Do you have your ticket yet, because it is about to leave the station. What’s that… you haven’t jumped on the “Vince Young is redefining how to play quarterback train” like most of America? Well neither have I. This Sunday, in downtown Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indianapolis Colts will play host to Young and his Tennessee Titans.
Much of the hype surrounding this Week 13 game is based on the fact that the Titans are looking for a sixth straight win after starting the season 0-6. And while Vince Young has been credited with not only resurrecting the Titans season but his career, I’m not ready to drink the kool-aid on No. 10 just yet. You might be asking yourself why, in which case I am more than happy to explain.
- This is almost the same team as last year’s Titans that won the AFC South and had a league best record of 13-3 during the regular season. Sure, they lost Albert Haynesworth to the Washington Redskins during the offseason, but in case you haven’t noticed, he hasn’t exactly been the difference maker on the 3-8 last place Redskins. If we were capable of taking a step back from constantly living in the now, we would realize that it is more shocking that this Tennessee team started 0-6, and not the fact they have won five straight. Before the Baltimore Ravens outlasted the Titans in a second-round slugfest in last year’s playoffs, this was the team to beat in all of football.
- I am still surprised at how surprised football fans get when they see Vince Young succeed. Is this not what should be expected of the third overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft? At the time, most experts were shocked he did not go No. 1 overall to his hometown of Houston. After all, he had just single-handedly beaten the USC Trojans in the 2005 Rose Bowl for the BCS Championship as a member of the Texas Longhorns. As a fan you should be surprised when a late rounder or undrafted player leads a winning team from the quarterback position. Someone like Tony Romo (sorry I guess I should use an example of a GOOD quarterback)…someone like Kurt Warner who was undrafted and bagging groceries a couple of years before joining the St. Louis Rams and winning a championship (say what you will but the man has been in three Super Bowls and will be in Canton some day).
- With only minimal offense to Kerry Collins, look who Young is replacing. A 36-year old quarterback who is on his fifth professional football team, and has career aspirations of not hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, but rather bringing down the house at the Grand Ole Opry. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I want my team’s quarterback to try and emulate the career of Troy Aikman, and not Trace Adkins.
What I do find impressive about Vince Young and the Tennessee Titans is how they run their option on offense; no other team in the NFL gives a look like this. This could cause problems for the Indianapolis Colts. Not so much for the reason they don’t match up well against it, in fact with the Colts defense being one of the fastest in the NFL they have as good a chance to stop it as anyone. But here is the thing, The Titans have arguably the best running back in all of football right now in Chris Johnson.
Sure, he is not as physical or as big as Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, but when you are too fast for defensive players to catch you, none of that matters. Chris Johnson has 800-yards since Vince took over at the QB position, and has amassed 1396 total yards already this season. That puts him ahead of where Eric Dickerson was in 1984 when he set the single-season rushing record with 2105. However, when Baltimore’s Jamal Lewis came up just short during the 2003 NFL season with 2066 total rushing yards, he was ahead of Dickerson’s pace until Week 15, so lets just see how this plays out.
When the Indianapolis Colts took on the Titans in Week 5, the Colts held Johnson to a season low of just 34-yards on 9 carries. Since then, Johnson has reeled off six straight games of 130+ yards on the ground. If Indianapolis can contain Johnson anywhere near the likes of their Week 5 game, the Colts will stay perfect. Another factor that should scare Hoosiers all over Colts Country is that Tennessee really has nothing to lose in the sense that it would be the most improbable turnaround for a team that started 0-6 to then pull off 10 straight wins. They can try whatever they want and play loose for the pure fact that there are no real expectations anymore.
Let’s turn our focus from the last team anyone thought could make the playoffs a month ago to the first team to make the playoffs with more than a month to go.
It is hard to gauge where the collective head of the Indianapolis Colts is right now. They have already clinched the AFC South Division, so their remaining head-to-heads with both Tennessee and Jacksonville carry little more importance than showing these rivals who the alpha dog is. Having said that, Indy is too prideful and good at what they do to just roll over and let whatever happens happen.
You are kidding yourself if you think Peyton Manning is not internalizing all the media and hype being bestowed on Young leading up to the clash of an undefeated Indy team and an undefeated-lately Tennessee team. Add to this the fact that Peyton has thrown two interceptions in each of the Colts last three games and I believe you will have one mean Manning come 1:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon.
Also, I believe we are on the cusp of an offensive breakthrough for the Blue Horseshoes. After weathering the all out attack from the Texans during the first half of last week’s game, the Indianapolis Colts came out and played a phenomenal second half on both sides of the ball. While it still is not a complete game of what the Colts hope to produce, it was a full half. And this is better than the patchwork plays they have been seeing the Colts survive since Week 6.
It is an exciting proposition to think that the Colts are starting to put it all together for the final month and change of the regular season. As I said last week, you want a team playing its best in December/January/February. A great example– or perhaps wishful thinking– is the buzz saw (a.k.a New Orleans Saints) that destroyed the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football five days ago. Yes, they looked awesome and ready to take on the world, but will they be able to maintain this power for another two months. Not to stir the pot too much but the Circle City knows a thing or two about getting off to unbelievable starts and having great regular seasons only to see it all go bye-bye all to early come playoff time.
So if Peyton goes crazy this weekend what does that mean? It means that Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark are going to be a double-sized oh crap headache for the Titans on defense. If they are doubled than Pierre Garcon will continue to make big plays, did you know he has either a touchdown or 100-yards receiving in the Colts last three games, all of which were against big-time opponents. Also, it has been a few weeks since Austin Callie has been in the mix and Peyton likes to spread the wealth so maybe Sunday will be his day.
I have a quick tangent I would like you to accompany me on if you would be so kind. Is it possible that the Colts receivers have some kind of competition going on among themselves to see who can make the most ridiculous touchdown catch? Three weeks ago against New England, Reggie Wayne had two diving TDs that 95% of the league does not make. Two weeks ago against Baltimore, Dallas Clark opened the game’s scoring with a catch that made me think he was trying to see how little flesh he could use to actually catch the ball. And last week in Houston, Garcon played a personal game of hot potato in the end zone before pulling it in for six.
One final follow up on Garcon. I don’t know why but I am pulling for this guy to become a huge star. Maybe because I want to take all the credit when the nickname “the flying frenchman” takes off, or maybe it is more of a diplomatic matter. In no way am I a xenophobe but I do have a proclivity to disdain most things French– perhaps it is their less than stellar collective backbone during WWI & WWII. And yes the wide out was born and raised West Palm Beach, Florida, but cheering for a man with a name like Pierre Garcon is a start, no?
Here is an offensive prediction that few if any will have. As the playoffs draw closer, watch as the Indianapolis Colts start to run the ball more effectively. Yes, they have been far from stellar all season, even against weak run-defense teams, but they are starting to build momentum. Joseph Addai has started to look at times like the Pro Bowl player he once was. Donald Brown is getting healthier every week and might just start eating up big yards with his no nonsense “I’m running straight until you can stop me” style. And in case you haven’t noticed, Chad Simpson now has to the two longest rushing touchdowns for the Colts this season, 23 and 31-yards.
I bring this up because it was not too long ago that the Indianapolis Colts came to the end of the regular season with what was thought to be the worst defense not only in the playoffs, but in the entire league. That was the 2006 season and things turned out pretty well for the Colts that year, I’m just sayin…
On the defensive side of the ball, I am hard-pressed to find all the right adjectives to describe their play this season. The Colts defense is just as responsible for the Colts being undefeated right now as the offense is, if not more so. Every game it seems like someone new is coming up with the big play to ensure that week’s victory. Robert Mathis was named the defensive player of the month for November and it is debatable whether or not he is the best player on the D-line this year. Dwight Freeney was held out of last week’s game but all signs point to him suiting up against Tennessee on Sunday. He has been held without a sack for a month now; my guess is he is pretty hungry. Many analysts are praising Vince Young’s newfound pocket presence, can’t wait to see how long he hangs around with Freeney and Mathis looking to steal his lunch money.
A few housekeeping notes that must be attended to before we get to this week’s winner. The Colts were busy this past week by saying goodbye and hello to some familiar faces. Indy released defensive end Josh Thomas and defensive back Anthony Madison earlier this week, freeing up two roster spots, kind of. The Thomas spot will most likely go to Dwight Freeney, or possibly Keyunta Dawson. Madison moving on could mean the return of Kelvin Hayden to the Colts secondary, but with that bunch, it is better to wait and see rather than speculate. Another player who was seen in the Colts training facility this week was one time backfield mate of Addai, Dominic Rhodes. It is still uncertain as to why Rhodes was invited to work out, but that is why Polian2 gets payed the big bucks and I hope someone other than my mother reads this story.
My prediction this week is that the Indianapolis Colts will make the playoffs…that’s not good enough for you? How about this then, they will also win their division. Man you are hard to please. In all seriousness, I don’t believe people should get to excited about the five straight wins the Titans have pulled off, if for no other reason than they are going against a team that has 11 straight wins this year. Yes the Colts are in the playoffs already but I don’t see them letting up until home field advantage and the #1 seed in the AFC is locked up, and they are still three wins away from that. Plus, few things would make the Colts, nay the whole state of Indiana, happier than being the jerk to crash the Titans party. While I still don’t see an undefeated season in the Indianapolis Colts future– Jim Caldwell is from the Tony Dungy school of rest before playoffs once your position is secure– I do see a hungry team that does not want to stop until they are #1 in the AFC. The Colts will limit the Young/Johnson tandem to no more than three combined touchdowns and that will be enough for a 12-0 record.
Monday afternoon will bring you great wisdom and fortune…well maybe not fortune and maybe not wisdom, but you can expect a complete wrap up of this weekend’s game, so you’ve got that going for you.
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