As we continue the final phase of the regular season, we continue to see a lot of different possibilities for our Indianapolis Colts. We see them turning the corner on the gameplan to a more pass relative offense and moving the ball more efficiently, yet not able to score touchdowns, just as we did in the first half at Cincinnati. We see the possibilities of a prolific aerial assault based offense, using recently activated receivers and others that have been down the depth chart, yet show their worth when given the chance to get going-as in the second half at Cincinnati and the first half of the Houston game. We are also continuing to see the line shuffling several different ways, with some resulting in better chemistry as of late; and others looking about as bad as you could imagine for having the sole goal of protecting our franchise quarterback.
We’re likely only two and a half weeks away from seeing how this will all play out in the Wildcard round of the playoffs- with higher seeding being attainable, yet not as likely. Because it’s a pivotal time of the season and since our Colts have been inconsistent to say the least, I’m going to go through some situations and expectation-based scenarios that I am interested in seeing over the next several weeks that could be the difference in heading to a Super Bowl and going one and done in the playoffs.
Road to the Super Bowl:
With the current AFC playoff picture being the Colts and 5 other “cold weather” teams, I am anxious to see how they will respond to going into Kansas City. Between the crowd noise adding to the playoff atmosphere, the weather as it is supposed to be in the 20’s, and possibly some snow in the forecast, this Sunday will be the second “cold weather” playoff team in the past three weeks. In my eyes, there isn’t any better way to go into the postseason by playing in the elements and on the opposition’s turf against Super Bowl contenders.
It is more than possible that the only home game for the Colts will be the Wildcard game. They’ll likely be traveling the rest of the way out, barring the #6 seed advancing to the AFC Championship. If the Colts remain at #4, the experience will be more than beneficial- especially if players on both sides of the ball can prove to be formidable in those elements. The defense will be given a huge test, as the Chiefs have averaged over 41 pts a game their last four contests, after being known as more of a “game managing” offense the majority of the season, and the Colts’ defense looked pretty bad in the cold at Cincinnati. Who will show up remains to be seen, but I am pretty excited to find out.
Once again this week, we heard all about how there are more injuries that may leave us with Samson Satele back in at Center, along the offensive line. Reitz has played pretty well, Xavier Nixon showed off some of his talents last Sunday, and Mike McGlynn proved he, and this line, is best with him at Center. Unfortunately, we just don’t have much say in the matter; and we’re likely going to be seeing this week in and week out as long as the Colts are still playing. Every week there are injuries along this line that are going to force some movements either to start the game, or at some point within the game.
I truly think that the best we can hope for is to see this group begin to mesh well when it counts the most, and that whoever may come in due to injury or just to spell someone can at least hold their own. We’re going to be seeing all of them along the line at some point throughout the remainder of the season, so we are left being hopeful and optimistic rather than determined to place the blame for the lack of production; as there aren’t going to be any other factors in their success outside of grit and desire as they head toward the stretch run.
Who’s our “clutch reciever” going to be?
Yes, T.Y. has shown us his amazing ability to stretch the field, whether it be down the seam or along the rail. But the fact remains, he has shown virtually none of that outdoors. He appears to be very “human” on grass, and has pulled a couple disappearing acts in a couple of games altogether. In my humble opinion, I really do believe he is best suited running drags, and skinny posts around the middle of the field. Not just for the sake of him getting open and being able to remain a factor in the offense, but to allow our bigger and stronger guys (Rogers and Brazill) to handle a lot of the 50/50 throws that come with lining up outside.
Whalen proved this past weekend that he is still very relevant in this offense and can be depended upon as a possession receiver to make that important 3rd down grab. Fleener didn’t have a catch Sunday, but has been Luck’s security blanket for the majority of the season throughout the growing pains of losing Reggie. He’s been pretty wonderful actually, catching nearly everything thrown his way since the San Diego game. He really has done it all this season to this point- and has quieted any whispers of him being a bust, hopefully for good!
While Rogers and Brazill are the least tested out of the bunch, they also show some high ceilings. They can both take contact and pick up some YAC, both have some great speed, and should have some major chips on their shoulders anxious to prove their worth to this orginization and the fans alike, as they have had some issues in their pasts that have either kept them from getting drafted (Rogers), or have them on their last chance to get it together and being on the verge of being cut at times (Brazill). So who’s our guy with big plays to come? Rogers is the sexy pick, but I’m going with Brazill. I believe we will see some great and truly “breakout” moments from him whether it be big scores, or clutch catches, opportunity is knocking on his door…loudly. He may never see a bigger stage if he doesn’t answer it.
In game coaching:
In closing, I feel that the “play not to lose” play calling deserves a word or two. I know it was Houston, I know it’s the gameplan, and I know it won’t work against playoff teams! In the first half Sunday, the play distribution was 22 passes (25 dropbacks) to 14 rushes (3 by Luck) and the halftime score was 20-3. The second half’s distribution was 10 passes to 21 rushes, which netted 3 points of offensive production. In the first half the Colts were 5/8 on 3rd down conversions, in the second half they were 2/7 with one of those coming via penalty. Look, I love the thought of the run game, I do. But THIS Colts offense absolutely needs to pass to win, period.
Not only do they need to pass, but they need to pass on first and second downs a lot more- just as they did in the first half against the Texans. With Andrew Luck it is all about his rhythm. If he doesn’t get into one, and they don’t pass much, when they do he won’t be as accurate- it’s just that simple. He went 4-10 for 22 yards in the second half Sunday, and not once in the second half did they pass on first down. Luck needs that. He’s a groove guy. Most importantly, our Colts need that!
Our Colts appear to be trending in the right direction, and outside of injuries, everything that this team is currently struggling with is very ordinary and fixable. They are only a very small hot streak away from making a deep playoff run. I can’t wait to see what they’re truly made of these next several weeks. It’s about to get interesting, ColtsNation. GO HORSE!
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Matt Danely @The_Blue_Shoe