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Online Colts Lines & Predictions - Indianapolis Future Odds - Free NFL Betting Previews

2006 Indianapolis Colts Season Preview

2006 Colts NFL News - August 23rd, 2006
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2006 NFL Previews - By: Tony Moss For MySportsbook.com

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See you in the playoffs. Unlike say, the National Hockey League, the NFL is a league where the regular season generally counts for something, though fans of the Indianapolis Colts undoubtedly have one eye fixed firmly upon the month of January.

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You know the story. Indy sure looked like the NFL's team to beat for the entire 2005 regular season, starting the year 13-0 and walking into the postseason on its hands. Then the Steelers came into the RCA Dome for an AFC Divisional Playoff and stunned Tony Dungy's team, 21-18, turning up the volume on that old argument about whether Peyton Manning could win the big one, or even the medium-sized one.

If the offseason that followed the Pittsburgh loss said anything, it was that the Colts organization believed the playoff loss was a fluke. Indy lost a couple of big names, most notably running back Edgerrin James and kicker Mike Vanderjagt, but ultimately had as little turnover, whether on the roster or the coaching staff, as any team in the NFL. That's your indication that Indianapolis believes it is on to something, and that tinkering in the interests of reaching the franchise's first Super Bowl since 1970 was in no way necessary.

With that in mind, is there any reason to expect less than regular season dominance from the Colts once again? Nope. Could Dungy, Manning and company possibly manage to blow it in the postseason for a second (or fifth, depending on your perspective) straight year?

Check back in January for your answer.

Below we take a capsule look at the 2006 edition of the Indianapolis Colts, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:

2005 RECORD: 14-2 (1st, AFC South)

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2005, lost to Pittsburgh, 21-18, in AFC Divisional Playoff

COACH (RECORD): Tony Dungy (48-16 in four seasons with Colts, 102-58 overall)

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Tom Moore

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Ron Meeks

OFFENSIVE STAR: Peyton Manning, QB (3747 passing yards, 28 TD, 10 INT)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Dwight Freeney, DE (34 tackles, 11 sacks)

OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 16th rushing, 3rd passing, 2nd scoring

DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 16th rushing, 15th passing, 2nd scoring

FIVE KEY GAMES: at N.Y. Giants (9/10), Jacksonville (9/24), at New England (11/5), at Jacksonville (12/10), Cincinnati (12/18)

KEY ADDITIONS: QB Shaun King (from Lions), RB Joseph Addai (1st Round, LSU), RB Tony Hollings (from Texans), ILB Freddie Keiaho (3rd Round, San Diego State), CB Tim Jennings (2nd Round, Georgia), K Adam Vinatieri (from Patriots)

KEY DEPARTURES: RB Edgerrin James (to Cardinals), WR Troy Walters (to Cardinals), DT Larry Tripplett (to Bills), DT Josh Williams (released), LB David Thornton (to Titans), S Gerome Sapp (to Ravens), K Jose Cortez (released), K Mike Vanderjagt (to Cowboys)

QB: Peyton Manning (3747 passing yards, 28 TD, 10 INT) had what has to be considered yet another banner year in 2005, in spite of the fact that he threw 21 fewer touchdown passes that he had in his record-setting campaign of 2004. Manning's QB rating of 104.1 was his second straight 100-plus showing, and there is little reason to believe, at the age of 30, that he is going to drop off any time soon. Jim Sorgi (444 passing yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) got to play late in the season, after the Colts had already clinched homefield, and fared pretty well. The fact that Manning rarely gets hit means that carrying three quarterbacks isn't a complete necessity, though Shaun King, who has a history with Dungy dating back to their time together in Tampa Bay, has a better-than- even chance of making the roster. King has started just three NFL games since the 2000 season.

RB: Gone via free agency is Edgerrin James (1506 rushing yards, 44 receptions, 14 TD), who had four 1,500-yard seasons in seven years with the Colts but slowed down near the end of both the 2004 and 2005 campaigns. In nine postseason appearances as a Colt, James posted just two 100-yard outings. Given opponents' concentration on stopping the passing game, running backs in the Indy offense should be able to reel off yardage in big chunks, and the team is hopeful that either holdover Dominic Rhodes (118 rushing yards, 4 TD) or first-round draft choice Joseph Addai (LSU) can easily step into James' former role. Also in camp is Tony Hollings, who never received much of a shot in three years with the Texans, but could remain as the short-yardage back after James Mungro (15 rushing yards, 3 receptions) was lost for the year with a knee injury suffered in the preseason.

WR/TE: Still driving opposing defensive coordinators bananas are wideouts Marvin Harrison (82 receptions, 12 TD) and Reggie Wayne (83 receptions, 5 TD), who will start opposite one another for a fifth straight season. Harrison is in search of a seventh consecutive 1,000-yard season, Wayne a third straight 1,000-yard showing. Third receiver Brandon Stokley (41 receptions, 1 TD) fell off the pace a bit in '05, scoring just one touchdown after notching 10 TDs the year before, but defenses still must pay close attention to him given his speed. Aaron Moorehead (7 receptions) is the odds-on favorite to win the fourth receiver job, and Terrence Wilkins, who last caught an NFL pass in 2002, is also in camp. Indy has a good nucleus at tight end, with Dallas Clark (37 receptions, 4 TD) still on the upside of his career and Bryan Fletcher (18 receptions, 3 TD), Ben Utecht (3 receptions, 2 TD), and Ben Hartsock (2 receptions) all boasting familiarity with the offense. Either Utecht or Hartsock will likely be deemed expendable, and a hamstring injury early in training camp didn't help Hartsock's cause.

OL: Sentiment is mixed about this group. Are they a dominant unit that represents a major component in the offense's ability to move the football at will, or do Peyton Manning and his quick release simply make them look good? Either way, there are no changes along the line. The left-side tandem of tackle Tarik Glenn and guard Ryan Lilja is solid, as is center Jeff Saturday, and right tackle Ryan Diem and right guard Jake Scott don't look to be going anywhere anytime soon either. Depth up front will be offered by center/guard Dylan Gandy and a couple of second-day draft picks, tackles Michael Toudouze (TCU) and Charlie Johnson (Oklahoma State). Matt Ulrich, who appeared in five games as a reserve last year, should also make the team.

DL: Big things are expected from the Colts front four. Tackle Larry Tripplett (29 tackles, 4 sacks) defected to the Bills via free agency, but a solid nucleus of Corey Simon (34 tackles), Montae Reagor (36 tackles, 5.5 sacks), converted end Raheem Brock (44 tackles, 6.5 sacks), holdover Darrell Reid (11 tackles), and 2005 third-round pick Vincent Burns remains. Burns missed the entire '05 season with knee and shoulder injuries. At end, Dwight Freeney (34 tackles, 11 sacks) and Robert Mathis (54 tackles, 11.5 sacks) are two of the best pass rushers in the business, and Josh Thomas (18 tackles, 3 sacks) can be effective in run-stopping situations. In addition to that trio, the Colts need a young player such as Johnathan Goddard or Jonathan Welsh to step up and contribute at end.

LB: Two of the Colts' three starting linebackers, weak side man Cato June (102 tackles, 5 INT) and MLB Gary Brackett (127 tackles, 3 INT, 1 sack), were outstanding last season. June made his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2005, and Brackett wound up leading the team in tackles. Strong side starter David Thornton (81 tackles, 2 sacks) defected via free agency, but the team is confident that holdover Gilbert Gardner (27 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) can adequately fill the void. Indy has good linebacking depth, with former starter Rob Morris (29 tackles), fellow holdover Keith O'Neil (31 tackles), and third- round draft choice Freddie Keiaho (San Diego State) all possessing NFL ability. Tyjuan Hagler, who missed all of 2005 with a sports hernia, and Kendyll Pope, who missed all of 2005 after violating the league's substance abuse policy, are also attempting to make the roster.

DB: After suffering through a period where the secondary had been a liability, last year's group of Indianapolis d-backs was as good as the franchise had seen in recent memory. Free safety Bob Sanders (91 tackles, 1 INT) was a Pro Bowler, and built a reputation as the team's hardest hitter. Strong safety Mike Doss (77 tackles, 2 INT) was also solid. The corner tandem of Nick Harper (66 tackles, 3 INT) and Jason David (41 tackles, 2 INT) was also generally effective, though David will have to hold off 2005 first-round pick Marlin Jackson (58 tackles, 1 INT) to keep his job. Whoever loses that competition will likely serve as the nickel corner. Second-year man Kelvin Hayden (26 tackles) and second-round draft choice Tim Jennings (Fresno State) will be among the backups at corner, while Matt Giordano (12 tackles) and 2006 second- day draft pick Antoine Bethea (Howard) should also be in the mix. Dexter Reid (10 tackles) will make the roster if he can overcome a dislocated shoulder suffered in the Colts' first preseason game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Gone is Mike Vanderjagt (23-25 FG), one of the most accurate kickers the league has ever seen (his big playoff miss against the Steelers not withstanding) but also a major headache off the field. In to take his place is two-time Super Bowl hero Adam Vinatieri (20-25 FG), who should thrive away from those brutal New England winters. Punter Hunter Smith (44.3 avg.), one of the best in the business, remains in the fold. Indy could have two new return men, since regular punt handler Troy Walters (8.2 avg.) defected to Arizona and Dominic Rhodes (20.9 avg.) will have increased responsibilities on offense. The team used a seventh-round draft choice on T.J. Rushing (Stanford), who had two kickoff returns for touchdowns during his senior year and can also handle punts.

PROGNOSIS: Don't overthink this one. Barring anything unforeseen, like the first injury of Manning's career, the Colts are going to win the AFC South again and be among the favorites, if not the favorite, to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. If Dungy's team can't shed its postseason demons, it won't have anything to do with talent, because Indy has a great deal on both sides of the ball, and it won't be because of scheme, because both the offensive and defensive game plans are crisp. The one x-factor will be the play of Rhodes and Addai, who are attempting to replace James. Look for at least one member of that duo to prove that James was little more than a good system back, and for the offense to continue to move at a prolific pace.


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