18 Things to Watch for in Sunday's Game with the Seahawks
With uniforms this bad, I don't even need to make any snarky comments
Last week, the Colts defied my every expectation, did everything they had to do, and destroyed the Cardinals. All it cost them was Dwight Freeney. D'OH! Without the driving force of their defense for a few weeks, the Colts have to circle the wagons to keep their momentum going. As the Seahawks come to town on Sunday be sure to be watching for:
1. Watch the Master. Yeah, he's great. We get it. The thing is though, Peyton Manning has rarely been this good before. In fact, his last 16 games dating back to last year eerily mirror his 2005 season, right down to the rating. Compare: 68.9%, 4201, 31, 10, 104.1 to 2005: 67.3, 3747, 28, 10, 104.1. His YPA over those 16 games is back up to 7.9, right where it has been for most of his career. The great one is in the zone and there's no reason to expect that to change this week. Everything about the Colts begins and ends with his play right now. Sometimes even the obvious has to be acknowledged.
2. Watch the next man up. With major defensive stars like Dwight Freeney, Kelvin Hadyen, and Gary Brackett all nicked up, the Colts may have to go in to Sunday's game missing starters at every level of the defense. Indy needs another big week out of its second string in order to buy time to start getting players back and healthy.
3. Watch for an old friend. Edge James is back in Indy for the first time since his contract ran out after the 2005 season. Edge is the all-time leading rusher for the Colts, and a favorite of Jim Irsay, Peyton Manning, and 18to88.com. James needs just 79 yards to break into the top ten all time. My dream scenario for Sunday includes a 30-3 lead late in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks take over at the 20, and Edge gets a carry. The Colts defenders all just step aside and let him roll 80 yards for the score. It would bring the house down.
4. Watch the backup. The Seahawks are expected to start Seneca Wallace in place of the injured Matt Hassleback who is out with a broken rib. Hassleback is more accurate by far than Wallace. Wallace will have to be careful with the ball, especially on third down. Turnovers will sink the Seahawks, and Wallace has four picks in his last three games.
5. Watch the changing of the guard. After the Colts failed on third and one last week, Mike Pollack was benched in favor of Kyle DeVan. The Colts religiously hold to the "best man plays" philosophy, and DeVan's entrance happened to coincide with an offensive explosion by the Colts. Pollack reentered the game later and looked bad on a run play. Caldwell has implied the rotation will continue for the time being. (note: I ripped this off of Oehser without meaning to. I not only repeated the information, which is no big deal, but I copied the words almost verbatim. It was totally unintentional and I did it because it was lodged in my memory, and I've apologized to Oehser for the mistake.)
6. Watch for 4.0. Joe Addai has run the ball effectively in each of the last two games, and it's time for him really get on a roll. The Seahawks gave up 256 rush yards to the 49ers a couple of weeks ago, so they can be had. Addai has upped his YPC on the season to 3.8, and even a 14 for 63 kind of day would push his YPC up to 4 yards a carry for the season.
7. Watch the cloud of dust. Look for an outmanned Seattle club to do the smart thing and run the ball over and over and over. They will attempt to keep the football away from Peyton Manning (and Seneca Wallace). How the Colts fare against this strategy will tell us a lot more about the team's potential on defense. Julius Jones has been running well early this year, and we can expect to see a lot of him on Sunday
8. Watch the returns. Chad Simpson is last in the NFL in kick return average. We call him "The human touchback". Due to Simpson's abdomen injury, TJ Rushing may be forced to return both punts and kickoffs. It will not take much to best Simpson's poor performance.
9. Watch the safeties. It is worth noting how well Antoine Bethea (21 tackles, 2 picks, 1 fumble recovery) is playing eary in the year. Melvin Bullitt has also been solid, filling in for Bob "The Zombie" Sanders. They'll be ready to jump all over Seneca Wallace's poor decisions. Sanders is a dynamic player, but the Colts are deep at safety, and Wallace will be hard pressed to break 6 YPA this week.
10. Watch the big one. Ed Johnson is easing back into playing shape after missing 2008. His play seems to be improving after being thrown into the fire in Miami. The Colts will need his size to beat back Seattle's physical attack. He came up with a big pressure last week against Warner, and with Freeney out, more push up the middle would be a godsend.
11. Watch the Rook. Seattle drafted LB Aaron Curry fourth overall out of Wake Forest. Curry came through with a sack and forced fumble against the Bears, but the pressure to perform is still incredibly high. Curry signed a six year, $60 million contract, with an astounding $34 million guaranteed. Linebackers are a key against the Colts, and he'll have to fight his instincts to bite on the play action fakes.
12. Watch the kickers. Olinde Mare missed two kicks inside 50 yards last week. Adam Vinatieri has also been shaky in 2009. You could argue that AV has been shown up by rookie punter Pat McAfee. The onus will be on both place-kicking veterans to keep it between the uprights. One thing is for sure, Indy's kicker won't get yelled at after the game.
13. Watch for desperation. Seattle simply can't afford to start 1-3 in a division that features talented Arizona and San Francisco teams. The young team will likely come out with a sense of purpose that will have to be dealt with head on. Punching them in the mouth early will be key. Indy is a heavy favorite, and putting Seattle down 14 points early should quiet their ambition.
14. Watch the streak. The Colts are looking to win their 13th consecutive regular season game. It is starting to feel like old times. Nearly as important, they will attempt on Sunday to win their 8th consecutive home game. This would be huge, given the tough 0-2 start at Lucas Oil Stadium. It gave the Luke a reputation of not offering much of a homefield advantage. Now we know there were other reasons for that start than the building.
15. Watch the confidence. You can sense head coach Jim Caldwell becoming more and more at ease. The turmoil many predicted has not come to pass. Fans may be waiting for the definitive test of Caldwell's mettle, but he seems to feel he has nothing to prove. That is good place to be.
16. Watch for the rant. Jim Mora Sr. (one of the least liked Colts coaches ever thanks to his horrible butchering of the 2000 playoff game). Was famous for his press conference blowups. His son publicly filleted a kicker just last week. There's never any telling what will come out of the mouth of a Mora, but you can be sure it will be loud and have something to do with losing.
17. Watch the clock. West coast teams have a terrible record when forced to play 1 PM games in the Eastern time zone in the past few years. Sure west coast teams suck in general, but their winning percentage dips to around .250 when forced to kick off at 1. The Seahawks were 0-4 in the Eastern time zone last year, but this is their only trip there this season. If Seattle gets off to a slow start, it might be because their bodies are still asleep. Wah. Do Miami and Arizona in six days and then bitch to me about waking up a little early.
18. Watch for four. Freeney or no Freeney, the Colts are the better team. They are playing at home. They have Peyton Manning. Let's not over think this one. DZ says Indy 35 Seattle 13. Demond likes the Colts to prevail 30 - 20.