The Colts Are Entering a Perfect Storm
I'm rooting for the Indianapolis Colts to go undefeated, if for no other reason than to deliver us from the '72 Miami Dolphins and their tradition of cracking open the champagne bottles every year when the last undefeated team loses and leaves them, once again, the only perfect team.
The Colts, 12-0, are unquestionably the best team in the NFL at a time when it's difficult to identify who is No. 2. The Colts have the smartest quarterback: Peyton Manning. They have the best quarterback-receiver combination: Manning to Marvin Harrison.
They have football's best offensive threesome: Manning, Harrison and running back Edgerrin James. They have probably the best coach rarely called a genius: Tony Dungy. They seem to have fewer egomaniacal, end zone strutting prima donnas than any team in the NFL. They have balance, good sense and a wonderful mix of confidence and humility. They're like the San Antonio Spurs with slightly bigger stars.
Presuming relative health, the Colts in eight weeks will win the Super Bowl.
But they will not go 16-0.
It's too hard. That's why no team has ever gone 16-0 and why no team has gone 14-0 since those Dolphins did it 33 years ago.
If you haven't seen the final four games of the Colts' schedule, allow me. They play in Jacksonville against the 9-3 Jaguars Sunday, at home against the 8-4 San Diego Chargers the following Sunday, in Seattle against the 10-2 Seahawks on Christmas Eve. Okay, No. 16 would be at home against 4-8 Arizona, so we'll confine our anticipation to the next three games.
Jacksonville, which will start David Garrard in place of injured Byron Leftwich, is a division opponent that in Week 2 gave up only 10 points in a 10-3 loss to a Colts offense that averages more than 30 points per game. The Chargers have won five straight and may have the league's best player in LaDainian Tomlinson. And Seattle, if my memory serves me correctly, beat on the Eagles like a set of bongos the other night in Philly. The Seahawks are the worst kind of opponent: a really good team that feels dismissed by everybody east of the Rockies (they have been) and wants to prove it belongs. It's possible this upcoming three-game stretch will yield not just one defeat, but two. The Colts would beat each of these teams in a best-of-five. But each of the three can win a single game.
Somebody goes undefeated in college football almost every season.
Nobody goes undefeated in the NFL. It's a pipe dream.
And when the Dolphins went 14-0, then 3-0 in the postseason for 17-0 overall, there wasn't 24-hour coverage of every game, practice and off-day comments by backups to the backups. Don Shula's news conferences weren't more tension-packed than White House press briefings, which Dungy's will be if this keeps up. The Colts, if they get to 14-0, will feel like they're suffocating, the daily attention will be so overwhelming. Of all the coach-quarterback combos in the NFL, Dungy and Manning have probably the best demeanors to deal with this because they're disgustingly calm and utterly prepared for everything life throws at them. But still.