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Still feeling glum about your team’s opening-round playoff loss Colts fans?
I know, I know … the one and done playoff appearances are getting old. They’ve now had seven of them during the Peyton Manning Era. No fun.
By now most of you have gotten over it and will watch the conference championship games Sunday.
But there’s one burning question. Who should you root for?
I’m here to help you out.
The first team to eliminate is the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Nobody in Indianapolis can forget the brutal 2006 playoff loss to them. You remember – the Jerome Bettis fumble at the goal line, the Ben Roethlisberger tackle of Nick Harper (slowed by his wife’s stab to his knee the night before), and the Mike Vanderjagt shank. Good times.
Besides, if the Steelers win it all that will be three titles in six years and you know what that means – dynasty talk. I think Colts fans have heard enough of that over the last decade with the Patriots.
Next up is the New York Jets.
If the Jets upset the Steelers, you’d be hard pressed to find many Colts fans shedding tears, but the Jets hoisting the Lombardi Trophy wouldn’t be ideal.
Imagine the shoulda, coulda, wouldas that would ensue.
What if Manning and the offense didn’t sputter all night? What if they got one more first down on the final drive? What if the Colts squib kicked or actually, gasp, covered the kickoff? What if the defense didn’t let Mark Sanchez carve them on the final drive? What if Jim Caldwell didn’t forget how to use timeouts in the clutch?
You get the point.
Don’t fret though Colts fans … even if they beat the Jets they weren’t leaving Heinz Field with a victory – trust me.
Can you imagine the celebration that would ensue if the Jets won it all? Rex Ryan would anoint his team as the greatest of all time; Braylon Edwards would bust out a full gymnastics routine; and the trash talk would go on the entire offseason and maybe longer if a new collective bargaining agreement isn’t ironed out in a timely fashion.
While there’s not much of a rivalry between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears – they’ve played three times in the last decade – there are other reasons Colts fans might not want to see them prevail.
Chicago is only a three-hour drive from Indianapolis, meaning there are a lot of Bears fans around. Especially when you consider Indianapolis didn’t have an NFL team until 1984 – meaning many NFL fans living in Indianapolis in their 30s and older never changed loyalties from the Bears, Bengals, or whatever team they supported before the Colts’ arrival.
Many Colts haters still cling to the “they only won a Super Bowl because of Rex Grossman” argument. If the Bears cruise to a Super Bowl victory with Jay Cutler at the helm expect more of that reasoning from the peanut gallery.
The last team standing is the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers have even less of a rivalry with the Colts than the Bears – they’ve played two regular-season games against each other in 10 years.
While there’s a large contingency of Packers fans everywhere in the Midwest, it’s not too bad in Indianapolis, which is a safe seven-hour drive away.
The Packers aren’t cocky or obnoxious, a championship wouldn’t put them anywhere close to dynasty level, and let’s face it … most of us would love to see them stick it to Brett Favre.
There you have it Colts fans, it’s an easy choice … root for the Pack.
Despite the farewell columns, video tributes, and burial of his career this week, Colts’ safety Bob Sanders may not be done just yet.
Team president Bill Polian recently said the Colts will keep Sanders on their 53-man roster and that he is “hoping and anticipating he’ll be back some time before the season ends.”
There’s no guarantee he’ll return, but even a chance makes it worth the gamble.
No, he hasn’t earned the big contract extension the Colts gave him following the 2007 season when he was named Defensive Player of the Year.
Yes, his backup, Melvin Bullitt, is a fine and capable player who has proven his worth.
No disrespect to Bullitt, but he’s no Bob Sanders.
Sanders brings a different dynamic to the Colts’ defense – always has. He instills fear in opponents. When Sanders hits, forward progress stops … and sometimes consciousness with it.
One of the Colts’ biggest deficiencies during the Peyton Manning Era has been run defense. In Manning’s 12 seasons with the team, the Colts’ run defense has ranked 20th or worse nine times.
The Colts’ run defense has ranked in the top half of the league only twice with Manning at the helm. Sanders played in at least 14 games in each of those seasons.
In 2006 the Colts run defense was the worst in the league. In fact, the 5.33 rushing yards per attempt Indianapolis gave up that season was the most the NFL had seen since 1961.
By no coincidence Sanders played in only four games that season.
However, he returned for the playoffs and the Colts’ run defense pulled off a remarkable 180. Sanders played a big part of that with 22 tackles, four passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble, and one crushing blow to Cedric Benson in the Super Bowl.
The Colts finished that playoff run, which culminated in a Super Bowl championship, with the best postseason defense (238.5 yards per game) and second-best postseason run defense (82.8 yards per game, down from 173 yards per game in the regular season).
Using up a roster spot for Sanders is a risk. The Colts desperately need to find a diamond in the rough to provide some depth – on the offensive line and secondary in particular.
However, should the Colts make the playoffs and No. 21 is in uniform, it will be well worth the gamble.