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The Colts: The AFC South’s Best Story

This Sunday, the 7-4 Indianapolis Colts travel to Detroit in a game that few could have predicted would have meaning this late in the season. The Colts are in second place in the AFC South, and a win here would go a long way toward establishing their wild card credentials.

Much has been made of both Andrew Luck’s arm strength and his athleticism on the ground. However, it isn’t just that Luck can scramble; it’s when he scrambles. Luck leads the NFL with nine scrambles for first down on third down this season. He’ll need that ability on Sunday against the Lions pass rush, certain to get to Luck early and often. However, the Colts still have someone on their side that the Lions are equally afraid of: Dwight Freeney.

“We’re sitting there watching Dwight Freeney and watch him just affect the game on just about every play and really raising hell as a pass-rusher,” Schwartz said. “And he sacked (Jay) Cutler on the very first play of the season and he has two sacks on the season. I mean, what do you judge on? Do you judge on what he’s doing on tape? Because based on tape we are going to have our hands full with Dwight Freeney. Based on the stat sheet, you wouldn’t even pay a second thought to 93, but we certainly are.”

The Colts have done a lot with a little this season, and despite Andrew Luck’s somewhat pedestrian passing numbers (13 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, sub-60 percent completion percentage) he is positively whipping the ball downfield and picking up yardage. Luck and speedy wide receiver T.Y. Hilton could easily expose this suspect Detroit secondary on Sunday with a long touchdown. Despite struggling at times with turnovers and inaccuracy, Luck has already tied Sam Bradford’s record for most wins by a rookie quarterback, and the number figures to keep rising. Despite being one of the youngest teams in the NFL, the Colts are a tough out in virtually any game; they have not lost in back to back weeks yet this year.

“All of our dreams are still alive. We write our own destiny and that’s the biggest thing,” defensive end Cory Redding said after the Colts beat Buffalo 20-13. “We don’t have to rely on anybody else to get a win or get a loss. Our destiny is in our hands. It’s up to us to just continue to do what we’re doing, keep playing hard, keep working hard to just continue to stack wins and stay in this hunt.”

Interim head coach Bruce Arians, who took over for leukemia-stricken head coach Chuck Pagano, is even getting buzz for coach of the year; the Colts are 6-2 under him, good for the seventh best record ever for a head coach who took over halfway through a season. “We’re the type of team, we’re going to be in a lot of close games and fortunately we’ve found a lot of ways to win them,” Arians said. “The big thing for us is to go on the road and protect the football and play good defense and bring those special teams with us on the road and see if we can play our best football on the road.”

The Colts have three games left on their schedule against losing teams: this weekend’s match against the Lions, a game against the Titans and one against the lowly Kansas City Chiefs. That would put them at ten wins; unfortunately for the Colts, both of their other remaining games are against the Houston Texans. However, if they could split the Texans series, they would be at 11-5, and virtually guaranteed a playoff spot. However, 10-6 is a dicier matter. Still, the Colts are the feel-good team of the season, and a surprising bright spot in the AFC South playoff picture.

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