Swish: Andrew Luck
We keep saying how unsustainable the Colts' pristine record in close games is, but Indianapolis has thrived living on the edge. Thanks to yesterday's 21-17 win over the Raiders, the Colts improved to 10-1 in games decided by seven points or less dating back to the start of last season. It was also the Colts' eighth fourth-quarter comeback under Andrew Luck, which is even more stunning considering that two-thirds of their wins with Luck under center have come via the 4QC. Yesterday, Luck started the game like a house on fire (8-8, 113 yards, 2 TD) before being slowed down a pathetic performance from the offensive line by Oakland's consistent pressure. However, he made plays when he had to, including the game-winning touchdown scamper late in the fourth quarter. The Colts offensive line is still a mess, and their defense is nowhere close to where they need to be, but Luck is good enough right now to put the team on his back. He did it yesterday (again).
I keep doubting, but the Colts keep winning. The guy they have under center is a huge reason for that. All of my optimism for 2013 is attached to #12.
Brick: AFC "contenders"
The Colts struggled with a ten-point underdog at home. The Ravens began their title defense by getting blitzed for 49 points. The Steelers could only muster one touchdown against a Tennessee defense that was the worst unit in the NFL a season ago. The Patriots barely snuck by the Bills and their rookie quarterback. The Bengals, a sexy Super Bowl pick, wilted in their most anticipated opener in decades. Opening weekend was not a kind one to the so-called contenders in the AFC. Most of the offseason talk centered around who was Denver's biggest threat, but no one stepped forward in their opener. The AFC North was especially brutal as all four teams lost, three of which are viewed as postseason-caliber squads. Maybe Houston makes a statement in San Diego tonight, or maybe the AFC is in even worse shape than we thought.
Air Ball: Indiana
I balked at picking Indiana to make a bowl because all of it was based on their weak schedule. Navy, whom everyone had circled as a win, made IU's postseason goal that much tougher with their 41-35 win the other night. The Middies ran up 41 points and 444 rushing yards, without punting or turning the ball over once. Just one defensive stop probably gives IU the win, yet they couldn't accomplish that. It was yet another embarrassing performance by a Hoosier defense that rated amongst the worst in the nation in 2012. If Indiana is to make a bowl game for the first time since 2007, their margin of error is now razor-thin. They'll have to win six out of seven against Missouri, Penn State, at Michigan State, Bowling Green, Minnesota, Illinois, and Purdue, and at least half of those teams are probably better than Navy.
Athletic Director Fred Glass has done a terrific job in marketing Indiana Football, but that alone won't turn this program around. "Enchanced game experiences" like large flagpoles, flash mobs, and new traditions are all nice, but the only thing that can change Indiana's label of perennial loser and Big Ten laughingstock is winning games. You can put lipstick on a pig, but at the end of the day, it's still a pig and the Hoosiers are still oinking on the football field. Indiana has a long, long way to go.