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Recap Week Fifteen: Colts 21-Raiders 14

The silver lining of Marvin Harrison's injury is Anthony Gonzalez has emerged in his absence.
Photo: Stephen Dunn, Getty Images
A bunch of kids (3 rookies, and Josh Thomas) started along the d-line today, and yet Oakland still couldn't throw the football. Even though Oakland ran the football very well and played tough defense, it wasn't enough to stop Peyton Manning from leading yet another fourth quarter comeback (he's got, like, a billion of them; but no one seems to care). The Colts defense did a good job in the fourth quarter quarter stopping Oakland's offense on their final drive.

And despite yet another game where special teams kick coverages look like crap, TJ Rushing provides a bright spot, running a punt back 90 yards for a TD. Remember, TJ was cut earlier this year (for the San Diego game) because of all the injuries to the o-line. Damn good thing no one claimed him, because TJ is playing very well both on special teams and on defense.

Anthony Gonzalez also continues to develop. The silver lining of Marvin Harrison's injury is it has forced Gonzo to step up. Manning feels more comfortable throwing the ball to Gonzo, and Gonzo seems more comfortable playing wide than playing in the slot receiver. When Marvin comes back, the Colts should seriously think about starting Reggie Wayne in the slot and have Gonzo out wide.

The Colts win sets an NFL record. They are the first team to win 12 or more wins in 5 straight years. Manning also passed Joe Montana for 8th all-time in pass attempts. The Colts also locked up the #2 seed and won the AFC South, the division they were supposed to lose this year to Jacksonville, or Tennessee, or Houston, or whoever.

I'll admit: I secretly wanted Indy to lose this game, and I REALLY wanted Pittsburgh to beat the Jags. Why? Because the next two games for the Colts mean absolutely NOTHING to them, and they mean everything for their opponents (Texans and Titans, respectively). This means, with the bye, the Colts will not play a meaningful game in almost a month.

Anyone else having flashbacks of 2005?

So what does that mean for the Colts the rest of the regular season?  I ask this because I am concerned about letting the starters get too much rest before the Divisional Round playoff game - which figures to be against a tough opponent this year.  I really don't want the first team defense to rest after an effort where they allowed 149 yards on the ground.  I'd rather the O-line take a break after giving up 3 sacks and pushing for only a 2.9 YPC rushing.  I don't want Peyton and the receiving corps leaning back and relaxing after getting only 276 yards and a single TD through the air, which was further mired by a touchdown.  And I certainly don't want Joseph Addai to rest on his laurels after only getting 44 yards against the 31st ranked run defense.

Look I love the Colts, especially this 07 variety.  I'm not a cynic, not a pessimist.  I just want my team READY to hit the Playoffs hard.  That's why I hoped the Steelers would play us close until the end so we had to fight for that No. 2 seed.  I don't mind the bye - it looks like Joe might have hit his "1-year veteran wall" - but I don't want two weeks of starters playing a quarter or two, and then resting, and then sitting in lounge chairs at practice with their Division Champion hats on, and then getting a bye week to prepare for the playoffs.  The Colts perform better with less rest, check out the history books.  I don't know what the league's general history is here, but this team plays a better underdog.

Bullard47 makes a great point. Yes, winning the division and getting the bye is excellent, but this team has not played well when it has rested for too long. See 1999 and 2005 for examples. So, while I'm happy they've locked these things up, I'm not comfortable.

And neither should they.

For a Raider fan's POV, check out saint's take on the game at Silver and Black Pride. 12-2 and playing good, scrappy football. I hope they can keep it going, even though the next two game mean nothing. This is where we will really see if Dungy can keep them focused and sharp. Go Colts! AFC South Champs!