|Is it too early for the Colts to start planning for life after Peyton? (Getty Images)|
Posted by Ryan Wilson
Nobody was eliminated from the playoffs after the first week of the NFL regular season, but it sure seemed that way for a handful of teams, including the Indianapolis Colts, who were Peyton-less for the first time since they drafted him in 1998.
Facing division rival Houston, the Colts looked like, well, a team without a quarterback, which was no fault of Kerry Collins' who, as recently as a month ago, was resting comfortably on his couch. Also not helping: Indy's defense and special teams.
The Colts trailed 17-0 after one quarter, and were down 34-0 (!) at the half before Texans coach Gary Kubiak took it easy on a team that is accustomed to being on the winning end of blowouts. It's a sudden change of fortune for an organization that has thrived with Manning under center. In fact, since Manning arrived in '98, the Colts have been to the playoffs every season but two (his rookie campaign and 2001), including a Super Bowl title in 2006.
While we don't want to overreact after one week, it's reasonable to think that this outfit won't sniff eight wins, and if Manning misses the season while recovering from neck surgery, they'll be lucky to go 4-12. And that would likely put them smack dab in the middle of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. (Yes, we know, such talk was unthinkable as recently as a week ago.)
ProFootballTalk's Michael David Smith writes that, "It sounds crazy to suggest that the Colts could take a quarterback with the first pick in the draft nine months after giving Manning the biggest contract in NFL history. But it also sounds crazy to suggest that a team with a 36-year-old quarterback coming off a major injury would pass on a quarterback as talented as Luck."
But we're not just spit-balling here. Colts president Bill Polian watched Luck whip up on Duke last weekend.
Sports Illustrated's Peter King elaborates:
"This is what [Polian] does on almost every fall Saturday -- scout. And this year, in the wake of the possible season-ending surgery on Manning's neck, that takes on added importance," King wrote in his Monday Morning Quarterback column.
"Is there any way the Colts could be bad enough to be in the Andrew Luck derby on draft day? Very unlikely, but the team will do its due diligence. And is there any way they'd take a quarterback from the possible pool of well-regarded players -- such as USC's Matt Barkley, Oklahoma's Landry Jones or a still-to-emerge 2011 college star passer? That's more possible."
We agree: Polian is doing his due diligence. It's not out of the ordinary for him to take in a college football game, but we're less optimistic than King about the Colts' prospects in 2011. Unless things drastically change, there's every reason to think that they'll be in the conversation for the first-overall pick next April. While that doesn't do much for fans this season, Peyton's not going to play forever. And if you have to replace him, why not do it with one of the best college quarterback prospects we've seen in some time.
But perhaps we're too quick to bury this team. If you're looking for hope, coach Jim Caldwell offered it at his Monday press conference: “There is no question I believe it’s all correctable."
Feel better? Neither do we.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.