Many believed that with a new coach (Chuck Pagano), new general manager (Ryan Grigson) and new quarterback (Andrew Luck), the Indianapolis Colts would be a rebuilding team in 2012. So much for that line of thinking. With eight Sundays in the books, if the playoffs started today, the Colts would be an AFC wild-card team. Playing in a relatively weak conference and facing a fairly favorable schedule, will Indy indeed make the postseason when all is said and done?
Colts' story is great, but defense will leave them shortI think the Indianapolis Colts' season is one of the great stories in the NFL. Their success is directly tied to Andrew Luck, who has been as good as advertised -- not just on the field, but as a leader off of it, too. The Colts' offensive line, which has played well this year, has been the biggest surprise to me. In a mediocre AFC, it's certainly possible for the Colts to sneak into the playoffs.
I still believe the Colts' defense is merely average, though, and that might do them in. The way this season is going, Indianapolis' showdown with the Miami Dolphins on Sunday might wind up determining a playoff spot for one of the participants. Ultimately, I think the Colts will come up short this year.
Dolphins will edge the up-and-comers in IndyThe Colts very much could make the playoffs, but the team that I think is more likely to see the postseason -- especially because of its schedule -- is the Miami Dolphins. They have to get past some rough patches -- they play the New England Patriots twice, visit the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick and host the Seattle Seahawks in South Florida -- but the way Miami has been playing, those opponents won't be able to afford an off day.
As for the Colts, they probably won't challenge the Houston Texans for the AFC South title, but they are going to push for a wild-card spot, with the Dolphins figuring to be their most likely competition. This week's game between Indianapolis and Miami could have a ton of meaning.
Colts have more weak spots than Luck can make up forIn Around The League's preseason "bold predictions" column, I wrote that the Colts would finish .500 or better but just miss the playoffs. I'm sticking to that.
This really is not a very good team. Andrew Luck is covering up a lot of holes and the defense still has major problems in the secondary. Indianapolis can continue to overachieve, but that will mean eight or nine wins and no playoffs -- because the Miami Dolphins will get in ahead of them.
Wild-card spots likely to go to better AFC competitionThe AFC is so watered down that virtually everyone is still alive in the wild-card chase. That being said, I can see virtually every one of the contending teams succumbing to a four-game losing streak at some point. No team is poised to take off and go on a run, and it looks like 9-7 is going to get someone into the playoffs. Will it be the Colts? Let's break this down.
The first wild-card spot should go to the Pittsburgh Steelers, which is not a great Steelers team by any means but does have enough leadership and talent to gut out 10 wins. The other wild-card team will most likely be the Cincinnati Bengals, a good squad that should be 5-2, but hit its bye week at 3-4 instead, thanks to some unforeseen problems. I think the Bengals spent their time off fixing defensive flaws and finding a way to run the football more effectively, helping them get back to being the tough out they were last year.
As for the Colts, yes, they have a favorable schedule, but they can lose to teams like the Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills just as easily as they can beat them. I can see Indianapolis doing the .500 dance well into December, but two games against the Houston Texans in the last three weeks will be their undoing. The Colts just have to pray that the Texans, having clinched everything by Week 17, will rest their starters the second time around. Right now, though, that's a tough way for Indy to end the season.