Knock. On. Wood.
When Pat Angerer, LaRon Landry, and Jerrell Freeman took the field against the Browns, it was the first time (what we expect to be) Indy's starting defense had assembled this preseason. Cleveland – who, as I mentioned before, looked awesome through two preseason games – stumbled their way to a pair of field goals, while Indy took a 17-0 lead after half. Upon the completion of the game, Indy was looking at two positives:
– they played Cleveland and New York better than virtually every team last season. Then again, beating the Browns has become similar to beating your younger brother at Madden (cheering is best reserved to the evil thoughts in your brain, while an empathetic, 'you're getting better!' suffices otherwhere).
– despite sending five guys to the IR, Indy was – and is – still miraculously healthy.
Luck played most of Saturday's game without two of his starting linemen, and with Justice Cunningham and Dominique Jones as the only tight ends on a roster that was expected to use more double-tight end formations. But it looks as if all the missing players could be back for the opener.
Allen returned to practice last week. McGlynn was walking around the locker room just fine Monday, a good sign for a player trying to fend off a challenge for his starting job. Bradshaw is expected to be full go when the season starts, and Fleener and Holmes are practicing again. Even Castonzo sounds optimistic.
Though I hesitate to admit it, the Colts might be entering the regular season looking at a full, healthy roster. Unlike most teams, where players are struggling to get back into shape/health/football, Indy's injury brigade comprising a shrinking list of timetable-ready guys. Allen and Fleener look healthier. Bradshaw is exactly where he's supposed to be. And hey, for a team that routinely missed timetables last year, this is good news.
Better news: Indy's season could be – dare I say – easier than last year?
Right now, were Indy to win every game as expected, they would be 10-6. That would include two losses to Houston – unlikely – and losses (at home) to Seattle and Denver. Heck, if they finished the first 8 games 4-4, the Colts would still be on pace for a 10 win season, because like last year, the second half of their season is mediocre at best.
Remember: last year, the Colts played the Bears, Vikings, Packers, Patriots, and Houston twice. Those teams would all go on to win 10 or more games. In other words, while most people are sitting around thinking "a better team, but a worse record", I'm thinking "Seattle went 3-5 on the road last year? YEAH they did."
And – get this – Houston plays Denver, New England, San Francisco, Seattle, and Baltimore this year. Also, Indy twice. How fun will those games be?