We've got just two more games left in the NFL season and the Indianapolis Colts need to win just one of them to clinch a playoff spot and continue their improbable turnaround from being 2-14 a year ago. Yet after yesterday's loss to the Houston Texans, more than a few fans I've spoken with are wringing their hands. Why?
Here's a list of "glass half empty" complaints I've heard in the last 24 hours and my "glass half full" response:
Glass Half Empty: The Colts lost yet again to a playoff caliber team. They haven't beaten anybody good since they defeated Green Bay way back in week five.
Glass Half Full: While it's true the Colts haven't beaten many playoff caliber teams, they've taken care of business against teams they should beat. That's why they'll be in the playoffs and "better" teams will be staying home. The Arizona Cardinals won at New England and started 4-0. Then they proceeded to lose nine straight, including games against teams like St. Louis. This is the NFL. A few teams are elite and a few teams are really bad. The Colts are part of that "average" middle that will finish anywhere from 6-10 to 10-6. That's a step up from 2-14.
Glass Half Empty: Yeah, but the Colts can't win a playoff game on the road. They're too young.
Glass Half Full: That might be so, but signs are pointing to that changing. The Colts are very young, but after 14 games, nobody can be considered a rookie any more. The drive where the Colts scored their second touchdown to pull within 23-17 was all rookies. Vick Ballard carried the ball most of the way down the field and the Colts scored when Andrew Luck found Dwayne Allen for the touchdown. The Colts other touchdown was a Luck pass to another rookie, TY Hilton. One of their most veteran players, Mewelde Moore, who owns a couple of Super Bowl rings, fumbled on the one yard line.
Think about what it takes to win in the playoffs, especially on the road. You've got to be able to run the football and stop the run. Yesterday, Vick Ballard announced that he's ready to be an every down back with a 100 yard performance on the road against a playoff team. The Colts defense also did a nice job for most of the game against Arian Foster. He had one drive that was aided by a couple of runs where the Texans' offensive line was literally allowed to tackle Colts defenders in the open field without being flagged. Then there was the last drive where the Colts, down by two scores, tackled the ball instead of Foster. Other than that, they did a nice job against arguably the best running back in the AFC.
If you're not excited about what this team has already done and feeling anything but giddy about what they could do, you need some professional help. (I can do that by the way. Drop me an e-mail.)
Elsewhere in the NFL in Week 15:
- Peyton Manning. Wow. Nuff said.
- How about the Washington Redskins and Kirk Cousins? The 'Skins drafted two quarterbacks who have played better than any other rookie quarterbacks not named Luck.
- The Dallas Cowboys just won't go away. That battle for the NFC East is a dog fight every year.
- Will the Bears make the playoffs? If they don't will Lovie Smith keep his job? Who'd have thought after week one that the Colts would have a rosier playoff outlook at this stage than the Bears?
- Cincinnati goes to Pittsburgh next week. The winner all but clinches a playoff spot. The loser is pretty much done. Not only that but the winner has a shot to wrestle the division away from Baltimore who seems to be in a free fall right now. Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator? Really?
- Atlanta is for real, folks. I don't see a first round meltdown this year… unless they play Seattle. I would not want to have to face the Seahawks in the playoffs. They've got something special going in the Pacific Northwest.
- OK, I apologize for all my skepticism about Colin Kaepernick. He performed extremely well against the opportunistic Patriots last night. Maybe Jim Harbaugh was right after all.