The Indianapolis Colts are 4-3 on the 2012 season and in second place in the AFC South.
In Week 9, they take on the Miami Dolphins at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts rank 14th on offense, 31st on defense and 29th overall in DVOA.
Primary Talking Point for Week 9
Last week, the Colts were in the hunt. Now, they are looking forward to being hunted.
Thanks to the heroics of Andrew Luck and Vick Ballard, Indianapolis is thinking playoffs.
When you break down the Colts into the component parts, you cut the purr right out of the cat.
There's simply no reason on paper why this team should be over .500. The defense is terrible. The offense is average at best. The running game is inconsistent. The starting quarterback is a rookie.
Still, despite all odds and logic, they have won four games.
Now is not the time for the Colts to read their own press clippings. They have to keep improving or a 4-3 start can turn into a 5-11 finish very quickly.
Vontae Davis will likely miss several games with a knee injury.
Coby Fleener is getting an MRI on his shoulder.
Robert Mathis and Fili Moala are hoping to practice and return to the field.
Josh Chapman is still on PUP and the team has two weeks to evaluate him before activating him or moving him to IR.
Player on the Rise
Vick Ballard struggled early in the season in limited action, but his time filling in for an injured Donald Brown has done him good.
Obviously, his spinning helicopter catch to beat the Titans is a highlight, but note how his last four games have gone:
Green Bay: 6 carries, 11 yards, 1.8 YPC
New York Jets: 8 carries, 25 yards, 3.1 YPC
Cleveland: 20 carries, 84 yards, 4.2 YPC
Tennessee: 12 carries, 55 yards, 4.6 YPC
Ballard should be the second back behind Brown, who is a superior player, but if he can continue to produce like he has in the last two weeks, the Colts can feel confident in their running game the rest of the year.
Feel-Good Stat of the Week
Andrew Luck's conventional stats continue to lag, but his advanced metrics place him in the upper half of the NFL. He's now 15th overall in DVOA and 14th in DYAR, just behind Robert Griffin III. In QBR, he's seventh.
Luck's development continues to shock, as he's already a demonstrably better quarterback than other established names like Phil Rivers, Michael Vick and Joe Flacco.
There is a tier of quarterbacks right above Luck that qualify as "good" players. He's not there yet, but there's little doubt he'll get there soon.
Troubling Stat of the Week
It's hard not to keep harping on turnovers with this team when they continue to be a huge problem.
Indianapolis hasn't done a bad job of hanging on to the football. 13 turnovers in seven games is good for 17th in the NFL. That's not great, but considering the age of the starting offense, no one is going to complain about that pace.
As has been mentioned before, the defense has only forced three turnovers. Indianapolis has won two games already in which it lost the turnover battle.
That is unsustainable.
Overall Trend: Rising
The Colts won the road. They doubled their win output from 2011. They beat a division rival.
At this point, almost anything the Colts do in 2012 is gravy. Most people thought this team would win five games at most, and it has won four already.
The next two games are pivotal. Miami, believe it or not, is what passes for a playoff-caliber team in the AFC. If the Colts can knock the Dolphins off at home, it will be difficult not to take them seriously as playoff contenders.
Even if they take down Miami, they'll have to travel to Jacksonville for a short week. The road team is at a major disadvantage in the Thursday night game, so the odds are stacked firmly against the Colts.
Fans may be chattering about the possibility of a 6-3 start, but even 5-4 would be outstanding.
Indianapolis can't keep winning on a wing and a prayer every week. The defense has yet to show any discernible improvement over 2011 and in fact has slid to the bottom of the NFL.
For the good times to keep rolling in Naptown, this team has to keep growing.
Injury information supplied via the Indianapolis Colts PR department.
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