2009 record: 14-2 (First in AFC South)
Michael LombardiI love Peyton Manning and the offense, but what I am learning to love is the defense, which is creative and fast.
Starters on defense returning from 2009. No other team in the league returns every defensive starter.
The former Defensive Player of the Year has missed 51 of the team's last 96 games and is in serious jeopardy of becoming a part-time player with the emergence of Melvin Bullitt and Antoine Bethea. Sanders is a difference-maker, but the Colts' defense has learned how to win without him. Sanders must show that he can stay healthy over the long haul to be a permanent fixture in the lineup.
Jeff SaturdayIt is not a coincidence that the Colts' offense has been among the league's top units over the past decade since Saturday stepped into the starting lineup. The four-time Pro Bowler is a gritty, hard-nosed player who directs the frontline like an orchestra conductor. His ability to make all of the adjustments upfront allows Peyton Manning to terrorize opponents from the pocket. Although Saturday doesn't garner headlines for his play, he is a critical element to the Colts' offensive juggernaut.
What can Brown do for you?Joseph Addai was a top-10 fantasy running back last season, but Donald Brown should see more work in 2010. With Addai in a contract year, the Colts will give Brown more of a look out of the backfield. Addai remains the better fantasy option, but Brown is someone to watch.
Three pivotal games
Sept. 19 vs. New York GiantsIt's been four years since the Manning brothers squared off in New Jersey. Younger brother Eli has since earned himself a Lombardi Trophy, while Peyton earned his own Super Bowl ring and tacked on two more MVPs. While it will make for a stressful day for Archie and Olivia Manning, viewers should be rewarded for tuning in for the NFL's version of "Family feud."
Nov. 21 at New EnglandIt wouldn't be November without a meeting between the Colts and Patriots. After three seasons in Indianapolis, the NFL's best non-division rivalry returns to Foxborough. There should be no shortage of hype here, especially after the drama Bill Belichick created with his fourth-and-2 call. The Colts have won the last two contests against the Patriots, so Tom Brady and Co. will be ready.
Nov. 28 vs. San DiegoIt won't truly be a rivalry until the Colts win a couple more games (they've dropped four of their last five to the Chargers, including two playoff losses), but it's always must-see TV when Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers face off. This nationally-televised game has all the makings of a shootout. And at this point in the year, the talk could focus around home-field advantage in the playoffs.