A playoff appearance in Year 1. An AFC South title and a playoff victory in Year 2. And Year 3?
The Colts have a two-game lead over the Houston Texans in the division and potentially have the pieces to make a run in the AFC despite losing linebacker Robert Mathis for the season (torn Achilles tendon).
“I think we’re going in the right direction,” general manager Ryan Grigson said. “I think we’ve had to learn some hard lessons, obviously, along the way. We’ve got to still continue to try to put our best four quarters together, but we’re trying to play championship football. Individually, playing at a championship level is the goal.”
Midseason MVP: This is a no-brainer. Luck isn't just the Colts’ MVP so far this season, he’s also in the running to be the NFL MVP. He leads the league in passing yards, completions, attempts and touchdowns. That’s not too bad when some of the other quarterbacks he’s competing against in those statistical categories go by the name of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Luck has excelled at spreading the ball around and not focusing on his primary targets, T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne. Luck has completed passes to at least seven different players in all nine games. He has even had three games of completing passes to nine different players.
Biggest disappointment: LaRon Landry was supposed to take over the leadership role in the secondary given the departure of Antoine Bethea to the San Francisco 49ers in the offseason. It was supposed to be time for Landry to live up to the four-year, $24 million contract the Colts gave him in 2013. Instead, Landry continues to disappoint with poor coverage skills, and to make matters worse, he got suspended four games for taking performance-enhancing drugs. Landry’s suspension ended last week, but he didn't play against the New York Giants on Monday because he was on the exempt list since he wasn't ready to return football-wise. Do you think that would have happened if Mathis had been able to return from his PED suspension? Nope.
Best moment: Wayne spent the entire offseason talking about how he planned to prove to the doubters that he could return from a torn ACL at the age of 35. Wayne has done that without any knee problems outside of a minor scare when he slipped in Week 1 against Denver. He had nine catches for 98 yards against the Broncos, which was his first game since October 2013. Wayne topped that by having his first 100-yard game of the season against Tennessee (7 catches, 119 yards) in Week 4. Wayne has said several times that he’s no longer the player who will make a catch and outrun the defense 50 yards for a touchdown. What Wayne is, though, is effective. Luck knows he can turn to Wayne at any moment because the veteran receiver knows how to run excellent routes and get enough separation between him and the defender to get open.
Worst moment: It started out with Mathis being suspended the first four games of the season for taking PEDs, which he said were to help his wife get pregnant. But during the suspension, while working out so he'd able to jump right back into the lineup once he returned, Mathis tore his Achilles, ending any chance of playing this season. The Colts went from having to be without last season’s NFL sack leader (19.5) for four games to being without him the entire season. The Colts gave Mathis a contract extension, but that doesn’t stop some from questioning whether he can still be a sack master after tearing his Achilles (and he'll be 34 years old next season).
Key to the second half: The Colts are fine offensively as long as Luck continues to take the snaps at quarterback. The defense had a dominant five-game stretch in the first half, but Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger proved that an elite quarterback can find their flaws and pick them apart when he threw for 522 yards and led Pittsburgh to 51 points on Oct. 26. The defense needs to continue to improve without Mathis because it'll likely need to get by at least one of the premier quarterbacks in the AFC to get to the Super Bowl. Depending on Tony Romo’s health in Dallas, Brady could be the only Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback the Colts face (Nov. 16) in the second half of the season.