What do fans of the Indianapolis Colts need to know heading into Week 13? This is an interesting question.
Well, you need to know that all is not lost. We can fall into the trap of overreacting to one game so often that proper perspective needs to be kept.
But we also need to realize that there are real flaws that have been magnified (and then repeatedly shoved down fans' throats) over the last few weeks that cannot be ignored. The Colts have severe issues holding them back that hint at both short and long-term problems.
So, I guess you could say that there's a lot to talk about this week.
|AFC South Standings|
|Team||Wins||Losses||AFC Rank||Point Diff.|
This season just keeps getting weirder and weirder.
Indianapolis' blowout loss this week brought their point differential to a mere positive-three, a far cry from earlier this season when they had one of the best point differentials in the league.
Tennessee moved into the final wild-card spot with their comeback win over Oakland on Sunday. Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hit wide receiver Kendall Wright in the end zone with just 10 seconds left to secure the win, a rare occurrence where Fitzpatrick came through in the clutch.
The Titans should control their own destiny when it comes to making the playoffs this season, which says more about the state of the AFC than it does the Titans. No disrespect to the Titans, but the AFC is bad, and so is Tennessee.
The Jacksonville Jaguars got their second win of the season, defeating the Houston Texans in what was an embarrassing showing for the former Super Bowl contenders. With the loss, the Texans' losing streak was extended to nine games. After the loss, Andre Johnson said it best: "We suck."
On the bright side, Houston is ensuring that they'll get a high draft pick, which will pay dividends in their attempts to get back into contention. Jacksonville, on the other hand, may just end up playing their way out of a chance at one of the 2014 draft's best quarterbacks.
|Week 13 Injury Report|
While injuries have wrecked the Colts this season, there is some good news on that front after Sunday's game, which saw starting cornerback Vontae Davis, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and wide receiver LaVon Brazill all leave with injuries.
Fortunately, all three of those players should be fine, according to head coach Chuck Pagano. The Colts may also get starting cornerback Greg Toler back from a groin injury this week, which would help a Colts secondary that has dropped off dramatically with Cassius Vaughn in the starting lineup. Toler isn't a great corner, or even all that good, but he's significantly better than Vaughn.
Stanley Havili may come back as well, which is comforting to nobody but Pep Hamilton.
Although, on the bright side, Havili is probably more helpful than Justice Cunningham.
What Needs to Improve
This list is a mile long in reality, but we need to pick one thing for this section.
The one area that we haven't really looked at this season here is Andrew Luck.
While Luck is one of the few bright spots on the Colts this season, he had a poor game against the Cardinals, and it's one of the big reasons why Indianapolis lost the game. As Luck goes, so go the Colts. While Jim Irsay wants a team that doesn't rely on the quarterback, the reality is that this team is relying on Luck just as much as they ever relied on Peyton Manning.
|Andrew Luck: Wins vs. Losses|
|Game Result||PFF Grade||Passer Rating||AY/A||WPA||EPA|
|Pro Football Focus, Pro-Football-Reference and Advanced NFL Stats|
So what are some of the issues that have plagued Luck in the last couple weeks, specifically against Arizona?
First and foremost, Luck has been made uncomfortable early in games like the Cardinals and St. Louis Rams losses, and it's affected him throughout the game as he rushes reads.
Against the Cardinals, Luck was blitzed and pressured by three Cardinals on the Colts' first third down. On the Colts' next drive, Luck drove the Colts down into the red zone, but heavy pressure on third down forced him to leave the pocket and throw the ball away. In both cases, Luck made great plays to escape pressure, but was unable to find open receivers to save the play.
It was plays like this that sped up Luck's internal clock, forcing rushed plays later in the game.
For example, here's a play from the third quarter when the Colts were driving and attempting to get back into the game by going for it on 4th-and-4. Luck has plenty of room behind the offensive line, but forces a quick throw to a well-covered LaVon Brazill.
While the play was certainly designed to be a quick throw, had Luck been more comfortable/confident in his protection, he could have refrained from forcing this throw and waited for one of the other targets to break free (Coby Fleener's out route being one with good potential).
Besides rushing reads, Luck can get into the bad habit of sailing throws when he's rushed, which didn't happen as much on Sunday, but he did overthrow a few deep balls. Then, of course, there's the issue of overcompensating, which can cause ill-advised throws (like Luck's pick-six on Sunday).
Now, some of this blame goes onto the offensive line, of course, who allows the pressure that throws off the offense. But the line isn't going to magically get better. If the Colts are going to win games with the roster as currently constructed, Luck has to play better than he did on Sunday (or against the Rams two weeks ago).
It's unfair to put him in that situation, but it's where the Colts are right now.