There's a saying that life can be like driving at night -- you can't see very far, but you can go the whole way like that. With the news that Peyton Manning will be out at least one week to start the 2011 season, fans of a franchise that has faced each inch of the highway for the past 227 games knowing exactly who was at the wheel probably feel like someone just bashed in their headlights at sunset. But while "Manning is out" sounds devastating, it needs to be juxtaposed against a little reality about how long an NFL season really is. We don't have any final call on how long Manning will be out, but the Indianapolis Colts can probably keep the car on the road for longer than they think.
As noted recently, the average playoff seed for a Super Bowl champ in the past 10 years is No. 3, and as many 6-seeded teams have won the Super Bowl as 1-seeds in that time. Playoff road wins are commonplace. Call it cherry-picked evidence, but it's evidence nonetheless. The NFL playoffs have largely become a crapshoot excercise, but the shape you're in as a team on Jan. 1 matters. Three words: just get in.
So how bad a hit does Indy take with Manning sidelined?