Peyton Manning has had three seasons wrapped up into one this year.
For seven weeks he was on an MVP pace. Then the wheels fell off for a month. Finally, he's been on a nice roll for the final three games.
Let's see where his 2010 numbers stack up against his previous seasons:
The two things that stand out this season for Manning are his attempts (through the roof), and his yards per attempt. At first the YPA really bothered me. YPA is the most important stat in football when it comes to the passing game. However, when you realize that the Colts lead the NFL with 40 dropped passes, it begins to come into focus. Granted the Colts throw the ball more than any other team, so you'd expect by volume to have more drops. Reggie Wayne is second in the NFL with 11 drops and Garcon is 6th with 8. Of course Wayne has seen 159 passes (2nd in the NFL) this season, so you'd expect some drops. Some of the drop in Manning's YPA is simply a function of a bad year by his receiving crew.
It helps to evaluate Manning's year in the context of the Indy offense. The Colts are averaging 27.5 points a game, 3rd in the NFL. Last season, they averaged 28.1 ppg through the first 14 weeks. In 2008, it was 23.2 and in 2007 it was 28.1. In fact, despite all the injuries, the 2010 Indy offense is averaging more points a game than the 2008 or 2006 Colts. Indy has turned the ball over 24 times. In 2009, they turned the ball over 24 times, although Curtis Painter had 3 of them.
Also of note is that Manning's season is remarkably similar to Drew Brees's season this year:
Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have essentially been the same quarterback in 2010. It's funny how close the numbers are.
The real struggle point for the 2010 Colts has been on defense. The 2010 Colts have struggled to force turnovers, with just 20 on the year after forcing 26 last season. They've recovered 10 fumbles (just like in 2009), but have only 10 picks for the season verses 16 last year. By points, Indy is allowing 24.5 ppg. Granted, the Colts have allowed 6 returns for scores (4 INT, 1 punt, 1 KO). Allowing for that knocks the total down by a field goal, but still puts the Colts at 21.7 ppg. In 2009, the Colts defense allowed 17.7 points a game through 14 weeks. That's four points less a game. How big a deal is four points a game?
Indy has four losses by three or fewer points this season.
Flip a couple of those games, and the Colts are playing for a bye this week instead of for their lives.
Everybody likes impressive numbers (especially if they happen to be nice round ones as well), with the Colts week 17 game having meaning this year we are likely to see several of them reached.
With a win the Colts will have their 9th straight 10+ win season keeping them alone in 2nd, 1 season ahead of the Patriots active streak (at 8 including this year). The NFL record is still a ways off though, 16 straight seasons of 10 or more wins by the 83-98 Niners.
With a win and/or a Jags loss the Colts will have their 9th straight playoff appearance, the longest active streak by far since the Chargers streak of 4 will end leaving the Ravens and Eagles tied at 2nd with 3 including this year.
Peyton needs 18 completions to break Drew Brees' single season record of 440 set in 2007
Drew Bledsoe's record of 691 pass attempts is likely out of reach (Peyton would need to throw 53 passes Sunday to tie), but 2nd all time is nearly a given with Warren Moon's 655 just 17 throws away.
Peyton is 122 yards from a new career best in passing yardage at 4,557 (2004). 254 yards will put this season into the top 10 in NFL history, tying Moon at 4,690. A 400 yard day would put him 3rd all time behind only the 5,000 yard seasons by Brees ('08) and Marino ('84).
1 or more interception would put Manning into the top 25 all time, tying Dave Krieg at 199 career picks.
Donald Brown is 12 yards away from rushing 500 yards on the season. Addai 49 yards from the same mark.
Addai needs 94 yards on the ground to avoid a career low rushing total (though he is checking in at a career low in games played and has the best ypc since his rookie season).
Addai is also 22 yards shy of his 4,000th rushing yard and 3 TDs short of his 50th touchdown.
Wayne is 3 receptions away from a new career best of 105 and 13 yards away from breaking the 1,300 yard mark for the 3rd time of his career.
Reggie is also 36 yards short of tying Stanley Morgan for 28th all time in receiving yardage and could move up a spot from 34th all time in receiving TDs with 2 TDs and another if he scores 1 or more TDs than Antonio Gates does Sunday. 3 TDs would put him into the top 30 all time.
Garçon is 59 yards shy of last years' mark in receiving yards of 765.
Jacob Tamme is 36 yards short of reaching 600 yards receiving a figure Dallas Clark didn't reach until the 5th year of his career.
Dwight Freeney trails Henry Thomas (34th) by half a sack and Steve McMicheal (33rd) by 2 sacks on the all-time leaderboard.
Freeney is 1 sack away from reaching 10+ for the 3rd straight year and 7th time in his 9 year career.
Robert Mathis is currently tied with Jevon Kearse and Mark Gastineau for 60th all-time, he would pass Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and tie Bryce Paup at 58th if he records a full sack bringing him to 75 on his career. A full sack this Sunday would also set a new career high for Mathis breaking the 11.5 mark he posted in 2005 and 2008.
Here's a rerun from earlier this week, so I don't have to spend tomorrow on twitter reminding everyone who to root for!
Normally, this is a Sunday feature, but I don't want to answer questions about it all week. I'll repost it on Sunday morning.
Let's deal with the simple scenario first:
Jacksonville at Houston
Indy is in with a Jags loss, no matter what happens in the Titans game.
Oakland at Kansas City
If Indy wins and KC loses, the Colts take the three seed. The three seed doesn't matter too much, but it guarantees you don't play the Pats in the second round.
Let's assume that happens. If Indy is 3 and KC is four, we are rooting for:
Bills at Jets
Steelers at Browns
Bengals at Ravens
That would make the bracket: 1. NE 2. Balt 3. Ind 4. KC 5. Pitt 6. NYJ. Indy would get the Jets in the first round and Baltimore in the second. The Pats would probably play the Steelers in the second round.
If KC wins and Indy is the four seed, we need to root for the same situation only hope the Jets win.
This would make the bracket: 1. NE 2. Balt 3. KC 4. IND 5. NYJ 6. Pitt Same thing would hold. Indy gets the Jets, Pitt beats KC and goes to NE.
If Pitt wins, I don't think it matters if we get the Ravens or Jets. The Ravens would be a little worse of a matchup, I guess. But neither team scares me.
In order, my preference for playoff matchups:
1. Chiefs (impossible until conference championship)
2. NY Jets-Are they worse than the Ravens...maybe a little.
3. Baltimore Ravens-We haven't lost to them since 2001.
4. Steelers (though I'd much rather play them at home than on the road)
Let's not get ahead of ourselves. This deal isn't done yet.
The Colts still need one more good performance at home on Sunday to make the playoffs. After the way this season has gone, it would be insane to take anything for granted. The way things have gone, Reggie Wayne's left arm could fall off at practice on Friday. There's nothing easy about beating a division rival at home with a playoff berth on the line. These chickens haven't hatched and no one is counting them yet. (now that I've successfully applied my anti-jinx protection, let's move along shall we?)
After the Dallas game, this team sat at 6-6 needing to win four consecutive games to make the playoffs. Ignoring for a moment that last night's game wasn't really a must win, let's take a moment to appreciate the fact that three weeks later, the Colts have ripped off three of them, two on the road.
I know that years like 2008 need to be celebrated in context. Given everything that's happened to this team this year, it's amazing that they are actually just a few bad breaks away from competing for a bye. More to the point, they are one win away from tying the NFL record for consecutive playoff appearances at 9 and would be more than halfway to the 49ers record 16 straight 10 win seasons. A season full of adversity that pays off in a home playoff game? I'll take it. While there is still a credible path to the Super Bowl for the Colts that doesn't require any herculean upsets (NYJ, @Balt, Pitt), I'll be plenty happy with the 2011 Colts even without a trip to Dallas.
Even though the Colts didn't technically need to beat the Raiders, they did so anyway. This team hasn't shied away from anything this season. They haven't quit. They haven't made excuses. You get the feeling that internally, the team feels like a snake in the grass. They have the second highest scoring offense in the NFL. The league's best team, the Patriots, have one of the great offenses ever, but also a terrible defense. They are also scared to death of a rematch with Manning. Is it a long shot? Yes. Could it happen? Yeah, it could.
Suddenly, at the end of it all, this team has figured out how to defend the run again. Suddenly, every 220 lb back who comes down the pike isn't throwing fear into our hearts. There are still problems on defense, mostly caused by a seriously decimated secondary, but it's encouraging to see. Dwight Freeney has played like a man possessed all season, and while it's been a modest year for him sack wise (one yesterday takes him to 9 for the season), he's been a force for the last several weeks.
The return of the run game certainly challenges the popular notion that Bill Polian did a horrible job constructing this offensive line. It's amazing what can happen when good running backs start to get healthy. It's shocking the results when you stop giving carries to a guy from the practice squad. When your big blocking tight end finally heals up, suddenly there are actual holes to run through. The last two games, against admittedly suspect defenses, the Colts have used the run as more than just a decoy. Once again, suggesting that maybe injuries really were to blame after all.
As we look at this season (nearly) saved, that's the one lesson we can take away. Injuries aren't an excuse. No one feels sorry for you just because guys are hurt. However, they are a valid reason. It is fair to grade coaches and front office staff on a curve when forced to work with one hand tied behind their back. Everything doesn't have to be a sign that Manning is old or hurt or that the sky is falling or the window closing. Sometimes you just have trouble winning because you lost too many good players. Injuries are never an excuse. But yeah, they are a reason.
Three straight playoff games have come and gone. I'd love to see this team win two or three (or five) more.
Colts 31 Raiders 26no comments
After giving up a TD on the opening kickoff the Colts held the Raiders out of the endzone for the following 58 minutes while putting up 31 points themselves. Field goals of 59, 38, 51 and 45 yards long with a TD against the Colts prevent in the final two minutes kept the game close, but a resurgent Colts running game propelled the Colts offense to a pace the Raiders just couldn't match.
Dom Rhodes narrowly missed 100 yards on the day and the Colts fell a bit short of 200 rushing yards as a team, but 4.9 ypc on 35 carries is one of the best performances the Colts backs have posted in a long time. The continued success of the run game was needed as the passing game was off all day. Peyton completed just over half his passes and was picked off twice as Jacob Tamme was the only Colt with more than 3 catches or 40 yards receiving.
Defensively the Colts put on a clinic in bend, but don't break D. The Raiders ran for 4 ypc, were effective in the short passing game and didn't turn the ball over, but they didn't get into the Colts redzone until the final 2 minutes of the game.
The Bengals upset over the Chargers both takes SD out of playoff contention and means that with a win over Tennessee and a Raiders win over the Chiefs next week Indy gets the 3 seed in the AFC.
Oh yeah and that naked bootleg play was 7 kinds of awesome.
The Colts win the AFC South with:
A win or tie
A Jags loss
Indy gets the #3 seed with:
A win and a Chiefs loss to Oakland (at KC)no comments
Merry day after Christmas everyone! Don't forget to use those Amazon gift cards you got on a fine piece of literature!
As always, we'll be tweeting during the game. For those of you who don't use Twitter, you are missing out on lots of bonus 18to88 stuff. I routinely tweet stats, facts, and observations that don't show up on the site. You don't have to have a twitter address or tweet to read me, though. Just go here. You should also follow Luke and Shake and Jesse.
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The Steelers win on Thursday formally ended any hope of the Colts nabbing the two seed, so let's review what's still possible.
The Colts get the 3 seed with:
2 wins AND 1 KC loss AND one San Diego loss.
Indy wins the AFC South with:
2 wins OR
1 win over Tennessee and 1 Jags loss OR
2 Jags losses and the Titans lose to KC today.
Here's who to root for today:
Washington at Jacksonville
MJD isn't playing, so this game is very much in play. This is the one game that really matters for the Colts. A Jags loss would render the Indy/Oakland game meaningless in terms of the Colts making the playoffs.
Chargers at Bengals
We want San Diego out of the playoffs, but we also want them to drop a game so we can take the three seed.
Titans at Chiefs
While technically we get some help from a Chiefs loss, because I think it's unlikely the Chargers lose, we'd rather the Chiefs keep winning. In addition, the Raiders would be eliminated with a Chiefs win. The Titans long-shot hopes would be over as well, opening the door for the Colts to make the playoffs by losing out. So for now, let's pull for KC, though if the Chargers go down, it's acceptable to switch this to pro-Titans.
Browns at Ravens
We want the Ravens to take the two seed. Think about it. Would you rather play at Baltimore or at Pittsburgh in the second round? Yeah. Me too.
Jets at Bears
Two Jets wins and two Pats losses means NY wins the AFC East. Let's root for that long-shot. If the Jets lose, it's no big deal.
Patriots at Bills
For the record, my ideal (realistic) playoff scenarios are:
NE, Balt, Indy, KC, Pitt, NYJ
(2 Balt W, 2 Indy W, 1 KC W, 1 Pitt L, 2 NYJ L)
NE, Balt, KC, Ind, NYJ, Pitt
(2 Balt W, 1 NYJ W, 1 Pitt L)