They're a joke without quarterback Peyton Manning — who has become the first subject of a half-serious MVP campaign due to his spot on the bench — and that point was driven home by Sunday's 62-7 loss to the Saints. There was no question that they had given up in New Orleans, and the fight they showed in their previous six losses (four of which were decided by one possession) had disappeared.
That could have been a season-turning loss. The seventh defeat gives them virtually no chance of making the playoffs, and with three of their next six games against the Falcons, Ravens and Patriots, the Colts will be in line for a further series of blowouts.
And without hope, there's simply no reason for Manning to return to the field.
As things get worse, you've got to wonder how seriously the Colts would entertain a run at Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck if they had the opportunity to draft him with the No. 1 pick. Manning, who will turn 36 in March, figures to have some more great football left in the tank, but this could also signify a major transitional era for Indy.
Manning is locked up through 2015, but wide receiver Reggie Wayne, center Jeff Saturday, defensive end Robert Mathis, defensive tackle Eric Foster, wide receiver Pierre Garcon and wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez will all be free agents after this season. Defensive end Dwight Freeney and wide receiver Austin Collie will be free agents after 2012.
Though Manning can make the difference between a terrible team and a very good one, there's no guarantee that he'll have some of his running mates with him next season.
The Colts, despite giving Manning a contract extension this summer, could view this as an opportunity to blow it up and target Luck, who could take over for Manning immediately or after a year or two.
It would be a cold way for Manning and the Colts to break up, but the organization shouldn't hold onto a long-term relationship if it sets them back for an extra few years once Manning's skills wane. Or, the Colts could ignore Luck altogether, trade the top pick for a haul and re-sign some of their own free agents with the hope that they'd return to the contender they were before Manning's surgery.
Either way, their contention for Luck's services is unavoidable. The Colts have almost no chance to turn this thing around this season.
Let's take a look at the frontrunners in the "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes. The Broncos, Panthers and Jaguars dropped out of this edition by failing to suck less than their Week 7 opponent and earning their second victories of the season.
Colts (0-7): This isn't like Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. When Rodgers left college, there was no guarantee that he'd succeed in the NFL. Luck is a surefire prospect who will take over for Manning at the first opportunity.
Dolphins (0-6): There's some fear that Luck will pull an Eli Manning maneuver by forcing a pre-draft trade if the team with the top pick is too dysfunctional for his liking, according to NFL Network. While the Dolphins are an absolute disaster right now, they've got some tradition, and they're in a superstar-driven city. When it comes to teams contending for the first pick, Luck could do worse than Miami.
Rams (0-6): Hey, at least this one wasn't on Sam Bradford, who missed the loss in Dallas with a high ankle sprain. If the Rams wind up with the No. 1 overall pick, they'll be able to trade it for at least two first-rounders and probably a lot more. Forget "Suck for Luck." In St. Louis, it should be, "Fade for the Trade."
Vikings (1-6): Rookie Christian Ponder did some pretty nice things and nearly led the Vikings to a surprising upset of the undefeated Packers. That's all Ponder needed to do to earn the good graces of the Minnesota faithful for a little while.
Cardinals (1-5): Six games into quarterback Kevin Kolb's Cardinals career (and five-year, $62 million contract), there's already talk of benching him. It would be relatively stunning if that happened this season, but if Kolb leads them into Luck territory, you better believe they'll make a play for him.
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