The Indianapolis Colts are in the top class of the NFL, no doubt. But looking at the schedule they've faced so far, one might say their stats a bit inflated. Here is a week by week analysis of their schedule so far:
Week 1 Vs. Jacksonville (W 14-12): We all know how bad Jacksonville is against the pass, and rightfully so. Peyton Manning was 28/38 with 301 yards, a TD and an INT. Indy only rushed for 71 yards combined and a TD from Addai. The surprising fact is the final score, 14-12. As Indy produced a ton of yardage but only two TDs against a terrible pass defense.
Week 2 @ Miam (W 27-23): Miami is the best running team in the league. And that great rushing attack kept them in the game until late in the 4th quarter when Peyton Manning led a TD drive to win the game. The final score was 27-23 behind Manning's 14/23 for 303 yards and two TDs. The rushing attack was again mostly absent as the team combined for only 61 yards and a TD. Miami on the other hand had a whopping 239 yards rushing while Pennington passed for 183 yards on 22/33 passing with an INT. Miami had this game in hand but seemed to squander too many opportunities. They outgained the Colts 403-356, had nearly twice as many 1st downs (27-14) and owned Time of Possession and total number of plays. What this points to is a suspect Miami defense and an offense that couldn't convert in the redzone.
Week 3 @ Arizona (W 31-10): This game was the first of four straight blowouts, which is why the Colts come in looking as impressive as they do. This game was before Arizona had righted their ship and the Colts just seemed to catch them at the right time. As we Niners fans know based on the fact that even Shaun Hill did well against them, their pass defense is also very suspect. Manning absolutely torched them with 24/35 for 379 yards, 4 TDs, and an INT. What's more, because of the large early lead, the rushing attack combined for 126 yards with no TDs, though a lot of this is garbage time. Arizona never had a chance to establish the running game and were forced to make Warner throw 50 times. He completed 30 of those passes for 332 yards but had only 1 TD to 2 INTs. This is exactly the kind of game the Colts like to play, as the Cardinals were overwhelmed early and forced to be one dimensional. And we all know what happens when Kurt Warner gets pressured.
Week 4 vs. Seattle (W 34-17): We all know how banged up Seattle is. Matt Hasselbeck didn't play this game thanks to a bruised rib he suffered from some 3rd year MLB that no one knows about. :) The Colts again jumped out to a quick lead, with Manning tearing them up with 31/41 for 353 yards and 2 TDs and an INT. Again, even against an injured Seattle defense the 49ers had their best rushing game against, the Colts managed only 78 total yards. Granted, with Manning throwing TDs you don't need to rush very often. With all the Seattle injuries to their defense and offense, they simply did not have the firepower to get back into this game.
Week 5 @ Tennessee (W 31 - 9): Tennessee was supposed to be good, but they aren't. They have a terrible defense and an even worse offense. For the third week in a row, the Colts jumped out to a quick lead and the Titans could not recover. Manning torched them for 36/44 for 309, 3 TDs and an INT. Again, the Colts only rushed for 58 yards and 1 TD total. Tennessee is a team that relies on its rushing attack and found themselves relying on Kerry Collins to get them back in the game, his 19/32 for 164 yards and INT surely didn't help that cause. The real story is that Tennessee had two chances to get TDs in the 1st quarter but settled for FGs (last years Dallas game anyone?) and that really set the tone for the rest of the game.
Week 6 @ St Louis (W 42 - 6): Given that even the Seahawks and the 49ers managed to beat this team a combined 63-0, I don't see how anyone is really surprised the Colts walked away with this one. The Rams still managed 155 yards rushing, but that was about the only bright spot.
A couple of observations:
The Colts haven't played anyone yet. I think people can argue that Miami is a decent team and the Cardinals have definitely hit their stride, but the other teams are a combined 5-20 on the year (Seattle, Tennessee, Jacksonville, St Louis). I'm not saying the Colts aren't good, but they have been a team that has played some very bad pass defenses and hasn't really needed to rely on their run game at all. The one time a team controlled the clock and ran well on them without giving up the big early lead was the game they needed Peyton Manning to save them from at the end (Miami). The Niners have a decent pass defense and will almost certainly shut down the Colts run game. Naming Alex Smith the starter is definitely the right move because the Niners will need to be able to pass against this team not just to keep up but also to establish the run which will keep the Colts offense off the field.
I think we see the blowouts and the stats and get scared, but truly this game is winnable. The Colts have barely beaten two teams that are currently 2-4 (Miami) and 3-3 (Jacksonville) and the Niners have barely lost to two teams that are a combined 10-4. (Minnesota and Houston) I'm not saying it will be easy or that the Niners can play like they have the last two games and win (save for that second half against Houston), but this is definitely a winnable game and I wouldn't write it off as a loss just yet.