Teams that lose the Super Bowl have had a tough time returning to the playoffs much less the NFL Championship game. Will the same curse fall on the Indianapolis Colts?
The curse of the Super Bowl loser. Last season, the Arizona Cardinals bucked the trend and made the playoffs the year after losing the biggest game of the season. However, before that, the Super Bowl hangover bit the New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers, Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams, New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons in the backside. The last AFC team to lose the Super Bowl that made the playoffs the next year was back in 2000 when the Tennessee Titans pulled off the stunt the year after losing to the Rams and the "Greatest Show on Turf" in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Don't expect QB Peyton Manning to let the 2010 Indianapolis Colts keep that trend going this season, but there are definitely some signs that the perennial powers of the conference might be in a bit of trouble going forward.
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For starters, getting through the AFC South is never a tough task. That opening game of the season at Reliant Stadium is one of the most difficult games the Colts have to face every single year. Many accept the fact that the Texans are one of the great up and coming teams in the NFL and that 2010 should be the best year the franchise has ever had.
Don't rest on the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars either. The Titans started last season at 0-6 but are clearly in significantly better shape with QB Vince Young under center. The Jags were alive in the playoff chase until the last few weeks of the regular season, and they always prove to be a thorn in Indy's side as well.
This season, the Colts will also have to face the Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers, and Cincinnati Bengals. The schedule was just as tough last season, but there are only so many years you can take on brutal schedules like this before they catch up to you.
Speaking of catching up, when is age going to start to show on Manning's arm? At 34 years old, the elder Manning certainly isn't a young gun anymore, and his arm has already thrown for a whopping 50,128 yards in his career. With 34 TD passes this year, Manning will reach the 400 TD plateau in his career.
The only potential chink in the armor this offense could have this season is the loss of OC Tom Moore. Moore was the only offensive coordinator Manning ever knew, and though there isn't a better QB to have under center in that situation than No. 18, Clyde Christensen is a total unknown in the NFL.
His first task is going to be trying to figure out how to make the Colts run the football. They ranked dead last amongst the 32 teams last year in rushing, averaging just 80.9 YPG.
On the other side of the ball, Indy but up some woeful yardage numbers, allowing 126.5 YPG on the ground (No. 24 in the NFL) and 339.2 YPG overall (No. 18 in the NFL). Yes, it only translated into an eighth best 19.2 PPG allowed, but head coach Jim Caldwell knows that yardage production like that is going to lead to more points being scored by the opposition in most years.
A pair of rookies are most potentially going to be starting this year on this Indianapolis defense, as first round draft pick DE Jerry Hughes and second round pick LB Pat Angerer are in position battles for starting jobs.
There is still a gaping hole in the secondary that S Bob Sanders probably won't be able to fill this year either. The often injured little man has played huge ball in the secondary when he has been healthy, but keeping Sanders on the field has been a horribly difficult task for the Colts. Now with Marlin Jackson gone and no real viable options to replace him either, the secondary is going to be very thin for Indy in 2010.
Still, the Colts are entering training camp full of high hopes. They are minus 165 odds on favorites to win the AFC South and have a season win total of 11 on the NFL lines at 5Dimes. Indianapolis is the favored team on the Super Bowl XLV odds at plus 875, while it is the plus 440 favorite to win the AFC.