By now it is common knowledge that Peyton Manning will not be playing football again “for a while”. His 227 consecutive start record will be falling silently to the wayside as the Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Houston Texans vie for the top spot in the AFC South.
Losing Manning, for the Colts, will be like losing your dominant hand. Suddenly everything becomes much more difficult to accomplish and you begin to wonder if you will ever be the same again. Sure, Kerry Collins was brought in to take the reigns in Manning’s presence but Collins has three things working against him.
Firstly, Kerry Collins is 38 years old. He may be only three years older than Manning but he looks to be about 7-10 years older. His age means that he moves a little slower and has a slightly reduced reaction rate to the oncoming blitz. Second, Collins does not have the magical touch and finesse that Manning appears to possess. His 82.2 QB rating is good enough to be a solid backup but is not good enough to defeat most defenses. Lastly, Collins tends to have concrete feet. He is not very mobile in the pocket and tends to end up on his back rather than scrambling for positive yardage.
Last season the Colts defeated the Titans in Nashville. They lost to both Houston and Jacksonville in their home stadiums and will most likely repeat that performance this season. Tennessee is, itself, in a state of flux but could defeat Indianapolis if Manning is not back by week eight.
This is the year that the Houston Texans are best poised to take over the division. Their improvements on the defensive side of the ball have made them a dominant force. In the preseason they were the fifth best defense in the league where they had 15 sacks and three interceptions while allowing defenses to gain an average of only 269.5 yards per game.
The Jaguars made some improvements to their defense as well with the addition of S Chris Prosinski and CB Rod Isaac. However, their offense will be under the direction of rookie QB Blaine Gabbert and could end up disappointing most Jags fans.
Tennessee has the most room for improvement as they finished last in the division last season. They brought in QB Matt Hasselbeck from Seattle and added LB Akeem Ayers in the draft. These two additions should help solidify the play-making abilities of the team which under new leadership with recently installed head coach Mike Munchak.
Many people say that the Colts will fail miserably without the leadership of #18 (Manning). However, I believe that they will still finish with a winning record. They have enough offensive weapons to make Collins a competent QB and their defense is just good enough to hold off some of the weaker teams on their schedule.
I expect the Texans to step up big this season and take the division title away from the Colts.