Indianapolis Colts Progress Report: Where Things Stand Heading into Week 12

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistNovember 20, 2012

T.Y. Hilton caught another bomb against New England.
T.Y. Hilton caught another bomb against New England.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts are 6-4 and in second place in the AFC South. They are currently fifth overall in the AFC playoff seedings.

In Week 12, they host the Buffalo Bills at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Colts rank 14th on offense, 32nd on defense and 28th overall in DVOA.


Primary Talking Point for Week 12

That was ugly.

The Colts managed to compete with the Patriots for a half or so, but in the end, there was no doubt which 6-3 team going in was for real and which one wasn't.

The Colts have a terrible defense, and the offense, while big-strike in nature, is always going to lend itself to turnovers.

Andrew Luck is falling into the same pattern a young Peyton Manning had early in his career. He knows that if he doesn't play perfect football while throwing for 350 yards and three scores, the Colts aren't going to win against a superior opponent.

Manning eventually calmed down when Tony Dungy arrived and demanded he protect the ball more. That's a step that is likely a few years away for Luck who has an innate desire to attack at all times.

For now, the best hope the Colts have to win is to keep asking Luck to "let 'er rip." They certainly can't count on their defense to get any stops.


Injury Outlook

Bruce Arians was vague on injuries in his press conference, telling reporters:

No real news on the injury front. Basically came out of the game fairly clean and we’ll wait until Wednesday to see who’s available for practice and who’s not. The two guys from last week are hopeful for this week. So we’ll wait and see Wednesday what they can do. So we could possibly have everyone for this one.

The players he's referring to are Vontae Davis and Coby Fleener. Both starters would be a major boon to the Colts' chances against Buffalo.


Player on the Rise

T.Y. Hilton is having himself an incredible rookie campaign.

He already has three 100-yard receiving games. Justin Blackmon of the Jaguars is the only other rookie with even one such outing.

Hilton is on pace for a 50/750/7 slashline, and is second on the team in touchdowns behind Luck.

Considering the modest expectations from rookie receivers drafted in the third round, it's fair to say his play has been astounding.

He's third among rookies in yards, fifth in catches (Dwayne Allen is fourth), tied for first in touchdowns, and second in yards per reception among players with 20 catches or more.

That's pretty good for the 13th wideout selected.


Feel-Good Stat of the Week: 4-3

The Colts record in AFC play stands at a respectable 4-3. This will likely be the first tie-breaker between them and the Steelers or Bengals in the event of a playoff tie.

Should the Colts only win nine games on the year, the odds are strong their record in-conference will be 7-5.

The Steelers already have three wins against the NFC East, and the Bengals probably can't get to nine wins without beating Philadelphia, giving them three wins against the NFC East as well. That equates to a 6-6 record in-conference.

The schedule and the tie-breaks fall just right for Indianapolis to skirt into the playoffs.


Troubling Stat of the Week: 5.6 Percent

The Colts' adjusted sack rate continues to fall. Against the Patriots, they got no discernible pressure on Tom Brady, and now rank 24th in adjusted sack rate.

Obviously, injuries to Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have hurt sack production in 2012, but it's important to note that the number is way down from 2011 when they were at 6.8 percent, 15th in the NFL.

The new 3-4 defense of Chuck Pagano can't fully be judged because the Colts aren't running the right personel for it, but when your defense is ranked last in turnovers, 32nd in pass DVOA, 31st in run DVOA and 24th in sacks, it's safe to say it's a terrible unit.


Overall Trend: Falling

The loss to New England clued a lot of people into the fact that the Colts aren't a very good football team.

The media gets too hung up on wins and losses to realize that in a sport with so many coin-flip games, the difference between overall quality and a few lucky breaks can be hard to spot.

When faced with a team of real ability, Indianapolis was blown completely off the field. This only reinforces the idea that the 2012 Colts have been more lucky than good.

Fortunately, Indy has three straight games against 4-6 opponents. If they can manage even one win, they'll stay alive in the wild-card hunt. Two wins would make them a veritable lock for the postseason.

The Colts don't have blaze a trail of glory over the final six weeks. They merely need to get a few breaks and hold on for dear life.

Quotes courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts' PR department via press release.


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