Sitting here I was wracking my brain trying to think of how to delicately phrase the very simple, yet reprehensible subject of a team intentionally tanking a season in order to secure a certain player in the draft. How does one broach the topic without sounding like a conspiracy theorist? In short, they can't. 'Tanking' was something I used to think was confined to NBA teams down the stretch, where we've consistently seen that league's worst curiously rest starters due to 'injuries' when playoffs were already out of reach. In the NBA this is rather understandable, after all when you're only starting 5 players then getting an elite talent would be the equivalent of a football team getting 10 impact players at once.
There is no doubting that Peyton Manning isn't your typical player, he's worth his weight in gold. One wonders with revisionary history if Manning had Pittsburgh's defense how many rings he could have won, but that's a separate argument. In breaking this game down it's hard for me to examine match-ups, or evaluate each side of the football without letting out the slightest of snickers, because when it's all said and done I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that there is one universal truth to Sunday's game: The Colts are trying to lose, and the Panthers are trying to win. It helps satiate the bad taste of conspiracy in my mouth by reading that I'm not the only one, in fact those who know the team best seem to think the same thing, as Brad Wells writes about the 'Suck For Luck' phenomenon in Indianapolis. His take on the Colts' QB position this season should set off your alarm bells if they haven't been already
Seems obvious that, in order to spark some kind of chance to win a game, there needs to be a change at quarterback.
But, no. Yesterday, Jim Caldwell announced that Curtis Painter would remain the starter, failing to give any kind of rational justification for keeping the third worst rated quarterback currently playing under center. The perception is Painter will play out the rest of the season, which could likely end with Painter dead last in the QB rankings based on his current state of regression.
So how do I approach a game like this with any semblance of seriousness? How does one break down each team's chances when I have no faith one team is trying to win? Perhaps it's the leftover turkey sandwich I just engulfed causing this to be written while intoxicated on tryptophan, but I can only approach this tongue-in-cheek, so if you were looking for a serious breakdown of the game I'm sorry, but you'll need to wait until next week.
More after the jump
X-Factor: Rob Chudzinski's Left Leg
Just over a month ago we saw New Orleans' Saints head coach Sean Payton was carted off the field with a broken leg and torn MCL caused by a collision with a player on the sidelines. Payton was forced to head to the training room and turn over playcalling duties to his assistant, and ultimately the Saints lost to the Buccaneers.
My X-factor for Sunday's game is Chud's left leg. If he can remain on the sideline on Sunday and is still physically able to call the plays then the Panthers will win. If a catastrophic injury occurs and we're left with Mike Shula needing to run the offense then it could get ugly quickly. Well, perhaps that's a little too much hyperbole using 'ugly' perhaps 'blemished' is more accurate- the Panthers still win, but maybe Cam only throws for 150 yards which would likely still be more than Curtis Painter.
Carolina run offense vs. Indianapolis run defense
This is an area where I'm really concerned for the Panthers. Post John Fox we've been treated to a potent, creative passing attack where we get to see exciting plays and the rejuvenation of Steve Smith. My concern is that the Panthers will have early success against the NFL's 31st ranked run defense and immediately abandon the pass. If this happens the Carolina Panthers will undeniably win, but there's a slim chance I could nod off after engorging myself on another left over turkey sandwich, wake up and think I'm back in 2004 watching Fox ball.
Folks, this is a very real and chilling concern. I hope you all approach it with the same gravitas I am.
Carolina pass offense vs. Indianapolis pass defense
Again there's some reason to be fearful here also. The Panthers haven't been great in the end-zone when they've needed to have Cam play on the short field and make plays in compact space. The risk here is that the Indianapolis offense will be so anemic that their defense will be playing on a short field for much of the game. Normally this would be a dream, but I see it as a potential nightmare as Carolina will be asked to make those plays in a small amount of space, and if that happens then the Panthers will still win... but if Olindo Mare has 10 FG chances he'll likely miss three of them.
When it's all said and done I think you'll agree we have a mountain to climb on Sunday... I'm sorry, there goes my hyperbole again, let me try again. When it's all said and done I think you'll agree the Panthers have a very slight incline they need to overcome by way of borrowing a hoveround. Tomorrow I'll break down the thrilling Colts offense.