Colts’ Bye Week: Wounded Soldiers in Indianapolis

The Indianapolis Colts have staged a war through the first 6 weeks, and the strife certainly hasn’t come without casualties. 15 players on the active roster for the season opener have missed at least a game, and prepare for that number to climb as Dallas Clark’s injured wrist has put him out for the remainder of the season. Clark (right) will be sorely missed as, since 2007, he leads tight ends in receptions with 214 and trails only Antonio Gates in receiving yards and touchdowns during that time. Fans’ dismay is already palpable; a personal friend (not me) has been unable to remove his Clark jersey since the news broke and plans on holding a memorial service this Wednesday for his fallen hero and fantasy roster spot.

Along with Clark’s departure, many other Colts report in with more indefinite injuries. Austin Collie will be sidelined for a few weeks due to hand surgery, and Joseph Addai is questionable for the injury sustained to his shoulder last week.  Those three alone account for 51 percent of the team’s receiving and 71 percent of their rushing.

But the show must go on, and that’s where having a bye week comes in handy. Not only will injured starters have a week to recover with no ramifications to the team record, but so too will their replacements. Anthony Gonzalez and Donald Brown have been nursing injuries as well this season. Assuming both Collie and Addai miss the week 8 game against Houston, the Colts will need Gonzalez and Brown to be healthy to take their respective places.

The offense also needs to work on keeping the ball in hand; though first place in fumbles per game last year, the Colts have fumbled 11 times in 6 games for 2010. The already encumbered offense can‘t afford to give up the ball as well.

Regrettably, the defense and special teams don’t look much better. Bob Sanders and Melvin Bullett are both out for at least the year forcing Coach Jim Caldwell (left) to rely on third-stringer strong safety Aaron Francisco in his sixth season out of Brigham Young. Defensive Tackle Antonio Johnson underwent knee surgery this week, and the full starting linebacker corps has only made it through half the games thus far.

The comedic icing on the cake is the one game suspension to punter Pat McAfee who was arrested after taking a late night dip in the Broad Ripple Canal. When he was asked how much he had to drink, McAfee answered “A lot, ‘cause I’m drunk.”

Beyond injuries to the defense, Caldwell is concerned about the Colts missed tackles Sunday allowing the Redskins’ Ryan Torian to rush for 100 yards on 20 touches.

A little overwhelming right? So many injuries, and I didn’t even get to mention them all. So with all ailing the Colts, how can they overcome? Well other than the hope that a full week’s rest makes the difference, the answer still lies in NFL MVP, Peyton Manning. He’s the highest rated passer among starting quarterbacks, and has thrown 1,916 yards and 13 touchdowns with only 2 interceptions. He retains his top target in Reggie Wayne and is renowned for turning unknown receivers into household names.

Ultimately the offense will always have an answer as long as Peyton is trotting onto the field, but the biggest question lies in whether or not the Colt’s defense can keep up. News that should put fans at ease: the defense hasn’t kept up all season (ranked 14th and 27th for passing and rushing yards respectively allowed), and yet the Colts still have a strong 4-2 record. Indianapolis fans just need to hope that Peyton can fight the war long enough for new guys to step up or injured ones to get better.