Well, we did it last week and we're doing it again. The most reliable breakdown of the forthcoming game I can come up with is to invade enemy territory and try to get some quality inside information. Deshawn over at the excellent 18 to 88 blog on Bloguin was kind enough to abide. Be sure to check out the site in the build-up to the game, as their coverage will be hecka fly (so will ours, of course).
Seahawk Addicts: All outward indications are that the Dungy-to-Caldwell transition has been very smooth. What is the biggest difference between them, and how much of the Colts' success comes down to the coaching?
18 to 88: There is very little external difference between Dungy and Caldwell. Both are soft spoken, Christian men which plays very well in Indiana. The biggest difference is that over time, Dungy had the credibility to take chances and be aggressive, especially on fourth down. Caldwell has to earn his stripes, and that can make some men too conservative when it comes time to make tough calls. Now, Caldwell hasn't shown his stripes one way or the other, and early signs are that he'll be fine, but it does concern me. Caldwell is not as comfortable with the media as Dungy was, but no true fan gives a crap about that. A coach coaches the players not the reporters.
The Colts have the right kind of coach for their team. The franchise has the ultimate Alpha Dog in Manning who is a fanatical worker and preparer. It serves the team well to have a strong, but understated coach. It doesn't create conflict in the locker room and helps establish a calm collected environment (which is part of the reason Indy has so many comebacks when trailing by big margins). Ultimately, the Colts have a system they believe in and execute flawlessly. That has more to do with global organizational philosophy than just the head coach, but Caldwell is clearly part of that. He fits who the team is and who they want to be.
SA: It sounds like the Colts are going to be without Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders this week. Who replaces them, and how big a dropoff is there? [Read More]
18: Freeney will be replaced by Raheem Brock. Brock is a competent player, but Freeney is a force of nature. Seriously, unless you see him every week, you can't believe how good he is. He is the second most important Colt and has been for years. His absence is a blow for sure.
Bob Sanders is replaced by Melvin Bullitt who would be starting for most NFL teams anyway. We call him "Baby Bob". He is a punishing run defender, and solid in coverage. He isn't quite as dynamic as Sanders, but Colts fans are more than ok with his play. Sanders is a difference maker; Bullitt is merely a good player. When Sanders plays, the Colts have two Pro-Bowl Safeties. When Bullitt plays, they have one pro-bowler and a solid young up and comer. It's not a bad deal at all.
SA: Of all the Rookie running backs, Donald Brown was the one who had the Seahawks Faithful the most excited; how has he looked thus far, and will he unseat Addai at some point this season?
18: Don Brown has shown explosiveness, but he is a long way from unseating Addai. That won't be happening anytime soon. Addai is a better blocker, receiver, and has a higher YPC. Brown has been more of a boom/bust back so far. He's made some great plays, but has been a little 'wooden' when it comes to the holes. If the first hole isn't there, he'll just plow into the line. We are all thrilled about Brown's progress, but after three games it's clear Addai is the more complete player right now (as would be expected) and is back to where he was early in 2007 before a crappy line made everything he had slipped.
SA: There can be little question that Peyton Manning is the most complete quarterback thus far in the year (Sorry, Mr. Fantasy Brees). What three things need be done to beat Manning?
18: 1. Pressure him, but don't blitz No QB is the same when under constant pressure. If you can bring pressure from multiple angles, you can stop Manning. If he has time, he will beat you. If you blitz him, he'll destroy you. But if you can get to him with four rushers, you can make him (and anyone) look bad.
2. Score touchdowns and not field goals. Everyone made a big deal about the Dolphins Time of possession in the MOnday night game, but they overlooked the fact that the Fins had 3 field goals and just two touchdowns.
3. Ignore the play action. No one does the fake better than Manning, and whenever you see one, you can be sure that he is looking to throw deep. Teams have to play pass first and force the Colts to run the ball to beat them.
SA: Who is the most underrated player on the Colts team? Who is the most overrated?
18: Most underrated: Gary Brackett. He's the heart and soul of the Colts D. HE's the captain, and an incredibly talented coverage linebacker. The Colts Tampa two thrives on Brackett taking away opposing TEs. His absence killed Indy verses San Diego in the playoffs as Gates had 100 yards receiving. It was his first big game against the Colts because it was the first time Brackett was out when they played.
Most overrated: right this moment? Pierre Garcon. He's had two nice games, but has also picked up 5 penalties in three games and has a catch rate around 50%. He's wicked talented and fast, and is just a second year guy, but he's fast becoming a star when he still has a long way to go. I'd say Adam Vinatieri, but I think everyone knows he's sort of getting old.
SA: How do you stop Dallas Clark?
18: We discussed that this week, and I still don't have an answer. You need a fast, Gary Brackett type linebacker to cover him. Unless you have a great cover LB or a HUGE corner, I'd say you only stop Clark by pressuring Manning and not biting on the play action. He's a matchup nightmare. He'll feast on LBs all day, and if you try to cover him with a corner, he'll just take short routes and plow ahead for 8 yard gains all day.
SA: Seahawk fans love Qwest Field and the 12th Man has made it one of the toughest away games in the NFL. How strong is the Colts' homefield advantage?
18: Strong. Last year Lucas Oil Stadium opened, but the Colts started so slowly that the building never got as loud as it did back at the RCA dome. Colts fans are super smart about noise. When the offense is on the field they are silent. When they smell blood in the water on defense, the place gets loud. Indy passes even Green Bay in terms of jerseys worn to the game, so the Luke is a sea of Blue. About 10 years ago, I considered Colts' fans to be the dumbest in the NFL (seriously), but now it's a savvy crowd at the games and has been for about 5 or 6 years.
SA: No one really talks about the D, but they have been fairly dominant thus far in the season. What is the strength of the Colts' defense?
18: Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. It's not just the pressure they bring, but it's the sack/fumbles they create. They lead the league in the last 5 years in fumbles caused because they want to turn every sack into a turnover. They make the whole engine go. When they get pressure everything flows out of that. I love Bob Sanders, but he's the 'icing on the cake'. He makes the defense scary, but it's Freeney and Mathis that make it work.
SA: I like your trash talk idea; what've you got for us? Please note that when our players have been known to get injured simply by informational-osmosis, so if you could steer clear from that we'd really appreciate it.
18: Um, yo Seattle! Your quarterback's name is Seneca and you wear lime green uniforms! Your coach's dad was one of the worst coaches I've ever seen, and I'm fairly certain his son sucks too! You are scared to go play in the Eastern Time Zone because clocks are freaky scary and you aren't man enough to get up a couple of hours early. It's called coffee, Seattle! Have you ever heard of it? Drink a cup and get out on the field.
BTW: We have Peyton Manning. You are now permitted to weep softly into your earth friendly vegan Zima. Or your beer. Whatever.