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Indianapolis Colts 2011 Season Preview: Peyton Manning And Co. Hope To Remain Elite

SB Nation is previewing the 2011 season for all 32 teams and up today is the Indianapolis Colts. Check out all of our 2011 NFL season previews.

The 2011 NFL season is almost here which means it's time to preview every team's chances this year. SB Nation's Stampede Blue gives us the scoop on the Indianapolis Colts

Record Prediction

11 wins. Maybe 12. The key is, obviously, Peyton Manning. If he can stay healthy all year, something he was unable to do last year (despite the team's efforts to assert he was not hurt in 2010), the Colts are a 11-5, 12-4 team. Also important is the health of Dwight Freeney and the development of the team's new offensive line. First round pick Anthony Castonzo has impressed in training camp and preseason. Last year, the Colts offensive line stayed healthy, but was easily the weakest area of the team. Three new starters are penciled in for Week One against Houston, and longtime starter at right tackle, Ryan Diem, is shifting to guard, where he played his first two years in the league.

Best Game On Schedule

Easy, the New England Patriots on Sunday night, December 4th. The Colts v. Patriots rivalry is the best in all of sports. Both these teams are built to beat each other, and anytime Peyton Manning goes toe-to-toe with Bill Belichick, it's not just the best game on the Colts schedule, it's the best game on the entire NFL schedule for 2011.

Player Who Takes A Step Back this Year

My guess is Gary Brackett. He's a middle linebacker over 30, and the Colts already have second year player Pat Angerer groomed to replace him. Brackett has not played a full 16 season since 2007. Last year, he only played in 12 games and just 74 tackles, which (statistically speaking) was his worst year since taking over the starting MIKE spot in 2005.

Breakout Player Candidate

I think Dallas Clark will bounce back after missing much of last year with a freakish wrist injury. I also think the rookie DT from LSU, Drake Nevis, might get noticed a bit. He's been unblockable in preseason thus far.

Best Player Others Have Never Heard Of

Antoine Bethea. He's been to Pro Bowls, and many consider him one of the best free safeties in football, but no one has ever heard of him. He's just very dependable and always seems to make a big play and the right time. Without Bethea, the Colts pass defense would make Tim Tebow look like John Unitas.

Overrated/Underrated/Just Right

I don't know too many Colts players overrated. Basically, everyone on the team is viewed as useless because, without Manning, this is a six win team. At least, that is the perception of most. Until players like Freeney, Robert Mathis, and Reggie Wayne prove they are more than just ancillary parts in a Manning-driven machine, pretty much everyone on the roster is in the 'just right' category.

Fantasy Football Outlook

Beware of Peyton Manning because of the neck issues. I certain neck pain affected his play last year, most likely during the November stretch when he threw more touchdowns for the other team than his own. An interesting sleeper pick is Delone Carter. The Colts plan to use him as their goalline back, and he's impressed in preseason.

Best Media Personality In Indianapolis

A lot of people would say Pat McAfee, the punter. Personally, I think Pat is a little too friendly. He also got drunk and nearly killed himself swimming in a frozen river last season, a stunt that got him arrested and suspended. Overall, I think Robert Mathis is very media friendly, and he doesn't seem to fall into the level of pretentiousness that most other players do when they talk with fans on Twitter. Mathis is outspoken, opinionated, but very honest. I've gotten into several Twitter discussions with him that have resulted in full blown arguments. But, to Robert's credit, he takes the time to talk, and he rarely holds back. Colts owner Jim Irsay is also very... interesting to follow on Twitter.

Best Player On Twitter

Mathis and Irsay are great to follow, though a few media types have taken issue with Irsay of late because of his fake 'Brett Favre to the Colts'-style tweet a few weeks ago. While most of us rational folks took it for the obvious joke it was, many others saw it as Irsay informing fans that he was in Hattiesburg, MS to woo Brett. Jerraud Powers is also a nice follow on Twitter. Just a simple guy who often gives some fun, personal insights into life as a football player