This season the Indianapolis Colts lost star quarterback Peyton Manning for the entire campaign, and the team won only two games, and ended up firing head coach Jim Caldwell. This article, however, imagines what would have happened if Manning did not miss the season with a neck injury, and had played in all 16 games for the Colts.
First, instead of finishing with a 2-14 record, the Indianapolis Colts would have finished the season with a 12-4 mark. I think that Indianapolis’ losses would have come from the New England Patriots, the Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, and the Houston Texans. Additionally, Manning passes for 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns, while only throwing five interceptions.
If, Indianapolis won those games, it would have changed the overall records of Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Atlanta, Jacksonville and Carolina. Due to the changes to overall records, the Playoff match-ups would have been different as well.
The No. 1 seed would go to the AFC East Champion New England Patriots (13-3). The No. 2 seed would go to the AFC South Champion Baltimore Ravens (12-4). The No. 3 seed would go to the AFC South Champion Indianapolis Colts, who had a 12-4 record, but would have lost a tiebreaker to Baltimore. The fourth seed would go to the AFC West Champions Denver Broncos. The two Wild Card slots would then have gone to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Houston Texans.
The NFC side would have stayed mostly the same with Green Bay being No. 1, San Francisco No. 2, New Orleans No. 3, New York No 4. However, the difference would be that Detroit would be the five seed and Atlanta would be the six seed.
Therefore, the AFC Wild Card Round would have matched up Indianapolis and Houston, and Denver would play Pittsburgh. Indianapolis would have beaten Houston once in the regular season, and the Playoff experience of Manning, Wayne and others on Indianapolis would have won this game, meaning Houston would still not have a Playoff win. Since Denver and Pittsburgh did really play each other in the Playoffs; I think the result would be the same with Denver beating Houston.
The NFC Wild Card Round would have matched up Atlanta playing at New Orleans, and Detroit playing at New York. I think that New Orleans would have gotten past Atlanta, and New York would have beaten the Detroit Lions.
The AFC Divisional Round would pit New England versus Denver and Baltimore versus Indianapolis. The NFC Divisional Round would pit Green Bay versus New York and San Francisco versus New Orleans. I think New England would beat Denver, and Indianapolis would get revenge for their regular season loss and beat Baltimore.
In the NFC, Green Bay still loses to New York, and San Francisco still beats New Orleans.
In the AFC Championship Game New England would face off against Indianapolis. It would have been a close game but New England would have edged out Indianapolis by a field goal. In the NFC San Francisco beats New York.
Therefore, in the end, my prediction for New England and San Francisco in the Super Bowl still happens.
Two other results of Manning playing during the season are, that with a 12-4 record, Indianapolis does not have the first round pick and cannot draft Andrew Luck and secondly, Jim Caldwell probably keeps his job as head coach.
This article was just for fun, but it makes you think about what could have been.