The team we should take more seriously
The Colts were lost at the end of Week 3, owners of a 0–3 record and an injury-prone starting quarterback who had managed to sprain not one but both of his ankles. They proceeded to win three of their next four, going toe-to-toe with the Ravens on the road in primetime during their only loss in that span. If that performance did not make people pay attention to the Colts, maybe their Sunday night win over the 49ers will.
The Colts were carried on Sunday by their nucleus of emerging superstars, as Jonathan Taylor had 107 rushing yards and a touchdown to add to Michael Pittman’s 105 yards and a touchdown. While Wentz only threw for 150 yards as a result of Sunday night’s atmospheric rainfall in Santa Clara, he has thrown two touchdowns and, more importantly for the Colts, no interceptions in each of their last four games.
With the rapid ascension of the Colts’ second-year offensive players, promising signs from the Wentz rehabilitation project and an uber-talented defense led by Darius Leonard and DeForest Buckner, the Colts are a team to keep an eye on in the crowded AFC Wild Card race.
They have decisive games against the Titans, Bills, Buccaneers and Raiders in the coming weeks, which will serve as a barometer for whether the Colts can be treated as a legitimate playoff team or not. If the Colts are able to make it through that difficult slew of games, their stellar line of scrimmage play, physical running game and sticky defense might make them a team nobody wants to play come January.
The team we are hyping up too much
The Chargers and their electrifying offense have quickly captured the hearts and minds of NFL analysts and fans alike. With statement wins over presumed AFC contenders such as the Browns and Chiefs, many have placed the Chargers in the tier of legitimate Super Bowl contenders. I’d say, not so fast.
The Ravens brought out the worst of the Chargers in Week 6, exposing the shortcomings that may prevent the group from making a deep run in January. The Los Angeles defense gave up 187 rushing yards to a backfield that is certainly past its prime, and Ravens Defensive Coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale terrorized Herbert with constant pressure and a wide variety of blitz packages. The Chargers also struggled mightily on Special Teams. They allowed three punt returns that went for 13 yards or more, a 47-yard kick return and a missed point by Tristan Vizcaino.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the Chargers are an incredibly fun and talented team that has one of — if not the — brightest futures of any team in the NFL. But I think we as an NFL community, myself included, have been quick to anoint this team as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. While having a potent offense can oftentimes mask a soft-run defense and inconsistency on Special Teams, those deficiencies show up in the playoffs and can be the difference between winning and losing. With a relatively easy schedule for the rest of the season, I would certainly expect the Chargers to win the AFC West. I am just not convinced that they will be able to beat the Bills, the Ravens or the Titans on a frigid January night when it really matters.