Indianapolis Colts State of the Union: Where They Stand Halfway Through

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistNovember 6, 2012

This is the theme of the 2012 Colts.
This is the theme of the 2012 Colts.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts are better than anyone could have imagined.

They finished the first half of their schedule at 5-3 with a real shot at the playoffs.

Here's a recap of the first half of the year.


Predictions, Schedictions

Back in April, I thought the Colts would be 3-5 through eight games. I figured they'd beat the Vikings, Jaguars and Browns.

Their best-case scenario at the time was 8-8, and that has to be lifted to 10-6. While the Colts are generally exactly who I thought they'd be, there were three factors I didn't balance correctly.

Andrew Luck is much, much better than I thought possible.

As a corollary, Reggie Wayne is much, much better than I thought possible.

The AFC is a horrible football conference. The collapse of the Titans was something I didn't take into account.

The Football Outsiders predicted their DVOA to be minus 6.4 percent on offense, 7.1 percent on defense and minus 13.5 percent overall. They had the Colts at 6.0 projected wins.

Indianapolis is now at 24.0 percent on defense (last in the NFL), 4.3 percent on offense and minus 22.5 percent overall. The Colts are expected to win 7.8 games.

In other words, the Colts are significantly better on offense than expected but drastically worse on defense.


Best Win

Without a doubt, the emotional 30-27 thriller over Green Bay was a turning point for the season. The unexpected come-from-behind victory evened Indianapolis' record on the season and made their current run possible.


Worst Loss

Indy was blown out on the road twice, but that's to be expected from a young team. Allowing an 80-yard touchdown pass by Blaine Gabbert in the final minute of play?

That's a stomach punch.

The Colts have had their fair share of miracles this season, so fans can't feel bad about the one that got away. Still, internally, the team has to feel like it was a missed opportunity.


Rookie Check Point

The fair expectation baseline for Luck now looks right on target, except for the volume. All the traditional metrics have been right on for Luck, only multiplied by the incredible number of throws he's asked to make.

The combined projection for Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen was 700 yards and seven touchdowns. They currently have 471 and two scores. The touchdown totals are low in part because Luck has been running in the red zone more than expected.

T.Y. Hilton is in the process of annihilating preseason guesses. His baseline for the season was 25/350/2. His current slashline stands at 24/355/2. That's remarkable.


Must Improve

Obviously, the defense is the big worry. They have forced just three turnovers on the season.

By now, everyone is tired of that stat, but until it changes, it's going to be repeated over and over.

Unless the Colts find a way to force turnovers, they can't possibly keep winning at the same rate in the second half.


Might Regress

Robert Mathis has six sacks on the season but has only played in five games. He's battling a balky back, and it seems impossible for him to continue his current pace, even if he stays on the field.

That could be disaster for an Indianapolis defense that features very few dynamic plays that don't originate with him.

On the bright side for the Colts, Dwight Freeney is coming off his best game and may finally be healthy.

Overall, the Colts are a team on the rise with a lot of young players. Regression isn't something they need to worry about.


Second Half Outlook

The Colts have a favorable schedule. They have two winnable road games at Jacksonville and Kansas City. They also get the Bills and Titans at home.

Their season-ender against Houston may be a blessing in disguise as the Texans could well have sealed up the top seed in the AFC by that point.

Even considering it highly unlikely they win road games at New England and Houston, there are several paths the Colts can take to get to nine wins.

In a down year in the AFC, nine might just be enough to land them in the playoffs.

Go figure.


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