On Thursday night the Indianapolis Colts controlled the Jacksonville Jaguars to improve their record to 6-3.
Even if it was against the hapless Jaguars, beating a team on the road with only four days rest is pretty impressive.
The 2011 Colts were the NFL's version of a dog that's so ugly it's cute, but in 2012 they have made a complete turnaround.
Coming into Thursday's game the Colts were 3rd in the AFC in total offense, and 7th in total defense. After their 2011 season, it isn’t easy for people to buy Indy as the real deal but here are some reasons why believing in them isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds.
The AFC has no dominant teams: The 7-1 Houston Texans are most people's favorite to win the AFC but of their seven wins, only two were against winning teams. The Colts have just as many. Houston faces a tough test this week in Chicago which could very well leave them just one game ahead of Indianapolis in the South.
The Texans are a legitimate AFC favorite but they have yet to prove they’re dominant or even that they can stay healthy.
They still have five games left against winning teams compared to three for the Colts. And Houston’s key offensive players, Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, rarely go entire year without being on the injury report.
There are no rough stretches left in their schedule: Building chemistry and confidence is key for a team that is trying to turn the corner.The Colts have a few tough games left but each one is followed by what should be an easy win.
Their remaining schedule is as follows: at New England, Buffalo at home, at Detroit, Tennessee at home, at Houston, at Kansas City, Houston at home. If Indianapolis takes care of the weaker teams, they won't lose two in a row for the rest of the season.
They keep getting better: The Colts are not only much improved from 2011, they are much improved from Week 3 of this year. When they lost at home to Jacksonville the term “rebuilding year” was involved with almost every conversation about them.
Now after dominating the Jags on Thursday night, they have won four in a row, and are on pace to make the playoffs. If Indy can make the same strides from Week 10 to 17, that they made from Week 3 to 10, look out.
Andrew Luck is a winner: With some help a game-managing quarterback can get you to the playoffs, but winning in the playoffs is a different story. The last nine Super Bowls were won by teams with a quarterback that can take over a game (Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tom Brady).
In his rookie season, Luck has already proven he can take over of a game. Coming into Thursday, he was leading the AFC in total yards and had broken the rookie record for passing yards in a game the week before. His signature win was in Week 5 against the Packers. Luck threw for 362 yards, two TDs, and ran for another to help bring his team back from a 21-3 halftime deficit.
Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, and Mark Sanchez all made the AFC Championship game in their rookie seasons. None of them were nearly as impressive in their rookie campaigns as Luck has been so far. Don’t be fooled by the rookie label, Luck has been building a legitimate case for MVP.