AFC South Betting Preview - Indianapolis Colts

By: Bob Harvey | Monday, June 28, 2010

The Colts
are coming off a stellar 2009 campaign in which they went 14-2 overall including a 14-0 run to start the season and 6-0 in the division. They fell short of their second NFL title in three years losing to the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV 31-17.

It's back to the drawing board for Manning and company who are not only favored to win the AFC South again (-160) but are 4/1 favorites to grab the AFC title and 9/1 co-favorites with the Saints to win the NFL championship.

As Peyton Manning goes, so go the Colts. The former Tennessee star is coming off another stellar season in which he threw for 4,500 yards, 33 touchdowns and a passer rating of 99%. Arguably 2009 was the best season in his illustrious career as he accumulated massive numbers without the help of a running game and while breaking in a pair of young receivers.

Manning who was without Marvin Harrison for the first time in his NFL Football career managed just fine without him. With Harrison gone the Colts turned to the untested tandem of Pierre Garcon and rookie Austin Collie to replace him and both players stepped up big time. Garcon caught 45 balls for 765 yards and four touchdowns while Collie the former Boise State standout, had 60 grabs for 676 yards and seven touchdowns. Manning's two favorite targets, Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne each had 100 receptions and ten touchdowns.

Besides Manning the most valuable players on this team are the NFL offensive line. That group needs to keep Manning healthy and they know full well that losing him is the difference between a 14 win season and a high draft pick. Aside from Manning, the Colts have four quarterbacks on the roster none of whom has ever taken a snap in a meaningful game. Curtis Painter was the mop-up man for Manning and heads a group of untested quarterbacks including Tom Brandstater, Drew Willy, and Tim Hiller. If Manning goes down, it's pretty much over in Indy.

NFL teams are always talking about balance between the passing and running games; The Colts don't know the meaning of the word.

While their offense ranked 9th overall with an average of 363 yards per game it was the passing attack that carried the load averaging 282 ypg, second best in the league. However the running game was ranked 31st and next to last with a paltry 80 yards per game. Joseph Addai who rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons had just 828 yards. He did serve Manning well as a receiver out of the backfield making 51 receptions for a total of 13 touchdowns. Rookie Ronald Brown only had 281 yards with neither back cracking the four yards per carry mark. The Saints may have finally provided the rest of the league with the key to beating the Colts: Ignore the run and drop as many defenders as possible back into coverage. Indianapolis has to improve the run and keep the opposing defense honest.

The Colts NFL defense ranked 8th in the league in points allowed per game (19.2) and were 14th in the league against the pass (212.7). They did struggle against the run (126.5) ranking 24th in the league in that category. The heart and soul of the Colts defense is defensive back Bob Sanders who has missed 26 games over the past two seasons. The problem is his durability. He suffered a ruptured biceps tendon last year after returning from off-season surgery. If he's healthy and the Colts insist that he is, then his mere presence should help the team improve its defensive statistics across the board. The Colts used their top draft pick to pick up TCU's Jerry Hughes in the first round. Hughes was a beast in college and is expected to step into the starting lineup replacing Raheem Brock who departed via free agency.

The Colts have been the model of consistency in the NFL. They've won the AFC South six of the past seven years and have won 12 or more games seven consecutive seasons. Another double-digit season is well within reach and the books feel the same way setting Indy's win total at 11 for the 2010 campaign.

Head coach Jim Caldwell, who begins his second year with the Horseshoe organization, needs to make sure his team avoids a letdown after their Super Bowl loss, that and keeping Manning safe from opposing pass rushers. If he can accomplish those two things there's no reason to believe this team won't be back in the AFC playoffs and going strong in late January.
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