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Colts best weapon remains Peyton Manning

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Neil Reynolds | 08:51 UK time, Thursday, 4 November 2010

With the NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium consigned to the history books, I can finally pause for breath and take stock of the NFL as we enter the final two months of the regular season.

As we all suspected heading into 2010, the race to reach Super Bowl XLV in North Texas (why it is not officially labelled as a Dallas Super Bowl is beyond me) is going to feature many teams.

And the eventual winner may be hiding somewhere in the middle of the pack right now. When teams are as closely matched as they are in the NFL at the moment, it can often be the club that gets hottest at the right time who emerges with the big prize.

There have been some high-profile casualties this season as the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals and San Diego Chargers have combined to post a record of nine wins and 20 losses. It bears repeating that these four teams reached the final eight on the road to last year's NFL title game.

Peyton Manning is having another exceptional season for the Colts

Peyton Manning is having another exceptional season for the Colts

By contrast, one fancied club still very much in the race in 2010 are the Indianapolis Colts and, given the injuries they have suffered on both sides of the ball, that is a glowing testament to how important quarterback Peyton Manning is to that franchise.

I think the Colts could lose just about anyone else on their roster and Manning would give them a chance to win every weekend. But if number 18 goes down, with all due respect to backup passer Curtis Painter, they are done. The loss would simply be too much to overcome.

But with Manning at the helm, the Colts have shown they can withstand a variety of key injuries and still sit atop the AFC South Division with a 5-2 record.

At various times this year, Indianapolis have been without starting running back Joseph Addai, valuable wide receivers Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez and Pierre Garcon and perhaps, most damaging of all, perennial Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark has been lost for the season with a wrist injury.

The four-time league Most Valuable Player has thrown for 2,184 yards, 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions. That is scarily good.

With so many young and inexperienced players around him, it helps that Manning is the most intelligent quarterback in the NFL. .

So many quarterbacks in the NFL today are puppets for their offensive coordinator and head coach. They are given the play from the sidelines and are expected to run it to perfection. Some of the biggest names in the game - Tom Brady and Brett Favre - take the majority of their instructions from the sidelines and only rarely change the play at the line of scrimmage.

Not Peyton Manning and these Colts.

On any given play, Manning will be given two and sometimes three plays from the sidelines. He has the freedom to change anything he wishes but if he likes those options, he will call all three in the huddle and then tell his team-mates to await instructions at the line of scrimmage.

To be able to do that is an incredible luxury and affords the Colts an offensive advantage that no other team in the NFL is able to enjoy.

But what also makes Manning one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time is his ability to get the best out of those around him.

There are quarterbacks in the NFL who would not react the same way as Manning if they lost a star wide receiver. Many of them would go to the next veteran in line rather than put their trust in someone they have rarely worked with in the past. They would certainly not immediately turn to an untested youngster.

Manning does that whenever necessary.

During a Week 3 win over the Denver Broncos, Manning was playing without the injured Garcon, which meant Blair White was thrust into the action having only just been promoted from the practice squad. An undrafted rookie out of Michigan State was about to play alongside a true legend of the game.

Manning couldn't have cared less where White had come from - he was going to give the youngster a chance. If he was open, Manning was going to find him and he wasn't going to shy away if White dropped a couple of passes.

White responded to being given such an opportunity and played a key role in the 27-13 win, catching three passes and scoring a crucial touchdown.

We know all about Manning's arm strength and accuracy, but it is his desire to win, his trust in the young targets around him and his intelligence which has driven the Colts through what could have been a rocky first half of the season.

It has not always been easy this term, but Manning gives the Colts a chance to win every time he steps on the field. That's about as good a definition of greatness as you're likely to find.

Week 9 on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra

We will bring listeners live action from the Colts' visit to the Philadelphia Eagles on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 9pm on Sunday and we couldn't have two more different quarterbacks going head to head.

Michael Vick is set to return for the Eagles and while he boasts sprinter's speed and breathtaking moves, Manning resembles a giraffe on ice when he attempts to scramble downfield.

That is not Manning's strength, of course, and he will be licking his lips at the prospect of taking on a secondary that was shredded by the Tennessee Titans two weeks ago.

Vick could also find the going tough against the Colts. Indy has a defense which can get man-handled at times, but what they boast in abundance is speed. And that is something you need to defend the most electrifying quarterback in the NFL.

I try not to bet against Peyton Manning too many times and, for that reason, I'm going for the Colts to win what should be a close-fought contest.


  • Comment number 1.

    "So many quarterbacks in the NFL today are puppets for their offensive coordinator and head coach."

    Just a little harsh, that. I think we all see how less experienced QBs are often held on a tighter rein, but pretty understandably given amongst other reasons the differences between the College and Pro game. "Puppet", however, that's really misses for me, even the most disciplined QBs in the league get pretty inventive when they need to, which is almost every game.

    Manning's play-calling sets him apart from pretty much all his peers, no question, and without him the Colts would be also-rans. But Brady is still the guy I'd want under center with the game on the line, under pressure, and regardless of who is calling the plays, he makes fewer mistakes.

    Colts have been a bit iffy on the road this season, but like you I don't see that the Iggles have enough to slow down Manning. Vick's the wild-card, though, I can see the sense of playing a more mobile QB versus Freeney and Mathis, but he'll need a big passing game to keep the Iggles in this one.

  • Comment number 2.

    It may be harsh but the fact remains that NO other QB in the league is given the same freedom as Manning at the line of scrimmage - Not Brady, not Favre, not Brees.

    They just aren't given that much licence to audible out of plays. Sure, they show creativity each and every week, but I was talking about Manning being like an extra coach on the field.

    There are not many other QBs you would put in that same category.

  • Comment number 3.

    Good article Neil, I must say the Colts didn't fill me with any confidence at all early season, particularly losing against Houston. It was a ten point loss, but it should have been more, the deficiencies were glaring despite Peyton posting incredible numbers.

    Since then however there have been a few occasions I've been really impressed, and Monday night was a good example. A few people really stepped up, like Tamme and Hart. Dallas is a huge, huge loss, but like you say, it's always 'Next Man Up' with Peyton and the Colts.

    I agree about Michael Vick, strangely he's still a little of an unknown quantity after the last few years and injuries this season, but it really will be polar opposite QB's Sunday night. I do rate him, and Philly have such an incredible record coming off the bye weeks, so they look very dangerous.

    My heart says Colts, and come Sunday night my wallet probably will as well, but I wouldn't be all that surprised to see Vick and the Eagles put on a show and take the game. Freeney and Mathis will be huge as ever, and I'll go for 24-17 Indy

  • Comment number 4.

    Nice post Neil, good read.

    One thing i'm enjoying about this season so far is the number of teams which are even-pegging results wise. Sure, The Pats, Steelers and Jets are starting to get 5-1 leads, and there is still half a season to go but it's good to see so many teams mixing it up!

    It's quite obvious the Colts MVP is Manning, reflected by the fact that when he plays well, Indy play well and despite a stumble early on in the season, I feel that Indy will still be too strong overall and win the division, although the match-ups against Titans (twice) and Housten again will be vital to them to play well and win.

    With both teams shipping around 21 points a week on average, I'd fancy Manning to take more advantage than Vick and IMO, Indy will likely run out victors.

    Neil, one thing, What do you make of Titans grabbing Moss!!?
    Personally I'm excited that we've got him, especially with Kenny Britt being out injured, but I'm a little wary of the "difficulties" he's had this season. Do you feel that under Fisher he could actually help the Titans make the playoff's this year...!?


  • Comment number 5.

    "why it is not officially labelled as a Dallas Super Bowl is beyond me"

    Maybe because the stadium isn't in Dallas? It's not even that close really, Arlington is about 20 miles from Dallas.

  • Comment number 6.

    Never ending saga... I think MOss fills a need in Tennessee... you need a deep threat with Britt out for a while. But Moss appears to be growing ever weirder by the week - asking his own questions and then answering them at a press conference !?! I'd pay good money to see Sir Alex Ferguson go down that route.

    LUFC-Falcon... I know it is not 'actually' in Dallas. I have been there and that is one sprawling city - stayed downtown and took an age to get to the stadium. But it's all relative and even when I was in Arlington, I felt like I was in Dallas. But I get the point. It is not technically Dallas. Probably the same reason the Miami Super Bowl is now known as South Florida.

  • Comment number 7.

    One would fully expect the Colts to win, whoever they are, as long as they get more TDs than the other team, right? And could someone please explain why it's called the Super Bowl? Perhaps it helps conjure up images of a super bowl of chunky chips, washed down with a cool refreshing, but unlikely to get you drunk bottle of Bud. And when it comes to the NFL it's all about the advertising, right?

  • Comment number 8.

    Good article Neil, but I do have one thing to say:

    Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee haaaaaaaaaaaa and hot diggidy dog!!!!!

  • Comment number 9.

    Cracking game this one and I too would've gone for the Colts before the match, but betting on the NFL this year is proving incredibly difficult... speaking from experience of the man who put his hard-earned fiver on the Cowboys for the NFC. How very foolish I feel now. However my fiver on the Ravens isn't looking to shoddy.

    Anyway, Neil, as always, I'm interested in the little-covered, often mocked Lions. Surely only the Lions could be 2-6 and have a comfortable positive points difference?! As they're never on Sky, I have no idea how they're going this year other than seeing their results and every week being deeply frustrated by another narrow loss. Surely the time is coming (next season I hope) for them to have a winning season or at least gain some respectability? Have you seen them at all? Are the shoots of recovery genuinely there? Is Stafford the real deal? Any insights would interest me... from anyone!!


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