Power Rankings: Preseason: No. 1. This week: No. 10.
Where they stand: At 5-3, they are even with the Titans atop the AFC South, though they trail in division record, where they are just 1-2. Considering the injuries the Colts have endured, it’s impressive they’re on pace for 10-6, but 10-6 doesn’t meet their typical standards. Dallas Clark, Anthony Gonzalez and Melvin Bullitt are gone for the year and there is no guarantee that Bob Sanders will be able to return. They don’t expect giant run production, but it’s come short of expectations and Joseph Addai is hurt.
Falling: The Colts’ air of invincibility. Peyton Manning is to be feared, but Jacksonville and Houston have showed how Indianapolis can be susceptible to division foes, and Philadelphia stood toe-to-toe with the Colts and fared better just about everywhere it counted. Their ho-hum willingness to simply look to the next man up when injuries arrive is admirable, but they are getting stretched thin. If people like Addai and cornerback Jerraud Powers can’t soon return and be back for the long haul, it’s likely to cost them more as replacements who aren’t as good wear down.
Rising: Tight end Jacob Tamme. In two games replacing Clark since the Pro Bowler went on injured reserve, Tamme has a couple plays he’d definitely like back. But 17 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns is certainly a level of production the Colts have to be thrilled about. Once practice confidence from Manning translated to game action, Tamme became a reliable piece and the quarterback won’t think twice about looking the direction of a backup who’s shown good speed, quality hands and a pretty good feel for things.
Midseason MVP: Unquestionably Manning. Despite all the injuries, he is still operating at an exceptionally high level with 2,478 passing yards, a 4:1 touchdown to interception ratio, a 65 percent completion rate and a 96.1 passer rating.
Outlook: Jeff Fisher says the Colts remain the team to beat and I agree. While some players aren’t coming back from injuries, they have a chance to be at their healthiest for the real meat of the schedule. But they will face stiff challenges at New England, against San Diego, at Oakland and with a home-and-home with Tennessee still ahead. The wild-card competition in the AFC can be crazy, and the Colts know winning the division is the only sure thing for a postseason invitation.