While we generally try and focus on the 49ers in our discussions here at Niners Nation, every so often there is an intriguing NFL story that I think is worth a little extra discussion. In this case, it is the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts had little trouble on Thursday in rolling the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-10. The Colts weren't spectacular in the win, but they really had little trouble with a pretty awful Jaguars team.
Although that win does not tell us a lot, it was the Colts fourth straight in, improving them to 6-3. They sit two games back of the Houston Texans in the AFC South, and have a half game lead on the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first wild card spot. What's particularly crazy is that if the playoffs started today, the Colts would face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the wild card round. I have to think the NFL is salivating over that potential matchup.
Andrew Luck is playing very solid football in showing that he was well worth the top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He is showing some rookie inconsistencies when he goes on the road, but for the most part he is looking like the franchise quarterback Indianapolis was hoping for when they parted ways with Peyton Manning.
What has become an even bigger deal is their play in light of the absence of head coach Chuck Pagano. Earlier last month, Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. He departed the team to begin treatment, and has reached a point where he can come back to games and visit with the team. Doctors have said Pagano's leukemia is in remission, but he is continuing treatment to try and get rid of it completely.
I realize this is a lot bigger than football, but given that the cancer is in remission and it is generally good news all around, I have been thinking about this all in the context of the Colts current run. I am generally one to focus on what I can understand about a team's performance, particularly from a statistical nature. However, in light of the incredibly emotional post-game speech Pagano delivered last week, and Colts players shaving their heads in support of Pagano, this is not a team I would want to bet against the rest of the year.
I realize they have a lot left on their plate, and the odds are very much not in their favor to win the Super Bowl. And yet, I find myself wondering how long they can ride this emotional momentum. They have plenty of issue on both sides of the ball, but they are finding ways to win ball games. I suppose I could be getting ahead of myself since their four-game winning streak has come against some shaky competition. Their best win in that streak came at Miami, which is a solid win, but is still not a great win.
Andrew Luck's home/road split is fairly noticeable. The Colts have won their last two road games over Jacksonville and Tennessee, but they'll get a real test next week when they head to Foxboro to face the New England Patriots. This game will tell us a lot more than a road win over the Jaguars. And yet, at this point I am not inclined to count them out. The stats are not entirely in their favor, with Football Outsiders ranking them dead last in defense and their rushing attack struggling to get much going. The numbers would seem to indicate they should get blown out next week by the Patriots. But I'm not prepared to call that quite yet. I don't know if they'll win, but I think they'll give the Patriots one heck of a fight.