Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thursday Night Preview: Something’s Wrong with the Colts…

Peyton hasn't looked like Peyton..I look at why and predict the outcome of tonight's game...


Tonight’s matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans has two teams heading in the wrong direction.

In one of the biggest surprises of the year, the Colts hold a mere .500 record at 6-6. Remember, this time last year they were still undefeated.

It’s been a different story in 2010, Indianapolis has now dropped 3 straight with Peyton Manning throwing 11 interceptions over the past 3 games - 4 of which have been returned for touchdowns.

Decimated by injuries and the suddenly turnover prone Manning, the Colts don’t look much like their usual selves. They now trail the Jacksonville Jaguars for the AFC South title – and a playoff spot.

In a recent piece for NFL.com, NFL analyst; Pat Kirwan, breaks down Manning’s recent struggles. Kirwan points mainly to the Colts’ lack of a running game as one of the main reasons the 4-time MVP is getting picked off so often. Many would be surprised to hear that Manning’s interception per pass attempt ratio is just about exactly the same as it was last year – the year the team nearly went undefeated and appeared in the Super Bowl.

“So, what’s the difference this year?”, Kirwan asks. “Manning's throwing a lot more, and that might be the root of his problems…All the extra throws have forced defenses to play the pass in just about every down and distance. In years past, Manning was a big play-action passer. In the few times he used a play-action concept on his 11 interceptions the past three weeks, no linebackers really honored the play fake.”

The Colts currently rank last in the league in rushing yards per game – which really shouldn’t be a problem. They were at the bottom of the league last year as well. However, the loss of Joseph Addai has really hurt the team. Addai was a back teams had to respect – however it hasn’t been the case with Donald Brown, Javarris James or Mike Hart.

In the game against Dallas, the Colts were only able to muster 40 yards on 17 carries. Against San Diego, they had a mere 24 yards on 12 carries.

Kirwan explains that in 10 of Manning’s 11 recent interceptions, the running back moved to block in the opposite direction that Manning was throwing. The idea being to get the defense to respect the running back. Since the Colts run game has been so porous, that hasn’t worked.

“…It appeared the linebackers took advantage of that to get a jump on their pass drop. The back goes opposite with the hope of holding Sean Lee [Cowboys Linebacker] in the middle or moving him away from the target area, but instead Lee jumps the pass for his first of two interceptions “.

Manning has had his share of struggles but he’s not completely to blame for the Colts’ slide. The Colts’ defense has struggled of late – giving up over 30 points in their last three games. They’ve also been extremely vulnerable against the run, giving up over 100 yards in the last three games as well - including 170 to New England and 183 to Dallas.

With Chris Johnson matched up against the Indianapolis defense tonight, this should ordinarily concern Colts fans. However, as much as the Colts have faltered, the Titans have fallen further. Tennessee has Indy beat as far as losing streaks go,  as they’ve now lost 5 straight.

As bad as the Colts defense has looked, the Titans’ offense has been worse. Star running back, Chris Johnson, exploded onto the scene in 2009 – rushing for over 2,000 yards on the season. However, in the last two games he’s rushed for a mere 58 yards on 20 carries. The Titans offense has stalled since placing quarterback, Vince Young, on IR – failing to score a touchdown in their last two games.

The addition of Randy Moss  hasn’t helped them either. Since acquiring Moss, the Titans have scored just 39 total points over four games. That’s an average of 9.75 points per game.

Despite his interceptions, Manning has still been able to put points on the board. Expect the Colts to finally bounce back against the ailing Titans tonight and win handily. Don’t count Indy out of the playoffs yet.

Indianapolis over Tennessee (28-10)

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