INDIANAPOLIS IN - JANUARY 08: A fan of the Indianapolis Colts shows support for her team against the New York Jets during their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 8 2011 in Indianapolis Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Welcome to the Stampede Blue Saddlebag, a place where Stampede Blue's resident head blogger answers your questions about the Indianapolis Colts and the NFL in general. If his answers seem quirky, obnoxious, and just plain stupid, please know that it isn't personal. Brad is kind of a schmuck. He really doesn't know what he's talking about. He makes this stuff up as he goes along. Total hack, through and through. Did you know he keeps a poster of Skip Bayless taped to the ceiling in his bedroom? Don't ask him why. He also thinks Adam Sandler is the second coming of Marlon Brando.
That said, thanks to all you submitted questions. Here is Brad's cheap attempts to answer them...
Frank McMahen (@Frank_Samuel) June 10, 2012: With the easy schedule the Colts have and based on potential of the roster, is it farfetched to say Indy can win the division?
Brad's Answer: I don't think it is farfetched to say they can win the AFC South because, well, this is the NFL. Last year, the Giants were this close to missing the post-season all together. Had the Cowboys not choked in December (going 1-4, including two loses to the Giants that month, one of them a 37-34 meltdown on Dec. 11th in Jerry Land) then Eli Manning doesn't win his second Super Bowl in four years. Anything can happen in this league. Anything.
Now, do I think it likely the Colts will win the AFC South? No, I don't. They open the season in Chicago, which should be a loss. If it isn't, Lovie Smith's seat will be so hot sparks will fly from his behind during the post-game presser. Indy's next two games are winnable, then they have a bye. After that bye, there's Green Bay, NY Jets, Browns, Titans, Dolphins, and Jaguars (on NFL Network). If the Colts exceed expectations, they are 5-4 after the Jags game. They then play the Patriots, Bills, Lions, Titans, Texans, Chiefs, and end with the Texans again. That looks like a 2-5 stretch right there, meaning a 7-9 season (no playoffs, unless the AFC South is just THAT bad in '12).
Bottom line, the Texans would have to completely implode, or suffer catastrophic injuries, to lose the division to the Colts. Houston is too talented on both sides of the ball not to win the South.
A: Well, I'm not a mind reader, nor have I ever met or talked with Coach Pagano. So, I can't really tell you why he thinks a 3-4 is or isn't better. I'm a dirty, pathetic blogger. Right now, I'm drinking cheap rum from a plastic jug while I sit here on my flea-infested couch, scratching my crotch while scrolling through TMZ's slideshow on whether or not Erin Andrews has fake boobs or not. My mother barely says a word to me, and I live in her basement. Thus, Chuck Pagano would never talk to a loser like me.
Pat McAfee, on the other hand...
In all seriousness (because, even though I'm being a goof here, your question is a good one) Pagano probably likes a base 3-4 better because, quite simply, it's what he knows. They ran a base 3-4 in Baltimore last season, and for much of the time he spent there with the Ravens as an assistant, they were base 3-4. If you are wanting a basic definition of what a 3-4 is, it means three defensive linemen and four linebackers. For over 14 years, the Colts have run a base 4-3 (four d-linemen, three LBers).
At the end of the day, coaches always work with what they know. During the interview process, I guarantee you Jim Irsay asked Pagano, "What is your vision for this defense?" Pagano (who got the interview in the first place because of his defensive coaching credentials) likely answered with a detailed plan to switch Indy to a 3-4. Irsay liked the plan and hired the guy.
A: Excellent question. Please note that I'm a union person myself. I'm card carrying in two. I believe in the importance of collective bargaining, and I think anyone who tries to take that right away is un-American. I'm letting you know this not because I'm looking to start a flame war about unions, but because my opinions will sway my answer here. Just being up front and honest.
That said, I don't think replacement refs will hurt the game that much. Will one or two (or five) blow a call? Yes. However, replay tools really take a lot of the power out of the hands on on-the-field refs. Coaches can challenge plays. All scoring plays are reviewed. This isn't like the NBA or the MLB, where the "human element" seems to routinely blow calls.
How these new refs adjust to the game's speed will be critical. As veteran NFL referee Mike Carey said in a story on National Football Post:
"You just don't walk out on a field and contend with that speed and size and impact and the complexity of the NFL rules. It's a completely different game."
Mike Freeman of CBS Sports wrote a good blog post on the NFL referees labor fight with the league, and the NFLPA essentially not caring about the refs.
One aspect that could be affected if replacement refs are used: Holding calls.
A: Not surprisingly, Denver's ticket prices have gone up since the team acquired Peyton Manning. Way up. In fact, Denver's ticket prices are double what Hoosiers will pay for Colts tickets in 2012 ($319 average per ticket for Denver compared to roughly $145 for the Colts). From what I know, Denver has no shortage of season tickets. The Colts lost 13% of theirs when Manning left, and after exhausting their wait list and doing several local P.R. pushes, they still have roughly 2,100 season tickets available for this season.
It's also worth noting that Denver's metro population is 2,552,195 (21st in the nation), but 619,968 live in the city (26th in the nation). Indianapolis' metro pop is 1,756,241 (35th in the nation) with 829,718 living in the city (12th in the nation). I cite these numbers because, in many ways, the cities are comparable in terms of population and size. It's not like, say, comparing Green Bay to New York. Also, like Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Sports Authority Field at Mile High (yep, that's what they call it now) is located right smack dab in the middle of downtown Denver.
The difference between the two cities is Denver seems to have more loyalty to the Broncos compared to Indianapolis for the Colts. Part of the reason for that is the Broncos have played in Denver since 1960. The Colts came to Indianapolis in 1984, and didn't starting winning until 1995. However, the Broncos have made the playoffs 18 times in their 52-year history in Denver. They've also played in six Super Bowls, winning two. In their 28-year history in Indianapolis, the Colts have made the playoffs 14 times and played in two Super Bowls, winning one.
Yet, Denver continues to go strong with tickets while Indianapolis has a shortfall despite the Colts accomplishing more in their 28 years in Indy than Denver did in their first 28 years. However, of those 14 playoff appearances for Indy, 11 came during Peyton Manning's career as the Colts quarterback.
The reality is that, for many people in Indianapolis, Peyton Manning was the Colts. Denver fans didn't think John Elway was the Broncos when he retired as a player the same say they didn't feel Mike Shanahan was the franchise when owner Pat Bowlen fired him in 2009. Denver fans are more loyal to the Broncos brand; the team above any one player or coach. Indianapolis viewed Peyton as above the Colts, and without him many do not think well of the franchise. Thus, the season ticket shortfall.
Thanks to all your submitted questions. We'll do this again next week. For now, Go Colts!