Originally Published: September 2, 2010
Matthew Emmons/US Presswire JOHN CLAYTON QB RANKING (1): Peyton Manning claimed his fourth MVP trophy in 2009 and appeared in his second Super Bowl. At 34, he remains a model of consistency.

Expert Picks (Consensus: 1st)

Intelligence Report

Five things you need to know about the Colts:

1. The defense is growing up: A lot of key guys like cornerback Jerraud Powers, defensive tackles Dan Muir and Antonio Johnson, and linebacker Philip Wheeler now qualify as experienced veterans. And while it's hard to predict a full season out of Bob Sanders, he's a game changer likely to blitz more than he ever has before. Another key person who will be more comfortable is second-year coordinator Larry Coyer. All of it means the Colts might have one of their best defenses in recent memory.

2. The biggest difference in the run game could come from a tight end: Rookie Brody Eldridge played some as an offensive lineman at Oklahoma. While the Colts aren't going to ask him to hold down a spot on the line, he should be an upgrade over Gijon Robinson as the blocking tight end and is going to be a big help to the tackles and running backs. If the Colts can spring Joseph Addai around the corner a couple of times a game, it could really help with the offensive balance and ensure a run defense has to cover the whole field.

3. Peyton Manning expects to be better: He dedicates himself to a theme or two every offseason after breaking down every snap from the season before. With Anthony Gonzalez back from injury and Eldridge as a new option, his stable of targets borders on ridiculous. With Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, Gonzalez, Austin Collie, Joseph Addai and Eldridge, odds are Manning will have someone he can find at all times. He will get rid of the ball as quickly as he needs to, but it would be great for him if the line allowed the time for a few more deep balls.

4. Fili Moala and/or John Chick will contribute: Moala, a second-rounder in his second year, is far better equipped to make a contribution than he was as a rookie swimming in the details of the system. And while the Colts got an edge pass-rusher with their first pick in the draft (Jerry Hughes), it's the former CFLer Chick who could be the primary supplement to Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis early in the season. The Colts have some quality options in their D-line depth.

5. Special teams might have more resources: In his second season coaching Indy's special teams, Ray Rychleski should be better able to get his message through. He's surely tortured by the onside kick fiasco at the start of the third quarter of the Super Bowl loss. Now he's got some more dangerous return possibilities in Brandon James, Devin Moore and Ray Fisher, and a couple of rookie linebackers who could be coverage studs in Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner.

-- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN.com

Scouts Inc.'s Fabulous Five

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