Season off to an unpredictable start

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:16 AM ET

So the early season predictions fly out the window.

The Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens were considered wise-guy Super Bowl picks. Both are 0-2 and have looked awful in getting there.

Big Ben will be a bust in Pittsburgh. Apparently not, as quarterback Roethlisberger and the Steelers look like they did in a 15-1 season a year ago.

And Peyton Manning will throw for 49 touchdowns or more for the second season in a row. Doesn't look like it, does it?

Of the conclusions to be made so far, and admittedly projecting anything after two weeks in this league is throwing darts, the slowdown of Manning and his Indianapolis Colts offence are the least worrisome.

In fact, you can argue that the Colts are better equipped than ever to make it to the Super Bowl. Manning threw for a career-low 122 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday and didn't look as sharp as he normally does while humiliating opposing defences.

With Mr. MVP completing just 13 of 28, the Colts scored their fewest points in more than two decades. Most weeks, Manning has put up that many in his first few drives.

But there's a little more to the story than a few errant passes. When the Jags dropped eight defensive backs into coverage, even Manning couldn't do much through the air. Instead, the Colts relied on a ball-control run game and pounded out a 10-3 victory.

But the reason the Colts and their fans can take heart as autumn approaches is because of defence, for the longest time a foreign concept in Speed City.

The Colts almost always will win the shootouts -- they have too many weapons not to. But when the going gets tight and the hitting gets harder -- like whenever they face the New England Patriots, for example -- suddenly the Colts may no longer be pushovers.

"We need to be able to win games like this," coach Tony Dungy said. "If you're going to win a championship, you have to win games that go any kind of way."

Albeit, facing the so-so offences of the Jags and Baltimore Ravens, the Colts have yielded just 10 points in two games. That's the kind of ball Dungy's Bucs played when he was the coach in Tampa Bay.

To a lesser extent, the Kansas City Chiefs are benefiting from a similar adjustment. Playing loose early in the Sunday nighter at Oakland, the defence dug in late to help secure a 2-0 start.

If this keeps up, the Colts and Chiefs may be two of the most interesting teams to follow as the season develops.

Meanwhile, of the head-scratching quarterback performances thus far, Daunte Culpepper's may be the most difficult to explain.

In Week 1, ABC's John Madden told viewers that despite never being good in math, he didn't understand how getting rid of a guy with 90 touchdowns helps your team.

Madden was referring to the loss of receiver Randy Moss to the Raiders, but missing Moss has nothing to do with the eight interceptions Culpepper has thrown in two games.

At 0-2, things are quickly reaching panic stage in Minny and for good reason.

No such worries in Indy where with a 2-0 record and the sleep-easy comfort of a supportive defence, there is now substance to back up the sizzle.


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