Thanks go to Deshawn Zombie of the excellent Colts site 18 to 88 for again answering our questions about his favorite team. I enjoyed his answers and hope you will too. If you'd like to see my answers to his questions, please check them out over on 18 to 88.
Total Titans: The Colts seem to have struggled this year to make big plays down the field. Has this been the result of inconsistency from the young wideouts, problems with the offensive tackles, or something else?
18 to 88: Actually, it's been the opposite. LAST year Indy struggled to make big plays downfield, this year there have been a lot more. Last year, Manning hit 44 passes over 20 yards for the season. Through 11 games, he already has 41 this year, which is on pace for 60. In 2006, for example, he hit 63 such passes. His YPA is up almost a full yard over last year. One of the major stories this year has been the return of the deep pass. Most of that is attributable to Pierre Garcon, who while not as polished as Harrison, has more straight line speed than Marv did at the end of his career.
Total Titans: The Colts drafted running back Donald Brown in the first round to provide a complement to Joseph Addai, but Addai is still getting more of the work and Chad Simpson has been impressive in limited action. How would you characterize Brown's play thus far, and should the pick have been used on something else?
18 to 88: No, picking a back was the right call. The Colts have made the jump from having a terrible run game to an average run game. Joe Addai's numbers are up a little, though not significantly. The biggest difference is that Brown has been more productive than Dom Rhodes was as the #2 back. Indy wants to run a two back offense, a move everyone around here supports. Brown's play has been inconsistent, in part due to some nagging injuries in recent weeks. He still needs to improve as a blocker in order to see the field more, but it's hard to get better when you can't practice. Whenever you evaluate a pick, you have to consider what else was available at the same spot. No one taken after Brown really jumps out as being a dramatically better player. I loved the pick at the time, and I like it now. All Brown needs is to get healthy.
Total Titans: It seems Melvin Bullitt has been playing pretty well. How much do the Colts miss Bob Sanders? How much has the Colts defense changed, if at all, with Bullitt instead of Sanders?
18 to 88: Bullitt has played very well. He's a good safety. Sanders, when healthy, is a GREAT safety. Bob brings an explosiveness, a sense of danger, an extra gear to the defense. Structurally, there isn't a ton of difference most weeks. Ironically, this is the week to test Bullitt. Sanders was often deployed as the 'spy' against VY, famously having a great game at the start of the 2007 season. It will be interesting to see if that job goes to Bullitt or MLB Gary Brackett this week. Ultimately, the Colts miss Sanders, but haven't had him all year, so the drop off isn't evident.
Total Titans: 23 guys on the injury report is a pretty impressive number. Most of those players will play, but which names on the injury list most concern you for Sunday's game?
18 to 88: Dwight Freeney. Dwight Freeney. Dwight Freeney. Freeney is the second most important player on the Colts' roster. Nothing is more important than his health and availability long term. After Freeney, I'd go with Don Brown who's constant nicks are holding him back right now.
Total Titans: The Colts have clinched the division and are 3 games up on every other team in the AFC with 5 games left in the year. How much does 16-0 matter, and what goals should the Colts have for the rest of the regular season?
18 to 88: Honestly, 16-0 does matter a little bit...but only if you can get to 19-0. 19-0 would de facto make a team the greatest of all time. That's a tempting goal. Obviously, the Colts prime concern is locking up the 1 seed. The advantage is that they play a Thursday night game in Jacksonville in week 15, so there's a decent shot they'll HAVE to play through at least that game because they won't have the advantage of seeing other results from the weekend. So let's say they are undefeated through that game...I think you have to play all out in week 16 against the Jets at home. That just leaves the week 17 game in Buffalo. Weather makes all the difference there. Hard to say what they'll do. I don't think they should aim for 16-0, but if it's there on the table, I think you have to take it.
Total Titans: Finally, if you'd like to make a prediction for the game, feel free.
18 to 88: Indy 27 Titans 19. I see lots of field goals for the Titans. Thanks again to Deshawn for participating in the Q&A this week.