INDIANAPOLIS – If the playoffs started today (yes, it’s very early), the Colts would have a ticket to the dance as the final seed in the AFC.
The Colts sit at 4-2 after playing the easiest schedule in the NFL through the first six weeks of the season.
What are some grades for the Colts at their bye week?
Pass Offense: C+
Evaluation: This grade took a needed jump this past week thanks to the heroics of Philip Rivers against the Bengals. With a really solid year in pass protection, the Colts still have not had anywhere near the pass game consistency needed. The pass catching group has again underwhelmed, and it’s directly impacted struggles on third down and the red zone. Philip Rivers has been…Philip Rivers, with really good moments at times with anticipation and accuracy and then some horrific decision making proving costly. An emergence from T.Y. Hilton and the return of Michael Pittman is something the Colts really hope will provide more stability to the passing offense.
Rush Offense: D-
Evaluation: Honestly, given what is expected out of the rushing offense, this grade should probably be a ‘F.’ This group has been the biggest disappointment of the 2020 Colts. Yes, the injury to Marlon Mack hasn’t helped. But the vaunted Colts offensive line hasn’t provided enough in the run blocking game, and we are still waiting for Jonathan Taylor to truly have a breakout game as a runner. The Colts currently rank 26th in rushing yards per game (98.0) and 31st in yards per carry (3.59). Short-yardage ineptness is truly maddening given everything that is invested into the offensive line. For the Colts to have January success in 2020, this part of the offense must flip.
Pass Defense: B-
Evaluation: There are many stats you could point to that indicate this grade should be higher (yards allowed per play, interception rate, etc). But I can’t go there with the inconsistency we’ve seen in the pass rush and the recent struggles situationally. When you stop the run like the Colts have (see more below), the pass defense should be more dominant. Still, there’s been some good moments from this unit. The tests will only get tougher though with the Colts yet to face a top-10 passing offense.
Rush Defense: A
Evaluation: This has been a really consistent aspect of the Colts under Matt Eberflus. While there’s been other defensive hiccups, the run defense continues to be a strength. The Colts rank 3rd in rushing yards allowed per game (88.3) and 3rd in yards per carry allowed (3.51). Forcing teams into one-dimensional football is such an important aspect to surviving defensively. The Colts have done that thanks to a bigger defensive front than most teams, with Grover Stewart and DeForest Buckner in the interior and Denico Autry and Justin Houston out on the edge.
Special Teams: A+
Evaluation: From controlling field position, to sparking the game with a massive return and sound kicking, how can you give this unit any other grade? Every facet of the special teams has shown up. The kicking game has been so darn reliable, with undrafted rookie Rodrigo Blankenship just steadily knocking home kick after kick inside of 45 yards. Punter Rigoberto Sanchez is the best player on this team (he plays his position better than anyone else). And the entire unit deserves credit for the Colts dominating field position with their coverage and return units. Great work by special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone.
Overall Grade: B-
Evaluation: From what I projected at the start of the season, I expected the Colts to be 4-2 at this point of the season. So some might think that leads to an average grade (a ‘C’), especially when factoring in the easiest strength of schedule in the league through six weeks. But I’m giving it a slight bump to a B- because of the point differential stat at +42, which ranks 7th in the NFL. The Colts have had to deal with 3 pretty significant injuries (RB-Marlon Mack, WR-Parris Campbell, S-Malik Hooker). The goal/expectation for this season should be to make the postseason and win a game in January. Right now, the Colts are in a position to make the playoffs, but winning a game in January remains a mystery. Playoff-like challenges await once November and December get here.