How the Indianapolis Colts Match Up Against Their Remaining Opponents
After a 40-11 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12 and a tough 38-8 loss to the St. Louis Rams in Week 10, there has been a rising question in regards to the Indianapolis Colts: What team are they?
Are they the team that handed the Seattle Seahawks their first and only loss up to this point of the season in Week 5?
Are they the team that got completely outplayed by Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football on Oct. 14?
These questions are tough to answer, and until the regular season concludes on Dec. 29, these same questions will remain unanswered.
The one thing that remains is that the Colts have five regular-season games remaining in the 2013 regular season, which gives them plenty of time to prove that they are either the team that dismantled the Seahawks, 49ers and Broncos, or that they are the team that got torched by the bottom two teams in the NFC West.
Here is a closer look at how the Colts match up with their remaining opponents.
Week 13: The Tennessee Titans
The Colts get their second look at their division rival, the Tennessee Titans, at home in Week 13.
The last time the two met, the Colts got off to a slow start, but on the back of running back Donald Brown, the Colts were able to escape Tennessee with a 30-27 victory.
Where the Titans find success
They force turnovers. The Titans have forced 19 total turnovers (10 fumble recoveries on 11 forced fumbles, nine interceptions) this year. Also, starting cornerback Alterraun Verner is tied for the league lead in interceptions with five on the season.
Although this has been one of the bright spots for the team in 2013, they were unable to force the Colts to make any mistakes in their last meeting. They lost the turnover battle due to a fumbled punt by returner Devon Wylie.
Also, another strength for the Titans is their defense. They allow just 332 yards from scrimmage per game, which ranks 11th in the league.
Where the Titans struggle
The Titans have a hard time controlling their penalties on offense.
On the season, the Titans offense has been penalized 76 times, tied for the eighth-most in the league, for 664 yards, which ranks seventh.
The Colts defense has been penalized 73 times this season. In order for them to get the advantage, they will need to force the Titans to make errors offensively and will need to minimize their penalties. The Colts have committed the 10th-most penalties in the league in 2013.
The key for the Colts
The Colts must score early and attempt to hold the Titans offense in check.
In their last four games, the Colts have been outscored 93-9 in the first quarter. Surprisingly, the Colts have a 2-2 record during this span.
Establishing a solid ground game around Donald Brown and Trent Richardson will also be a key. If they can be effective on the ground early on, it will open up things in the passing game for quarterback Andrew Luck.
If the Colts are able to do these things, they should be able to walk away with a win against their main competition in the AFC South.
Week 14: The Cincinnati Bengals
The Colts get their first look at the AFC North division-leading Bengals for the first time this season.
The last time the two faced off was in 2011, when the Bengals handed the Colts a 27-17 loss with Curtis Painter under center for the Colts.
Where the Bengals find success
The Bengals have a strong defense.
Even with the loss of All-Pro defensive lineman Geno Atkins for the season, the Bengals defense hasn't lost a step, holding the Ravens to just 17 points in Week 10.
Cincinnati allows just 313 yards per game (sixth-best in the league), allow opposing offenses to convert on third downs just 36 percent of the time (ninth-best in the NFL), yet they've been penalized just 43 times this season, which makes them the least penalized defense in the NFL.
Statistics like this are scary, especially for a Colts offense that has been struggling in recent weeks.
One player responsible for the defensive success in Ohio is the NFL's leading tackler, starting linebacker Vontaze Burfict. He has 118 total tackles through 11 games, and he has created two turnovers in 2013. He is going to give Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton headaches all day.
Where the Bengals struggle
The turnover battle—there weren't many noticeable issues with the Bengals other than their turnover differential.
Through 11 games, their turnover differential is minus-two, which ranks them 19th in the league.
Quarterback Andy Dalton could be a part of the issue here. Dalton has thrown 13 interceptions this year, including eight in his last three starts.
This is a huge benefit for the Colts, who currently are plus-three in the category.
The key for the Colts
They must get pressure on Andy Dalton, which will force him to make bad throws.
The Bengals have an elite defense. For the Colts to get a victory here, it all starts with the turnover battle. Luck has proven he can compete against top-tier NFL defenses, which he showed against the Seahawks and 49ers earlier this season, but he will need plenty of support on the other side of the ball.
Everything about this matchup implies that the Bengals should be the favorite, especially with the struggles of the Colts offense. But if there is one thing that this season has taught us, it is not to count Andrew Luck out against the NFL's best teams. Look for this one to be a battle with an exciting finish in the fourth quarter.
Week 15: The Houston Texans
After a slow start against the Texans in Week 9, the Colts were able to overcome an early deficit in Houston, coming away with a 27-24 win.
Where the Texans find success
The Texans have the best pass defense in the league, allowing just 172 yards through the air per game. They allow just 290 total yards per game, which is the lowest average in the NFL.
The last time the two met, I don't think that Andrew Luck got that memo. Luck passed for 271 yards and three touchdowns in the game, and all three of those touchdowns were to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton.
Where the Texans struggle
They lose the turnover battle.
With one of the top defenses in the NFL, it is very hard to believe that the Texans could be sitting at the bottom of the division with a 2-9 record, slowly putting themselves in position to have a top-five pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
They currently have a minus-12 statistic in turnover differential, which is tied for the second worse in the league.
On offense, a slew of injuries and inconsistency under center hasn't helped their case much, no pun intended.
They lost starting running back Arian Foster for the season due to a back injury. Also, former starting quarterback Matt Schaub started 2013 with one of the worst quarterback performances in NFL history. He threw a pick-six in four consecutive games, which is the most for any quarterback in NFL history.
His performance, along with a slight injury suffered against the St. Louis Rams, led to his benching in favor of Houston product Case Keenum.
The key for the Colts
They need to test Keenum's arm against their struggling secondary.
If the Colts can contain running back Ben Tate, who is using the rest of this season to audition for prospective suitors once he hits free agency in the offseason, it will force Keenum to win the game with his arm—something he hasn't been able to do since becoming a starter.
Another key is for the Colts to minimize the impact of All-Pro defensive lineman J.J. Watt. This is an extremely tall task, especially considering the inconsistency of the Colts' offensive line all season long.
Allowing Andrew Luck to have time in the pocket will be beneficial for a Colts team looking to lock up the AFC South crown.
Week 16: The Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs are off to a hot start to the 2013 season. Although they have lost their last two games, the Chiefs have a 9-2 record and are in a fight with the Denver Broncos for the title in the AFC West. This game against the Colts could be the game that seals the division for the Chiefs.
Where the Chiefs find success
They have a dominant defense. Although their offense has played well this year, it is their defense that has led them to the hot start.
They have the best third-down defense in the league, allowing third-down conversions on just 29 percent of their attempts.
They also are very stingy when it comes to allowing points. Through 11 games, they have allowed just over 16 points per game, which gives them the second-best scoring defense in the league, trailing only the Carolina Panthers.
The Kansas City defense also forces a lot of turnovers, boasting a plus-13 in turnover differential.
The Chiefs struggle
They have a hard time limiting their penalties on both offense and defense.
Offensively, the Chiefs have been penalized 73 times, resulting in 481 yards against them.
On the defensive side of the ball, they have been penalized 81 times, which is the fourth-most in the league, for 607 yards.
Being penalized has allowed opposing teams to stick around with the Chiefs in games that shouldn't have been close. A prime example of this was when they defeated the Houston Texans 17-16.
In Case Keenum's first start, the Chiefs were penalized five times, which allowed the Texans to hang around for the entire game.
The key for the Colts
Don't get intimidated by the Chiefs defense. They likely will be unable to get anything going on the ground against Kansas City, so their best bet for success will be to let Andrew Luck throw the ball as much as possible. The Chiefs have a strong secondary, but Luck might be able to take advantage of holes in their zone coverage.
Week 17: The Jacksonville Jaguars
At the start of the season, the Jaguars didn't have much to be happy about. They started off the year losing to the Colts in Week 4 by a score of 37-3.
The Jaguars have begun to turn things around, winning two of their last three games over division rivals.
The Jaguars have one of the worst offenses in the NFL.
They score just 13 points per game and average around 283 yards from scrimmage per game. Both are the worst effort in the league.
Also, they have only been successful on 29 percent of their third-down attempts, which is also ranked 32nd among NFL teams.
The struggles aren't just on offense; things aren't much better on the defensive side of the ball for Jacksonville.
They have the third-worst scoring defense, allowing 29.5 points per game. They have the 28th-rated third-down defense, allowing conversions on 43 percent of their attempts.
Also, they allow 376 yards from scrimmage per game.
The key for the Colts
They should just play the same game that they have played all year. There is no reason that the Colts should lose this game, assuming Andrew Luck stays healthy. Look for the Colts to blow out Jacksonville for the second time this year.