Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Do the Indianapolis Colts look like a team that is poised for the NFL playoffs? The question isn’t about them getting into the playoffs. Chances are they’ll get into the playoffs. By sweeping the Tennessee Titans for the season they have almost locked in their spot at the top of the AFC South. For the Colts to lose the division they would have to lose all four of their final games and the Titans would have to win all four of their final games. Even then, with a weak AFC, the Colts might be looking at a wild card spot.
The real question is about the potential playoff performance that we might see. The Colts haven’t looked that good lately. In fact they haven’t looked all that good most of the season.
The Colts started the season with a sloppy comeback win against the Oakland Raiders. That was followed by a loss to a weak Miami Dolphins. The Colts had a stretch of solid games against the San Francisco 49ers, Jacksonville Jaguars and the Seattle Seahawks. Week seven was an impressive win against the powerhouse Denver Broncos, but that was a sloppy game that ultimately saw the end of the season for Reggie Wayne.
Since the week eight bye the Colts have struggled to play solid football from all angles. They’ve definitely struggled to play solid football for a full four quarters.
Many people blame the injury of Reggie Wayne for the significant drop in the Colts performance. The truth is that you can’t honestly blame that loss. The passing game isn’t hurting as much as most might think. Andrew Luck was averaging 225 passing yards a game with Reggie Wayne in the game. Now that Wayne is out, he is averaging 243 passing yards a game. That’s an increase in yards, not a decrease. His touchdown per game average has dropped less than half a touchdown a game. That’s not significant enough to blame the absence of a powerhouse wide receiver for your offensive woes.
The loss of the running game has hurt the Colts more than the losses to the passing game. Vick Ballard was out after the first game of the season which left the share of the rushing to veteran Ahmad Bradshaw. With Bradshaw in the Colts as a team were averaging 120 rushing yards and 1.5 rushing touchdowns a game. Since Bradshaw’s injury the Colts have only averaged 86 rushing yards and 0.7 rushing touchdowns a game.
Prior to Bradshaw’s injury the Colts had scored at least one rushing touchdown in each of their games. Since his injury they’ve played in four games where they scored zero rushing touchdowns. That includes the game against the Houston Texans who at the time had one of the worst rush defenses in the league.
The bottom line is that the Indianapolis Colts have a struggling and injured offense. There are so many offensive injuries that it’s difficult to break down the impact of only one missing player. The defense is struggling but not because of injuries. They simply aren’t playing up to the level that everyone expected this year. Many of the veterans aren’t stepping up the way that they have in the past.
With so many problems in the passing game, virtually no running game and a defense that doesn’t seem to be able to play as one unit for an entire game, the outlook isn’t good.
The good news is that the Colts have Andrew Luck who has proven to be a versatile quarterback, a hard worker and a determined leader. He has the potential to lead this team in the midst of so many missing parts. Another piece of good news is that the running game looked slightly better in last night’s victory over the Tennessee Titans. With the switch to Donald Brown over Trent Richardson as the feature back, the Colts may have found a combination that will work for them in the absence of Bradshaw and Ballard.
Finally, it may be possible for the defense to step up their game. With the veteran leadership on the defense the team may be able to pull things together for a strong playoff run.
The season most definitely isn’t over, but if the Colts hope to do some damage in this year’s playoff run, they have a mountain of work in front of them. Hopefully they have all the right pieces in place to get the job done.