Despite losing rookie fourth overall pick Anthony Richardson for the rest of the year to an AC joint injury, the Indianapolis Colts stand with four wins on the season. Gardner Minshew has taken over at the helm of the offense, a solid veteran in Richardson's stead.
Unfortunately, the Colts have only won just one of their last four games. Sitting at third in the AFC South at 4-5 overall and 1.5 games out of a wild card spot, can they still make the playoffs?
The AFC South race is heating up. The Jacksonville Jaguars sit in first place at 6-2 and seem to be the team to beat in the conference. The Houston Texans also are starting to make a statement to the rest of the teams in the NFL as, on the shoulders of rookie CJ Stroud, they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 39-37.
But the Colts also made a case for themselves after upending the Panthers in Week 9 -- and showed why this team is capable, even without Richardson, of making a playoff run, three reasons in particular.
3. The Colts defense is starting to step up in a big way
Behind two impressive pick-sixes for cornerback Kenny Moore, the Colts won 27-13 against the Carolina Panthers. In a game where they never trailed, the Colts defense held Bryce Young to three points until the end of the third quarter.
The defense produced three picks, two returned for touchdowns, four sacks, and only allowed 13 points. This defensive performance becomes increasingly valuable as the year continues, only striking fear into the opposition as Indianapolis battles for a playoff berth.
2. The Colts rushing attack remains a force to be reckoned with
As the defense continues to play well, the Colts must lean on the running game. A newcomer for 2023, Zack Moss has rushed for 615 yards and five touchdowns this year, averaging an impressive 4.7 yards per carry since coming over from Buffalo at the trade deadline last year.
Meanwhile, the Indianapolis backfield also continues to implement Jonathan Taylor back into the offense. In just his fifth game back against Carolina, he rushed a season-high 18 times while also notching five receptions and a receiving score. In the previous week, though, he rushed for 95 yards on just 12 carries. The Colts can rotate both productive running backs to keep fresh legs in the game and fatigue opposing defenses.
1. Even with Gardner Minshew, the Colts keep putting up points
According to NFL Stats on X, the Colts offense averages a sixth-best 25.1 points per game this season. This offense continues to put up points on the back of Minshew. Applying pressure on opposing defenses, by continuing to score points while playing a suffocating defense, makes for a deadly combo teams won't want to play.
The Colts hope to continue to play by applying these fundamentals, string some wins together, and sneak into make the playoffs, where anything can happen.