Since their stunning upset of the Green Bay Packers the Indianapolis Colts have been the subject of intensely positive media attention. Not only was the victory incredibly unlikely and a harbinger of Andrew Luck's future but it also had a bit of mythological heroism to it due to the recent announcement that head coach Chuck Pagano is battling leukemia. Everyone has portrayed Pagano as lying in a hospital bed, buoyed by his team's effort against the odds. Whether true or not Colts fans can agree this win is one of the most memorable since the 2007 Super Bowl win without exaggeration.
What does the win mean however? Is this a sign of a shocking run toward the playoffs or just another hill on the roller coaster?
While reviewing the games to date and more specifically the individual performances in those games some facts become evidently clear.
First, the Colts are an incredibly uneven team whose secondary is still a liability and whose offensive line is a disaster. Sending offensive lineman Seth Olsen to IR was one step short of putting him out to pasture which is what they should do. The performance of those two units is so distractingly bad that whatever positives the rest of the team manages are overshadowed by their blantant inability.
While that is somewhat debilitating for the Colts the good news is there are bright spots.
Reggie Wayne is playing like the best receiver in the league. Did anyone expect that? When he returned many hailed it as one last ride into the sunset, a chance to mentor younger players or perhaps a bit of insanity since he'd play for an awful team. It turns out that not only was Reggie more than capable of leading this team but he also was a bit smarter than the rest of us. It seems Wayne understood this team could actually complete a turnaround quickly enough to earn him another shot at a ring.
Another bright spot in the first four games is simply the fact that the Colts are competitive. Before the season I reviewed the schedule and came to the realization that no matter how bad the team was they had a shot to be 3-2 after the first five games. In reality that may happen and were it not for blown coverage against the Jaguars they may be sitting at 4-1. There's no way to see this as anything short of a stunning start for a team that has so many deficiencies.
Which brings me to my point: what is a realistic expectation for the remainder of the year?
The remainder of the year is absolutely loaded with winnable games. As we saw against Jacksonville the team isn't going to win all of those but looking ahead there's a chance that the Colts are in a spot to shock some people. Let's take a look ahead and see what the future holds.
The next five weeks for the Indianapolis Colts looks like a feast. The Colts face a reeling Jets team coming off a short week this Sunday, the Cleveland Browns who will be without their best cornerback in week 7, the Titans, the listless Dolphins and finally the Jacksonville Jaguars. While nothing is a given for the Colts it is entirely plausible that they win four or five of those games. While momentum is entirely overrated confidence is not. If the Colts pull out a win against the Jets their confidence level will skyrocket which will be a big boost as they work through the weak schedule.
In weeks 11 and 12 the team face stiffer challenges from the AFC East: New England and Buffalo. Counting on a win against either team would be foolish although the Colts proved against Green Bay they can be competitive and pull out a close win. The Patriots and Bills both feature a running game that should punish the Colts. I'm not expecting wins but if they manage to beat one of these teams I wouldn't be shocked.
After the Bills and Patriots they'll face the Lions whose pass-happy approach won't suit the Colts well. Like the prior two games I can't expect a win against Detroit. The good news is that Detroit isn't very good in pass defense so there is a possibility of a shootout. Expecting a young team to pull out a win in a game like that isn't high on my list of things to do often.
In the final four weeks the Colts have two very winnable games against Tennessee and Kansas City and also face the Texans twice. While that schedule certainly isn't a great way to finish there's a chance that winning those two games puts the Colts in a spot to live up to Merrell Hoge's prediction of a surprising turnaround.
Add all of that up and there's a chance this team doesn't win another game all year or they could go 9-7 and have an outside shot at the playoffs. While 9-7 seems optimistic it surprisingly also is a place where optimism and realistic expectations may collide. Unthinkable a few months ago to Colts fans this team may just be able to win 9 games.
The Jets game will be the telltale game. If they win on Sunday against a stumbling but still talented team, it will give them the swagger they need to beat their next five opponents. But it's also highly possible that they shot their bolt against Green Bay and won't have the game to beat the Jets. Then the rest of the season could be an unpredictable mess that exposes all their weaknesses. Hang on tight, Colts fans!
Perhaps I am just a Debbie Downer, but I don't think we get 8 wins. The Packers, we must admit, are not the same team that dominated last year, and place them more in the middle of the pack realm. The second half of that game was an awesome fluke. Wayne can't be open on every play for 2 quarters of every game (can he?). We still don't really have a second consistent receiving threat. We have no run defense (and eventually teams are going to just pound us into oblivion). We don't have good pass defense, especially our LBs and SS. The Jets just fought it out against the Texans, and they will be desperate for a W. I do not even want to watch Luck try to figure out Crennel's defense with KC (remember the way it stunned young Manning?). The Pats will destroy us, as will Houston (and I could see them both running up the score just because of the hatred toward the Colts). Detroit has Brandon Marshall, just bigger and better in Calvin Johnson. Miami is a sneaky good team right now and Reggie Bush could cause us headaches.
Of course, I also do not like all the positive attitudes because I am paranoid of you all jinxing us. So, yeah, maybe I'm just here to even things out a bit.
Personally, I'm still in shock that this team won the Packers game after trailing 21-3 at half. (Really, after that everything is on the table or off it... I have absolutely no idea.)
Don't get excited over one game. I live in Washington DC area and it sounds like the Redskins fans after the first game this year. The Colts have a long way to go I missed some of the game, but the refs threw us a bone with a PI penaly on Sam Shields. what exacly happen on the play? I'm still setting the bar low at 4 wins. I just want to see improvement every week. I'm actually watching college games for offensive linemen.
What would really help is if the TExans have the chance to throw us a bone in Week 17. They could have stuff locked up by then (especially if they beat Baltimore in two weeks, and NE later in the year).
I think 8-8 is a realistic goal. 9-7 is a possibility. Heck, 10-6 is a possibility. The AFC is wide open at the bottom. I think the Broncos will pull away (their schedule gets really easy after a really tough beginning), and the Chargers are a likely WC team as well due to the division and the schedule (still get 2 NFC South Teams). That 6th seed race is wide open. The Colts have a shot.
Yeah, this schedule looks better every week. A lot of teams that should be better are looking awful. The Bills, Chiefs, Titans and Jets should be better. I'm still trying to temper my expectations but it is hard not to be optimistic looking ahead.
The Jets have a terrible rushing defense, a totally inept offense, and are missing Revis and Holmes. Tebow might QB next week.
The Browns...well they're the Browns. Weeden has been decent but is still a rookie QB and that defense won't win any games either.
The Titans have the Talent but seem to be missing the intangibles. CJ seems like he just doesn't "get it" any longer.
The Dolphins are the least worst of the three bad teams in their division. Their offense has been surprising but they are still young. Still winnable.
The Jags had some reason to believe in Gabbert early on but those hopes are starting to fizzle out. Shoulda won that game at LOS but the Colts are improving with time while the Jags are not.
The Bills' offense can put up points but their defense has allowed three of the top four best QBR performances this season (Sanchez, Brady, and Smith).
The Lions are the best of the beatable teams and I think they can turn their season around. But they clearly have discipline issues.
The Chiefs look good in most places but QB. We could be facing Brady Quinn that week.
All the above teams are beatable. It is now feasible that the Colts could win 8 or 9 games this year. Any of these teams could look different when we face them but this young Colts team will continue to get better as the season progresses. I feel good about this year already. If they end up 6-10, I will not be upset or call this a bad season. But there is much reason to hope for better.
This is the sames Bills defense that has given up 1200 yards of offense and 97 points in the last two games right? Pardon me if I'm not considering them much of a test.
I have a little schedule pinned up to my office wall where I first marked my projected wins/losses for the season and then I've been marking actual wins/losses. I'm with you on a number of things. First, while I was sad that we lost the Jags game (that was totally winnable), we made up for it on the GB side, which I had marked as a L.
Going forward I have:
Jets - W, Browns-W, Titans-W, Dolphins-L, Jags-W, Patriots-L, Bills-L, Lions-L, Titans-W, Texans-L, Chiefs-W, Texans, L
If that plays out, and that's a very conservative record on my estimates, we end up 8-8. If we win any more than that, we're good!