Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s be honest and admit that the Indianapolis Colts haven’t had the best season. This hasn’t been the season that the fans had all hoped for. It’s been messy, rough and filled with injuries and unmet expectations. With all of its downs, there have been a few ups to note.
First of all, the Colts won the AFC South this year. They were the first team in the NFL this season to lock up their division. That’s a good thing. You can point out the fact that the Colts are in a weak and shaky division, but they aren’t alone. The New England Patriots in the AFC East could have had an easy road to lock up their division first. The floundering dolphins are the only team that might end their season above .500 and that’s surprising. If any team in the NFC North had been able to be competitive this year they could have locked up that division early.
Another positive is the Colts record against potential playoff teams. Against teams that are currently in the playoff picture, the Colts have won four out of six games. The two teams that they lost against, the Miami Dolphins and the Cincinnati Bengals, they wouldn’t potentially play until the third round if one of those teams makes it that far.
This last game was a boost of confidence for Colts players and fans alike. The defense played the way we’ve been expecting all season. Our running game was much better than it has been and was finally where it needed to be. The fact that the team was playing in Kansas City and in the cold made it even better. If the team that showed up yesterday shows up in the playoffs, then the Indianapolis Colts can compete with any team in the playoffs.
There is one upside that most people are overlooking. That upside is Andrew Luck.
Luck is only in his second season as a starting quarterback in the NFL. You couldn’t tell by watching him play or watching how he interacts with other players and the media He is a poised and mature athlete with a cool head. He is confident, even in very difficult situations. He has every right to be. He has piled up more comeback victories in two seasons than some quarterbacks have in their entire careers.
The problem Luck has is that he has always been compared to Peyton Manning. That’s not fair to him at all. He’s a different type of quarterback. His passing numbers don’t quite match up to Peyton’s first two years. His career numbers may not ever look like Peyton’s. That’s okay. He’s not Peyton Manning and this is nothing like the team of Tony Dungy. What you can do is compare Luck’s first two seasons with guys like Tom Brady and Drew Brees. One can argue that Luck is off to a better start than either of those guys. I don’t see anyone arguing that they won’t be hall of famers someday.
Another bright spot is that Luck is right in the middle of the pack. As far as statistics and ratings go, Andrew Luck falls almost dead in the middle of all of the quarterbacks. That’s not bad considering that in many of these categories he’s above solid veteran quarterbacks like Joe Flacco, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, Cam Newton and Jay Cutler. He’s far exceeding the other top quarterback that came in the league with him, Robert Griffin III. This is only the beginning. This quarterback has a solid work ethic and a desire to improve. He has the potential to become just as good as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in his own way with his own style.
This year he has already shown improvement. There is still one game to go so these numbers will change, but you can still compare. He has been sacked ten less times this season so far. That’s huge. Some may give credit to the offensive line for that, but the truth is that the offensive line has been worse this year than it was last year. Lucks ability to sense to pocket closing in and make smart decisions has improved. He has 22 touchdowns and has one game left. Last year he completed a total of 23 touchdowns. He’s on pace to improve there. His completion percentage has improved and his rating has improved.
These are all good things to look at. They are more impressive than they might seem. What the numbers don’t tell you is that he has had added pressure from the defense with a weaker offensive line and virtually no running game. He also lost Allen and Wayne due to injury and has been playing with no solid receivers. To be where he is in the mix of all the other quarterbacks and to have improved from last season all while dealing with the teams injuries around him is no small feat.
This is the type of quarterback you want leading you into the playoffs. He is determined and persistent. If there is a way to win, he’ll find it. That might be the best upside to this season so far.