To preview this week’s game between two divisional foes coming off blowout losses, we turned to our regular Colts correspondent, Nate Dunlevy of the great Colts site 18 to 88. In addition to writing 18 to 88, Nate is the author of two books, including Blue Blood, a history of the Colts in Indianapolis, and Invincible, Indiana, a new novel.
If you’d like to read my answers to his questions, including some thoughts on Jeff Fisher as potential new head coach of the Colts, read it at 18 to 88. For Nate’s answers to my questions, you can find those after the jump.
Total Titans: Two years ago, the Titans lost to the Patriots 59-0. After that game, they took advantage of the bye week, inserted Vince Young as the starting quarterback, started giving the ball to Chris Johnson a lot more, got healthy players back in the secondary, and finished 8-2 in their last 10 games. Coming off Sunday’s blowout loss to the Saints, the Colts obviously don’t have the advantage of the bye week, but what changes can, should, and will they make from last week’s game?
18 to 88: That’s a great (and encouraging) question. They should run the ball. The 2011 Colts can actually run the ball, Tom! It’s been four years, but they have a run game. They should use it all the time. Painter is far too limited to move the offense consistently, so they should pound the football, use clock, keep the defense off the field, and just try to limit possessions. Frankly, the fact that it’s week 8 and this already hasn’t become the plan astounds me.
Total Titans: Every NFL team this side of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers has their own strengths. What do the 2011 Colts do, if not well, then at least better than they do other things?
18 to 88: They run the ball effectively.The last time Indy topped 4 yards a carry as a team was 2006. They’ve been well under four for some time. Their current YPA of 4.3 is the highest since 2007. The Colts defense was briefly better than I expected, but then they lost Drake Nevis and Eric Foster to injury, and it’s back to being putrid.
Total Titans: Playing with Peyton Manning can make almost every player look better. Some players can look good without him. Who have been the best players for the Colts in 2011?
18 to 88: Pierre Garcon has made the leap. He’s playing at a high level, and if Manning was playing, he’d be the talk of the league. Other than that, it’s hard to come up with anyone. Jeff Saturday has played hard and well. Anthony Castonzo looked good before he went down with injury.
Total Titans: What would make the rest of the Colts’ 2011 season a success in your eyes?
18 to 88: The number one pick in the draft. Just kidding (sort of). The Colts need to do three things moving forward. 1. They need to settle on a real starting offensive line. Figuring out who stays and who goes for 2012 is important. 2. They need to learn if Don Brown and Jerry Hughes can play. They need to give these guys a lot of snaps and figure out what they have or cut them. 3. They need to get the young LBs and CBs comfortable in coverage. A bonus #4 is that if at all possible, they have to determine if Peyton Manning will ever be healthy. If he can play in 2011, he should. They need to see him in action to KNOW if he’s going to be all right. If he can’t last two games, how can they keep him for 2012?
Total Titans: Is there anything I haven’t asked you about the Colts that you want Titans fans to know?
18 to 88: This team is no worse than 5-2 with Peyton Manning. It’s hardly even debatable. As great as everyone knew he was, he’s that much better. He’s not all hype. He wasn’t a media creation. He was absolutely the real freaking deal best player in football for a decade. This isn’t a team devoid of talent. They had the ball with a chance to win late in the fourth quarter of FIVE games this year. They aren’t getting run 62-7 every week. That was the aberration. This probably won’t be as easy a game as you might think. [Ed.-I’m not sure any Titans fan thinks this is going to be an easy game.]
Total Titans: Finally, if you’d like to make a score prediction, please feel free.
18 to 88: Oooooh, let’s go Titans 27 Colts 17 It’s a one score game with five minutes left and Painter fumbles or something. That’s been about how it’s gone every week.