All eyes were on Indianapolis last season. Everyone wanted to see how good a player Peyton Manning could be.
All eyes are again on Indianapolis this fall. This time, everyone wants to see how good a team the Colts can be.
Manning was close to perfection in 2004, throwing an NFL-record 49 touchdown passes and setting another record for passing efficiency in winning his first passing crown.
But Manning wasn't perfect. He threw an interception and couldn't generate a touchdown in a playoff loss to the New England Patriots. His season ended in disappointment.
His 2005 Colts can be perfect, however. In fact, they are halfway there. At the season's midway point, the Colts are the NFL's only unbeaten team at 8-0 and in pursuit of their first championship since 1970.
The play of the Colts has been the highlight of the 2005 season, although there have been several other interesting developments. A positive development has been the rise of young quarterbacks Eli Manning and Carson Palmer, who are both in their second seasons as starters and have their teams in first place.
Eli, Peyton's younger brother, has the New York Giants atop the NFC East with a 6-2 record, and Palmer has the Cincinnati Bengals atop the AFC North at 7-2. Palmer was the first overall selection of the 2003 NFL draft, and Eli Manning the first overall pick in 2004. Palmer leads the AFC in passing yards and the NFL in touchdown passes.
Heading in the other direction are defending conference champions New England and Philadelphia. The Patriots, seeking to become the first team to win three consecutive Super Bowls, are 4-4, as are the Eagles, who are seeking a fifth consecutive trip to the NFC title game.
The best -- or worst -- sideshow in the first half of the season was Pro Bowl wide receiver Terrell Owens. He lost a very public summer showdown with the Eagles in a contract dispute. Then he became such a disruption that the Eagles sent him home twice -- once this summer and again last weekend. This time, they told him don't come back.
Owens has been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team and will spend the rest of the season out of uniform, watching from home just as Keyshawn Johnson did in 2003 when the Buccaneers fired him.
But the Colts command the spotlight. They aren't just chasing the 1970 Colts in the history book. They also are chasing the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only team in NFL history to go unbeaten in a regular season at 14-0. The Dolphins went on to win their first Super Bowl that year.