Author Archives: Kent Sterling

Colts T.Y. Hilton practices, but that may not mean what fans hope

If T.Y. Hilton can go Sunday, he (and the city of Indianapolis) will be all smiles!

It’s been a dark few weeks for wide receiver T.Y. Hilton following his neck surgery, and while he’s practicing again this week the torture of watching his team from the sidelines might not be over.

Asked whether he plans to play Sunday against the Houston Texans, Hilton said, “I mean I have to practice. That’s up to the docs. I’ve got to get my legs back under me. I’ve got to pass some tests. So, just cause I’m practicing doesn’t mean I’m playing. I’m just out there giving this team the boost that we need.”

This would be a very appropriate week for Hilton’s return as he has historically torched the Texans since being drafted in 2012.  Over 18 games against the division rival, Hilton has 97 catches for 1,728 yards, good for 18.5% of his career yardage total.

Hilton related how difficult the surgery and rehab have been to get to this point, “I woke up Week 1 and I was there mentally, but physically I wasn’t. I just woke up crying – just nothing physically I could do to be out there. As an athlete, just playing this game, it’s just something your body feels like on gameday.

“Only athletes will understand what I’m saying,” Hilton said.  “But it’s just crazy. It hurt me, it hurt me a lot not being able to be out there, especially for these five weeks that I missed. It was tough. Monday through Saturday, I’m good, just continue to constantly rehab, and Sunday just watching my team go out there without me, it just hurt. It hurt me a lot. It took a toll on me.”

Different is good when your team is 1-4, so T.Y. Hilton being back on the practice field changes the energy in Indianapolis after a horrifying final quarter and overtime in Baltimore Monday night.

Fans hope to see “The Ghost” disappearing into the ether against the Texans only to show up with the football 45-yards downfield this Sunday – just like they have 97 times before.

With so little to smile about after the first five games on the 2021 season, Hilton and Colts fans are eager look ahead toward Sunday and believe the dark days are finally over.

The promise of Hilton’s return will do, even if he isn’t able to go Sunday.

Colts GM Chris Ballard has only one choice – play a healthy Wentz regardless of draft comp to Eagles

As sure as Ballard likes a four-color pen clipped to his collar, he will always do the honorable thing.

Be honorable.  That’s the only choice for Colts general manager Chris Ballard, and it’s the choice he will make.

It can be argued that Ballard’s roster is imperfect, building from the inside out has left the Colts wanting on the exterior of both his offense and defense, and that his care in the quality of men he invite to be Colts has left the team with less dynamism.  But Ballard is beyond reproach as an honorable and honest man.

Colts fans scream that Ballard is an addlepated idiot for allowing quarterback Carson Wentz reach the threshold of snaps taken that will kick what is currently a second round pick sent to the Philadelphia Eagles into the first round.

See, the deal Ballard made with the Eagles was designed to protect the Colts if the oft-injured Wentz missed a quarter of the season.  If Wentz fails to take 75% of the Colts snaps this season, a second-rounder goes to Philly.  If he takes 75% or more, the Colts first round pick belongs to the Eagles.  If the Colts earn a spot in the playoffs, that threshold drops to 70%.  That clause is moot because current backup Brett Hundley is unlikely in the extreme to lead the Colts to wins should Wentz go down.

So far, so good for the Eagles.  The Colts are 1-4, which bumps the Colts draft position up the board, AND Wentz has taken all but five of the Colts offensive snaps.  Despite the 1-4 start, the Colts still have a 40% chance to make the playoffs, according to the big brains at fivethirtyeight.com.  As long as they retain a reasonable path to the postseason, the decision to play Wentz is easy.

If they lose one or more of the games they should win – say the game against the Texans this Sunday, the calculus will change and fans will become nervous about a potential top 10 pick landing in the Eagles lap when Ballard has it in his power to hold onto it through sitting a healthy Wentz for 25.1% of the Colts snaps.

I respond to comments on my YouTube Channel everyday yelling for Ballard to pull the plug on Wentz to avoid the upgrade for the Eagles.  They are adamant.  “Ballard should be fired for allowing the 2nd to become a 1st!” they write.  “We need a GM who will do what it takes to win a championship!”  That’s one of dozens.

Despite the noise, Ballard will not do it.  He may cite a variety of practical reasons, like how 31 other GMs and their successors would never trust him again, and how the locker room would view pulling Wentz as the ultimate hypocrisy – an utter surrender while demanding the rest of the roster competes.  He might also say, “Mr. Irsay would never allow it.”

But there is only one reason not to sit Wentz.  It isn’t right.  We don’t talk much about what is right and what is wrong anymore.  The pragmatics of life have corrupted our ability to evaluate right and wrong, but if a man agrees to a deal he is bound to follow through on it in both letter and spirit.  That’s Ballard’s ethos, and he will stick to it.  You may embrace the notion that the terms of the trade are Eagles GM Howie Roseman’s problem.  “Let the buyer beware!” you shout.

But calling Ballard a fool for sticking to his word shows a failing in the collective conscience and morality of those fans who subscribe to that notion.

It takes a lifetime to build and validate trust, but a single act to corrupt it forever.  Ballard will not allow the Wentz trade destroy the trust of others – or his own self-respect.

Winning a Super Bowl is wonderful – as any Colts fan who was around in 2007 can tell you.  But all that joy, the parade, the banners, and the Lombardi Trophy are not worth deceit – especially at this level with such outrageous transparency.  Ballard will not shame himself and the Colts by pulling a fast one on the Eagles.

They say all’s fair in love and war.  Well, if it takes a dereliction of decency and honor to win at either, they aren’t worth the fight.

Indianapolis Colts – Optimism Thursday! 9 reasons to like Sunday’s game v Texans! Lamb lifts Pacers to win!

Colts defense – problem both scheme & players? Reason for hope! Pacers tonight on TV!

Colts owner Jim Irsay’s wild tweet postpones Optimism Wednesday! Indiana Pacers tonight!

Colts playoff hopes dim after utter collapse in Baltimore

Carson Wentz played his career best game last night.

Sickening.  Pitiful.  Heartbreaking.

The Colts overtime loss to the Ravens was all those things.  Any night, losing after leading 22-3 with 18 minutes left in regulation would be galling.  At 1-3 on the road with playoff hopes on the line, it’s the kind of result that ends careers, a season, and devalues a meticulously built culture.

Quarterback Carson Wentz played arguably the best game of his career, and the defense held the Ravens to fewer than 100 yards on the ground for the first time in 44 games.  Cornerbacks were hurt, the defense went soft, and Frank Reich trusted kicker Roberto Blankenship over his hand-picked QB and the very efficient offense that put his Colts in a position to win in the first place.

Every season, Colts fans indulge in Super Bowl dreams, but they likely sailed wide left as Blankenship’s game-winning field goal attempt to end regulation did the same. According to Sports Betting Dime, the reigning champion Bucs have moved into the favorite spot as Super Bowl odds-on favorite (+500), and the Colts have now dropped into a group with the Miami Dolphins (+10000) – the only team the Colts have vanquished this season.

It’s worth remembering that the Colts found a way to rebound from an even more horrific 1-5 start to earn a 2018 playoff berth and actually win a wild card round game in Reich’s first season.  This year, such a turnaround seems a very long field goal try given the remaining schedule includes games at Buffalo, against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs, and in Glendale against the suddenly excellent Arizona Cardinals.  Unless the Colts can win one of those three, the ceiling for the season record is 10-7, which seems the minimum likely to win a competitively compromised AFC South.

Furious fans want Blankenship waived, defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus fired, and general manager Chris Ballard held accountable for a roster full of flaws.  The biggest question mark entering the season was whether Carson Wentz could bounce back to play at the level needed to lift the Colts toward another postseason. Despite foot surgery, two ankle sprains, and a five-day Covid quarantine, Wentz has been plenty good – posting a triple digit passer rating in three games.

The defense has suffered a spate of injuries at corner, safety, and defensive end.  That didn’t help Eberflus’s bend/don’t break shell zone as it allowed the Ravens to score touchdowns on its final four possessions.  Sure, if Blankenship makes a kick, fans would (mostly) forget the Colts being gouged by a suddenly comfortable Lamar Jackson, but the collapse certainly underscored the flaws of the scheme and personnel.

With 12 games left in the season, the Colts aren’t dead as far as a playoff berth, but the chances of earning one took a major blow in the loss to the Ravens.  The Colts showed what they are capable of on the offensive side of the ball, but also what they are incapable of doing on the other side of the ball.

As the schedule theoretically eases, the Colts need to embrace the urgency that a 1-4 start mandates.  It’s not likely this season ends with a meaningful victory, but on Octorber 12th, it is way too early to call the rest of the 2021 season meaningless.  Sometimes you need to search for the meaning, but in the NFL it is never too hard to find.

That will either make the rest of the season a fun march into winter, or a difficult debacle that will require roster and staff responses to change the competitive dynamic of a team that once held such promise.

Colts should have won – didn’t win – now must win! Wentz plays best game of career!

Colts going to win tonight! Carson Wentz is going to shine – defense will sparkle! Gainbridge Fieldhouse sanitation miracle