There are any number of reasons why the Colts are currently 4-1 and one of the top teams in the AFC.
A surprising defense is one of the key reasons. The Colts' defense, specifically the secondary, has played extremely well over the last three weeks, especially at key times. The Colts have are just 16th in yards per drive, but are fifth in third down conversion percentage, eighth in turnovers forced per drive and ninth in points allowed per drive.
The Colts' running game is also surprisingly effective, currently ranking second in the league in running DVOA, something we never ever would have expected after the Colts' inability to run the ball last season.
T.Y. Hilton looks to be back, Reggie Wayne has been a possession monster and Robert Mathis is having one of the best starts to a season ever. Don't forget Cory Redding and Antoine Bethea as well, who have been the motors behind the defensive resurgence.
But there is one main reason why the Colts are legitimate Super Bowl contenders right now. One reason that branches over everything and makes it all come together as wins. He's the reason why the Colts allowed the greatest quarterback ever leave. And right now, you can't even be upset about that.
Andrew Luck is currently performing like a top five quarterback. It's his second year in the league.
He's breaking all the rules, all the traditional expectations for young quarterbacks. And yet, somehow, we're still overlooking it.
Andrew Luck is currently playing like the second-best quarterback in the AFC (a notch above Philip Rivers) and is one of the top seven quarterbacks in the league through five weeks.
The numbers bear it out: Luck is 7th in DYAR, 8th in DVOA, 4th in total QBR, 3rd in PFF's grades, 4th in EPA and 5th in WPA.
He's the most efficient scrambler in the NFL and he does things in the pocket that defy logic.
He has a QBR of 97.6 on third down, better than anybody else in the league. Yes, better even than Peyton Manning (90.2).
And he has the Colts at 4-1, with signature wins over two of the NFC's elite teams.
It is completely unprecedented. The rest of the young, impressive quarterbacks from last season have been emphatically left behind.
Through five weeks, Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in the league. Then you have Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Then there is Luck, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan all fighting to be included in the top five.
I'll take Andrew Luck, thank you.
Tom Brady? The lack of weapons hurts, but Brady isn't playing well right now. The elite, ring-toting Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco and Eli Manning (it's a disservice to mention Roethlisberger with those other two, but we're going with it)? A combined 3-11, and all three have looked downright bad.
Don't take this as a slight to the other members of the Colts. They've played better than most expected, as a whole. But the Colts are 4-1 because Andrew Luck is playing better than any second-year quarterback ever should.
Just how special it is to watch can't be overstated. We'll continue to praise other Colts, and they deserve that. But Andrew Luck is something else entirely.
Going from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck is, quite frankly, impossible.
The chances of one fan base having that kind of fortune are mind-blowing. Don't take it for granted. The Colts potentially went from one top five quarterback of all time to another. Yes, it's early, but what Andrew Luck has done in his first 21 games makes that comment completely believeable.
Ok, now go re-read those last two sentences.
That's crazy talk. Abso-freaking-lute crazy talk. You can't talk about a quarterback's potential for greatness like that after 21 games. You just don't do that.
Well I'm doing it.
Because I believe it.
I miss Peyton Manning sometimes. But man, oh man, I am all-in on Andrew Luck.
My advice is to keep this kind of talk quiet, except in NSA safe houses and secure online boards. The walls have ears and it's gonna generate a lotta hate. It was interesting how much it generated a year+ ago when every jealous NFL fan out there ragged on us for sucking for Luck so we'd go from one HOFer to another. BEFORE LUCK EVER PROVED ANYTHING IN THE NFL. I mean, jeez, people, get a grip. But you know what?
Turns out they were right.
But gloating is never attractive. So let's find something to criticize. Exhibit A: The neckbeard. Dude, I've got a razor with your name on it. Exhibit B: His weird, Euro-centric predilection for soccer. Highly suspicious. Possibly even subversive. And finally, C: The autographed photo of Bob Kravitz he has hanging on his bedroom wall. Man, I hardly know where to start, but that's just wrong. Not even a single dart in it (yet).
I, too, am all in on Andrew Luck. He is incredible, not just his talent, but the way he has handled everything. As a Colts fan, I feel extremely blessed. (And despite what all the national media was trying to convince everyone of last year, my eye test always told me #12 was by far the best of the new wave.)
But I miss Peyton Manning EVERY single day.
The Colts offensive line is ordinary. (That's not really a knock; they're simply still trying to put all the pieces together there.) They do run-block well... out of passing formations.
Which means that they only ever really get to show off their run-blocking acumen when Donald Brown is taking the handoff. Because when TRich is running, he's doing so against 9 men in the box, because our 2TE-FB package that he's on the field with telegraphs the play call to the defense, every single time.
If TRich continues to run out of that absurd strategy, I'm not going to hold anything against him this year.
(Yep; I'm a homer. But I was a Donald Brown fan from day one, and I'm a TRich fan from day one. It's not his fault that Pagano/Pep are mis-using him.)
Peyton's year, at age 37, should put to rest forever all these GOAT questions. 18 is #1, period.
But as you say, Luck makes it easy on us. We can root for the Colts and have a puncher's chance against any team in the league while Peyton shreds the record books and FINALLY gets the credit that we were all labeled as homers for heaping upon him when he was in blue and white.
I couldn't agree more with you Kyle. He has come well prepared to succeed in the NFL because Stanford with Pep played a pro style offense (West Coast), If I am not mistaken.
I admit to a torrid man-crush as well. His is the only NFL jersey I own. I've never been able to justify the $200 price tag before last year.
Nice work Kyle. I've noticed Mike Wells over at ESPN, Kravitz at the Star and others are writing just this today as well. Seems you aren't alone in your assessment.
Yup ... Luck is amazing ... Has been for years! He was under hyped coming into the NFL. Glad to have so much company on this bandwagon.
But one really great thing about this franchise at this time is that they are building a solid team around him, defense, running game, special teams ... It's not just a QB and receivers. That's wonderful for everyone ....
To my surprise, some people seem to remember my comments ... and those folks know I'm a Stanford fan. I was also a Colts fan before many of you were born ... From Ted Marchibroda's first term as head coach in Baltimore. So ... I'm thrilled the Colts got Andrew ... And thrilled with how they are building a great team and a complete team around him ...
Great stuff, Kyle ! I, believe it or not, have been saying the same since half way thru 2012. Peyton only has one SB ring, and I attribute that to consistently deficient squads around him, and key players curling up and disappearing in the post season when play got really physical.
This era of Colts football, at Jim Irsay's insistence, features a balanced roster with talent in all three phases. In other words, this team is built to make a playoff run. This year !
But, as you wrote, Andrew is the fulcrum. The absolute driving force, but he doesn't have to do it all alone. I wonder what the weather will be like in New Jersey in early February 2014 ?
I bring this up just because they are who we are facing next, but Philip Rivers has a good argument for #2 in AFC above Luck. I don't have PFF premium stats, but he's way ahead in both DYAR and DVOA. Rivers has a lead of 658 to 244 in DYAR and 35.9% to 9.3% in DVOA. QBR is close but Rivers is slightly ahead there.
We can't even use the talent around him angle because Luck has better talent around him with Malcolm Floyd out for the year. Rivers' resurgence is one of the more under reported stories this year (he's hurt by going 2-3, but one loss was a hail mary, the other was a fluke collapse against Houston). It's close, I would put Luck 3rd after Rivers and Manning, who is basically playing a different sport.
The good news is Rivers is past his prime. There is no one in the AFC with the possible exception of Ryan Tannehill that is under 30 and close to Luck's ability. That is the best part. Come 2016, Peyton, Brady, Rivers, Ben, Schaub will be gone, and the only people that can match up to Luck aren't in the NFL right now.
I think the 2nd ranking for DVOA is a bit misleading going forward. 2 of the RBs that contributed to that are now on IR, and Richardson is not good. Brown is a ridiculous 65% but obviously hasn't been used enough to rank in the top. He does, however, contribute to the team total as does Luck. I have a feeling our DVOA is going to drop to around average, or worse, over the course of the season unless Richardson really becomes more effective running the ball.
@naptown_ninja Very much agreed. He might have even more gaudy traditional stats (yardage and TDs) but lower efficiency/advanced stats. More highlight reel plays, fewer wins.
@DougEngland Boy your last sentence. I find myself smiling when I watch Peyton play. Just great. Seeing him run a naked bootleg in for a TD (after he slid on the Raiders naked bootleg years ago). It's like I can watch him and root for him while not worrying about if he loses.
I am conflicted on the Broncos Colts game. I want Peyton to have another ring. For the Colts to pull a win out would be astounding and would not hurt the Broncos getting into the playoffs much, so maybe that's okay as well.
I don't think he'll retire a Colt, honestly (ye olde sign him for a day ploy). I think there's some unhappiness there between Irsay and Manning. And Irsay seems like a guy who's cool to have a friend, until you see him as an enemy and then hate his guts for the same things that made him cool as a friend.
@chip_bennett Agreed. Brown is a specific tool that we need to use in a specific way. And man can he turn on the jets in the open field. And he blocks pretty well, though people focus only on his missed blocks. Addai used to whiff blocks (important ones!) as well.
I'm wondering why Pagano doesn't see that if he disguises the run, TRich does well. Maybe he has a chip on his shoulder and really wants to pound the yards even when the D knows what's coming? if so, that would be pretty darned selfish.
@dmstorm22 I would have agreed with you until this past week.
@dmstorm22 Luck as the third best QB in the AFC? That's just crazy talk
@Payton He will, much more effective in fact. Take that to the bank (my predictions are worth actual currency in some countries).
Well, I'm sure they all see what is happening with each formation. Pep is calling those plays, not Pagano, and it really does make me crazy, really. I try to keep in mind that part of the philosophy is that body blows pay off down the line ... You may get a yard or two in the first quarter, but by the 4th quarter, the same plays are getting 4 or 5 or more. Plus if you seem to be telegraphing plays, then you can really fool teams when you don't do the obvious. So, it makes me crazy too ... But I try to believe they know what they are doing ... And based on the SEA game in particular, it seems like they might.
But, I didn't disagree with the bit about TRich's relative success out of the different formations or about TRich vs Brown ...
Try not to be so frustrated. I think it may work out fine over time ... TRich and the coaches seem to think things are progressing ... I think the coaches are really smart and will figure something out. And if it does or doesn't ... it won't help your health or the situation to get so frustrated. Why not give it a few more weeks at least.
Have a nice day ...
I'm sure I'm not exactly correct. I never am. (My wife will confirm.) But about TRich's relative run success out of run vs. pass formations/packages, thus far his run statistics corroborate what I'm saying.
I'm not trying to be argumentative; I am frustrated by TRich being denigrated (already) due to something (YPC) outside of his control - just as I am frustrated by the Colts' ridiculous "power run" offense that puts a FB on the field and keeps one of the most dynamic WRs in the game, TY Hilton, on the bench.
I posted the previous game's run statistics in a previous post. Until the 4th quarter, game-sealing drive, TRich ran exclusively out of a "power run" formation - and was consistently stuffed, to the tune of 1.1 YPC. He didn't have any success until he started running out of passing formations.
Likewise with Brown: he ran exclusively out of passing formations.
Again, I'm really not trying to be argumentative; but those points are not really debatable. They're available in the play-by-play information.
But the point is: there's really no evidence that the "body blows" theory holds water.
I really wonder *who* exactly is calling the plays. I originally pegged it as all being on Pep; but especially given Pagano's continual "run to win" comments, I have to think that he's having an influence as well. I think the "power run" formations are more in line with Pagano's philosophy. I suspect that Pep would be more willing to spread out the formations - and the ball - a bit more.
So, I'm sorry if my comments came across as argumentative toward you. They weren't intended to be. I'm frustrated by TRich doom-and-gloom, and what appears to me to be our coaches hamstringing our offense.
You aren't exactly correct, aren't responding to what I actually said and/are contradicting what you said ... Depending on which point (yes, some of what you said responds to some of what I said, but out of the context of the other things I said, eye.). Feel free to argue if it makes you happy ... But you just seem to be tying to argue rather than actually have a discussion, so I'm not interested ... And I was responding to buymymonkey's comments, not yours .... Which might be why the comments aren't meshing.
"You may get a yard or two in the first quarter, but by the 4th quarter, the same plays are getting 4 or 5 or more."
Except that, when TRich was getting 4-5+ yards per run, he was running out of shotgun/passing package/formation, and when he was getting 1 ypc, he was running out of 2 TE/FB run package/formation. I contend that it was the change in personnel/formation, and NOT the "body blows", that led to TRich's 4th quarter run success.
"Plus if you seem to be telegraphing plays, then you can really fool teams when you don't do the obvious."
But the Colts aren't doing that. Brown runs out of pass, and TRich runs out of run, and the twain almost never meet. And besides that: any time a FB is on the field, a (far) more talented player is sitting on the bench. The Colts will *always* be more successful on offense when they keep their most talented offensive skill players on the field.