The Colts and the Rams were the two worst teams during the 2011 season, but by way of a tiebreaker, it was Indianapolis that got to pick first in the 2012 NFL Draft. Is that small twist of fate the reason these two franchises seem to be headed in opposite directions two years later?
It was the Colts who selected Andrew Luck in the draft, and since going 2-14 in 2011, they have gone 17-7 with a playoff berth since. The Rams could have chosen Robert Griffin III, but instead opted to trade the pick away for a bounty from Washington and stay the course with Sam Bradford. St. Louis has gone 10-14-1 in the year and a half since, and Bradford is on injured reserve with a torn ACL.
We'll never know how things could have gone if the Rams had lost 15 games instead of 14, whether they would have chosen Luck and traded Bradford. We only know where they are now and that they'll meet the Colts in Indianapolis on Sunday, with Luck facing backup Kellen Clemens.
Meet the Colts
Indianapolis has been a tale of two teams this season. On one hand, the Colts have bested some of the league's strongest teams, claiming wins over the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos. On the other hand, they've lost to the Dolphins and Chargers, and nearly fallen to Case Keenum and the Houston Texans at home.
The Colts strongest attribute, what makes them so difficult to beat despite not having a high-powered offense or great defense, is that they don't beat themselves. Luck has thrown just three interceptions and fumbled only twice, helping Indianapolis to be the most mistake-free team in the NFL.
Indy has not been injury free, though. If the 6-2 Colts are going to make a deep playoff run, it will have to be without Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Allen, Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard, all of whom have hit injured reserve.
Meet the Rams
The only real significant injury affecting St. Louis happens to be sidelining the player the Rams can least afford to lose. Bradford will miss a significant number of games for the second time in his young career, and the timetable for his return next year is not yet known. But, some players have managed to come back from ACL tears in less than a year.
The veteran Clemens will likely finish out the season as starter, since the Rams have no other options, and he has eight touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions over an eight-year career.
St. Louis will instead try to rely on defensive standouts like Robert Quinn and Chris Long. Quinn is among the league leaders with 10 sacks on the year.
Local Takes: Indianapolis Colts
Brad Wells at Stampede Blue wrote this week about Andrew Luck's candidacy for MVP:
Sunday night was the third 4th quarter comeback of the season for Luck, and the seventh of his already brilliant young career. He’s also logged ten game-winning drives, the most by any quarterback in the entire league over a two-year stretch. To say Luck is "clutch" is like saying fire kinda burns a little. Right now, Luck defines clutch in the modern NFL. No one is performing better in the big moments than No. 12 for the Colts.
Local Takes: St. Louis Rams
Brandon Bate at Turf Show Times charted Clemens' performance against the Titans, when the Rams fell, 28-21:
As you can see, it was a bit of a roller coaster performance for Clemens. He did display great accuracy at the start of the game, going 5-for-5 in the first quarter of play, and easing the minds of the restless masses. Truth be told, Clemens started his day going 8-for-8 for 85 yards, but an offsides penalty negated a five yard gain on the Rams’ first offensive drive of the 2nd quarter. Do the math. With the aforementioned penalty, Clemens started his day completing his first seven passes. He’d then go on to throw incompletions for the remainder of the first half [6 attempts], which accounted for 11+ minutes of play.
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The NFL has seen an abnormally high amount of close games this season, but this one appears to be lopsided on the surface. The Colts have already taken care of business against Denver and Seattle at home, though they did drop a Week 2 game to Miami at Lucas Oil Stadium. Could the Rams give them similar trouble?
St. Louis has dropped three in a row, though all three teams -- the Seahawks, Panthers, and Titans -- are .500 or better. It seems like the Rams will be using their final seven games to find out what they have moving forward in young players like Brian Quick, Isaiah Pead, Daryl Washington, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and so forth, and winning will come secondary now that they've fallen to 3-6.
Not that they won't try and be competitive in every game. It just may prove difficult with a mediocre quarterback and a suspect defense, especially at the safety position. That's where you'd expect Luck and his receivers to run rampant on Sunday.
Indianapolis 27, St. Louis 17
The Colts are favored by 11 points at home, according to Odds Shark, the second-biggest point spread of the week.
The Rams can take a breather after this one, finally getting to their Week 11 bye before returning to face the Chicago Bears at home on Nov. 24.
Meanwhile, the Colts travel to Tennessee for a divisional matchup against Jake Locker and the Titans in Week 11 on Thursday Night Football.