The Indianapolis Colts took on the daunting task of facing future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and the undefeated Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football. On the strength of second-year quarterback Andrew Luck and a great defensive performance, the Colts prevailed.
After their momentous 39-33 victory against the Broncos, the Colts have now defeated three major threats in the NFL this season. With wins against Denver, the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks, the Colts are now cemented as one of the most dangerous teams in the league in 2013.
There have been certain similarities over these three defining victories for Indianapolis. In fact, Sports Illustrated's Peter King revealed a very interesting figure on Sunday night:
Colts have beaten SF, Sea and Den by an average of 10.7 points per game.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) October 21, 2013
How did the team manage this feat? By beating the opposition at its own game.
Simply put, the Colts can become chameleons on the field. It certainly shows when looking at the offensive output. For example, Luck didn't have to put forth the same effort in these three victories; he adapted:
One area where they have stood firm, though, is in the ground game. Here is how their No. 8-ranked rushing offense stacked up against these three opponents:
|Attempts||Yards Per Attempt||Total Yards||TDs|
Total combines all three games
What this shows is that Indianapolis has put a good enough product on the field to compete with any team in the league based on sheer talent alone. The balance has been fantastic on the offensive side of the ball, but the Colts have been able to adapt on the fly.
Head coach Chuck Pagano had a vision of what he wanted this team to become and has successfully created a monster.
You watch the Steelers play, haven't you? I've always said this and I learned this from my dad growing up, you've got to run the football and you've got to stop the run to be successful, at any level. We want to be explosive, we want to be physical, we want to be tough, we want to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Pagano has obviously accomplished this just a year-and-a-half later. The Colts are all of these things in 2013, and wins against the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos have proven just that.
Currently, the Colts have a 5-2 stranglehold on the AFC South. A second consecutive playoff berth looks like a sure thing at this point.
If they can continue to play this type of controlling football against the best teams in the league, there is no reason they should not be considered early Super Bowl favorites—if the aforementioned victories haven't already shown they're deserving.
This last win against the Broncos could be the most defining of all. The hype leading up to the game was absolutely enormous. Manning returned to face the team that he quarterbacked for 14 seasons. Luck—Manning's heir apparent—was supposed to sink into the shadow of his predecessor as the Colts buckled under the pressure of the undefeated Broncos.
The Colts did not see it going down that way.
They rose to the occasion in what was a playoff atmosphere and dominated the Broncos in practically every facet of the game.
Dominating on the ground (121 to 64), keeping penalties to a minimum (half as many as the Broncos) and winning the time-of-possession battle made the win so convincing that it could be fair to say Indianapolis may not be seen as an underdog for the rest of the season.
Yes, it is still early—there are another 10 NFL weeks yet to be played. However, if the Colts continue on their current pace, they could certainly remain the favorites heading into January.
For Indianapolis, the potential is limitless.