Are the inconsistent Colts true Super Bowl contenders?

11/13/13 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

As a fan of the Oakland Raiders, I was expecting to see my team get trounced by the Indianapolis Colts on opening weekend. Instead, I saw Terrelle Pryor down by four points with the ball on the Colts' eight-yard line and 1:13 remaining on the clock. Sure, the Raiders ended up losing, but the Colts did not look nearly as impressive as I had expected.

The following week, the Colts lost to the Miami Dolphins, who have looked bad in most of their games since then, most recently losing to the 0-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Colts came out of left field with a dominating win over the 49ers in San Francisco the next week, and handed the Seattle Seahawks their only loss of the season two weeks later. They looked horrible in San Diego when they faced off with the Chargers, but pulled it together to beat the seemingly invincible Denver Broncos in their next game.

Their most recent contest, however, was a humiliating 38-8 loss at home to the St. Louis Rams, who feature journeyman Kellen Clemens behind center.

I've seen great football out of the Colts, but I've seen borderline disgraceful showings from the very same team. I can't help but to wonder which of these two teams will show up when the playoffs roll around. In this article, I'm going to try to figure out whether or not the Colts are truly Super Bowl contenders.

Nov 3, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) yells on the sidelines against the Houston Texans during the first half at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY SportsWhen discussing the Colts, you generally want to start with the face of the franchise - quarterback Andrew Luck. Have I seen him play well enough to warrant the pre-draft hype that had him rated as the best quarterback prospect in 30 years? No, not exactly, but you can not argue the fact that this kid has a knack for winning football games. He's efficient, he comes through in the clutch, and he has really cut back on turnovers, which were a big problem for him as a rookie last season.

It is worth noting that Luck's three worst statistical games this season have been the Colts' three losses, but I believe that the correlation is more a product of the running game struggling and the defense failing to make big plays. Luck has played poorly in his team's losses more due to the situations he ends up in, rather than the games being lost due to his own poor play. I certainly believe that Luck is talented enough to lead a team through a Super Bowl run, but it's the rest of the team that concerns me.

Ahmad Bradshaw (neck, injured reserve) ran the ball well for the Colts through the first three weeks, and the other running backs combined for a solid outing without Bradshaw in Week 4 against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. Since then, however, the team has averaged just 78.2 rushing yards per game, which would rank 27th in the league. The offensive line struggles in the run game, Trent Richardson has been a major bust since coming over in a trade, and Donald Brown is historically unreliable. The Colts have been held under a 75 rushing yards in three of their past five games, and they have struggled mightily in those three contests.

Even a quarterback as talented as Luck is going to have a hard time when the offense can't do anything on the ground, and the Colts have not been at all consistent in that area, which is a red flag for their Super Bowl chances. They have struggled in every game in which they can't get their running backs going. Can they string together three or four consecutive strong rushing performances in the playoffs? From what I've seen since Bradshaw got hurt, it does not look like they could.
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