The Colts have, without any question, the best set of quality wins in the NFL this season.
They've beaten Seattle, San Francisco and Denver, three of the handful of real contenders to win the Super Bowl this season.
But what makes the Colts so perplexing is they've also had some duds, and none worse than the stinker they subjected their fans to on Sunday.
The Rams led the Colts 38-0 on their way to a 38-8 win. St. Louis was 3-6 coming in with Kellen Clemens at quarterback (though, given how competitive they've been the last three weeks with Clemens, maybe Sam Bradford was a big part of the problem).
The Colts gave up three long touchdowns to Rams rookie Tavon Austin (who had two scores in his first nine games), Andrew Luck threw three interceptions and Trent Richardson had 2 yards rushing. Yes, 2 yards. Just 6 feet. Richardson has been a non-factor for the Colts and that trade with the Cleveland Browns is looking like a massive mistake.
The Colts might be excused for one bad day against the Rams, but last week they had to save a win after a terrible first half against the Texans. And who knows what would have happened had Houston not lost coach Gary Kubiak to a scary medical incident going into halftime. Since Reggie Wayne got hurt late against the Broncos, the Colts have played two games, and three-quarters of that has been bad.
Indianapolis is going to win the AFC South – Tennessee lost to Jacksonville and Houston lost to Arizona on Sunday, so where would the challenge come from? – but all of a sudden the losses to the Dolphins and Chargers, the game they almost dropped at home against the Raiders and Sunday's debacle are as bold on the Colts' résumé as those great wins.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 10 in the NFL:
The NFC South race: It sure looked like a walk over for the Saints in the NFC South a few weeks ago. The Panthers might have something to say about it.
Carolina stamped itself as a contender in the division (in the conference? to win the Super Bowl?) with its 10-9 victory at San Francisco. The 49ers, who had averaged 34.8 points over their last five games and hadn't scored fewer than 31 points in that span, gained just 151 yards. And the 49ers were at home on Sunday, coming off a bye. The Panthers overpowered them. And Carolina's offense didn't do much, but it won't face many defenses as good as San Francisco's the rest of the season.
Carolina still has two games against New Orleans, a team it swept last year. Given how well Carolina plays on defense, the race might come down to late December.
Broncos and Seahawks: Well, that's more like it.
A few weeks ago the Broncos lost to Indianapolis, by far the best team they played in the first half of the season, and there were some concerns about the defense. The Seahawks looked like a mess the last two weeks against St. Louis and Tampa Bay. But these two teams were early favorites to meet in the Super Bowl for a reason.
The Broncos built a 28-6 lead at a good San Diego team and scored a nice 28-20 road win before the Chiefs come to Denver next Sunday. The Seahawks went on the road and blasted the Falcons 33-10. It was never in doubt. The Seahawks outgained Atlanta 490-226. They also got good news later when the 49ers lost at home. Seattle leads the NFC West by two games.
And when you have Marshawn Lynch blasting defenders like he did against the Falcons, anything seems possible.
Both teams seemed to get back on track this week. Maybe the most intriguing Super Bowl matchup will happen after all.
The great Andre Johnson: It's too bad Andre Johnson is going to use one of the few prime years he has left on a Texans team going nowhere. He followed up his 229-yard performance against the Colts last week with two more wonderful touchdowns against the Cardinals. The second one, on a ball tipped up by Patrick Peterson in great coverage, was phenomenal.
Johnson is 32, and by now it should be clear he belongs in the Hall of Fame. The Texans are 2-7, but the chance to see Johnson is a great reason to tune into their games the rest of the season.
The great Calvin Johnson: The debate about the most important non-quarterback in the league, at least for 2013, seems to be a runaway. Johnson's importance to the Lions, who are the favorite to win the NFC North after Sunday's win, can't be overstated. Johnson had two more touchdowns on Sunday in a 21-19 win, including one in the final three minutes that gave the Lions an eight-point lead.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is the league's MVP through 10 weeks, and there are a couple of other quarterbacks who have a good argument to be No. 2. But if the voting didn't include quarterbacks, Johnson might win almost unanimously.
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals usually play most of their games in the shadow of the marquee games in the late slot on Sundays (seriously, who was watching them on Sunday over Broncos-Chargers or Panthers-49ers?), so you might not have noticed that Arizona is a contender for a wild-card spot in the NFC.
Arizona is 5-4 after beating Houston 27-24. And wins against the Lions and Panthers are no joke. The Cardinals have a good defense and an offense that seems to do just enough. The schedule is fairly hard the rest of the way, but Cardinals coach Bruce Arians took the Colts to the playoffs last year when nobody expected that. Maybe he can pull off another unlikely berth in Arizona.
Marvin Lewis' overtime decision: Lewis just can't win with his overtime choices. The Bengals coach got some heat for punting in overtime against Miami last week instead of trying a long field goal. The Bengals lost. So on Sunday, Lewis went for it on fourth-and-2 instead of going for a long field goal. And that too was the wrong choice.
Giovani Bernard caught a quick swing pass, got hit by Ravens safety James Ihedigbo behind the line and tried to reverse field but lost 11 yards. The Ravens took possession and marched down for the game-winning field goal.
There was some justification in Lewis' decision to go for it rather than attempt a 50-yard field goal. It was fourth-and-short, kicker Mike Nugent would have been battling windy conditions, and there was a benefit in going for a touchdown on the first possession of overtime because a field goal wouldn't have ended the game. It made sense.
Still, all that matters is the Bengals suffered a second straight loss. The 6-4 Bengals are still a game-and-a-half up on Baltimore and Cleveland in the AFC North, but a lot of the momentum the Bengals built up during a nice start has been lost.
The Titans' hopes for 2013: Nobody had a more ruinous day than the Titans. The Titans started the day as a legitimate playoff contender and finished it looking forward to 2014.
Tennessee lost 29-27 at home to a Jaguars team that was 0-8 and had lost all eight games by double digits. That was bad enough. But on top of that, quarterback Jake Locker suffered a foot injury that from all accounts is expected to end his season.
Being told by source that Jake Locker's foot injury is "bad" and most likely season-ending. Tests tomorrow will confirm whether it is.
— Terry McCormick (@terrymc13) November 11, 2013
Now the Titans are 4-5 and probably without their quarterback the rest of the way, so allow us to be the first to say: Better luck next year, Tennessee.
Vince Young: Young must be beside himself. The Packers figured at the end of preseason that Young wasn't good enough to be on the roster, and cut him without another backup in place. Then they signed journeyman Seneca Wallace.
Aaron Rodgers suffered a fractured collarbone on Monday, and then Wallace couldn't last the first quarter against Philadelphia on Sunday, suffering a groin injury that knocked him out of the game. Scott Tolzien came in to make his NFL debut. And Tolzien looked good, completing 24-of-39 passes for 280 yards, albeit in a loss to the Eagles. The Packers' season is on the ropes, but Tolzien did enough that Mike McCarthy already said he'll start next week. It was a great opportunity in a sophisticated offense with great weapons, and Tolzien played well.
Young couldn't take advantage of that opportunity when he had it in the preseason, or else he would probably have been playing now with a chance to resurrect his career. It's likely he won't get that opportunity again.
The Bears' two-point conversion: Chicago has two enormous wideouts, Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, and neither got the ball on the Bears' second shot at a two-point conversion to tie the Lions in the final minute.
The Bears had a second shot to tie the game after a roughing the passer penalty on the first conversion attempt, and they curiously decided to run the ball to Matt Forte. It was stuffed short of the goal line.
It was not Bears coach Marc Trestman that called a run into quarterback Josh McCown, but it apparently was a call that had two options. If the Lions didn't have a certain amount of defenders in the box, it became a run.
"We had a couple options there," McCown said, according to the team's transcript. "We had rules we were going off of and a number count that we were looking for in the run game. We felt like we had that. Stuff we had worked on in practice all week. Felt like we had it. Just didn’t get it executed well."
Maybe next time Trestman should just trust Marshall and Jeffery, and dial a play up for them with no option to check out of it.
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