The time is now, the playoffs are here. What happens over the next four weeks or so will go a long way in determining how this year's edition of the Indianapolis Colts is remembered. Another postseason flameout and those 14 wins to end the season will be a fleeting memory and Bill Polian will be firmly in the crosshairs amongst fervent fans. Indianapolis' back-up quarterback, rookie draft pick, Curtis Painter, also will be roundly dismissed as a bust despite taking snaps in just two games. But it's the damage he's done by himself in those two contests that will be remembered more than anything.
Painter entered the Jets game with a lead handed to him by golden boy, Peyton Manning, and the rest of the starting unit, only to immediately fumble away the perfect season as the Jets returned the miscue for the go-ahead score. It was more of the same this week as he bumbled his way to finishing the regular season by completing eight-of-28 passes for 83 yards, two interceptions, a pair of lost fumbles and a sterling quarterback rating of 9.8. Yes, that's right, 9.8 and that's far south of even Raiders' wunderkind QB, JaMarcus Russell and in the ballpark of Ryan Leaf's career rating.
Painter might actually have a better future tending a White Castle drive-thru than finding NFL receivers open.
But as some Northview High School football fans might remember, Painter didn't do much to impress when he brought his top-ranked Vincennes Lincoln Alices to town to face the Knights back in 2003 as a high school senior. Bringing all the hype that goes along with a full-ride scholarship to play QB for Purdue the next season, Painter went out and promptly played much like he has the last two weeks for the Colts. Northview intercepted him three times, one by Austin Staley and one apiece by Matt McCluskey and Joran Ferris. Oh yeah, the Knights shut out Vincennes, 20-0 in that afternoon game. So at least the Bills and Jets can say they've got something in common with some good ol' Clay County football.
Painter not withstanding, the Colts must re-focus and get over the bitterness that comes with a competitor being told by head office brass to take a seat and let the scrubs erase your hard work done over four months. How difficult that may be remains to be seen, but as fans have seen in the past, there is little room for error in the playoffs. One "off" game and it'll be a very long rest of the winter because I don't foresee the Pacers paying me to watch any of their games and that's the only way that debacle of a team will get me to subject myself to that form of torture.
So with the playoff lineup set, in theory, there shouldn't be much standing in the way of a Colts vs. Chargers match-up for a Super Bowl berth.
That being said, anything can really happen with the Colts' homefield advantage throughout never looking better after that trip to snowy Buffalo on Sunday.
The wild card games look to be icy match-ups as the Jets face what should be a very angry Cincinnati squad that got pounded on primetime TV by the J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS, on Sunday. The Bengals will have questions at receiver after Chad Ochocinco (or is it Chad Johnson now after he was shutdown Sunday night?) injured his knee. How will Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez perform in his first postseason game? New York could have to win two games in six days, which isn't easy even with a veteran QB.
The other game features a Wes Welker-less Patriots team that even with Tom Brady and his three broken ribs, could struggle. The Baltimore Ravens have designs on a run, but have receiver questions of their own behind Derrick Mason.
So while the Colts and Chargers rest and watch the wildcard carnage, the question remains. Is Indianapolis good enough to overcome a hiatus that has spelled disaster in recent playoff seasons? Only time will tell, but this much I know, leave Painter in West Lafayette because even a one-armed Jim Sorgi has got to be better.