It's finally here. My first regular season preview since Super Bowl XLI. God, I've missed it! Like last year, I'll post a game preview prior to kickoff. Also, like last year, people do not really expect this team to win it all. Many rooted for the Colts once they got to the Super Bowl, but few expected them to get there prior to January. The same is true this year. Respected sites like Football Outsiders and schmuck hacks like Gregg Easterbrook think this club is done; too many roster changes, too much improvement from teams like New England and San Diego. All season long, we should expect that narrative. They are anointed. The Colts are an after thought. Personally, I wouldn't want it any other way. This team thrives in the underdog mentality, and it just means they have to prove themselves all over again. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with that at all.
Week One: New Orleans Saints at Indianapolis Colts
Location: Indianapolis, IN RCA Dome
Kick-off time: 8:30 pm EST
Photo (cropped): Colts.com
I'll start this off by giving major props to the Saints, and especially to Sean Payton. He's the best young coach in the league and he should be a lesson learned to some of these dumb ass owners (Alex Spanos) who rather than take a chance on a young coach instead re-hire these crappy, useless sacks of crap (Norv Turner). Sean Payton is exactly the kind of coach the Saints needed in 2006. He's tough, fair, and very innovative. He tailored his offense to fit his players, a rarity in this ego-driven business. Though I criticized Reggie Bush for not being an every-down-back, I have to praise Payton for using Bush in a way that truly maximizes his talents. Payton also has left his stamp on his team. I remember last year when his Saints were playing in their home opener. It's the third quarter; his team up three scores and in total control of the game. One of his players does a stupid late hit out of bounds on a special teams return. Despite the lead, despite the fervor of the crowd and the indifference from the rest of us (the game was over and we all knew it), Payton got right in his player's face and told him flat out that such mistakes will not be tolerated. It doesn't matter if it's the fourth quarter of a tie game or when the Saints are up 20 points. Dumb penalties kill football teams.
That's when I knew Payton was a good coach.
Like last year, I have my keys to the game. If I'm right with one of these keys, I consider myself a football genius... and so should you:
- Dallas Clark and Anthony Gonzalez. I'm a lunatic folks. I actually think that a rookie WR will make a huge impact in Week One, Game One of the regular season. The reason: I'm not sold on New Orleans' defense. I just don't think they've done enough to improve themselves from last year. I'm not big on their linebackers and, even with Jason David in the secondary, I don't think they have anyone who can cover the slot receiver. The two slot receivers the Colts employ are Clark and Gonzalez. Also, don't be surprised if you see Reggie Wayne back in the slot, a position he hasn't played since 2002. The Colts are using a new formation, splitting Joseph Addai out left with Wayne in the slot. The Colts will look to spread the Saints out and pick their spots.
Tony Ugoh. Hi rookie. Welcome to the NFL. Your first game is a nationally televised match-up with Charles Grant, one of the best DEs in all of football. They will have a special camera on you all night, and it's there solely to see you when you screw up. Enjoy.
Seriously, I have to think that Howard Mudd and Tony Dungy must think very highly of Ugoh. This is a very, very tough game to start the season with, let alone start your career with. Yet, since day one of Training camp, Tony Ugoh has been the starting LT. I fully expect the Saints to overload his side and blitz the crap out of him. Guys like Grant are licking their chops. If Ugoh limits mistakes and keeps a level head, he'll be fine. Welcome to the NFL rookie. Please don't get our QB killed.
- Special Teams. Defense is a big part of this game, but special teams is bigger. Coverage units were dreadful last year and were inconsistent at best during the pre-season. I've given up on special teams coach Russ Purnell. He should have been fired a long time ago. That said, I'm simply hoping and praying the coverage units don't screw up. Reggie Bush is an amazing returner. Why he's returning punts still, I don't know. Marvin Harrison would own this league if he were a returner, but there's a reason he doesn't do it. You don't see Tomlinson returning punts either. But whatever the reasons, Bush is amazing in the open field and can take any return the distance. Bad coverages need to stop. The Colts have the talent to dominate on kick coverage. I expect to see that talent fully utilized.
As always, we'll have a game thread up prior to kickoff. We'll also have some more cross-blogification love with Sunil over at Canal Street Chronicles. Like us, he too is excited. Check out his game preivew , a subtle homage to The Three Amigos. Damn it feels good to preview real games again! Here's to a good, clean game and the start of Colts football.