2007 Season Previews
TE Mike Seidman.
WR Anthony Gonzalez, WR Roy Hall, OT Tony Ugoh, DT Quinn Pitcock, OLB Clint Session, OLB Keyunta Dawson, CB Daymeion Hughes, CB Michael Coe, S Brannon Condren.
RB Dominic Rhodes (OAK), RB James Mungro, WR Brandon Stokley (DEN), DT Montae Reagor (PHI), OLB Cato June (TB), CB Nick Harper (TEN), CB Jason David (NO), S Mike Doss (MIN), S Dexter Reid, KR Terrence Wilkins.
Offense This Year: This section of Indianapolis' preview should basically write itself. I guess that's what happens when you group together Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Dallas Clark, and an offensive line returning all five starters that surrendered 15 sacks and allowed the team's leading rusher to gain 4.8 yards per carry. There's no need to type anything up; you can just watch them score a plethora of points every week. The Colts averaged 26.7 points per game, falling just a bit short of last year's mark of 27.4.
I did, however, express some concern in my 2006 season preview about Indianapolis' ability to match its 2005 output. The reason was the departure of Pro Bowler Edgerrin James, who took the money and ran to Arizona. The Colts consequently selected Joseph Addai in the first round of last April's draft, although I wasn't sure if the move would immediately work out because of Addai's inexperience. Guess I was way off. As I previously mentioned, Addai was able to rumble for 4.8 yards per clip. Even more impressive was his performance in the playoffs. Addai caught 10 passes for 66 yards in the Super Bowl; and pummeled Kansas City's defensive front for 122 yards and a score on 25 carries. Addai's gradual improvement over the course of the year allowed the Colts to let backup runner Dominic Rhodes go. That's won't hurt unless Addai gets hurt; DeDe Dorsey and Kenton Keith are currently listed as his backups.
There are a few other issues regarding Indianapolis' scoring unit. I already mentioned the lack of depth at running back. Another one is age. Harrison (95 catches, 1,366 yards, 12 TDs) will celebrate his 35th birthday on Aug. 25. He probably has a few more exceptional seasons left in the tank, but you never know. Another concern is focus. Now that Manning has finally won a Super Bowl - proving me wrong in the process - he's appearing on shows like Saturday Night Live and the Rosie O'Donnell Dorito Fun Hour. Is his head completely in the game? Remember, Tom Brady missed the playoffs the year after he won his first ring.
Defense This Year: The Colts' best defense has always been their offense. For years, they've had a habit of jumping out to 14- and 21-point leads, forcing teams to throw as often as possible. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis would then wreak havoc upon opposing quarterbacks; the two defensive ends have combined for 64 sacks over the past three seasons. If Indianapolis, for some reason failed to establish an early advantage, its stop unit was consequently exposed. The Colts were ranked dead last against the run last year. Jacksonville was able to compile a whopping 375 rushing yards against them in a Dec. 10 44-17 victory.
Things changed in the playoffs, as Indianapolis unceremoniously became efficient at stopping opposing ball-carriers. While free safety Bob Sanders' return the lineup certainly played a role, I believe the Colts' improvement was a combination of luck and inept coaching. Both Kansas City and Baltimore utilized the same game plan: Run inside, run outside, throw short on third down. It was ridiculous and excruciating to watch. New England moved the chains at will against the Colts until Reche Caldwell decided to drop crucial passes. And Rex Grossman in the Super Bowl? Forget about it. I wanted to see Indianapolis make some offseason moves to improve its defense.
The complete opposite actually occurred. Starting cornerbacks Nick Harper and Jason David, Pro Bowl linebacker Cato June, defensive tackle Montae Reagor and reserve safety Mike Doss are all gone from a defense that was already horrendous. I have no idea what Indianapolis will do at corner; Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden are promising third-year players, but the former is more of a free safety, while the latter has just one NFL start. Tim Jennings, Daymeion Hughes and Michael Coe are talented but extremely inexperienced backups. Fortunately, the cover guys will have support from Sanders and strong safety Antoine Bethea, one of the better unknown players in the league.
Linebacker and defensive tackle remain a mess. June will be replaced by Freddie Keiaho, who has 19 career tackles. Rob Morris and Gary Brackett will both be back, but neither would have much luck finding another starting gig in the NFL. Up front, Booger McFarland is solid, but Raheem Brock is a liability. The Colts drafted Quinn Pitcock to eventually take Brock's place, but that won't happen this season.
Schedule and Intangibles: Think Adam Vinatieri was an upgrade over Mike Vanderjagt? The latter missed a game-tying, 46-yard field goal in the playoffs against the Steelers last year. Vinatieri helped the Colts win their first championship in this era by nailing 9-of-11 field goals from beyond 40 yards. ... Speaking of the postseason, Manning's mediocre playoff record (3-6 prior to 2006) is now null and void in the wake of his Super Bowl victory. ... Excluding Vinatieri, special teams could be an issue; the Colts surrendered three returns for touchdowns while scoring only one of their own. Terrence Wilkins, the man who notched that sole touchdown, is not on the team anymore. ... There are six non-divisional foes that could give Indianapolis some trouble this season. Beating New Orleans, Denver, Carolina, San Diego and revenge-hungry New England and Baltimore will be extremely difficult. Luckily, the Colts can take advantage of Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Atlanta and Oakland.
Additional Reading: Endless Banter coming soon.
Positional Rankings (0-4 stars):
Divisional Rival History:
Houston Texans: Prior to last year's meeting in Houston, the Texans had never beaten the Colts in their brief existence. Something tells me Peyton Manning and company will keep that in the back of their head.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Most of these games are close; nine of the last 10 meetings have been decided by eight points or less. The Jaguars won the black-sheep contest, 44-17 on Dec. 10. Jacksonville makes it its mission to slay the Colts, so I'm expecting a split at the very least.
Tennessee Titans: Like the Texans, Tennessee was able to break a long losing streak against Indianapolis in the second meeting last year. With Vince Young at the helm for the Titans, I expect the Colts' pure dominance over Tennessee to come to an end.
Peyton Manning: Peyton Manning is still fantasy king as far as quarterbacks are concerned. However, his stats could slip just a bit in 2007. Now that Joseph Addai has established himself as a potent weapon, offensive coordinator Tom Moore may call more plays for him inside the red zone.
Projected Stats: 4,250 passing yards. 29 passing TDs. 35 rushing yards. 2 rushing TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 401.
Joseph Addai: In 2006, Joseph Addai was a decent running back to have on a fantasy roster; he compiled 1,081 yards at a 4.8 clip. Now that Dominic Rhodes is gone, Addai's numbers should see a sharp increase. Keep in mind that he also generates numbers in the passing game. The only way Addai doesn't produce is if he gets hurt.
Projected Stats: 1,525 rushing yards. 550 receiving yards. 15 total TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 297.
Dallas Clark: Dallas Clark is a household name although he has yet to register more than 500 receiving yards in a single season. He had 367 last year, but missed four games with an injury. He may hit 500 in 2007, but he's still overrated in terms of fantasy football.
Projected Stats: 510 receiving yards. 5 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 81.
Marvin Harrison: Age could be an issue, but Marvin Harrison probably stays strong for another three years.
Projected Stats: 1,175 receiving yards. 12 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 189.
Reggie Wayne: Reggie Wayne will notch his fourth-consecutive 1,000-yard season. No doubt about that.
Projected Stats: 1,150 receiving yards. 9 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 169.
Anthony Gonzalez: Definitely worth an early pick in a keeper league, or a late selection in a traditional league. Don't expect miracles this season.
Projected Stats: 450 receiving yards. 1 TD.
Projected Fantasy Points: 51.
Adam Vinatieri: Mr. Clutch was 9-of-11 from beyond 40 yards last year. That said, he hasn't notched a 50-yarder since 2002. His extra points, 40-yard accuracy and the fact that he plays indoors make up for it.
Projected Stats: 28-32 FG (0-1 50+). 42 XP.
Projected Fantasy Points: 137.
Indianapolis Defense: The only time I would start the Colts is against a team that has a horrible offense and defense, like Houston or Kansas City. If Indianapolis establishes a large lead, you'll be collecting sacks, interceptions and fumbles left and right.
Projected Fantasy Ranking: Spot-Starting Defense.
Analysis: With the losses the Colts incurred this offseason and a lack of focus that may cloud their quest for a second Super Bowl, Indianapolis may take a step back this year. That's not as big a deal as it seems; the Colts were already miles ahead of most of the teams in the NFL.
Projection: 12-4 (1st in the AFC South)
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