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Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals: Know Thy Enemy Edition

Since the Tony Dungy Era began in 2002, the Indianapolis Colts have built an NFL powerhouse. They have become one of the teams you just expect to make the playoffs every year, and are always a favorite to go to the Super Bowl. Even though the Tony Dungy Era has come to an end, at the end of the 2008 season, this team has still been dominant. Last Monday, week 2, Peyton Manning and the Colts offense were only on the field for 15 minutes and they were able to beat a Miami Dolphins team that looked as though they were going win. That just proves how good Manning is, as he can deliver on just about any drive. That is why Manning is this weeks player to watch.

Before Peyton Manning became a star quarterback in the NFL, he was a star quarterback at Tennessee. In his freshman year he didn't get much playing time, being the third string QB behind starter Todd Helton, now first baseman for the Colorado Rockies, and second string Jerry Colquitt. Injuries to those players during the season, led to Manning getting his career started. After just a few starts as a freshman, Manning won the job as a sophomore, leading the Tennessee Vols to a one loss season and came in 6th in the Heisman Trophy voting. Manning threw just 4 interceptions that season, compared to 22 touchdowns. The following season Manning led his team to another winning season, but they lost 2 games that time, in part because Manning threw for more interceptions, tripling to 12. In Manning final season, the team lost just one game and went to the Orange Bowl, a BCS game, and even though they lost, Manning was unstoppable that season, throwing for over 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. After having such a stellar college career, that would lead to Manning being the 1st overall pick in the 1998 draft by the Indianapolis Colts.

Sine Manning has been drafted he has had just 2 seasons in which the team has not had winning seasons. The first was his rookie season, where they won 3 games, and the other was the 2001 season when they won 6 games. Other than those two seasons, Manning has led his team to the playoffs every year, which would be nine times. Of those nine trips, he has been to the Super Bowl once, winning it of course. He has also managed to rack up 3 MVP awards, one of them when he broke the record for most touchdowns in a season with 49, which was later broken by Tom Brady with 50. In his 12 year career he has also notched up a total of 46,232 passing yards and 336 passing touchdowns, and has never had less than 26 touchdowns and 3700 yards in a season. There is no doubt that Peyton Manning has had an amazing career, and still is not close to being finished.

Part of the reason why he has been so successful is because of how smart he is as a QB. One of the skills that Manning is known for is his ability to read defenses and audible. This makes it extremely tough for defenses if they don't mask what they are going to do, on the play. The one player on the Cardinals defense that Manning will be looking for on just about every play will be safety Adrian Wilson. Wilson has been know to drop down in the box, and he has become one of the best pass rushing safeties in the league. It will be extremely important that Wilson is able to confuse Manning or at least disguise his blitzes enough to create some quick pressure. This will not be an easy task, as Manning is not easily confused but it can be done.

Peyton Manning is by far one of the best quarterbacks the Cardinals have had to face, and it will be a true test as to how good their defense really is. This will not be just a player versus player match-up. This is Manning versus the Cardinals defense. If the Cards want to win this game, every player on defense will have to step up and play one of the best games they have played. They can not blow coverages, they'll have to pressure Manning, and they'll have to be able to read when Manning audibles. The only way to beat Manning and the Colts offense is if the Cards confuse them, something the Patriots, Steelers and Chargers have been able to do from time to time. This definitely won't be an easy task, but it is one the Cardinals have the talent to accomplish. Do you think the Cards defense will be able to do what is needed to stop Peyton Manning?