Don’t Sleep On Indianapolis, The Colts Are Galloping Into Contention
Updated: Dec 15, 2020
By Tayyib Abu.
Many people don't talk about Indianapolis. The city locked in America's heartland never starts a conversation.
Even during May, when Indianapolis is the centre of the racing world, People still think of Indy as a sleepy little city amongst other vast cities. One can say the same of the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts are quietly going about their business and playing smart football. With all the noise in the AFC surrounding Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Buffalo, Cleveland and Baltimore, it seems a lot of people have forgotten about the Colts. I can't believe it.
The Colts are 6-3 and are top of the AFC South. Again, all the noise was surrounding the Titans, yet here are Frank Reich's Colts leading the division in their understated way. With a marquee game against the Packers this week, Indy has the perfect chance to announce themselves as contenders.
Beware the horse on the outside. The Colts have jumped every fence and are catching up with the leaders.
A FORMIDABLE DEFENSE
A ferocious defense has underpinned the Colts' success. Indianapolis has talent at every level of defense; this unit is playing at an elite level.
Indy has surrendered the least amount of total yardage this year. It is fourth in scoring defense, and they rank in the top five in both passing and rushing yards allowed per attempt. In a league where elite defenses are hard to find, the Colts defense has given them the bedrock for their success.
DeForest Buckner swapped San Francisco for Indianapolis, and he is having another Pro Bowl year. Buckner anchors a heavy, physical defensive line. The Colts are sixth in run stop win rate, a lot of that is down to him, Justin Houston and Grover Stewart.
Darius Leonard leads a linebacker corps that plays adeptly in coverage; also, the linebackers are impressive tacklers. Leonard and Bobby Okereke have outstanding ability to blitz the A gap or the B gap and bottle up opposition running backs. On average, the Colts miss four tackles a game. Which is a ridiculous number, especially when you see how many teams tackle poorly in the NFL.
In the secondary, Xavier Rhodes has had a bounce-back year on the outside. The former Viking is playing at an All-Pro level; it is no surprise the Colts have second-best pass defense in the NFL. With Rock Ya-Sin and Kenny Moore making plays on the opposite side, or when they bring a nickelback on the field; this Colts secondary is locking up receivers.
The Colts secondary is fifth in yards allowed per attempt. DC Matt Eberflus is doing a marvellous job of putting this defense together; each group understands their role with clarity. The linebackers complement the line, the secondary compliment the linebackers. It is a total defense, and it is playing at an unbelievable level.
Frank Reich is a great offensive mind. He was the coordinator at Philadelphia when he got Carson Wentz to play like an MVP. Then he got Nick Foles to play the game of his life in the Super Bowl.
Reich went toe to toe with Bill Belichick and beat him. He has designed a smart, competent offense in Indy. Considering how good the defense is, the Colts offense does not need to be the Peyton Manning led offenses we have seen in the past. Indy is fourteenth in points per game.
It is not the explosive offense that we see from other teams, but it doesn't have to be. The Colts don't necessarily possess the elite receivers that other teams do, but they use the pieces they have to play a smart game. What the Colts want to do is methodically move the ball and win the time of possession. Indy is 12th in time of possession, that could even increase as the season goes on.
The offensive line led by superstar Quenton Nelson is ranked in the top ten in both run block and pass block success. In Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis has a solid running back who can grind out yards for his team.
Mo Allie Cox is starring at tight end, while rookie Michael Pittman Jr brings a speedy element to the offense. The rookie has had trouble with injury; however, he is back now and will be looking to make his mark. The Colts offense has all the necessary elements to be a smart, competitive offense.
There is only one question.
Philip Rivers has been very inconsistent this season. The veteran quarterback is in his first year in Indiana and is under pressure.
The quarterback has played well, or he's played inadequately. In the three defeats the Colts have suffered, Rivers has turned the ball over. When you have an elite defense, the one thing that can harm it is turnovers.
Turnovers give excellent field position to the opposition, due to that, it puts the defense in a challenging situation. Rivers has always had a gunslinger mentality, but at 38 years old, the arm is not there anymore. At 28 he could pull off improbable plays, but now he can't. Rivers is immobile in the pocket, he holds the ball for too long, and he is still forcing plays when there isn't a play there.
Franchise quarterbacks have big egos. Rivers will always believe he is an elite quarterback when it is clear he isn't. Frank Reich needs to pull a Gary Kubiak and take the offense out of Rivers' control. It might make Rivers unhappy, but Frank Reich must do it.
TIME TO JUMP THE NEXT FENCE
The Colts now need a statement victory to back up everything we've seen after nine weeks. The game against the Packers is the perfect opportunity to step up.
Green Bay is coming off a shaky performance against Jacksonville, they scraped the victory, but Green Bay looked distinctly average. The time is now for Indianapolis to breakthrough.
The Colts have the talent, the coaching and the belief. Now Indianapolis needs to go and prove to the NFL world that the Colts are the real deal. Sometimes, the most dangerous competitors aren't prominent.
Sometimes you need to be aware of that galloping Colt on the outside.