Before the season began Greg Cowan and I had a long, lopsided debate about the potential this new era Colts team had for 2012. Statistics and prior history suggested somewhere between 3 and 6 wins. Anything more would be considered an abberation but my voice was somewhat quiet in comparison to Greg's booming insistance that the Colts could be a playoff team. While partly tongue-in-cheek, Greg truly believed that the team had 6-8 wins minimum lined up with the potential to steal a few more and maybe back into the playoffs.
He's winning the debate obviously and I can't exactly complain as this has been more fun for me than anticipated.
That cautious optimism brings us to a pivotal game for the Colts in 2012. The Dolphins, like the Colts, are 4-3 and in the hunt for a wild card spot in the playoffs. This weekend's game could have mammoth implications for the entire AFC.
Knowing that, here's seven questions I have about this weekend's surprisingly important tilt between former AFC East rivals:
1. Who won the Vontae Davis trade? Given that Davis has been incredibly invisible when on the field the Colts won't likely miss him this weekend while he sits due to an injury. In all fairness to GM Ryan Grigson, this trade appears to be a major mistake.
2. Will Andrew Luck find comfort outside the pocket without Coby Fleener? Fleener also will miss this week's game with an injury which is particularly tough for Luck. When plays break down and Luck is forced out of the pocket he's been very confident in Fleener's ability to adjust his route. The chemistry we all expected exudes itself in those circumstances. Dwayne Allen should see his productivity rise but Luck certainly has lost a security blanket.
3. Will the Dolphins abuse Cassius Vaughn? With Davis out Cassius Vaughn is expected to get the start. Expect the Dolphins to key in on this as Paul Kuharsky notes.
4. Can Andrew Luck will this team to a victory? There is little question that this is already Andrew Luck's team. He's spent much of the season running from certain death or picking himself up off the turf. Without fail he gets up with a smile on his face and a quiet determination to make the opposition pay. So far that's served him well and the rest of the team seems to have picked up on this attitude. In tight games this team is winning when perhaps it shouldn't which in many ways can be attributed to this new spirit.
5. Who starts at running back? The seriously underrated Donald Brown missed practice on Thursday which landed him on the questionable list for Sunday's game. While rookie Vick Ballard was the star in the OT win last week the Colts are a better running team with Brown in the backfield. Let's hope Brown returns and the team continues to run left.
6. Will the Colts get Tannehill, Moore or both? While Ryan Tannehill is certainly having a standout rookie year he's also banged up. He will likely start but don't be surprised if the Colts also get a dose of Matt Moore should Tannehill look the least bit shaky. This week Moore took most of the reps with the first unit.
7. Who wins? I usually don't do this but the outcome of this game is incredibly important to both teams. I've flip-flopped more than anyone running for office on this pick. My gut says the Dolphins defense will be one heck of a challenge but my heart says that spunky kid under center for the Colts will get it done again. Don't hold me to anything but I like the Colts in another tight one.