It's a thought that Colts' fans want no part of; what their team will do when Peyton Manning is no longer behind center? The same way Green Bay Packers fans could not imagine their lives without Brett Favre at the helm, Colts fans may feel lost without Peyton. With the issues that have come up in recent years, it may not be too early for Indianapolis to start formulating a plan for the day that the best on field captain in NFL history is no longer directing the offense in Indianapolis.

Manning has shown that he is not a machine as injuries have become more frequent with age. His bursa-sac injury turned out to be more serious than anyone anticipated and now he is recovering from a neck issue. Peyton's contract is also a concern that will need to be dealt with once the lockout ends. There is no doubt that Jim Irsay will pony up whatever amount of money it takes to sign Manning and keep him with the franchise for the long haul. However, that contract will be expensive and as Manning's skills slowly deteriorate or injuries become an issue, the contract will weigh the team down.

It appears there could be a salary cap at around 120 million dollars once the lockout ends. Manning is already making near 16 million a season and could be seeking 20 million or more per year. The Colts already have holes in almost every area that need upgrading. Figuring out how to best spread out a franchises' money is hard enough for any NFL general manager. The task for Bill Polian will be much more difficult with one player taking up 17-20 % of the team's salary.

Add in the fact that Indianapolis has a below average rushing attack and a defense that strikes fear into no one and the Colts could be looking at hard times. Stalwarts such as Gary Brackett and Jeff Saturday will be facing the same challenges as Manning with each passing year. Joseph Addai cannot be counted on and Donald Brown is a great complimentary back, but nothing more. Reggie Wayne will be looking for a big pay raise while Austin Collie still needs to prove he can overcome his concussion issues.

The offensive line should be a priority to upgrade for head coach Jim Caldwell and company. A big reason that sacks are often avoided in Indianapolis is Manning's lightning quick release. Not only will protecting Peyton become increasingly important each year, but developing a line that leads to an explosive running game is imperative. Once Peyton begins to slow down, Indianapolis must be able to transition to a more balanced offensive attack. Barring the long odds of finding another incredibly durable quarterback, who happens to be one of the most accurate in the league and has the ability to become an on-field offensive coordinator, the running game will have to improve.

The run should be a primary concern on defense where Indy should look to add some beef to the defensive line. The Colts have not been ranked better than 24th against the run the last three seasons. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis should be able to continue leading the pass rush which will allow Polian to focus on stopping the run. Although, the arrest of youngster Jerry Hughes, who is being groomed to fill one of the defensive end positions, should be a concern as players with arrest records do not tend to last long in central Indiana.

These will not be problems for the 2011 season. The Colts bring back their veteran core and will have to fight off the Texans to take the division if Houston can play any defense at all. Then again, it seems that same sentiment is uttered every season with the Texans Jaguars, and Titans trading places. Each year, Peyton finds one way or another to lead Indianapolis to the playoffs and nothing about that will change this year.

The biggest mistake the coaches and executives of the Colts' can make is focusing solely on this season. They must begin preparing for the future when they won't be able to continually rely on their veteran core. There will come a time when Peyton Manning can no longer sling footballs with extreme power and accuracy while acting as the de-facto offensive coordinator. If the Colts are not prepared, dark days loom ahead.