There are two schools of thought on whether the Indianapolis Colts can go 16-0 this season:
1. They can.
2. They cannot.
Without delving too deeply into the complexities, at issue here is whether the Colts -- now 9-0 after beating the Houston Texans yesterday, 31-17 -- can win seven more games and join the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only teams to record an unbeaten regular season since the NFL went to a 12-game schedule in 1947.
Before we consider the merits of these Colts, let's hearken back to those 14-0 Dolphins, or, as I like to call them, The Biggest Fraud in the State of Florida on That Side of the 2000 Election.
The '72 Dolphins did not play a team that finished with a record better than 8-6. Their leading receiver, Paul Warfield, caught 29 passes all season; that's a good half for Chad Johnson. And, frankly, they got lucky a couple of times against bad teams.
Naturally, as a rosy-cheeked youth, I bet against them every week.
Here are the hard and fast facts about those perfect Dolphins:
* They played only two teams with winning records. Their coach, Don Shula, was such a powerful figure at that time, I believe he was still making up the Dolphins' schedule himself.
* They had a powerful Larry Csonka-Mercury Morris running game, helped, I believe, by the fact that the offensive line held on almost every play.
* More to the point, Shula was on the NFL's competition committee, and Rule No. 6, I believe, was: No penalties on the Dolphins.
* Earl Morrall, replacing the injured Bob Griese, started most of the Dolphins' games at quarterback. When the season began, I believe, he was operating a used-car dealership.
* Two or three of their games, I believe, ended in ties, but the media counted them as Dolphins victories to keep the story of the winning streak alive.
Frankly, the '72 Dolphins couldn't even beat the '05 USC Trojans; then again, Southern Cal, I believe, has a higher salary cap.
Not to mention how tiresome it is to witness the annual Nick Buoniconti champagne toast coinciding with the NFL's last unbeaten team going down to defeat. Geez. You don't see '76 Buccaneers alum Lee Roy Selmon popping the cork each year when the league's last winless team finally beats somebody.
So I'd love to see the Colts defy the odds -- five of their seven remaining contests are against winning teams -- and go 16-0. They would still have to win road games at Cincinnati, at Jacksonville and at Seattle.
It is possible, of course, because of Peyton Manning.
What I don't understand about Manning is this -- after he comes out of the huddle, he often repositions half of his teammates, shouts instructions to the other half and then calls a play at the line of scrimmage. What was he doing in the huddle, telling knock-knock jokes?
But what I do understand about Manning is this -- he is obsessive about stuff like a perfect season, or as was the case in 2004, the touchdown-pass record. Did you see him last week on "Monday Night Football"? He went into New England with a crazed look in his eyes; it reminded me of Hannibal Lecter's gaze in "The Silence of the Lambs" just before peeling off the face of that prison guard.
I believe Manning would sell his brother Eli to the communists if it made the difference between 15-1 and 16-0.
Anyway, Manning just moves the offense up and down the field effortlessly; the Colts punt so rarely, punter Hunter Smith, I believe, doesn't even travel with the team. On the other hand, if I recall the '72 Dolphins correctly, place kicker Garo Yepremian, I believe, had the best throwing arm on the team.
Ask The Slouch
Q. I have just about every cable channel and constantly change channels with the clicker. As a result, I have developed tendinitis in my right index finger -- do you think I can get together other television addicts like myself and file a class action suit against TV manufacturers for their failure to put a warning label on their remote control devices? (Jack I. Leibovitch; Towson, Md.)
A. I'm going to give you the name of a qualified psychotherapist first and, based on how well those sessions go, maybe down the road we'll take a look at your legal options.
Q. It appears Larry Brown has accomplished all he set out to do with the Knicks. Do you think that, despite his denials, he's ready to jump to the one job opening he's always coveted -- the Harlem Globetrotters? (Jon Huddleston; Leesburg)
A. Yes! And it counts!!!
Q. Did you watch the MLS Cup alone or did you go to an MLS Cup party? (Brian Krause; Pittsburgh)
A. Actually, I TiVo-ed it so I could fast-forward to all of the goals -- well, if there were any goals.
Q. Why didn't T.O. play last week? The networks wouldn't say. (Robert Dehring Jr.; Milwaukee)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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