive line (did I already say that), even … gasp … Peyton Manning.

Behind one of the league's worst offensive lines, Peyton Manning has been taking a beating this season.

Yet, curiously, team president Bill Polian seems to be avoiding blame. The offense line has gone from bad to worse and Polian’s decision making is the primary reason.

When it comes to drafting offensive linemen, Polian’s recent choices would make Tiger Woods blush.

Since the 2005 draft Polian has selected six offensive linemen in the fifth round or higher. Of those, three remain in the NFL. Two are on the Colts roster and neither of them start – rookie Jacques McClendon and third-year man Mike Pollak.

In fact, Pollak – a second-round pick in 2008 – has been replaced at right guard by Jeff Linkenbach, a rookie playing out of position.

Meanwhile, two right guards who previously played for the Colts are key pieces for good offensive lines – Ryan Lilja in Kansas City and Jake Scott in Tennessee. Polian cut Lilja this offseason and allowed Scott to walk in free agency prior to the 2008 season.

Along with poor drafting and letting the wrong guys go, Polian’s free agent signings on the offensive line this offseason were a disaster. Tackle Adam Terry and guard Andy Alleman were brought in to add bulk to the undersized unit – both were released before the season started.

In some areas, help in on the way for the Colts. The running game has been missing Joseph Addai and Mike Hart. The receiving corps awaits the return of Austin Collie. The defense has been playing without Gary Brackett, Clint Session, and Bob Sanders among others.

But with the Colts’ offensive line, what you see is what you get. There is no help in sight.

The unit is terrible at run blocking, but that’s come to be expected over the years. More disturbing has been its inability to pass block, which is typically a strength.

The struggles up front, coupled with some bad decision making from Manning, have resulted in the Colts’ dropping three of their last four contests. In addition, their streak of seven-consecutive 12-plus win seasons has been snapped.

If the Colts can’t find some answers on the offensive line quickly, their eight-season playoff streak will be in jeopardy as well.

Roger Goodell and the NFL must be thrilled with the way things are going. All six division races and homefield advantage will come down to the wire, which should minimize the number of teams “resting players” down the stretch. Two huge primetime matchups will go a long way in clearing up the AFC playoff picture.

AFC

East leader- N.Y. Jets, 9-2 (1 seed)

If you're a fan of old-school, hard-nosed football, it doesn't get much better than Steelers/Ravens.

North leader- Baltimore Ravens, 8-3 (2 seed)

South leader- Jacksonville Jaguars, 6-5 (4 seed)

West leader- Kansas City Chiefs, 7-4 (3 seed)

Wildcard 1- New England Patriots, 9-2 (5 seed)

Wildcard 2- Pittsburgh Steelers, 9-2 (6 seed)

South tiebreak loser- Indianapolis Colts (6-5)

1 game back in South- Tennessee Titans (5-6), Houston Texans (5-6)

1 game back in West- San Diego Chargers (6-5)

Clinging to life- Miami Dolphins (6-5), Oakland Raiders (5-6)

Key Week 13 games- Steelers at Ravens, Jets at Patriots, Raiders at Chargers, Jaguars at Titans

Thoughts- The two wildcard spots will almost certainly come out of the East and North. Four huge games will clear up the AFC picture considerably this weekend. No matter what happens, all four teams in the South will remain alive.

NFC

East leader- Philadelphia Eagles, 7-4 (3 seed)

Can the Buccaneers stay in the NFC South hunt, or will the Falcons push them to the backburner?

North leader- Chicago Bears, 8-3 (2 seed)

South leader- Atlanta Falcons, 9-2 (1 seed)

West leader- St. Louis Rams, 5-6 (4 seed)

Wildcard 1- New Orleans, 8-3 (5 seed)

Wildcard 2- N.Y. Giants, 7-4 (6 seed)

Wildcard tiebreak losers- Green Bay Packers (7-4), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4)

West tiebreak loser- Seattle Seahawks (5-6)

1 game back in West- San Francisco 49ers (4-7)

Clinging to life- Washington Redskins (5-6), Arizona Cardinals (3-8 … no joke)

Key Week 13 games- Falcons at Buccaneers, Redskins at Giants, Rams at Cardinals, 49ers at Packers

Thoughts- It is truly a shame that a team from the West will make the playoffs and keep a more worthy team out. The Buccaneers nearly knocked off the Falcons on the road a few weeks ago and it will be interesting to see how they fare at home.

 

For the second time in three weeks the Sure-fire picks got in the win column (5-3) as the season total creeps toward the .500 mark (41-44-1).

Minnesota at Washington (-1), 1 p.m. Sunday

What a sad, sad ending to a career Mr. Favre has dug himself into. It's pretty much impossible to feel sorry for him.

Grab your shovels it’s time to bury Brett Favre and the Vikings. This team’s will is broken and they don’t have what it takes to bounce back. Redskins -2.

Carolina at Cleveland (-10), 1 p.m. Sunday

The Browns play a murderer’s row every week and will enjoy beating the tar out of somebody. What better team to get the tar beat out of them than the Panthers? Browns -10.

Tennessee at Houston (-6.5), 1 p.m. Sunday

Though he can hardly be blamed, it’s interesting how things have completely fallen apart since Randy Moss arrived in Tennessee isn’t it? The Titans have no quarterback and will get lit up by an angry Texans team. Texans -6.5.

Kansas City (-2) at Seattle, 4:05 p.m. Sunday

I have a theory. An NFC West team will not win another out of division game this season. Enough said. Chiefs -2.

Tampa Bay at Baltimore (-7.5), 4:15 p.m. Sunday

The Buccaneers have been a great story, but have also been bullying some really bad teams. They’ll come back down to earth against the Ravens, as they have every time they play a good team. Ravens -7.5.

St. Louis at Denver (-4), 4:15 p.m. Sunday

Coming off an embarrassing beating by the Chargers, the Broncos will rebound at home against the lowly Rams. Broncos -4.

Philadelphia (-3.5) at Chicago, 4:15 p.m. Sunday

Mike Vick isn’t really going to finish the season without an interception is he? I don’t think so either. In fact, I think he’ll throw a couple against the Bears and the Eagles will struggle. Bears +3.5

San Francisco (-1) at Arizona, 8:30 p.m. Monday

In a battle of two of the NFL’s worst teams, homefield advantage has to mean something right? It’s the only thing I can think of. Cardinals +1.

 

To say that the Chargers have been a thorn in the side for the Colts lately would be an understatement.

The last time the Colts and Chargers faced off, Darren Sproles ended things with a stroll to the end zone that ended Indy's season.

While the Patriots are considered the Colts’ biggest rival, lately it’s been the Chargers blocking their path to postseason glory.

After winning Super Bowl XLI, the Colts were knocked out of the playoffs by the Chargers in gut-wrenching fashion the next two seasons.

In the 2007-08 playoffs the Chargers marched down the field for a late go-ahead score with backups Billy Volek and Michael Turner leading the way for a 28-24 victory. In the 2008-09 playoffs a San Diego field goal late in the fourth quarter sent the game into overtime and Darren Sproles broke free for the game-winning touchdown on the first possession.

In all, the Chargers have defeated the Colts in four of the last five meetings. Indianapolis needs to reverse this trend in the worst way.

As usual the Chargers (5-5) came out of the gates slowly and are heating up as the seasons wears on – they’ve won their last three.

The Colts’ defense was picked apart by Tom Brady last week and should expect a similar assault from Philip Rivers and company.

Rivers is having an MVP-caliber season – he leads the NFL in passing yards (3,177), touchdown passes (23), and yards per attempt (9.0). The Chargers have the NFL’s top-ranked offense (418.2 yards per game). Rivers is finding this success despite missing many of his offensive weapons. Unfortunately for the Colts, some of those key players could return Sunday.

Vincent Jackson is set to make his season debut after a lengthy holdout. Jackson has led the team in receiving the past two seasons. Antonio Gates – arguably the best tight end in football – may also return after sitting out the past two games with a bum foot.

If the Colts’ defense plays like it did last week, this game may be over by halftime. The Patriots scored touchdowns on each of their first three drives, jumping out to a 21-7 lead.

Tom Brady and the Patriots' passing offense carved the Colts' secondary last week. They'll have to shape up or Philip Rivers will do the same.

In total, the Patriots scored on five of their first six possessions – excluding a one-kneel drive to end the first half. On offense, three Peyton Manning interceptions and 0.9 rushing yards per carry in the first half won’t cut it either.

Luckily for the Colts, the rest of the AFC South is cooperating while they are struggling. The Texans have dropped off like a rock, the Titans are a mess, and the Jaguars, while tied with the Colts atop the division at 6-4, are hard to take too seriously.

Still, if the Colts don’t get things together soon, their streak of eight-consecutive playoff berths will be in serious jeopardy.

In my estimation a quarter of the NFL’s teams have already been eliminated from the playoff hunt. Four more may join them after Week 12 as things will start to clear up considerably. Here’s how things are looking so far:

AFC

East leader– N.Y. Jets, 8-2 (1 seed)

Once the NFL darlings of the 2010 season, the Texans have fallen off the map. If they lose to the Titans Sunday any playoff hopes for them are gone.

North leader– Baltimore Ravens, 7-3 (2 seed)

South leader– Jacksonville Jaguars, 6-4 (4 seed)

West leader– Kansas City Chiefs, 6-4 (3 seed)

Wildcard 1– New England Patriots, 8-2 (5 seed, East tiebreak loser)

Wildcard 2– Pittsburgh Steelers, 7-3 (6 seed, North tiebreak loser)

South tiebreak loser– Indianapolis Colts (6-4)

1 game back in West– San Diego Chargers (5-5), Oakland Raiders (5-5)

1-game back in South– Tennessee Titans (5-5)

Key Week 12 games– Titans at Texans (4-6), Dolphins (5-5) at Raiders, Chargers at Colts

Thoughts– The South and West will come down to the wire – only the Broncos (3-7) are out out of the picture among those eight teams. The Dolphins and Texans face must-win conference battles, while the Chargers and Colts always put on a good show.

NFC 

East leader– Philadelphia Eagles, 7-3 (2 seed)

South leader– Atlanta Falcons, 8-2 (1 seed)

How bad is the NFC West? A game between the 49ers and Cardinals (both 3-7) could have serious playoff implications.

North leader– Chicago Bears, 7-3 (3 seed)

West leader– Seattle Seahawks, 5-5 (4 seed)

Wildcard 1– New Orleans Saints, 7-3 (5 seed)

Wildcard 2– Green Bay Packers, 7-3 (6 seed)

Wildcard tiebreak loser/1 game back in South– Tampa Bay Buccaneers(7-3)

1 game back in Wildcard and East– N.Y. Giants (6-4)

1 game back in West– St. Louis Rams (4-6)

Key Week 12 games- Packers at Falcons, Eagles at Bears

Thoughts- The Buccaneers keep taking care of business and have a schedule that will keep them in the playoff picture should anyone ahead of them slip up. The West is probably the worst division in the history of the NFL and could have a 7-9 victor.