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Analyzing Biggest Obstacles Between the Indianapolis Colts and a Division Crown

HOUSTON, TX- NOVEMBER 03: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates T.Y. Hilton #13 of the Indianapolis Colts touchdown against the Houston Texans on November 03, 2013 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. Colts won 27 to 24. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images
Tyler BrookeSenior Analyst IIAugust 16, 2016

At 6-2, the Indianapolis Colts are the kings of the AFC South halfway through the 2013 NFL season.

The AFC South is a mess right now with the exception of the Colts.  In fact, Indianapolis is the only team with a winning record in the division, with the Tennessee Titans in second with just a 4-4 record.  The Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars round out the bottom of the division at 2-6 and 0-8, respectively.

At this point, the Colts appears to be a lock for another division title and their first since the 2010 season. However, as we've learned so many times in this league, nothing is certain.

That's why they play the game.

There are still some obstacles that the Colts must get past in order to grab their eighth AFC South title.  There's still a good chance that they will be able to take the division if they don't do some of these things, but they won't be able to make a very deep run in the playoffs if they cannot overcome these obstacles.

 

Injuries

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 20: Reggie Wayne #87 of the Indianapolis Colts is tended to by medical personal  after injuring his knee against the Denver Broncos at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 20, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The Colts beat the Broncos 3
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Every team in the NFL deals with injuries, but it seems like they've hit a few teams even more this season, including the Colts.

There are currently a number of key players on injured reserve and others that have been dealing with nagging injuries throughout the season.  As you can see below, a number of key starters have had to miss game time.

Colts 2013 Key Injuries
PlayerInjuryGPStatus
Vick BallardKnee1Injured Reserve
Ahmad BradshawNeck3Injured Reserve
Reggie WayneKnee7Injured Reserve
Donald ThomasQuad2Injured Reserve
Dwayne AllenHip1Injured Reserve
Greg TolerGroin7Missed Week 9
Darrius Heyward-BeyHead8Questionable for Week 10
Pro-Football-Reference.com

Other players, including LaRon Landry and Bjoern Werner, have missed extended time and are back.  However, it seems that more players are going down for the season rather than just missing a few weeks.

There are a few positions where the Colts are now incredibly thin, particularly on offense.  They may have found a way to pull out a win over the Texans on Sunday Night Football, but the Colts clearly missed guys like Donald Thomas, Ahmad Bradshaw and (clearly) Reggie Wayne.

If the injuries keep piling up, Indianapolis could be in big trouble by the end of the season.

 

A Struggling Interior Offensive Line

Nov 3, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) attempts a pass during the second quarter as Houston Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus (59) applies pressure at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TO
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone that watched Sunday night's game saw that the interior of the offensive line for the Colts is by far their biggest weakness.

Mike McGlynn has been terrible over the past couple of seasons, and he's continued to play that way in 2013.  Meanwhile, rookie Hugh Thornton and Samson Satele have struggled as well.  

Andrew Luck was sacked four times against the Texans and was pressured nine times.  According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), three of the four worst players Sunday were McGlynn, Satele and Thornton, who combined to have a minus-11.3 overall grade.

Cumulative 2013 OL Grades for Colts
Pos.PlayerGradeQB SackQB Hurry
LTGosder Cherilus8.9213
LGHugh Thornton-9.248
CSamson Satele-6.805
RGMike McGlynn-15.9315
RTAnthony Castonzo10.0221
ProFootballFocus.com

That's not what you want from the guys on the offensive line.

We saw some ugly plays, including a big sack on Luck with under 14 minutes left in the third quarter.  Let's break down what happened.

We see a basic 3-4 scheme with three down linemen and two standing outside linebackers for the Texans.  The key matchup to focus on here will be Antonio Smith, No. 94, going against Thornton, No. 69.

Things quickly went from bad to worse on this play for Thornton.  Not only did he get driven back, but he also gave up the inside, where you can see that Smith has decided to go with Thornton off balance.

Smith was just too much for Thornton, and it ended with the rookie guard watching as Smith got to Luck.

This was a pattern throughout the game for the interior of the offensive line, and that is easily the biggest weakness on the whole team, even with the depleted roster.

 

Play-Calling

September 22, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton watches from the sideline during the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of fans will be upset with me for this one, but I really think that for as new and exciting as Pep Hamilton's offensive scheme was supposed to be, the play-calling just isn't working.

There have been so many times on 2nd-and-10 or 2nd-and-9 where the Colts have decided to call a power run that's gone one or two yards and forced them into tough third-down situations.  Trent Richardson hasn't exactly helped the ground game, as he's run for 248 yards and averaged a terrible 3.0 yards per carry with the Colts.

Over the past two games against the Texans and the Broncos, the Colts were determined to run the ball to start the game, but they weren't able to get anything going.  They then decided to let Luck loose later on, and it paid off.

I went ahead and went through the play-by-play for the past two games for the Colts and charted run and pass plays on drives where they scored against drives where they didn't.  I counted scrambles as run plays and sacks as passing plays while excluding kneels.

What I found only proved my suspicions.

Scoring vs. Non-Scoring Drives Week 7 and Week 9
ScorePlays% of Plays
Run1418.9
Pass6081.1
No Score
Run3050.8
Pass2949.2
Researched by Tyler Brooke

In the second half against the Texans, during that crazy comeback, the Colts ran 31 total plays on scoring drives, running the ball just once.

The Colts need to find a happy medium between letting Luck throw more than he has so far in 2013 and less than he did under Bruce Arians.  They have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and they need to make sure he can be put in the opportunity to make big plays.

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