Being a so-called Southerner is helping Indy’s cause


Geography as performed by the National Football League has been the most trustworthy ally the Indianapolis Colts have possessed over the past 12 seasons.

This isn’t to imply the AFC South promises nothing but cloudless skies, sandy beaches and umbrella drinks.

It is the highest level of football, after all. A sport played for generations by large, fearless men trained and padded to hit one another while moving at rapid rates of speed.

But the South, its other tenants being Jacksonville, Houston and Tennessee, is no perpetual typhoon warning, either.

The individuals who thought up the AFC’s four-division blueprint a dozen years ago should someday be revealed so that Colts owner Jim Irsay can send them fruit baskets every holiday season.

Maybe Irsay already does this. If not, he should.

When Indianapolis is good, motoring along like they are now at 8-4, it’s thought to be among the league’s elite. A power player rubbing shoulders with the likes of Seattle, Green Bay, New England, Baltimore and San Francisco.

When the Colts are noting more than a marginal product, they’re still considered, at worst, a playoff contender.

The division in which they compete plays a huge role in this thinking.

A football team has to toe the fringes of downright dreadful — see the 2-14 Manning-less 2011 Colts or basically any version of the Jaguars — to be excluded from postseason discussion.

In the South, it’s almost always Indianapolis’s lead being followed. This may or may not be the case if the Colts were part of any other of the AFC’s divisions.

After moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis prior to the 1984 season, the franchise averaged 6.7 victories per season through 2001, capturing two division titles along the way.

The Colts since relocating to the South — what about being smack dab in the middle of Indiana says ‘South’? — were averaging 11.1 victories with eight division titles prior to this season.

The arrival of Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James and Co. no doubt played a role in this discrepancy as these future Hall of Fame talents achieved their playing peaks performing primarily as an AFC South representative.

It was the perfect storm. An abundance of talent meets circumstance.

It’s here Irsay might consider shipping one of those yearly fruit baskets to the Texans, as well. For it was Houston jumping on board as an expansion team in 2002 that pushed the NFL franchise total from an awkward 31 to a very divisible 32.

Indianapolis takes an 8-4 record next week to Cleveland. The Colts will be favored, which in the NFL means absolutely nothing, particularly considering the Browns are embarrassed after essentially laying an egg in Sunday’s 26-10 loss at Buffalo.

Then it’s a home-and-home against Houston wrapped around a trip to Dallas to face the schizophrenic Cowboys.

If this were the old days, the pre-Texans days, pre-Jags and pre-Titans days, Indianapolis might instead be closing its regular season against New England, Miami and Buffalo.

Don’t know about you, but I’ll take things the way they are.