I've been sitting on this stat since the AFC Championship Game, and just didn't know what to do with it, so I might as well use it to start off the Colts' season preview:
It came from Albert Breer of the Boston Globe, and it's pretty telling: As they made their march to the Super Bowl last year, 21 of the Colts' 22 starters were players who had spent their entire careers with the Colts. (The one exception, defensive tackle Daniel Muir, spent just one season in Green Bay.)
Consistency and comfort in a system are reasons the Colts have been at the top of the NFL for such a long time...and why they should be back there in 2010.
The fact that the Colts want to lock up Peyton Manning and make him the highest-paid player in the NFL shows how committed they are to their guys. It's a formula that works in a town that has come to demand a lot from their football team - and has received a lot in return.
There are players that come and go within the Indianapolis organization, but the core is homegrown. And people slip in and out of that system without missing a beat - look at what Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie did last year when they were pressed into regular playing time. (Speaking of the receiving core, the Colts should be getting back regular production from Anthony Gonzalez, who was ready to take a starring role in the passing game last year before missing the season due to injury.) The same will be true this year as the Colts fill in some openings on the offensive line and in the secondary by diving deeper into their depth chart.
It's easy to forget in the good feelings surrounding New Orleans' Super Bowl win, but the Colts were 26 yards from a fourth quarter game-tying touchdown in the waning minutes of the Super Bowl. There's no reason why they can't be back there this year, and as the defending AFC champs, they are still a standard against which other contending teams should be measuring themselves.
The Colts will not be as dominant in the regular season as they were a year ago, so come the end of the year there won't be the distraction of an undefeated season, as there was in 2009.
But the Colts should still win their division, and as the Jets found out in the AFC Championship Game, the Colts are dangerous at home in the playoffs.
2010 Prediction: 11-5, tied for 1st in AFC South (division champs based on divisional record tiebreaker)