Earlier this year, I had a brief Twitter chat with the Indianapolis Star's Phil Richards regarding the Colts and the expectations people should have of them. Richards told me that this was a five-win team, if that.
After nine weeks of football, the Colts already have their five wins, putting them at 5-3 on the season.
If they did not share the same division as the 7-1 Houston Texans, the Colts would be leading the AFC North, East, or West divisions. Yes, the same AFC West that is now the home of Peyton Manning, whose 5-3 Broncos (who have considerably more talent than the Colts) have managed to scratch out wins because of several dramatic fourth quarter comebacks.
All five of Indy's wins are the result of fourth quarter comebacks. Denver's last two victories, including an amazing Monday Nighter against the Chargers, were comeback victories. Want to see something even more freaky?
Um, yeah. That's kind of wow.
In many ways, Manning's Broncos and Luck's Colts are mirror reflections of one another. Both have shaky defenses, inconsistent receivers, and spotty run games. The Broncos have more sacks (24 to Indy's 17), and have generated more turnover (12 to the Colts' putrid 3).
Using traditional rankings, the Colts are No. 4 in offense and No. 18 in defense while the Broncos are 3rd in offense, 10th in defense. These rankings are based on yards, which isn't necessarily the best measure. We'll get a clearer picture when Matt Grecco releases his Winning Stats rankings on Tuesday.
So, despite getting more from his defense, Manning has had to scrap and claw his offense to late-game victories just as Luck has. However, because Luck plays on a less talented team, he's had to do it more frequently than Manning.
For the clinically brain dead, perhaps a question they are asking themselves now is, "If the Colts and Broncos have the same record, why did Jim Irsay cut Peyton? He'd have done the same as Luck in Indy?" No, he would not. If I need to explain why to any of you readers, then it's clear to me you haven't watched the Colts offensive line much this year.
Also, if you believe that the Colts, or any team, should play Peyton Manning over Andrew Luck at this point, I don't know what bizarro world you live in, but I do know that to get there takes a lot of hardcore drug use.
Give the Colts o-line this much credit: For the third straight week they have played excellent football. The Colts ran for nearly 100 yards Sunday against a stout Miami rush defense, and Andrew Luck spent much of Sunday NOT running for his life. It's taken roughly eight weeks, but the offensive line is starting to jell. Hopefully, the injuries to Samson Satele (back) and Winston Justice (back) are not serious. Justice has quietly played some of the best football of his career this season, and both he and Mike McGlynn have done a fine job holding down the right side of the line.
For Luck and Manning, it's important to note that we are comparing a 23-year-old rookie with a 36-year-old veteran coming off four neck surgeries, including spinal fusion. Peyton is clearly not the player he once was, physically. His arm strength is diminished, and he is less mobile now than ever before. However, in typical Peyton fashion, he is adjusting his game to his physical limitations. After nine weeks in 2009 (the last year Peyton was truly healthy), he had 313 attempts. After nine weeks this year in Denver, he has 292. Look for his final number of attempts to be lower than many of his single seasons in Indianapolis.
Meanwhile, Andrew Luck is already at 336.
Prior to the start of the season, Mike Chappell (Indy Star beat writer) went on several radio stations as a guest practically begging fans not to compare Peyton and Andrew. It would be interesting to hear his stance now.
Going forward, I'm intrigued to see if how much the Colts and Broncos will continue to mirror each other. One I do feel strongly about:
Also, the 13% of season ticket holders who quit in the Colts after they released Manning- No, you aren't welcome back. Go root for Denver.— Brad Wells (BBS) (@StampedeBlue) November 5, 2012