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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Brownsville, Tx
Decline of the Colts?
Pretty cool article by Bill Simmons on week 1 results and week 2 matchups. They talk a lot about the Colts and Texans. Good read.
TEXANS 34, COLTS 17
Our big "Be careful!!!" game of Week 1, not just because two crucial Week 2 decisions hinge on our reactions (Houston giving three points in Washington; Indy giving five points at home to the Giants), but because two long-term betting strategies are affected: Namely, should we treat the Texans like serious contenders, and are the Colts overvalued/overrated/washed up? As Mike Lombardi joked afterwards, the Colts Roberto Duran-ed that fourth quarter. They screamed "No mas!" They rolled over. On the other hand, it was only ONE game. And here are the only three acceptable reactions you could have had …
Acceptable Reaction No. 1: We learned nothing other than that the Texans took care of business, in a home game that meant infinitely more to them than to Indy. Remember, the Colts hung for three quarters before Austin Collie's catch-and-fumble inside Houston's 10 with 11 minutes to go (with the Colts trailing by 10) effectively ended the game. It's Week 1. Settle down.
Gambling lesson for Week 2 based off Acceptable Reaction No. 1: A classic letdown game looming for Houston (take the Skins plus-3), as well as a classic bounceback game looming for Indy and anyone who loves the "Never bet against Peyton Manning in a nationally televised night game" gambling rule.
Acceptable Reaction No. 2: That game was more about Houston than Indy. This wasn't a fluke upset by any means. The Texans pressured Manning for four quarters and pounded the Colts' offense physically. On the other side, Arian Foster was zipping through holes that looked like they were created with a bulldozer; at one point, he ripped off consecutive runs of 42, 10, 26 and 10 yards. When does that stop being an accident? And by the way, what if the Texans hit the jackpot with Foster? What if he's a top-five back right now and we're just not ready to realize it yet? Other than the Big Two (Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson), name me a back who showed a better blend of speed, power and ingenuity in Week 1? Is it really a shock that the No. 2 all-time leading rusher from the University of Tennessee would become an elite NFL running back?
YOU NEVER KNOW
Top five fantasy backs heading into '05: LaDainian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander, Priest Holmes, Edge James, Corey Dillon
Top five fantasy backs heading into '06: Alexander, Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, Tiki Barber, Clinton Portis
Top five fantasy backs heading into '07: Tomlinson, Johnson, Steven Jackson, Frank Gore, Brian Westbrook
Top five fantasy backs heading into '08: Adrian Peterson, Tomlinson, Westbrook, Jackson, Portis.
Top five fantasy backs heading into '09: Peterson, Matt Forte, Maurice Jones-Drew, Tomlinson, Chris Johnson
Top five fantasy backs heading into '10: C. Johnson, Peterson, Ray Rice, Gore, Jones-Drew
Running backs are like starting pitchers: You never know when the top five might change, but when it happens, we're always slow to say, "You know what? We need to make a new top five." Check out the sidebar to the right: That top five changes every year, and there's always one curveball stud that we never saw coming. 2005? Larry Johnson. 2006? Frank Gore. 2007? Peterson. 2008? Matt Forte and Maurice Jones-Drew. 2009? Ray Rice. Why couldn't Foster be our 2010 guy? I think he is. If I'm right, then Houston has the No. 1 receiver (Andre Johnson), a top-five back (Foster), a quarterback who can chuck it (Matt Schaub), a quality pass rush, a quality offensive line and a legitimately good home crowd. That's a playoff team. On paper, anyway.
Gambling lesson for Week 2 based off Acceptable Reaction No. 2: Ride the Texans every week until the lines adjust (take them plus-3); don't get flustered by Indy's performance (lay the five).
Acceptable Lesson No. 3: Houston is good, but it's not THAT good. Put a fork in the Colts. They can't block for Manning. They can't run the ball or stop the run. They faded down the stretch the way washed-up teams so often do. Anyone who finished watching that game had to think, "If you played that matchup 10 times in Houston right now -- in September -- Houston wins nine of the 10."
Digging deeper, the Colts finished an astonishing 99-29 from 2002 to 2009. Aren't they overdue for a transition year in a parity-obsessed league? They don't have to bottom out and go 4-12, but something like a 2009 Pats scenario (10-6, swamped in the playoffs, spring housecleaning) seems realistic. In past years, the Colts could always throw the ball, protect Manning and get defensive stops if they desperately needed them. I didn't see any signs of the last two traits in Houston. Their offensive line is a mess (hold that thought), and even before Foster ran amok, there was a telling moment early in the third quarter -- Houston up three, fourth-and-1 from Indy's 20 -- when the Texans said "Eff you, we're going for it," and ran Foster for the first down. It was the reverse of Rex Ryan's Olivia impersonation against Baltimore. You don't do something like that unless you believe in your team, and more importantly, don't fear the other team. The Texans didn't fear the Colts. That tells me as a gambler that I shouldn't, either.
Gambling lesson for Week 2 based off Acceptable Reaction No. 3: Don't trust the Texans yet, but start going against the Colts. Hard.
Which acceptable reaction will prevail in the end? For Week 2, I'm leaning toward a combination of No. 2 and No. 3: The Texans are better than I thought, and the Colts are overvalued, at least in September. I keep coming back to their offensive line, the lifeblood of the Manning Era; he never got sacked, never got pounded and always had time to throw. The Saints harassed him enough last February that Colts honcho Bill Polian pushed for a rule change that Colts quarterbacks weren't allowed to be touched by opposing players (fine, I made that up), then admitted publicly that they needed to retool the line (that's true). But really, they didn't. Four of their five starters returned; of those four, left tackle Charlie Johnson (sprained foot) and center Jeff Saturday (arthroscopic knee surgery) missed the entire preseason before playing hurt on Sunday. As Polian said during his weekly radio show: "They are at less than 100 percent. I think that will change and they'll get better. But I don't think you could have found a worse matchup [than Houston] in that situation."
Um … it's not getting any better against the Giants, a team that runs the ball and harasses passers as well as the Texans. If Indy blows that one, that means 0-2 and a Sports Illustrated "What's wrong with the Colts?" cover, as well as a ton of pressure in Week 3 (at Denver) and Week 4 (at Jacksonville). They're also stuck in a potentially brutal AFC South in a conference with seven or eight potential 10-win teams. And they're battling a strange Super Bowl loser curse: seven of the past nine Super Bowl losers missed the next postseason. Could you argue that a few mediocre drafts (of the nine picks the Colts made in the first or second round from 2006-10, only two start for them) advancing age (Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Dwight Freeney, Ryan Diem, Gary Brackett and Saturday are all 30 or older), injuries (poor Bob Sanders didn't even make it through the first half of Week 1) and the laws of parity have finally gotten the better of them? Could this evolve into the 6-10 season every Colts hater has been waiting for?
My Patriots fan DNA is screaming: "YES!!!! YES!!!! Six and 10!!!!!!! DIE COLTS DIE!!!!!!!"
My football DNA is saying: "Whoa whoa whoa, you know the rule: Never get too carried away by Week 1."
My gambling DNA is saying: "If you go against Manning on a Sunday night, on NBC, in a must-win game, then I'm breaking up with you and also, I hope your thumbs get broken."
My gut is saying: "Last week you wrote that the Colts are 'like a cold craps table -- once you realize it's cold, just walk away. Don't try to be a hero. It will end badly. Same for going against the Colts. Don't be a hero. Let them tell us when they're done. Then, and only then, can you pick against them.' Didn't they whisper it to you last week? At the very least, go against them in September until the lines adjust and Manning wills them to 10-6 [like Brady did with the Pats last season]. And remember, the NFL loves the law of gravity: What goes up always comes down. What's so far-fetched about the Colts, after eight great years, coming down?"
You know what? I'm listening to my gut. I'm going against Indy in September, waiting for the lines to adjust, then riding them late … which means I'm picking the Giants plus-5 on Sunday night. Don't consider it an overreaction; more of a measured one. And if I'm wrong, I will show up at Tuesday's Colts practice dressed like Ines Sainz to play a spirited round of "Measure Your Biceps."