At the midpoint of the season one would think that it would be nearly impossible for one of these teams, let alone both, to get into the playoffs. Following off-season knee surgery, Peyton Manning was stinking up the joint early. The Colts broke out of the gate losing their first two games. After reaching 3-4, they won 9 straight to finish at 12-4, breaking their own record by winning 12 or more games 6 years in a row. Despite not putting up his normal numbers, 2008 MVP Manning provided invaluable leadership while key cogs such as RB Joseph Addai and SS Bob Sanders were hurt. Manning enters Saturday night’s game with a 70+% completion percentage in each of his last 4 games and without throwing an interception in December. The Colts finally appear to be healthy.
After referee Ed Hochuli screwed them on a call against the Broncos in Week 2, the Chargers appeared listless. Up and down all season, they lost 3 straight games in November to leave them at 4-8. Thanks in part due to the fire was lit in Phillip River’s ass after finding out that NFL Girly Man #1 Brett Favre beat him out for a Pro Bowl spot and the healing of LaDainian Tomlinson’s toe, the Chargers won 4 straight in December. They currently rival the Colts as the NFL’s hottest team. However, LDT now has a strained hamstring. Despite probably being available for Saturday night’s game, this is not exactly what the Chargers need. Expect Fake LT to be limited and for Darren Sproles to receive plenty of action.
The Colts and the Chargers are very familiar with each other; Saturday night’s affair represents the sixth time that they have met since 2004, with the Bolts winning four of those contests. In last year’s Divisional Round match up at the RCA Dome, the Chargers defeated the Colts before losing to the Patriots, who finished the season at 18-1. Earlier this season at Qualcomm Stadium, the Colts defeated the Chargers 23-20.
I expect this game to be won in the air by the Colts. San Diego’s passing defense is second-worst in the NFL. Give me 3 TDs by Manning—one each to Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Anthony Gonzalez—and one to Joseph Addai. Despite big games by Fake LT and Sproles, River’s brilliant stretch comes to end against the Colts, who have let up only six passing touchdowns all season.