Many are now wondering if this Indianapolis Colts team is still a Super Bowl contender. They’re currently fourth in the AFC playoffs if they started today, and will likely end up there when the season ends three weeks from today. Most are counting the Colts out as a Super Bowl contender now with their recent shaky play.
My analysis — Don’t count them out yet.
Yes, Indianapolis is only 3-3 since their bye week after being 5-2 entering they week off. Yes, they only beat the Tennessee Titans twice and the Houston Texans once since then. Yes, they’ve yet to score a touchdown in the first half in nearly two months. But, don’t you get the feeling we’re going to see the old Colts once again after today’s 42-28 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals?
One thing that was lacking has been an offensive presence since the Denver Broncos game on Oct. 20. No one outside of T.Y. Hilton has stepped up since the Reggie Wayne injury during that game. I told you a few weeks ago why the struggles on the offensive side of the ball were happening — teams were stacking the box, blitzing more guys than normal while doubling Hilton, forcing Darrius Heyward-Bey to beat them. By him not getting open and dropping everything thrown at him when he does, it put the Colts in a tough position. It’s hard to protect Andrew Luck or open holes for a running game when you have six or more guys blitzing. Well, that may start changing again.
Prior to the Wayne injury, teams couldn’t do that to the Colts. They knew Wayne would burn them and when they adjusted on him, Hilton or Coby Fleener could hurt them downfield; that meant more guys would drop back into coverage, which set up the run.
This can happen again going forward with the big play today from Da’Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill. Maybe this is the motivation that the Colts need going forward and the production they’ve been waiting on. Both have big play capability, which opens up Hilton. Those three allow Fleener to be a receiver and not have to block so much, which gives Luck four primary options again. That, in turn, opens up a running game, which is something Indianapolis has been searching for. If Indianapolis gets this going and the secondary can step up again, then this is very much so a Super Bowl contending team.
Cornerback Greg Toler should return next week, as he was close to playing today, which would be a huge added bonus for them. They’ve been getting beat on quick routes, which won’t happen anymore, as Toler plays tight press coverage. If Indianapolis can get back to that press coverage, that will open up the pass rush, which gives this team a stout defense.
That’s why I’m not counting Indianapolis out yet. They can get hot at the right moment and make a run. They should win two of the last three games, and I can tell you a home playoff game in Lucas Oil Stadium will make them tough to beat no matter who they’re playing. They can still be a contender.
Eric Smith is the Colts Beat Writer for Rant Sports. He’s covered the team the past four seasons and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Colts. Follow him on Twitter @ericsportsguru