Scanning the Field: The Boys Are Back in Town

Jim Irsay released so many new tweets this week I thought they were more wikileaks. Then I realized that's just how long the Colts injury reports have been this year. The merciful news for the Colts is that no team secrets have been made public and more importantly many of the players on the list should be coming back. Look for Eldridge, Brackett, Hart, Johnson, Wayne and Tyron to play. The injury news of the others is promising but will probably be game-time decisions. 

The other news that gives us reason to believe, is that the Texans and Titans continue to defy expectations that they can't play any worse and the Jaguars will eventually somehow self-implode. As Jim Caldwell stated earlier this week, 'It is an opportunity for us to certainly control our own destiny, and obviously that starts this weekend.' 

This weekend the Boys are back in town - another glimmer of good news considering Peyton is 2-0 in Indy against Dallas and the Cowboys are a major disappointment at 3-8. 

Still, don't let the record fool you. The Cowboys are loaded with talent and have played harder and more together since Wade 'nice guy' Phillips was fired 3 weeks ago. 

Most worrisome is that the strength of the Cowboys is their linebacking core, starting with DeMarcus Ware. Even if after the last two weeks you still don't agree that the 3-4 defense gives Peyton problems, you have to admit that talented linebackers do. Demarcus Ware is one of the best. Anthony Spencer, Keith Brookings and Bradie James are all top-notch players as well. 

Quick smart linebackers confuse most quaterbacks. For Peyton they can be especially troublesome. The Colts utilize a lot of underneath quick slants, drag screens and crossing routes. Without Collie (presuming he's still out) and Clark, linebackers don't have to worry about being beat over the top and can cheat down and clog the middle of the field. Doing so takes away a big part of the Colts first and second down offense putting the Colts in too many 3rd and long situations.

The other reason linebackers create havoc for the Colts offense is that they don't just confuse Peyton, but the offensive line as well. Last week the Chargers exploited the Colts O-line with delayed blitzes, stunts and overloads to hit Peyton. In fact the offensive line was so awful, that towards the end, the Chargers didn't even bother disguising what they were doing. Manning may be one of the best QB's ever, but as last Sunday's game showed, it doesn't matter if he is continually getting pounded to the turf. 

Peyton doesn't need much time, but being able to give Peyton even a second more to throw will be especially critical this week. Dallas may have the second best linebacker core to Pittsburgh, but its secondary is suspect at best. Ever since Roy Williams left (the safety not overpaid whiney receiver), Dallas' secondary lacks bite. If Peyton has enough time to let Wayne and Garcon get separation, both guys could have a big day against the underperforming group. This is why Eldridge and (hopefully) Addai's return will be critical. They are both excellent in blitz pickup. One extra second and the Colts will carve Dallas' secondary. Expect a lot of pressure throughout the day.

For the Dallas defense, they know the blueprint. San Diego - and to some extent New England - has shown them how to beat the Colts. Problem is actually going out and doing it, something that is easier this year but hasn't been particularly simple in the past.

Offensively for the Cowboys, good luck. It's going to be a long afternoon for Marc Colombo and Alex Baron and subsequently Jon Kitna. Freeney and Mathis are going to have a field day. Both tackles for the Cowboys are good athletes but neither can move their feet and that spells certain doom against the stampeding Colts' ends. 

Ultimately this is a game the Colts must and will win. It won't be easy but the score won't show that. 

Colts 34-17

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