7 Things to Watch For in Sunday's Colts Falcons games
Hey! I know you! Now you are me!
Last week, the Colts came out flat and got flattened. This week, they return home to take on the Atlanta Falcons. Geeze, talk about your inspiring matchups. Here's what to watch for this week:
1. Watch for trading places. When the Colts and Falcons last played, Atlanta was reeling from the fallout from Michael Vick and on their way to a 4-12 season, while the Colts were rolling towards 13-3. Four years later the Colts are winless, and the Falcons' ship has righted. At 4-3, they expect to make the playoffs and be contender in the NFC. The Falcons are a good case study for Colts fans. They dropped off the table when Vick when to prison, but righted the ship the very next season. The NFL is a right now league. Rebuilding does not take years. I know that right now, it feels like everything is a mess, and in fairness, it might not look great next year either (see point 2), but by 2013 at the latest, the Colts will be an elite team again.
2. Watch for reality to set in. You all heard the talk yesterday from Peyton. He's still feeling more of the same. There's no, "Heck yeah! I'm getting better!" from him. To me, his comments yesterday sounded like his way of letting us know how far off he really is. If I had to bet on it now, I don't think he's coming back. If there is any significant doubt about his health, the Colts simply have to walk away. The future can be bright for this franchise, and fast, but not if they carry huge cap ramifications forward from a QB who can't play. We all love Peyton, and this city owes him a lot. He gave the Colts the out. He basically said, "It's ok. I understand". I wouldn't be surprised to see Peyton retire for a couple of years and come back at age 38. At this phase, it wouldn't be the worst thing for him. This is the turning point, for me. I'm not throwing dirt on his career, but I'm no longer going to talk hopefully about 'when Peyton comes back'. He's probably not coming back.
3. Watch for the One Way sign. Those arrows on the gametrackers have been pointing in one solid direction for the Colts defense...toward the endzone. It has now been 22 quarters (5 1/2 games) since the Colts defense forced a turnover. That's passing bad and bordering on statistically improbable. Atlanta has had at least two give aways in 5 of 7 games, but against the only two bad teams they've played (Carolina and Seattle), they protected the football. The Indy defense can't get off the field, and it can't force turnovers. I just...yeah...(shakes head and walks away muttering incoherently about Larry Coyer).
4. Watch for the Wannabe but ain't. I wrote a few weeks ago about the comparison between Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning. While Ryan had a vastly better rookie season, by year two Manning had moved past him, and by year three his career was on a totally different trajectory. Nothing has happened since then to change my mind about that. At the time I said, "If he can take the leap to being a high volume/high efficiency thrower, Matt Ryan should stay among the NFL's elite for many years." Well, so far that hasn't happened. He's got the volume part down, but his completion %, YPA, rating and TD/INT numbers are mediocre at best. He's 14th in DVOA. He just hasn't taken the leap, despite the Falcons going to great lengths to surround him with superior receiving talent. Bottom line: he's a nice solid NFL quarterback. He'll probably have an elite season here or there in his career, but he's not on the path to Hall of Fame greatness...not yet anyway. He's more Bledsoe than Manning.
5. Watch Andrew Luck. All aboard! I'm all in on Luck. I'm not rooting for the Colts to lose, but this is the guy. Even the Colts don't get the first overall pick, if Manning's not healthy, they should sell the farm to get him. If you have a quarterback, you have a chance. The Stanford game at Oregon State is at 3:30 Eastern. Tune and and start rooting for him now. Yes, this is absolutely as depressing as it sounds. Whatever. If I can force myself to choke down college football SO CAN YOU!
6. Watch for another crappy announcing duo. Ron Pitts and Jim Mora Jr.? Seriously? It's like the TV gods hate us. Did you ever think you'd miss Gumble and Dierdorf? It's going to be a steady diet of guys like Wilcotts for the rest of the year. That's the real torture of this whole mess. You know how to avoid these clowns? GO TO THE GAME!
7. Watch for a loss. Indy's not winning this one. Yes, that's what passes for analysis at this phase of the season. The only interesting thing is whether the team plays well enough in the next two weeks to save Caldwell's job. He's clearly gone at the end of the season (based on Irsay's comments yesterday), but I still think he's gone sooner if the team gets blown out the next two weeks. I don't think they blame Caldwell for the season, it's clearly not his fault. But he's also not the answer either. Firing him would be cosmetic move designed to calm people down. He's respected over at West 56th, and they'd like him to go with dignity. Let's hope the team gives them an excuse to let him finish up the year. Falcons 31 Colts 17