As he did before the previous Titans-Colts game just three weeks ago, Nate Dunlevy of the great Colts blog 18 to 88 was kind enough to do a Q&A this week. You can also follow Nate on twitter, and read my responses to his questions over at 18 to 88 here.
Total Titans: Was playing the Titans the cure for what ailed Peyton Manning, or is he still making uncharacteristic mistakes for no apparent reason?
18 to 88: He had a couple of picks on Sunday against Oakland that were ill advised, but mostly he’s been much more conservative with the ball the last couple of weeks. During his interception binge, the only indicator he was struggling was the interceptions themselves, so it was probably inevitable that they would slow down.
Total Titans: Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne will both be 32 at the start of next season. Joe Addai’s contract expires after this year, I believe. Peyton Manning is 35 and isn’t under contract for next season. I assume Peyton will be back by hook or by crook, but how much different will the Colts offense look next year, and who will and should be starting?
18 to 88: This is a great question. I addressed some of this yesterday. Wayne is still under contract for a year, so he’s back obviously, hopefully without a long term extension (I can live with an extra year or so). Clark is owed a lot of money and probably shouldn’t be around, at least not at the same price. Addai is a tricky case. In some ways, he’s far more integral than his modest numbers the last few years would indicate. If the Colts can bring him back on the cheap, they should. If he’s pricey, he goes. The biggest question for the state of the offense is the health of Anthony Gonzalez and Austin Collie. If Collie should retire due to his head injuries or Gonzo gets cut, Indy will have a serious problem at wide receiver.
Total Titans: The Colts probably have at least a 75% chance of making the playoffs, based on what needs to happen Week 17 for them not to. Assuming they do, what do you think should be reasonable expectation for how they do in the playoffs? Should they be expected to win a game and challenge a bye team in the next game?
18 to 88: Yes, I think that’s probably the ceiling. Colts fans are not scared at all of the Jets or Ravens. Baltimore hasn’t beaten the Colts since 2001, and Joe Flacco has some of the worst playoff numbers in the history of football (even though he ‘won’ playoff games! Head banging on a wall). Manning has always had a good handle on the Baltimore defense. I would frankly expect Indianapolis to beat those teams at home. Can they run deeper? Meh. A puncher’s chance. The ideal Indy scenario has Baltimore winning the AFC North. A path of the Jets and at the Ravens could lead to the AFC Championship game. Can you tell which teams I don’t respect a lick? Realistically, one playoff win and a solid effort in the second is probably the best Colts fans can expect, though.
Total Titans: What is the mood among Colts fans about this team, and the prospect of missing the playoffs for the first time in 8 years? Is this seen as the result of just some bad luck, or are there specific culprits seen as being to blame for the down season, relatively speaking?
18 to 88: It’s been a volatile season emotionally. Personally, I think it’s been mostly just bad injury luck and some heartbreaking losses, and have argued that for weeks. Colts fans spent a lot of time angry at the front office, though I don’t know why. There was a lot bitterness a few weeks ago about a ‘wasted’ season. Now, Colts fans believe they have a 100% chance of winning this week (seriously…no one is worried…it’s eerie), and people are trying to figure out if the team can make a playoff run. In general, the blame for the losing streak fell on:
Total Titans: The Titans play the Colts twice a year, so they know them fairly well. Still, who’s the one Colts player you think is most underrated by non-Colts followers in terms of either the quality of his play or his importance to the team?
18 to 88: Joe Addai on offense and Bethea on defense. Addai does so much more than the numbers show. He’s good at all the little things. As for Bethea, Indy lost 6 of the top 8 players in their secondary from before the season. They are playing with a 5th string safety, third and fourth string corners…and Bethea. To whatever degree the defense has held together, it’s been Bethea on the back end doing it.
Total Titans: Finally, if you’d like to make a score prediction, please feel free.
18 to 88: I can’t see Indy losing this game, and I can’t see how it’s close without Chris Johnson having the game of his life.