To preview this week’s matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium between the Titans and the Colts, we turn to our regular Indy correspondent, Nate Dunlevy of the great Colts blog 18 to 88. In addition to penning 18 to 88, Nate is the author of two books, including Blue Blood, a history of the Colts in Indianapolis, and the new novel Invincible, Indiana, about Indiana high school basketball.
If you’d like to read my answers to Nate’s questions, including some overview thoughts on Jake Locker, check it out over at 18 to 88. I also tried not to duplicate questions from my earlier queries to Nate, so check out our previous Q&A session as well. For Nate’s answers to my current question, check after the jump.
Total Titans: Short version for our readers: if Peyton Manning is healthy, who do you expect to be the Colts starting quarterback in 2012, and who do you think it should be?
18 to 88: If (and that’s a huge massive if) Manning is healthy, he will be and should be the quarterback in 2012. Manning is one of the best players to ever play in the NFL and there is no way you can turn your back on 3-5 years of him. The Colts brass (including Irsay) know what Manning is. They all adore him, and I can’t see him leaving Indy unless it’s mutually agreed that he can’t play any more. The real question is whether they’ll take Luck or deal him (or his rights).
Total Titans: A number of good players like Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and Robert Mathis are getting up there in age and very expensive and/or free agents. Which veteran Colts do you expect not to be back for 2012, and what should the 2012 Colts look like?
18 to 88: Freeney and Mathis should be back. Both are playing great football and as DEs, they can still be intensely productive deep into their 30s. Saturday is back if Manning is back. Wayne should only be brought back if he’ll sign a short, cheap deal. I don’t see that happening. Clark and Brackett should be gone. I would say that resigning Pierre Garcon is a priority.
Total Titans: The weekly splits in the Football Outsiders database make it seem like the defense has sort of recovered and is now just garden variety bad, while the offense is particularly terrible. Is this an accurate assessment of the current state of the 2011 Indianapolis Colts?
18 to 88: Very much so. The defense has glimpses of competence. It’s bad, don’t get me wrong, and I always thought it would be. There are some credible players on it though. It’s one of those Ds that with a small influx of talent (not a massive overhaul) and most importantly a credible coach will probably bounce back to middle of the pack next year. Larry Coyer was a nightmare and firing him was the first step toward a turn around. The Colts need some more talent on D, but they need a coherent scheme/vision more. Ned Macey’s comments on Coyer vs the Indy personnel on defense in FOA 2011 were dead on. He was never the right coordinator for this team.
Total Titans: Does either the team or the fanbase care at all about the last three games of the season, or is getting the #1 pick the only priority in anybody’s minds?
18 to 88: People want to win a game. If the Colts go 2-14, a lot of the angst will disappate. No one wants to go 0-16. I wrote about what can happen to the #1 pick if you start winning late in the season, but I think you’ll find that if the Colts come out and play well at all in the next two games, the crowd will be intense. People want that one win.
Total Titans: Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you want Titans fans to know about the Colts?
18 to 88: The quarterback play has been so bad. It’s been worse than it even looks statistically. The Colts simply don’t sustain drives. They have some weapons on offense, so there are flashes where they can score some points, but on a drive by drive basis, the QB play all season from all three guys has been such a total zero that they just haven’t had a chance. There will be whole halves with just one or two first downs. The 2011 Colts aren’t a team without big flaws, obviously, but with even league average QB play, I think this is 5 or 6 win team. The Durtis Porlovsky (the combination of Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky) has been quite literally the worst thing I’ve ever seen as a football fan.
Total Titans: Finally, if you’d like to make a score prediction, please feel free.
18 to 88: I think this is close. If the Titans weren’t fighting for their lives, I’d think Indy would win. Still, if Locker plays, I’m going to go with Indy 14 Titans 13.