The quick answer is no. Only a simpleton really thinks that, and I personally think Eli Manning truly does not believe the Colts are 6-10 without Peyton Manning. ESPN blowhard and NY Yankees bat boy Michael Kay kind of pushed Eli into saying that, but I don't think he really means it.
The Colts feature the best pass rushing duo in football in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Gary Brackett is often referred to as one of the most under-rated players in football. Antoine Bethea is the best free safety in the AFC not named Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu, and Pat McAfee might be the best punter and kick-off guy in the AFC. Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson were outstanding all season as the interior defensive tackles, and Clint Session is a good, young linebacker.
So, to say the Colts are garbage without Manning is silliness. However you will notice that all those players I listed are either defensive or special teams players. Manning's true worth is with the offense, because...
- Other than Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, the rest of the receiving corps is a group of nobodys. Manning personally works with Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Gijon Robinson, Jacob Tamme, and Anthony Gonzalez to help make them better. Without Manning, these guys would not have developed.
- The offensive line is a patchwork of ragtag rejects who are made to look good because Peyton is outstanding at sliding away from pressure. Also, he never gets rattled. The guy has ice in his bloodstream, and a great clock in his head.
- Joseph Addai was outstanding all season, running hard behind this patchwork line and making up for their blocking mistakes. However, his rushing numbers have gone down each and every year. Addai has a knack for coming up big in big games, but he does not seem to have an "extra gear" to get past the secondary and take the ball all the way. Donald Brown does seem to have that gear, but his rookie season was a disappointment. He was always hurt and never really had a breakout game. Not have a real, threatening running game made Peyton's 2009 season all the more impressive.
So, if there is any one area that really needs a strong infusion of new talent, it is the Colts offense. The offense really relies on Peyton to make everything work, and he no longer has the Marvin Harrison, Tarik Glenn, and Edgerrin James types he once had. Yes, he still has talent, but not on the same level. This will be Polian's challenge moving forward, getting Peyton more help.
So, what are they without Peyton? I'd say 9-7 and no playoffs, kind of like the Patriots in 2002 or the Steelers in 2009.