Indianapolis Colts: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 8
It's a good time for a bye for Indianapolis, who took a beating in their defeat of the Denver Broncos on Sunday night.
The Colts got the win but suffered multiple injuries, most notably a season-ending knee injury for Reggie Wayne. On a positive note, the Colts defeated the league's hottest team, two weeks after defeating the NFC's hottest team.
Indianapolis has a real shot at a Super Bowl if they can replace Wayne's production. At 5-2, the Colts are going into the bye in a great position to make a run at a high playoff seed, not to mention the division title.
The Colts took a big step toward winning the AFC South on Sunday, as every other AFC South team lost their Week 7 matchup.
Houston went into Kansas City with a new starting quarterback, Case Keenum, and kept it close. In the end, however, the Chiefs held off the Texans with a 17-16 win. Houston continues to spiral downward in the loss column, but played decently against the Chiefs.
The Titans got thoroughly outplayed by San Francisco but will continue to hang around if Jake Locker plays as well as he has been. The Tennessee defense has been impressive for most of the season, but the 49ers put 31 points on the board. That will need to improve going forward for the Titans.
Jacksonville is, well, Jacksonville.
The Associated Press
The biggest injury from the game isn't on the report, as Reggie Wayne's torn ACL and meniscus will prevent him from playing for the rest of the season. Wayne's production needs to be replaced, which we'll talk about later.
The rest of the injuries shouldn't affect the Colts' Week 9 matchup in Houston. Ideally, the Colts will go into the second half of the season somewhat healthy, outside of a few players on the injured reserve list.
What Needs to Improve
The Colts played a great game on Sunday. There were some issues, as always, but this week we're going to take a quick look at what Reggie Wayne has brought to the table and what kind of production the Colts will need to replace.
First, Wayne is the Colts' most used weapon and is currently 13th in the league in targets with 57.
Pro Football Focus
Simply, the Colts have to spread eight targets per game among their current receivers or somehow acquire someone who Luck will trust enough to target in a similar fashion.
While some have speculated that T.Y. Hilton will receive a boost in targets, it's tough to imagine him getting targeted significantly more than he already is. More realistic would be a rise in Darrius Heyward-Bey and Coby Fleener's targets.
Wayne's job in the Colts offense is to work the middle of the field: 65 percent of his targets come in the middle of the field, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Fleener and Heyward-Bey may be able to help with that. Fleener generally does his work down the middle of the field, and Heyward-Bey, although underutilized, has done well when in the slot.
Take a look at these two plays from the Denver game, for example.
On that second play, you see Heyward-Bey lined up in the slot, something that hasn't been done much this season, but when he has it's been incredibly effective.
Heyward-Bey has lined up in the slot 11 times so far this season and has caught six passes for 80 yards from that role. With his size and speed combination, moving him around and in the slot in the red zone could make from some very interesting matchups.
The most important thing that Wayne did for Indianapolis, however, was catch balls on third down. Wayne was Luck's go-to receiver when he got in trouble, and especially on third downs. Since the beginning of last season, only Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall have been targeted more on third down than Reggie Wayne.
Wayne's use on third down is based on his ability to move and get open when a play breaks down and the trust that Luck had in him. Can another receiver fill the void in Luck's mind, as well as be crafty enough to get open when Luck leaves the pocket? That's the million dollar question.
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