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Colts ready for games that count

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They are the favorites in Las Vegas to win it all this year and they did not even win a preseason game.

To a man, they will tell you preseason is meaningless and doesn’t count, and they are looking to Sunday at Houston for the real test to begin. Welcome to the 2010 NFL season Colts fans, and despite all the hype and expectations, nothing is a shoo-in at this level and the Colts know they must improve on what they did last season if they are to find their way to Dallas for this season’s Super Bowl.

“The true test starts this weekend,” said second-year head coach Jim Caldwell when asked about his expectations. “That’s when you can begin to gauge exactly what you have and what adjustments you must make. I feel very good about this group of players and expect them to perform well.”

Many of Caldwell’s sentiments were shared among the core unit of veterans who share a certain distaste for preseason and are chomping at the bit to line up and play when it counts. You can include Peyton Manning in that group. Manning has spent more time complaining about illegal snap penalties called against the Colts this pre season than actual time spent on the field. “I think it is an understatement to say we all are raring to go on Sept. 12,” added the perennial All Pro quarterback.

There are, however, some unanswered questions regarding the Colts, such as the health of Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders, as well as the effectiveness of place kicker Adam Vinatieri.

All three are coming back from injuries that could dramatically affect the Colts if they are unable to perform at a high level. Longtime center Jeff Saturday is continuing his quest to return early from arthroscopic surgery to his knee and anchor an offensive line that drew sharp criticism from Colts President Bill Polian after the Super Bowl loss last season. The Colts are also entering the year with a new play caller in Clyde Christensen, who will replace longtime offensive guru Tom Moore who has accepted a reduced role as the senior offensive assistant on Caldwell’s staff.  While it appears that Manning and Christensen have meshed well, the relationship is an important one, and will go a long way in determining the offensive flow of the team and their ability to prosper with the hurry-up offensive scheme that has served them so well.

While they are a veteran team, the Colts will have seven rookies in uniform on opening day, including defensive end Jerry Hughes who was selected in the first round. Hughes will undoubtedly get a chance to contribute and may be pressed to play significant minutes if Freeney is not 100 percent healthy.

NOTES: The rule change that has quarterback Manning all fired up is one that requires the umpire to be in place behind the quarterback before the ball can be snapped. This may be a significant threat to the Colts hurry-up style and could dramatically affect their quick strike passing offense. Add Polian to the list of detractors as he too has been outspoken regarding his opinion of the rule calling it “insane.”

Devin Moore, from Ritter High School here in Indianapolis, made the final cut after performing well as a kick returner and a reserve running back. Moore enjoyed a stellar career at Wyoming and may just be the spark the Colts need as a kick return specialist.

You can watch the Colts regular season opener from Reliant Stadium in Houston Sunday at 1 p.m. on WISH-TV. You can listen to the radio broadcast on WFNI (1070) the Fan.

Danny Bridges, who thinks the Colts have their work cut out for them and then some this weekend, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or Bridgeshd@aol.com.

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