History says Colts due to lose this year

Nov 1, 2005 12:30 AM

So, are the Colts going to run the table? Of course not.

Not since 1972 has a team gone perfect in the NFL. Parity and the salary cap have leveled the playing field. Schedules are longer, which makes it that much harder to go undefeated. In fact, that ’72 Miami Dolphins was the only club in the long history of the NFL to go 17-0 (14-0 in regular season play).

There have been some memorable close calls.

”¡ The 1962 Green Bay Packers enjoyed a 10-0 start in a 13-1 season that ended with a 16-7 win over the New York Giants in the championship game. That was one of Vince Lombardi’s best teams. Lombardi’s lone setback was a surprising 26-14 Thanksgiving Day loss to Detroit, which once led 26-0.

”¡ The 1984 San Francisco 49ers started 6-0 en route to an 18-1 season. The loss was 20-17 at home to the Steelers. The Niners went on to destroy Miami in the Super Bowl.

”¡ The 1985 Bears, a powerhouse team that began 12-0 behind defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan’s 46-defense, held 11 opponents to 10 points or less. Chicago was stopped 38-24 as a three-point favorite on a famous Monday night game at Miami with members of the ’72 Dolphins present. The Bears finished 18-1 with playoff victories of 21-0, 24-0 and 46-10!

”¡ The 1998 Denver Broncos started 13-0 behind QB John Elway. The Broncs ended up losing consecutive road games at the Giants (20-16) and Miami (31-21) before finishing 17-2 with another Super Bowl title.

Which brings us to the 2005 Colts and their sizzling 7-0 SU, 5-2 ATS mark. Indy is beating teams by a 27-11 average, including 30-10 on the road where they are 4-0 SU/ATS. However, Indy has taken advantage of a soft schedule — with wins over the Ravens, Browns, Titans, 49ers, Rams and Texans. They were fighting tooth and nail with the Jaguars, at home, before rallying for a 10-3 win as a nine-point favorite.

The Colts appear better defensively. One potential soft spot that stands out is run defense. Tony Dungy builds his defenses around speed, preferring a fast secondary in his "cover 2" schemes along with quick linebackers and defensive ends stringing out a sweep and pressuring the quarterback. However, more speed means less bulk. Indy still has an undersized defensive line, a persistent problem the last two years. Indy was 24th in the NFL last season against the run, allowing 4.6 yards per carry. In 2003, they were 20th overall and allowed 4.5 ypc. In Dungy’s first season they were 19th, giving up 4.3 ypc.

The last two games, teams are finally running directly at the Colts. Against the Rams, RB Steven Jackson had 46 of a 162-yard first quarter for the Rams as they surprised the Colts with a 17-0 lead. The Rams defense is poor, however, and the Colts poured in on after QB Marc Bulger was injured. Bulger also had been tearing up the Colts defense. In the first half last week against the pitiful Houston Texans, running back Domanick Davis netted 85 of his 98 yards and a touchdown before halftime. The Colts eventually won and covered.

What will it be like when the Colts face teams with strong defenses that can also run? We’ll find out soon. The Colts play at New England this Sunday in a rematch of the playoff meeting that saw Patriots RB Corey Dillon ran for 144 yards, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Thanksgiving weekend, the Steelers travel to Indy on Monday night bringing a physical defense and power running game.

The Colts also have to face the Bengals, Jaguars and Seahawks. Two of those tests are on the road, so they should slip up at some point. This should make the race for home field that much more interesting.

The last two years the Colts destroyed the Broncos in home playoff games, then went on the road and lost in the cold at New England. A more important edge than running the table will be if Indy can secure home field.