by Kent Sterling
The middle of October is way too early for scoreboard watching. The Indianapolis Colts will only play their sixth game of the season tomorrow night, but the division race is taking shape in the direction the Colts certainly like.
A win tomorrow, coupled with losses today by the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans, will give the Colts a two game advantage over the Titans, and a massive three game bulge over the Texans.
Four of the remaining games for the Colts are against the Texans and Titans, which means sweeping those games would all but guarantee a division crown if they can beat the Chargers.
No one thought the Titans and Jaguars were going to challenge for the division, but the Texans were expected to be the team to beat. Quarterback Matt Schaub is under siege in Houston, and his injury was cheered today by home fans. They were proven classless as well as wrong when replacement T.J. Yates threw a pick six to St. Louis Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree soon after.
The Rams have not been a very good team this season and have only 10 road wins since the beginning of the 2008 season, but they obliterated 38-13 a Texans team that appeared to want to be anywhere other than Reliant Stadium today. Turnovers and penalties killed the Texans, and that’s not a good sign for the rest of the season, or the future of coach Gary Kubiak.
Schaub wasn’t bad today – 15-21, 186 yards, and three sacks, but Yates was horrible with two picks and an anemic average per passing attempt of 5.8 yards.
Not sure what game Kubiak was watching as he continued to use tools other than the relentlessly effective Arian Foster, who had only 20 carries despite the Rams inability to stop him. I guess the 141 yards wasn’t enough to earn a heavier workload.
The defense allowed embattled former #1 pick Sam Bradford to enjoy possibly his best day as a pro, completing 12 of 16 passes for 117 yards and three TDs. A defensive front as good as the Texans have been at getting after quarterbacks should have been able to pound the relatively immobile Bradford. His 12 completions were spread among nine receivers, and none had more than two.
All that is beside the point, which is that the Colts can take a huge step toward the postseason tomorrow night by beating a flawed Chargers team. Tomorrow, I’ll post the five things the Colts need to do to win, but suffice it to say that creating discomfort for quarterback Phillip Rivers is the key. Rivers in rhythm is a very dangerous guy. Rivers being forced to move and deliver before he’s ready – not so much.
It may be too early for the Colts to take a look down the road to assess chances for a division championship or postseason berth, but not for me. After tomorrow night, the only games against teams with a losing record are against those in their own division – Jacksonville and Houston (2). The Colts play against the only two undefeated teams – Denver (October 20) and Kansas City (yeah, I can’t believe it either, on December 22). They play four games against 3-3 teams – St. Louis (November 10), Arizona (November 24) and Tennessee 2x (November 14 and December 1). The remaining game is against an improving 4-2 Cincinnati team on December 8.
The combined record of the Colts 10 remaining opponents after the Chargers game is 32-28, but only four really matter. If the Colts can sweep the three divisional opponents in the five games against them after winning tomorrow night, they would finish 10-6, and eliminate the Texans. The Titans would need to win their other eight games in order to beat out the Colts for the division crown.
A win tomorrow night won’t clinch the division for the Colts, but it will make the road for everyone else very treacherous. After six games, they would be in a solid position to earn one of the top four seeds on the AFC side of the playoff bracket. Who would have thought this was possible two seasons ago as the Colts were the worst team in the NFL?