Are The Colts The Dark Horse In The AFC?

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Many people believed Andrew Luck’s career was done. Many thought his shoulder was ruined. I wasn’t one of those people, in fact I was adamant that he’d get back to being a top-five QB in the NFL again. I just didn’t see it happening this quickly. The Colts also weren’t supposed to be winning like they are right now, but they are.

After a 1-5 start, you could see promise in their roster but they were so young that it was natural to wonder if they’d be able to get it right this season. Luck looked rusty, the offense was ok, but the defense couldn’t get stops when they needed to get off the field. The defense allowed 34 points to Cincinnati at Lucas Oil Stadium in week one, but then they bounced back against the anemic Redskins offense in week two. After their win against Washington, in which the defense absolutely dominated, Indy dropped four straight to the Eagles, Texans, Patriots, and Jets.

All four games were highly competitive, and there was a lot to like about the way the Colts were trending on the field, even if they weren’t getting the results in the box score. Since then, Indy has gone five consecutive games without allowing a sack, and it has led to Andrew Luck getting back to top-five QB status.

The streak began in the shootout loss to the Jets, and since then Indy has won all four contests and is now at 5-5 on the year. Their two most recent wins came over division foes as well. Jacksonville nearly came back and stole it in Lucas Oil, but Indy stood tall and got a crucial win. Then Indy was supposed to come back down to Earth against the stout Titans defense…not so much. Andrew Luck lit up the Titans defense for 297 yards and three touchdowns. Luck only had six passes fall incomplete and he had no turnovers. Luck also found himself in elite company after Sunday’s emphatic victory.

Luck is the lock for Comeback Player of the Year and he also deserves to be in the discussion for MVP, even if he probably won’t win it. Luck is obviously the biggest name and the best player for the Colts, but it isn’t only him who is having a monster season.

Eric Ebron has had a tremendous season himself with 10 total touchdowns on the year. This coming after he had 12 total touchdowns in four years in Detroit. T.Y. Hilton has easily drawn the most defensive attention throughout the season, which has helped Ebron and others as well, but Hilton himself showed why he’s so dangerous to go off at any time after he hauled in nine passes for 155 yards and two scores against the Titans’ top corner, Adoree Jackson.

Marlon Mack has been a revelation as well for the Indy backfield. During the four-game win streak, Mack has five total touchdowns including two games with multiple scores.

Quenton Nelson has also been getting some love from sports media for his contention for Offensive Rookie of the Year, despite him being an offensive lineman. An offensive lineman has never won the award before. The fact that Nelson is getting support for it is incredible in itself and shows that he was absolutely worth his draft slot, no matter what Twitter tries to tell you.

Indy also has the favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year in the heart of their defense. Darius Leonard leads the NFL in total tackles by 13, AND he missed a week! Leonard has also forced four fumbles, recovering two, has five sacks, and an interception this season. There are other players in contention for the award as well, like Bradley Chubb, Denzel Ward, and Derwin James. However, I think it’s clear that Leonard is the favorite for the award.

Finally, Head Coach Frank Reich and his staff deserve a ton of credit for how this season has unfolded. Reich could be a Coach of the Year candidate if he can lead the Colts to the playoffs. After starting 1-5, the Colts had a 1.8% chance to make the playoffs. Now it’s up to 28% and Indy still has three more division games on their schedule.

I’m not saying Indy will win the Super Bowl. I’m not even guaranteeing that they make the playoffs. However, with the Colts having Andrew Luck healthy once again, and the offensive line keeping him consistently clean, anything can happen. The only evidence I need for that was Indy’s miraculous comeback victory in 2013 at Arrowhead Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs. That team was coached by Chuck Pagano and it was an awful, awful roster.

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