Colts can bounce right back

If Manning returns at full strength next season, the Colts will be in the postseason mix. Michael Hickey/US Presswire

In recent years, it's been known that the Indianapolis Colts have relied on a standard system to put together the offensive game plan week to week. Film digested, key personnel gather early each week to discuss weaknesses found in opposing defenses, areas that can be exploited, impressions to be confirmed or questioned. The leader of these meetings takes it all in, matches it with his own ideas, and outlines a broad portion of the game plan.

Of course, that leader isn't just calling in the plays. No, that leader is Peyton Manning, and he is calling out the plays at the line in his usual foot-stamping, cab-hailing cadence. And when the Colts lost Manning in what felt like mere hours before their Week 1 kickoff at the Houston Texans, they didn't just lose arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, they also lost a vital instrument in their own week-to-week preparations.

Sure, Manning can still help plan. But for years, that planning was built to his own unique capabilities. "He's not the most important player to a single team in the NFL," said an AFC evaluator. "He's probably more important to his team than any one player has been to one team, ever."

The question now, of course, is that given that the current state of the Colts -- an 0-9 tire fire -- is far worse than even Manning's biggest worshipers imagined they'd fall, is there a reason to believe the Colts shouldn't just blow it up after this season?

Actually, yeah. In fact, they could be right back in the playoffs next year.