1. With Indy, you always have to talk about Peyton Manning. How do you think he has maintained success without Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, and an underachieving Pierre Garcon?
Manning’s individual numbers are suffering, but it’s hard to argue with a 6-3 record. The Colts defense has been spectacular at home, and that has allowed Manning to go into ‘no mistake’ mode. The Colts have had to weather the storm without Collie and Addai the last few weeks, but they should have both back soon. The real worry spot has been Pierre Garcon, who it can be easily argued is the worst regular skill player in the NFL.
2. Speaking of Manning’s weapons or lack thereof, who is the one guy that can exploit this Patriots secondary on Sunday?
According to the Footballoutsiders, the Pats are basically terrible at defending #1 WR, #2WR, Tight ends and running backs. I expect Austin Collie to play on Sunday and post huge numbers. Jacob Tamme is struggling with a sore back, but if he can go, he should also post 80-100 yards receiving.
3. With Joseph Addai and Mike Hart out at running back, what do you think of the combination of Donald Brown and Javarris James?
We are all hopeful that Indy gets one of the two back this week, but there are no guarantees. Don Brown has been running better each week (he battled a hamstring injury early in the season). James runs hard, but he’s a practice squad player. The Colts blitz pickup has been ragged the last couple of weeks. Joe Addai is critical to the Colts’ success. They miss him.
4. With the defense, we all know about Freeney and Mathis’ impact, but who has stepped up on the Colts’ D with all their injuries on that side of the ball?
Well, Freeney and Mathis make the whole thing go. The three players opposing fans need to know about are Pat Angerer (rookie LB), Jerraud Powers (CB), and Antoine Bethea. Bethea is a Pro Bowler, and I’m sure Pats fans know about him. Powers is a lockdown corner and great run tackler, but has battled foot injuries. Angerer has played very well in stabilizing the Colts LB corp which has been rocked by injuries.
5. What do you think of Jim Caldwell as a head coach?
I’m mostly a Caldwell fan, but he had a brutally bad day last week against Cincinnati. The jury is still out on him. He’s kept the team playing hard and focused. There’s no hint of panic with the Colts, and the players are responding well to him. He is far too conservative for my liking when it comes to punting. Punts are evil. Most Colts fans despise Belichick, but I’d kill for a coach who hated punting as much as he does.
6. Who is the X-Factor for the Colts in New England?
Health. There are two Colts teams. One depends on guys named Javarris James, Brandon James and Gijon Robinson. The other has players like Addai and Collie. There’s no way to handicap this game without knowing who will play for Indy.
7. Do you feel Indy has a psychological edge on New England with the recent head-to-head victories?
No. This game is in New England, and the Pats are fresh off their best win in three years. Indy is banged up. There is no psychological advantage. Those numbers are more about laundry than about the players playing this week.
8. How do you rate the top 5 in the AFC (Jets, Steelers, Pats, Colts, Ravens)
Steelers, Pats, Colts, Jets, Ravens. I don’t believe in Flacco at all. I believe in Sanchez less. I think that Indy might vault to the top of that list if they are still alive in time for players to start coming back healthy. I’d put NE #1, but they have been utterly unimpressive until last week, and I’m not going to overact to one week.
9. What is your one key to the game and can I get a prediction?
The key is the status of Addai and Collie. If they both play, I think Indy wins 27-24. If they both sit, Pats win 31-13.