Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Learning to Love Football (all over again)

For a decade now, Colts fans have gotten used to making the playoffs and being considered a contender. We've gotten used to historically fast starts and having our team bandied about with the greatest teams of all time. We've gotten used to insane arguments with Patriots fans who couldn't seem to understand what made their own team so great. Somewhere along the way, a lot of the joy of the week to week was drained out of the game for us. Colts fans in general became more concerned with only winning titles rather than celebrating and enjoying each win.

Then came this season. We were all geared up for another title run with what Bill Polian called 'the most talented team' he's ever had. Then, disaster struck. One injury after another decimated that talent, and left the Colts in trapped in a coffin gasping for air while many outsiders prematurely danced on their half dug grave. It was easy to get despondent when watching the Colts play because their flaws have been so obvious and consistent almost every week. It was like watching the fall of Rome from your barcalounger every Sunday.

Then, almost shockingly, something clicked. The flaws? They didn't disappear, but suddenly they didn't matter as much. The offensive line gelled just enough. Manning gritted his teeth a little more firmly. Freeney spun out of one extra hold. 88 picked up just one more first down. Without warning or reason, a team that had been torture to watch started to win games. They haven't won them pretty, but they've gone up against some of the most talented squads in the conference and walked away on top.

The 1995 Colts are on the top of most long time fans' lists of favorite Colts teams. They repeatedly pulled off amazing comebacks. Their quarterback defied logic with his play. They entered the playoffs as a wildcard team, and beat a poor west coast squad, before knocking off the best team in football, and walked into Pittsburgh and should have left as conference champions. There was no burden of history with that team. They just wanted to win every game they could and make the playoffs. Then when the time came, they were battle tested and ready to win in any way necessary.

The 2008 Colts seem to be their natural brothers. In 2007, Indy played a total of 4 games worth watching out of 16 (@Ten, NE, @SD, @Oak). Already, in just 11 games, the Colts have played seven games that went down to the wire (winning 6). They have played 4 different games that could challenge for our Greatest Wins list. I can't find a way to rank the Minnesota, Houston, Pittsburgh and San Diego games because they were all thrilling. Finally, it dawned on me yesterday...I love this team. They are make all the wrong kind of mistakes, but somehow 18 and 4 and 93 and 98 and...always seem to make the one play they have to. No team this beat up should be 7-4 against a tough schedule. This Colts team has made it fun for me watch football again. Forget championships for a minute and just appreciate rooting for a team that won't quit.

I really look forward to the games now; gone is the nagging dread of a loss. I've accepted that this team isn't the best in the NFL this year (NY Giants have been from week one). They still might win it all, or at least more than they ought, but they don't have to in order for me to feel good about this year. It'll take a nice playoff run to unseat 1995 in heart, but if a team ever had the chance to, this is the year it could happen.

Thanks 2008 Colts. You made it fun again.

Links:
This isn't really a link, but here are the updated projections for Manning and Cassel:
Cassel (link to last week's post for comparison)
CompAtt%YardsYPATDINTRating
34652266.338047.3191290.5

Manning
CompAtt%YardsYPATDINTRating
38761762.741066.7281587.2

The biggest change for 18 is that his completion % is now within normal limits. The only number he has that won't fully recover by the end of the year is his YPA.

SI's Playoff projection is sort of lame.

IU gets off without anything worse happening. That's all that matters.

Never in the history of man has anything been more predictable than Easterbrook's comments on Sunday's game.

18to88.com makes another appearance in Walk Through. He confuses Demond and I because of the whole Facebook presence, but whatever. It's a great piece anyway, and mostly my fault he was confused.

Demond Sanders: Mostly your fault? LOL. You created a Facebook account with my name and operated it as if you were me. Yes, I'd say the confusion was mostly your fault. For the record: I don't believe in Facebook as a concept. I thought awkwardly bumping into people you only know tangentially or haven't seen in 20 years was a bad thing. . .

DZ responds: It's not my fault that Facebook wouldn't accept Zombie as a last name. They are bigoted against the undead.

36 comments:

Jareb said...

I know it is only two games but how much before we get to start calling Brady a system Quarterback. Cassel has finally started to realize what made Brady so good last year was getting the ball to Welker in stride and throwing it up for Moss to go get. The only positive to come out of the Brady injury is that we are getting to see that the numbers he put up last year were a product of the insane talent of those two receivers and one helluva good offensive line.

Deshawn Zombie said...

I'm laying this down as offical 18to88.com policy:

We wait at least until the end of the regular season. Maybe until after the first playoff game.

Once Cassel leads the Pats to the AFC Championship with better stats than Brady posted in any season outside of 2007, we strike.

Westside Rob said...

DZ,
Absolutely a superb post! I couldn't agree more, that shedding the shackles of "Are we the best team in the league" has made this year more fun. One thing I was thinking about yesterday was how going into the season we all thought the last 4 games would be the stretch of games that would define our season (meaning most of us thought the colts would only have one or two losses going into that stretch). I seem to remember saying if they can just go 2-2 through that stretch they should be in good shape. Well we actually won all 4 though those teams weren't quite as menacing as we thought they might have been, it's still interesting that the stretch we feared might kill us is the stretch that has now changed the course of the season for the good.

I agree that this team reminds me a lot of 1995, though it should end up with a better regular season record than th 95' team. Weren't they 10-6 or 9-7? This year we should end up 12-4 or 11-5, which again going back to earlier in the year most of us probably would have thought that would be good enough to win the division. Who knew the Titans would get on such a run, though I also believe their magic beans that carried them along are running out...

Demond Sanders said...

How sweet would a 5-win November be? I hope we find out on Sunday.

Jareb said...

I don't think Cassel is going to be able to lead them to the AFC Championship and it's going to be no fault of his own. That defense has aged and is nowhere near as good as the defenses that Brady won with. I think that as long as Cassel stats are better and he doesn't cost his team any wins the argument becomes fair.

Marik said...

In all the gushing about Cassel's back to back 400 yard games, did anyone mention that the Pats are 1 and 1?

jc said...

DJDS

John said...

DJDS

Uh, translation?

Demond Sanders said...

According to Google DJDS is the Downtown Jewish Day School.

I guess JC is going back to get his Masters.

jc said...

Derek Jeter Derangement Syndrome.

I fully comprehend your rage.

Your team is on a bad ass win streak at the right time, and all you can think about is Tom Brady who's on the IR.

Westside Rob said...

So JC is that what Bean Town was suffering from when they were winning those Championships and all they could do was focus on how much they hated PM and how Brady was WAY better despite lesser stats? I'd suggest Simmons in particular must have been suffering from said ailment for a long period of time.

Honestly I could care less. As I've stated here MANY times, it's POINTLESS to try and determine who's better between Manning and Brady. They are both great. When one is surrounded by better talent they are even greater. Arguing who's better is pointless. It's as pointless as arguing Manning vs. Unitas, there are just too many variables to make any kind of valid comparison. Note most "attention" give to Brady on this sight is about debunking the East Coast assumption that because Brady has more rings he's clearly superior to Manning. I don't think many people on here have made it a point to try and argue that Manning is better just that the opposite of the argument isn't provable either.

Bob M. said...

Wow, where to start?
1) Great post--I've been having the 1995s for a while now (I loved those guys and was so proud of them--I wrote Marchibroda a letter after the season saying as much). I do get the same feeling.
Thanks for reminding me to enjoy what I have and count my blessings (appropriate time of year for it).
2) Cassel is the neo-Volek. I wonder who will overpay for his services..., Might be his current employers, but I doubt they will pay what others offer.
3) The masters degree response for JC was awesome.
4) Beyond awesome.
5) And then some.
6) JC, if there is a DJDS, its football equivalent is TBDS, right? (Frankly, I don't believe in either, but it's fun to taunt.)

So the Lilja/Scott move was a mistake, I guess, but how smart was it picking up three OL in the draft? As lame as our OL was at times this year, how much worse would it have been manned by UFAs or some overpriced veteran tub of goo? If we can just get a good DT next year to absorb some runs and take some attention from Mathis and Freeney with middle pocket pressure.... (too soon for a draft day wish list)

jc said...

Bottom line is if the playoffs started today we'd be out.

With the worst schedule in the NFL.

That wouldn't be the case if twelve were still around.

And how'd that "system" work out for Fat Charlie?

Wasn't it HIS system?

Adam said...

What's wrong with the SI playoff projection? If anything, it's a better scenario than we're looking at now.

The Colts would draw the Broncos in Denver in the first round, which would be awesome. The Pats would take on the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

Second round would be Titans vs. Colts/Pats and Jets vs. Colts/Steelers.

AFC Championship would be Titans/Pats/Colts vs Jets/Colts/Steelers.

We could see another Colts/Pats AFC Championship in Indy!

Westside Rob said...

I'd rather not see the Colts v Pats for the AFC Championship this year with no #12 on the field. When we won the Bean Towners would just say how they would have won with #12 and if by some freak of nature we lost, we'd NEVER EVER be able to stand up to criticisms from JC and the rest of Bean Towners. No home playoff game is worth that risk with no reward. In Poker terms the Pot odds are so horrible you should just muck the pair of bullets... so I for one will not be pulling for that PO matchup for the first time.

Westside Rob said...

JC,
That worst schedule in the NFL was based on last season's records. With the resurgance of Buff, NYJ, and Miami I highly doubt NE's 08' schedule is the easiest in the NFL. Anyone know a site where they rate the schedule strength in season?

Deshawn Zombie said...

In FO terms, the Pats have had the 18th toughest sched. Colts the 8th.

http://footballoutsiders.com/stats/teameff

Bob M. said...

Just read BBS's anti-Peter King/Anti-know-nothing MVP voters rant at Stampede Blue. Infuriating (and funny), but I agree. He and I share a low opinion of the voters. Though I think if Brees breaks 5k and improves his rating, he'll take the lead.

Deshawn Zombie said...

Btw: everyone make sure check out Walkthrough on Footballoutsiders.com...just in case you don't catch the update on the site.

Westside Rob said...

DZ,
Yeah but that's based on FO's DVOA/VAR which I like (though it's hard to respect it when it puts the Eagles at #3) but a different stat than what JC was quoting which was total W-L record of opponents. I know NE had the worst opponent W-L record going into the season but that was skewed because Jets, Miami and to a certain extent Buff had subpar records and they get to play them each twice. That's one of the reasons the Colts had a high W-L opponent record because the South teams all had good to decent records last year. Plus we played the AFC north where most of the teams had good or at least marginal records last year. Not to mention a first place schedule but NE had that too (though they don't have to play themselves which at 16-0 the teams that do get their strength skewed upwards).

Demond Sanders said...

Bob,

It's not a perfect system or necessarily a logical one, but that's true whenever people vote.

BBS knows its all about Touchdowns and Wins. Warner got an early lead in both categories so it makes sense for him to be the favorite. If Manning and Warner end up with similar wins and stats the voters will decide which player deserves to be on Farve's level with 3 MVPs. That's an easy decision to me. Manning has 325 career passing TDs to Warner's 172.

In a ultra-competitive year like this I think making the playoffs is a must to win the award. (It usually is anyway.) Brees and the Saints very well may have to win out because the NFC wildcard race is so jacked up this year.

Sorry if I'm repeating myself, but I think its a very interesting debate.

Westside Rob said...

According to CHFF, the Pats have played 7 Quality Opponents (teams with winning records) and are 4-3 against those teams. What did they play last year 3 quality opponents for the whole season? So I would contend Cassel is putting up respectable numbers against better competition than Brady played last year. So JC's argument seems invalid. Plus NE's problems this year as much the result of the NE Def slipping/aging than they are about problems on the Offense. With that defense I suspect NE MIGHT at best have 1 or 2 more wins...maybe.

JC said...

JC has watched every snap of every Patriot game.

Westside Rob has not.

JC does not pretend to know how everyone played in Indy's games because he didn't see them....except the Rosenfels debacle which was a game of the week. And the Tavaris Jackson debacle which was even worse.

Furthermore, in typical 18to88 fashion, Westside Rob speculates on false statistics in an attempt to advance his petty agenda.

See: DZ's woeful, inept, embarrassingly incorrect attempt to debunk Brady's league leading come from behind #'s since 2001 that concluded with a meek apology.

The Patriots played and beat the #2, 3, and 4 AFC Seeds, Plus the #1, 5, 6 NFC seeds in the regular season.

I would assume that 6 playoff teams qualify as quality opponents. I think Cleveland made a playoff run too.

Now to indulge in one of my favorite past times, using DZ's words against him.

#67 on '88 Reasons' is the media's refusal to acknowledge how horrible Belichick was in Cleveland.

Hmm...what changed? Was it the fat fuck offensive coordinator who just lost to Syracuse? The alleged defensive genius whose Cleveland Browns haven't elevated above league mediocrity?

Shouldn't that 'system' have brought Belichick SOME success in Cleveland where DZ so aptly points out his failures?? What about the 5-11 season under D--w Bl---oe?

Suuuuuurely the system was in place by then, n'est pas?

If I read Cassel's projections correctly, he's on pace for 19-12 and a playoff non-berth. Even after that 50 burger he hung on those bitches in SOFLO?

Seems pretty Penningtonian to me.

Sometimes you guys need to step back and give credit where credit is due. Otherwise you'll lose all of yours.

Deshawn Zombie said...

ok...referencing 88 Reasons as if it was serious is a mistake. That piece was funny, not serious.

A more appropriate place to find our view of BB is in the Tony Dungy Hall of Fame article where we note that BB deservedly got a second chance after the Cleveland debacle (which had more to do with Art Modell moving the team), but we wonder if a black coach would have gotten the same 2nd chance.

19-12 sucks huh? So you think Brady sucked the year he won his first Super Bowl? Ok. Great.

I don't understand the 5-11 comment? That was BB's first year as head coach. How can you say, "Surely his system was in place"? His defense didn't gel until week 8 of 2001 after which point they allowed 20 points only once in the final 11 games they played, and 6 times held the opposition under 14 points. That's why they won the Super Bowl. Hell, Bledsoe even started the AFC Championship game for them (which sort begs the question how important Brady really was that season).

Do you really think the Pats will miss the playoffs under Cassel? Even if they do, it proves my point that it was their defense that failed, not their offense. I posted Cassel's numbers to show how the projection is increasing. I didn't bring up Brady, but I sure as hell will if Cassel wins some playoff games.

Read my first post on this thread: we aren't having this discussion yet. It's too early. I only post the numbers to keep an eye on it, and because apparently it bugs the hell out of you.

JC said...

19-12 is ok with Troy Brown, David Patton and.....ready......Fred Coleman!

Antowain Smith and Marc Edwards and JR Redmond.

LOADED!

He started the AFC Championship game?

Clown.

Deshawn Zombie said...

Oh I'm sorry. He just didn't hang around long enough to win it.

Deshawn Zombie said...

yeah, I can't believe I forgot that Brady started that game. It must have been the zero scoring drives he led that threw me off.

Deshawn Zombie said...

BTW: Here's the BB quote from the Dungy piece:

"Bill Belichick, largely considered a lock for the Hall of Fame and rightly so, has a regular season record that is depressed in large part to an unsuccessful stint in Cleveland. He was given a second chance, and made good on it. One wonders if Dungy would have gotten a second chance if he had failed as badly the first time out. This is not a knock on Belichick at all. He deserved another go, and made good on it. It is merely a statement on the racial climate during Dungy’s early years as a coach."

Adam said...

JC -

This is a no win situation for Pats fans. Either TB is more important to the Pats than any other player, which negates the "Patriot Way" nonsense and makes Belichick look like a lucky schmuck for having a HoF QB fall in his lap, or it turns out that the Pats have a QB friendly system that is designed around a stout defense and productive offense, thus making Brady expendible.

If Cassel makes the playoffs, you've gotta wonder how good TB really is, because this guy hasn't start a game since high school. He's the definition of a career backup.

Oh yeah, no one has mentioned it in a while, but 18-1! 18-1! 18-1!

You're welcome.

Anonymous said...

Don't miss someone's comment in the FO Walkthrough's piece:

"My sister and I were like Marvin and Reggie against Jason David and a hole in the zone."

Obviously an 18to88 reader...

jc said...

And you lost to Billy Volek faggot.

Adam said...

Anonymous: yup, that was me.

JC: What did you expect? You guys acted like douches all last season. You haven't gotten your comeuppance yet because Brady has been out, so no one was paying attention. So, just a friendly reminder: we haven't forgotten.

Demond Sanders said...

I'm pretty sure their "comeuppance" was losing a perfect season in the final game to Peyton's little brother. . .

Westside Rob said...

JC,
As usual you read what you want and ignore the actual intent. I think most everyone here from DZ, DS, to just about every regular poster has given Brady credit for being a great quarterback. He's one of the 2 best in the NFL now and maybe ever. The sh#$ we can't stand is that most Pats fans (maybe not you but I don't have the time to go back through the archives) seem to think it's a closed case that Brady is better than Peyton simply because Brady has won more SuperBowls. Our main point in talking about Cassell is that his production shows that at least PART of Brady's success is the pieces and system around him (great defense, great offensive line, currently great receivers). It doesn't prove that Peyton is better is just proves what most of us have been saying all along that it's IMPOSSIBLE to say one is better than the other.

I stand corrected on their schedule for last year, though I think you'd admit outside of those games they had a lot of gimme games particularly in the AFC East last year that are much tougher opponents this year. As I said with Brady the Pats might have one or two less losses, but they wouldn't be undefeated as they were at this time last year because of the decline of the defense.

If you want to make personal attacks go ahead. It's not that important to me. But don't expect to get much respect when you do.

Justin L said...

Looks like the Colts will be facing Anderson this weekend. Quinn is going to be shut down. Not sure if this is a good thing or bad thing...

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=3727363&campaign=rss&source=NFLHeadlines

Bob M. said...

Westside Rob,

To continue on a tangent from your post, a LOT of folks also said something similar about Peyton (think 1999-1003)--he's surrounded by all this talent so of course he's doing well. All-Pro WR, productive TEs, All-Pro RB, etc. Put anybody in there at QB and they're good for 8 wins.

Well, despite missing the HOF WR, throwing to a guy named Craphonso, and not having a 100 yard rusher for the last ten games last year, the Colts managed to "squeeze out" 13 wins while giving one away in Week 17. Um, we've all also seen the fallacy of that thinking whenever Sorgi has strapped on a helmet. And I LIKE him! (unlike others here).

So, just to tally the recent circumstantial evidence, PM is more critical to his team's phenomenal success and TB is less vital. That sound right?

Only partially tongue in cheek. Yours truly, etc etc.