You know, it's kind of funny sometimes. We devote all sorts of time to talking about the special teams, the linebackers, and everything else. While they're all important, when all is said and done, it all comes back to #18.
Sure, Peyton's had some games where he hasn't been at his best and still gotten the W at the end of the day, and there's been other times where he's put on dazzling performances only to have it negated by poor play from the rest of his team. But many more times than not, if Peyton is successful, so is the rest of the team. As much as I love guys like Bob Sanders, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Marlin Jackson, Joseph Addai, Gary Brackett, no one has a greater impact week in and week out on whether this team wins or loses than Peyton Manning.
Maybe the previous paragraph is the most "well, duh" paragraph in the history of Stampede Blue, but I think it's important to remind ourselves from time to time that we have (arguably) one of the 5 greatest players of all-time playing for us this season. With all of that said, this is going to be all I'm space I'm going to devote to Peyton in this preview, because we all know that we're going to get another spectacular season out of him like we do every season. The start of the season might be a little more sluggish than what we've been used to, but Peyton is way too good to let a bursa sac keep him from playing at an elite level.
Now, as for my predictions and thoughts for what we can expect from everyone else...
- We gloss over it some here, but there's no mistaking that Joseph Addai hit the wall at the end of the season last year. But now that he's gone through it and he has better backups behind him, you can be sure that it won't happen again.
- Like most of you, I'm expecting that we'll see the Marvin of old this season, but make no bones about it, even if he does come back 100%, Reggie Wayne is our best receiving threat. Marvin is still the O.G. and always will be, but Reggie is ready to be the 1A guy.
- Roy Hall won't have a lot of opportunities to dazzle, since he's the 4th best receiver, but he will make at least one play this season that makes you drop your jaw. it might not be a SportsCenter Top 10 drop your jaw kind of play, but it'll be good.
- The AFC South is as deep and talented as it's ever been. Luckily, the Colts are as deep and talented as they've ever been.
- Bold prediction: Ed Johnson is going to the Pro Bowl this season. Yes, I might be crazy, but I might also be a crazy genius.
- Even if he doesn't record double digit sack totals this season, Dwight Freeney will still be plenty disruptive, don't you worry.
- At least one annoucer will make fun of Pierre Garcon's name. Book it.
- This might sound a little weird, but I'm hoping that Raheem Brock does indeed become the starting defensive end beside Freeney, because that means that Robert Mathis can go back to being on special teams, where he can give them another much needed disruptive force. Plus, he can still get in there on situational downs to rush the QB. As long as Brock is competent to start, having Mathis coming in off the bench, so to speak, is a good thing.
- Over/Under on stories about Mike Hart that that talk about how people thought he was too short and slow to play in the NFL, but became productive anyway: 900.
- Over/Under on players knocked into the air by Bob Sanders this year: 900,000.
Random thoughts about the rest of the NFL:
- Cornerbacks are to the Patriots what linebackers are to Colts: Speedy, skilled, and completely replacable. The Patriots might not go 16-0 again this season, but it won't be because they lost Asante Samuel. He's very good, don't get me wrong, but they'll find someone else to plug in and the dropoff will be slim to none.
- With that said, I think Junior Seau Tedy Bruschi is eligible for AARP next year, right?
- The Philadelphia Ninja Hands will win the Stampede Blue Shakedown league.
- Terrell Owens will try to one up Chad Ocho Cinco by changing his name to Terrell "That's My Quarterback."
Most disappointing team this season: Tampa Bay. Just a gut feeling.
Biggest surprise team this season: Oakland. They won't make the playoffs, but I don't think .500 is out of reach this season.
- I'm worried about the Jaguars. David Garrard is a bonafide QB and with Jones-Drew and Taylor, they have one of the better backfields in the NFL. But don't forget about Greg Jones at fullback. The man can punish people. He's plowed guys like Dexter Reid and Sean Taylor over in his college days, and I'm concerned that one of the Colts might be next.