Will the Colts go undefeated this year?
It feels strange that the Colts and Saints are both 10-0 this year yet virtually no one in the national media is suggesting that the Colts may go undefeated. A couple weeks ago, Mike Ditka predicted that the Saints would run the table but, so far, I’ve not heard anyone even ask that question about the Colts. In fact, numerous football analysts are ranking the Colts as the 3rd best team in the league behind the Saints and Vikings (9-1) with some suggesting the Colts should be in a virtual tie with New England (7-3) for that spot. This seemed peculiar enough to me that I began wondering if the Colts really do have any hope of winning out. It looks like they have a decent chance to do just that. Here are some reasons why.
The most important consideration for victory is always the opponent. The Colts’ schedule for the remainder of the season is filled with playoff pretenders contenders. They have road games against Houston, Jacksonville and Buffalo and host Tennessee, Denver and the Jets. The Colts will be clear favorites in all those games and in the last two they’ll be playing against AFC East teams who are playing out the string. The Broncos will arrive at Lucas Oil playing desperate football but between a still wobbly Kyle Orton and their hideous defense, the Broncos will be lucky to still be in the game at halftime.
The division games are the ones that should worry Colts fans (and sports history lovers). All three of these teams will likely be in playoff desperation mode when they play the Colts. So far, none of them have been impressive. The Jags are 6-4 but have allowed more points than they’ve scored this year, a horrible sign for them. The Titans and Texans both have the capacity for a surprise win but if they get it, that will be more likely caused by Colts failings.
Yes, the Patriots may finally prove helpful to the Colts. Obviously, if the Colts keep winning, Bill Belichick’s already infamous 4th and 2 call will take on historic proportions. Beyond that though, the Pats undefeated season of two seasons ago has dramatically reduced the level of ambient noise surrounding the Colts and Saints. So far this year, I’ve heard nothing at all about the ’72 Dolphins, still the only perfect team in NFL history. The Colts’ streak of regular season wins is getting more notice than being undefeated this year. ESPN’s Gregg Easterbrook noted this week that the only game the Colts have lost in their last 20 was an overtime defeat in which they never saw the ball.
There are probably some other Patriot related incentives for the Colts this year. This is clearly the most interesting and important rivalry in the last decade and although the momentum is in the Colts favor, the historic weight still says the Patriots have been better. An undefeated regular season would match New England’s only unique accomplishment. (And just imagine the conversations between Rodney Harrison and Tony Dungy on Sunday Night Football!)
There are several other factors that I feel will help the Colts’ chances of going undefeated this year. I’ll toss out some thoughts about those in Part 2.