The Indianapolis Colts rebounded from an awful 2011 season to finish 11-5 and make the playoffs last year, but a lot of people questioned whether or not general manager Ryan Grigson had really turned the franchise around. The Colts allowed 30 more points than they scored, played a very easy schedule, and were quickly ousted in the playoffs by the Ravens. There was a lot of evidence that Indianapolis was "posing" as a playoff contender.
That doesn't seem to be the case this year.
After dispatching the Seahawks last week to improve to 4-1, the Colts appear to be the real deal. They've scored 60 more points than their opponents and are sixth in scoring offense and fifth in scoring defense. Quarterback Andrew Luck has taken major strides under new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, and now it seems that the Colts will enter the playoffs as a real team to fear, rather than one you'd hope to face.
They continue that quest on Monday night against a Chargers team that unlike Indianapolis, could be headed in the wrong direction.
Meet the Chargers
San Diego was entering their Week 5 matchup against the Raiders on a high-note, having just beaten the Dallas Cowboys, but they left Oakland (late at night, with a 8:30 PM kickoff local time) on possibly the lowest of notes. The Chargers were beaten back and forth by Oakland fell to 2-3 on the season, looking for more answers in the first season under head coach Mike McCoy.
What the offensive-guru McCoy has done is help Philip Rivers put together some outstanding numbers, but none of that will matter if they can't improve a defense that is 27th in yards allowed and has been eaten alive by opposing quarterbacks. That's something that Luck and Hamilton certainly should be looking forward to on Monday.
Meet the Colts
After offensive coordinator Bruce Arians left for Arizona in the offseason, the team hired Hamilton, Luck's former offensive coordinator at Stanford. He's helped Luck throw touchdowns at a higher rate, interceptions at a lower rate, and considerably upped his completion percentage as a more-balanced offense has the Colts passing it less than they did last year but scoring more.
With those players, plus receivers T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne, and Robert Mathis already recording 9.5 sacks on defense, Indianapolis is quickly looking every bit as good as they did in many of the Peyton Manning years. But with more defense.
Local Takes: San Diego
Jerome Watson of Bolts from the Blue took a closer look at what Rivers did against the Raiders on Sunday night, but he also thinks that there is work left to be done:
When you go to the scorecards, Philip Rivers' statline is not one to be argued. 36 completions on 49 attempts is simply monstrous, but that's not my point here. In order for San Diego to consistently win ball games, these plays need to be taken full advantage of.
None of these plays that I outlined featured Philip being under pressure. None of these plays featured players breaking open AFTER Philip released the ball. This is him simply making his mind up at the line of scrimmage. Clean it up, 17.
Local Takes: Indianapolis
Josh Wilson at Stampede Blue points out some impressive numbers from the Colts on third down:
Looking at the team as a whole, as Stuart noted they are right around 50%, second to only the Broncos (who are at a crazy level right now). Other than Luck, the Colts have run 13 times on third down, converting 6 of them and averaging 3.92 yards per carry. Ahmad Bradshaw converted 3 of his 6 tries on the season, Donald Brown has converted only 1 of 4 attempts, and Trent Richardson has gotten a first down on 2 of his 3 third down carries with the Colts this year.
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
The Colts are rolling hot but the Chargers are not. It would seem that Indianapolis has all of the momentum, but there's still plenty to think of in San Diego's favor, none more important than they are playing at home.
The Chargers lost by only three points each to the Texans and Titans and it could be argued that playing so late at night in Oakland could throw any team off of their game. Playing on a national stage at home could give San Diego the boost they need to get back to .500.
But I don't think that it will.
Colts 28, SD 24
The Chargers opened as 3-point favorites but the books have shifted to Indianapolis as 2-point favorites per OddsShark.com.
Chargers at Jaguars, Sunday, October 20, 1:00 PM EST
Broncos at Colts, Sunday, October 20, 8:30 PM EST on NBC