After the Colts escaped Week 1 with a narrow win over Raiders, I wrote that expectations were too high for Indianapolis, that a 7-9 or 8-8 record was a better indication of the team’s overall talent.
Boy, was I wrong.
Entering their bye week, the Colts are 5-2 and two games up on Tennessee in the AFC South.
With wins over San Francisco, Seattle and Denver, Indy is very much a Super Bowl contender.
Playing in perhaps the weakest division in the NFL — and with the AFC weaker now than it has been in past seasons — it’s very possible coach Chuck Pagano’s crew could end up with a first-round bye in the postseason.
So, how have the Colts gotten to this point?
Let us reexamine the first seven weeks…
What Went Right: Luck, Mathis and a crumbling AFC South
Indianapolis has wins over the defending NFC champion (San Francisco), one of the current NFC heavyweights (Seattle) and an undefeated team averaging 44 points per game (Denver).
With a more accurate Andrew Luck — he’s upped his completion percentage from 54 percent last year to 61 percent this season — the Colts’ offense has cracked the 30-point mark three times in its last four games despite suffering a barrage of season-ending injuries (explained below).
After a few shaky performances earlier in the season, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton seems to have taken the kid gloves off Luck.
The result has been wondrous for Indy, and if it weren’t for Peyton Manning embarking on another historic season, Luck may very well be the MVP front runner.
Then there’s that Robert Mathis-led defense.
Mathis may very well be the Defensive Player of the Year at this point.
The 32-year-old defensive end leads the NFL in sacks with 11.5, and his strip-sack of Manning in the second quarter Sunday resulted in a safety, completely changing the complexion of the game.
The entire unit was impressive against the Broncos, with the secondary manhandling the Denver wide receivers. (In a borderline illegal fashion, but hey — no flag, no foul). Linebacker Jerrell Freeman showed off his coverage capabilities by keeping mammoth tight end Julius Thomas in check.