Sunday’s game between the Patriots and Colts marks the 9th season in a row in which the two franchises meet for a regular season matchup. This matchup has been fueled by the two team’s domination of their respective divisions; NFL regular season schedule matchups pit the AFC conference winners of the previous season against each other. The rivalry of these two teams over the past 9 season in both the regular season and post season has been arguably one of the best NFL rivalries of the past decade. Each game has offered closely fought battles between two of the leagues premier QB’s, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. It seems whenever the Patriots and Colts play each-other a playoff like atmosphere arises regardless if it is a regular season game or actual playoff game.
Yet this season’s matchup will not be a game circled on the calendars of NFL fans, but one watched only for the parody that is the 2011 Indianapolis Colts. Perennial MVP Peyton Manning has been sidelined all season with a neck injury, one that seems far worse than anyone would have imagined. The slide of the Colts from playoff shoe-in to NFL basement dwellers is certainly due in large part to the absence of Manning. The prospect of Manning returning to the Colts this season is non-existent, but will he ever return? Not getting any younger and certainly not seeming to get much healthier, the days of Manning under center for the Colts seems to be only a past memory.
As frustrating as it is as a Patriots fan to see the Manning work his magic on the football field, he will be sorely missed come this Sunday. A matchup that has offered so much in terms of its quality over the past decade will surely sink to mediocrity with absence of one of the NFL’s greatest QB’s. The Colts current Manning replacement Dan Orlovsky, the 3rd replacement so far this season, is probably best remembered for quarterbacking the hapless 2008 Detroit Lions who went 0-16, a record the Colts are trying so desperately to avoid. With the number-one pick in upcoming draft being a shoe-in for Stanford QB Andrew Luck, the question must be asked, have we seen the end of Manning era in Indianapolis? If so there too goes one of the greatest rivalries the NFL has ever seen.