On the edge of perfection

To be perfect or not to be, that is the question that plagued the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans when they met in Houston’s Reliant Stadium on Sunday. The Colts are currently the National Football League model of perfection, possessing a 6-0 record coming into Sunday’s match-up. Meanwhile, the Texans are the NFL’s best imitation of organized chaos, owning an imperfect 0-5 record.


The game itself wasn’t intended to be competitive. Indianapolis proved victorious by a score of 38-20 and dominated all aspects of the game after a first half that ended with the teams deadlocked at 14. Intrigue rests not in the on-field antics of this game but in its ramifications. Both teams walked off the field preserving a zero in their record, a feat unique to these two squads. This sets the stage for a potentially historic NFL season where a team could finish undefeated and another winless.


Perfection occurred for the first and only time in 1972 when the Miami Dolphins had an unblemished regular season, later beating the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl. However the Dolphins only ended up with a total of 17 wins because when they accomplished this feat the regular season was only 14 games long. Currently teams must win 16 regular season games, then two playoff games and be crowned Super Bowl champions to be deemed perfect, increasing the total number of wins to a difficult 19 games.


Since the Dolphin’s perfect season in 1972 no team has ever ended the regular season undefeated, though a few have been extremely close. Two teams have challenged this record in recent memory. The 1998 Minnesota Vikings and the 1985 Chicago Bears both concluded the regular season with a 15-1 mark. Each year after the last undefeated team losses the remaining Dolphin players from the prefect season celebrate. Will the Dolphins hold their annual celebration this season?


No, although the Colts’ remaining schedule is going to be very difficult they will be able to persevere. Remaining games include match-ups against the Bengals, Chargers, Steelers and Patriots. The contest with the Patriots is at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, where the Colts have failed to win in what seems like an eternity, seems a lot easier this season with a pedestrian Pats team hindered by the injury bug.


Nevertheless, if any team is capable of finishing a season perfect the Colts are the team to do it. For several years they have had a potent offense utilizing their repertoire of offensive talent. The big three – quarterback Peyton Manning, running back Edgerrin James and receiver Marvin Harrison – have led the team into the playoffs for three straight years. However, the Colts have lacked the defensive presence to prevail in the playoffs, always coming close but never ascending to the Super Bowl. This season they have significantly improved their defense and no longer rely on the offense to carry them to the Promised Land.


Barring severe injury the Colts possess all the necessary pieces to run the table and conclude the regular season undefeated. Finally, they are considered a two-dimensional team. They have a respectable defense that isn’t merely trying to give the offense ample time to catch its breathe before the shootout resumes. Actually having a defense could prove to be the difference down the stretch and into the playoffs for Manning and company. They no longer have to worry about scoring 40 or more points to secure a victory.


Experience is another key component. The nucleus of this team has been together for many years and knows how to play as a cohesive unit. This is imperative in close playoff games in the fourth quarter because a team must execute flawlessly, and being more familiar with a teammate’s tendencies could mean the difference between a touchdown and an interception. This is why the Colts will ride off into the sunset the second team to complete a perfect season, except they will win two more games.


On the other hand, the Texans could potentially complete the season without a win. This feat hasn’t been accomplished since 1976, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished their first season 0-14. It is fair to say that the Texans are everything that the Colts are not. So far the Texans have lost six games this season. In each game the losing deficit was double digits and their worst loss was to Seattle last weekend by a demoralizing 32 points. This lack of competitiveness doesn’t just stem from one complication. Houston suffers from a variety of complications that hinder the team’s overall performance.


The Texans rank 32nd in the NFL in total offense, dead last. Houston may have the worst overall offense but they do have some players with potential. Quarterback David Carr and running back Dominick Davis are both extremely gifted players but they suffer from a lack of a supporting cast. In particular, the offensive line has been a point of emphasis for the poor results this season. Injuries have caused Dom Capers to shuffle the line, resulting in missed assignments and Carr taking unnecessary hits, forcing him to make ill-advised passes.


A lack of leadership is apparent in Houston. Naturally they expect Carr to be the leader of the team, except he isn’t physically or mentally ready to lead this team. This leaves the Texans in a quandary with no leader and not enough talent to contend with other franchises.


Already the Texans have lost six games and are mired in an AFC South conference that includes superb teams such as Indianapolis and Jacksonville. Though the upcoming weeks may not look encouraging for Houston there are a few winnable games remaining on their schedule. Match-ups with San Francisco (1-5), Tennessee (2-4), and Arizona (2-4) await the Texans. Houston should be able to defeat at least one of these teams, failing to join the 1976 Buccaneers in the dubious winless club.


Both the Colts and Texans have the potential to make this a landmark season for the NFL. If Indianapolis can continue to win and Houston can persistently find a way to lose games by double digits, this season will be one to remember. Although both of these achievements, a term used very loosely in Houston’s case, will not transpire this year. Houston will most likely pick up a victory in San Francisco in their season finale.


Conversely, Indianapolis has an opportunity to make history and a very promising one at that. They meet the criteria for a team capable of a perfect season and they have a favorable schedule with some of the AFC’s best teams beginning to falter. Look for a perfect ending for the Colts, winning the Super Bowl in flawless fashion. Also look for a late season win in San Francisco or against Arizona by the Texans. Adding an imperfection to this perfectly historical season.