Top of Their Game

The Colts have sprinted to the best record in football behind a combination of precision offense and an eye-popping defense with seven stars 25 or under--and they aren't the only team riding a youth movement in a year when young and hungry is the surest ticket to the postseason
November 14, 2005

Now that Indianapolis has reinforced its AFC dominance by finally beating New England, the Colts are clear favorites for Super Bowl XL. Unlike their predecessors in Super Bowl V, these Colts won't have to rely on a last-second field goal to win. With Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James, Indy has the firepower to get past any opponent.

In the NFC romance says, Pick the Giants! Peyton against his little brother, Eli, would make for the most-hyped Super Bowl in history. The NFL would love it; TV would love it. What they'll get, though, is Jake Delhomme, Carolina's little-engine-that-could quarterback, who'll beat Eli, then thwart Dallas coach Bill Parcells in his bid to take a record fourth team to a conference title game. It's going to be a wild January--just not as personal as Manning versus Manning. Maybe next year.

Fearless postseason predictions:

AFC PLAYOFF TEAMS
East: New England (9-7)
North: Pittsburgh (11-5)
South: Indianapolis (15-1)
West: Denver (12-4)

WILD CARDS:
Cincinnati (11-5), Jacksonville (10-6)

WILD-CARD PLAYOFFS
New England 27, Cincinnati 24
Pittsburgh 16, Jacksonville 14

DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
Indianapolis 38, New England 20
Denver 17, Pittsburgh 12

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
at Indianapolis
Indianapolis 31, Denver 27

NFC PLAYOFF TEAMS
East: Dallas (11-5)
North: Chicago (9-7)
South: Carolina (11-5)
West: Seattle (11-5)

WILD CARDS:
Philadelphia (10-6), New York (10-6)

WILD-CARD PLAYOFFS
Dallas 20, Philadelphia 13
New York Giants 21, Chicago 10

DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
Carolina 20, New York 10
Dallas 23, Seattle 20

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME at Charlotte
Carolina 27, Dallas 17

SUPER BOWL XL at Detroit
Indianapolis 34, Carolina 24

PHOTOPhotograph by Damian Strohmeyer   FINALLY
Manning dissected the New England defense on Monday night, throwing three touchdown passes in a decisive 40-21 victory in Foxborough.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)