While I can’t sugarcoat a 59-24 beatdown, I woke up today not feeling differently about the Colts than I did yesterday morning.
There are issues with this team. The defense is incapable of forcing turnovers. The defensive secondary can’t be relied on to hold up on its own against good quarterbacks. Their Special Teams play has ranged from mediocre to pathetic. Andrew Luck, a rookie, reminds you every once in awhile that he’s a rookie. They weren't a legitimate Super Bowl contender 24 hours ago, nor are they now. But, all of that said, the Colts will enter Week 12 in the 5th spot in the AFC standings, still one game clear of the chasing Bengals, and two games clear of everyone else. With Kansas City, Buffalo, Detroit, Tennessee, and a likely-resting Texans team in the final week left on the schedule, it’s impossible not to be optimistic about their playoff chances.
Brady is a slight upgrade over Weeden, Hasslebeck, Tannehill, and Gabbert
This isn’t a knock on Indianapolis, but their success this season has had a lot more to do with the alarming mediocrity of the AFC than anything else. Only six of the sixteen teams have winning records. They have the five worst point differentials in the league (Kansas City -132, Jacksonville -125, Oakland -114, Tennessee -92), and eight of the worst eleven. It’s a great year to be “rebuilding” in a conference that has three great teams (Houston, New England, Denver), a small handful of average ones, and six or seven awful ones. All the Colts have to be is better than their mediocre Wild Card chasing counterparts, and they’ve proven to be that.
Even after losing by five touchdowns, the Colts still control their own destiny. Unlike New England, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore, they have avoided a major impact injury (knock on wood) to this point. They'll likely own the first tiebreaker with Cincinnati (Conference record – Colts are 4-3, Bengals are just 3-5), should it come to that. They’ll still be favored in at least three of their remaining games, with the potential to be favored in four.
Nobody feels good about a blowout loss, especially to a rival. However, in the grand scheme of things, Sunday’s game with Buffalo is far more important than yesterday’s pipe dream in New England. The playoffs are the bar - not delusions of making the Super Bowl - and reaching the postseason would make 2012 an unequivocal success.
Cheer up. The bottom line for this team has not changed.