What? What? What? Finish with a winning record, make the playoffs, re-establish their dynasty? Maybe yes to the first two, at least, and let’s not get ahead of ourselves on the third, but to have a dynasty you need a dynastic franchise quarterback, and Andrew Luck DID just set the rookie record for passing yards in a game.
Looking at the Colts’ path to the promised land, it is easier than you might think, and it is nowhere near removed from the realm of possibility at this point.
Indianapolis is enjoying a resurgence at the ideal time. The AFC is down. They are, in fact, the ONLY over .500 team that isn’t a division leader right now, which puts them on track for the 1st wildcard spot. They now own the tiebreaker over Miami, who sits a game behind. The Jets and Tennessee are 2 and 2.5 games off the pace, respectively (and the Colts get another crack at the Titans). Pittsburgh isn’t going away and neither is San Diego, but neither of those teams is up to their usual snuff, especially the Chargers, and both have tougher schedules ahead (including playing each other).
The Colts, meanwhile, probably have to play .500, no better, to make the playoffs. That would finish them up at 9-7 and that’s probably going to be good enough. They get Jacksonville again, and it’s hard to imagine they’ll lose twice to the Jaguars. They get the Chiefs too, and it’s hard to imagine ANYONE losing to the Chiefs at this point. That’s 2.
They get a rematch with the Titans as well, and while Tennessee has managed to scratch out some wins this year, including an earlier meeting with Indy, they also seem to get blown out with regularity. I think Indy can win the rematch there, especially because they’re at home. That’s 3, they need one more. Let’s assume they can’t beat the Texans, who they still have to play twice.
Let’s also assume they lose to the Patriots, although New England has blown some games you wouldn’t expect this year. The remaining two games are Detroit on the road and Buffalo at home. I think they beat the Bills, and that will be good enough to get it done.
And what of Andrew Luck?
Is he going to be that franchise QB that makes this season for the Colts the harbinger of good things to come or will this just be another team that snuck in feasting on a last place schedule. Luck’s numbers aren’t as good as you might think. He’s posted a passer rating of just 74.6, and his TD to INT numbers are lackluster – 8 of each.
But he was stellar this week against a very good Miami defense, and he hasn’t been flat-out bad in a month, since the 35-9 debacle against the Jets. Moreover, Luck seems to have a field presence and leadership that the great ones all have, and you know he’s got the arm. Maybe the Colts will get him a running game for Christmas (well, NEXT Christmas anyway).
Luck’s got nothing to do with it. OK, actually Luck has everything to do with it.
The Colts aren’t the only team that has played their way back into contention. Tampa Bay, Seattle and Detroit have all made a move in the NFC, gunning for that remaining wildcard spot (you can BANK it that the first spot will go to Green Bay, assuming they don’t catch and pass the Bears), but the NFC is crowded, and has more good teams and fewer bad ones.
By contrast, the Colts can just be average and get in, and if they do, don’t be surprised if Andrew Luck saves his best for last.