The Colts are two blown finishes from being 5-2. They’re two comebacks away from being 1-6. Every game has been down to the wire, each game within a touchdown at the 2-minute warning.
Call the Colts what you will, but don’t call them boring.
There’s a lot of good here. With Indy’s recent draft history and unassuming offseason the Colts shouldn’t really be in any postseason discussions this season, yet here they sit – seven weeks in, and only a game out of the division lead (and a game and a half out of the wildcard). The Colts looked their best against Tennessee; if they can carry that success back home, this team could realistically be above .500 going into the bye week.
Throw out Indianapolis’s record — something the AFC South certainly allows for — and you’re left with a middle-of-the-road team and point differential. But this is Good News Tuesday! So while the rest of Indy’s fanbase sadly wallows in memories of yesteryear dominance, just remember:
- Andrew Luck is having a career year, as pointed out in this column two weeks ago and, more recently, by people who actually know what they’re talking about at Pro Football Focus. They have Luck ranked ahead of every quarterback other than Tom Brady, despite playing against pass defenses ranked 4th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 13th in Football Outsider’s DVOA (the outlier is Detroit, a woeful 31st). He’s also doing it with Erik Swoope, Chester Rodgers, and Devin Street, while being hurried more than virtually every other quarterback in football; sound like anyone we remember?
- Indianapolis’s in-house pass defense has been something of a mess since the season started. But against Tennessee guys like not-injured Patrick Robinson and Darius Butler looked good playing alongside Vontae Davis. PFF ranked the former two first and second out of Indianapolis’s defensive players last week, as they held Marcus Mariota to under 200 yards before Tennessee’s final garbage-time drive.
- Adam Vinatieri and Pat McAfee are studs on special teams. More on the former in a moment, but McAfee put a number of punts inside the five yard line with more than enough time for his gunners to keep it from rolling into the endzone. They … have room to grow. But once the Colts get their punt coverage in check, McAfee’s numbers will really start to shine.
- Adam Vinatieri (2/2 FG, 4/4 XP). As numerous people pointed out on Twitter Sunday evening, Vinatieri’s NFL-record 43rd straight field goal was even more impressive after Chandler Catanzaro and Stephen Hauschka missed game-winning chip-shot field goals in Arizona. And here we are, trying not to take the greatest field goal kicker in NFL history for granted.
- T.Y. McGill (3 QB hits, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble). Everyone on Indy’s defense submitted a few terrible plays Sunday, but McGill turned heads in a good way with a hit on Demarco Murray in the third quarter — and later, when he effectively ended the game by breaking through a double-team and strip-sacking Mariota. After years of struggling defensive lines, Indy nose tackle and defensive end positions are probably their deepest on either side of the ball.
- Andrew Luck (27/39, 353 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs). Indy’s quarterback has five game-winning drives this season but will only get credit for three of them. If you’re anyone but Ryan Grigson, you probably think this team would be 0-7 without Luck. If you’re Ryan Grigson, you probably think this team would be 6-1 thanks to that sweet, sweet salary room.
- T.Y. Hilton (7 catches, 133 yards, 1 TD). Hilton’s stats don’t reflect how often he was held and jostled by Tennessee’s defensive backs all game. They also don’t reflect a 30-yard touchdown grab later in the game, negated by an illegal shift. What Hilton’s stats do reflect is his perfectly run post route and catch to put Indianapolis up 14-6 in the second quarter. The “key to stopping Indianapolis” in the second half, per CBS’s color guys: “Double-team T.Y.. Why aren’t they double-teaming him? Just double-team him on every play.”
- Jack Doyle (9 catches, 78 yards, 1 TD). Yes, Doyle should have had two touchdown catches Sunday. But he made up for a drop in the second quarter with gritty, determined play the rest of the game. He caught passes. He blocked well (see: T.Y. Hilton’s long touchdown). Doyle’s best play of the day came in the fourth quarter, when he came down with a tipped pass and was drilled by safety Daimion Stafford – before shrugging off the hit and throwing himself head-first past midfield. At this point, only his noticeably moustache-less upper lip is keeping him from true greatness.
Next Week: vs. Kansas City
Kansas City will be the best team to play Indy since Denver, but it’s probably unwise to assume the Colts will fold to superior talent. This is largely the same Indianapolis team who beat San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver in 2013, when those teams combined for a 38-10 record.
That same Indianapolis team was also defeated by Arizona, St. Louis, and Miami by a combined 63 points during the same year, a year none of those teams made the playoffs. This team is weird like that, okay?
Can the Colts beat the Chiefs? Kansas City’s pass defense is ranked sixth ove- oh, come on. Could they not match the Colts up with a single crummy passing defense? At time of writing, the Colts are set up to play no fewer than ten games against top-ten pass defenses. If Andrew Luck brings Indy’s pass-first offense into the playoffs with these receivers, against these defenses, he has a legitimate case for league MVP.