A Guide to Recognizing the Colts

Peyton Manning and his band of merry men

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    There's a good chance you're already pretty familiar with the Indianapolis Colts. It was just four weeks ago that they hosted the Jets in a game that will forever live in the memories of one team. If the Colts go on to win the Super Bowl, it will be seen as a missed opportunity to try for a perfect season. If the Jets win Sunday, it will be an object lesson about killing your enemy when you have a chance. Either way, it will probably represent the high water mark in Curtis Painter's career.

    Painter isn't likely to see any action on Sunday, so we'll focus here on the players that will have a hand in deciding what team isn't being overly confident in selling AFC Champion merchandise days before the game actually happens. After all, you won't score any points for mocking Painter when he's sitting on the bench. When you're talking about the Colts, you can only start with one man.

    Peyton Manning: If you've somehow made it to this post without any knowledge of Manning, here are some other fun facts for you. The United States has a black President, those steel birds flying through the sky are called airplanes and you're reading this on what's known as a computer. Welcome to the 21st century, friend. Please stay a while.

    Manning's three greatest skills are reading NFL defenses, drawing flags on contact that would go unpunished against other quarterbacks and separating money from the wallets of American consumers. Sony, Oreo, Billy Baloo's Used Car Emporium and dozens of other companies vie for space on his oversized forehead, something that must come as a shock to those locals used to Eli Manning's more laconic style. 

    Peyton's ubiquity and the breathless comments from the football intelligensia make it easy to forget that the playoffs haven't been particularly kind to him. He's saved most of his worst performances for the postseason something easily referenced with the shorthand of 41-0. That would be the score of the last playoff meeting between the Jets and Colts when Peyton was outdueled by a first-year Jets quarterback.

    Bill Polian: The haughty president of the Colts has long been a member of the NFL Competition Committee, the group which suggests rule changes from year to year. You can always win a bet on what Polian's suggestion will be. Lose a game in overtime? Change the overtime rules. Lose a game on a sack of Manning? More stringent rules about what how hard you can hit quarterbacks. 

    Don't let that mislead into thinking he is doing these things to bring joy to fans of the Colts, however. A day after the Colts quit against the Jets in December, Polian went on his weekly radio show and berated Colts fans who thought they were buying tickets to a regular season football game that the Colts would actually be trying to win. 

    Adam Vinatieri: You've doubtlessly heard that Vinatieri is one of the greatest kickers of all time throughout his career and he's certainly hit his share of clutch kicks. This year's postseason makes it clear how little one should scoff at that ability. Feel free to scoff at Vinatieri, if you can find him among the players in street clothes on the bench while Matt Stover handles the actual kicking duties for the Colts because Vinatieri is neither accurate nor powerful at this point in his career.

    Bob Sanders: Ever see the movie "Unbreakable"? Remember Samuel L. Jackson's character, the guy who couldn't go 10 minutes without horribly injuring himself? Sanders is the professional football version of that character. He's played in 47 of 96 regular season games in his career, yet somehow still gets acclaim as one of football's finest safeties. Maybe he is, although we're not sure how anyone can tell.

    Hank Baskett: Like Vinatieri and Sanders, Baskett doesn't actually play all that much. You've probably seen his wife, former Playmate Kendra Wilkinson, naked however. Hopefully you haven't seen their reality show. 

    Reggie Wayne: There's nothing that jumps off the page about Wayne as a person, but he's got to be some kind of an odd duck to be a four-year member of the University of Miami football team and come out of the experience as a sane, relatively humble and decent human being. Wonders never cease.  

    Marvin Harrison: Harrison's not on the Colts anymore, but we'll use this space to urge you to read the recent GQ article surrounding his alleged involvement in a shooting in Philadelphia. Sometime after you read it and after the game has come to its conclusion, you can take a few moments to ponder why a men's fashion magazine was more interested in investigating a murder than the Philadelphia authorities.  

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.