Before the season started both Nate and I gave Greg Cowan a hard time about his rather optimistic prediction on the 2012 campaign. Greg had jokingly predicted the playoffs, doing his best Jim Mora voice and we blew it off as another crazy Canadian rampage, fueled by fatback and Tim Horton's coffee.
Who's laughing now?
After a complete drubbing of the Jaguars the Colts are now in the driver's seat for the AFC wild card--a feat only Jim Irsay and Greg Cowan would have predicted when they jettisoned anyone who wore a horseshoe in 2011. With an incredibly soft schedule ahead aside from the Patriots and two contests against the Texans it appears that this may not back into the playoffs but possibly march into them instead with head held high.
Last week many in the media played off this possibility citing the AFC's overall weakness and the Colts' buttery schedule. They were right on both counts but something new has emerged from that sketchy situation that others in the AFC should fear: confidence. This team has taken the situation and turned it into pure intestinal fortitude.
That confidence coupled with the knowledge the Colts may only need to win 3 more games to make the playoffs should lead to a little more respect. In fact it's my opinion that the Colts are not overrated as some have suggested, but rather underrated based on their remaining schedule and other wild card contenders.
At this point the wild card race includes the Miami Dolphins, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the San Diego Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Dolphins are at a disadvantage thanks to their head-to-head loss to Indy and have a brutal schedule ahead. If they peak and knock off Buffalo twice and steal one from New England the race gets more interesting. The Bengals and Steelers are in a crowded AFC North race. The Bengals are seemingly in the best place to ensure a playoff spot thanks to a soft schedule albeit one loaded with road games but counting out the Steelers would be a huge mistake as they currently own the 6th spot. The Steelers actually have a pretty tough schedule against both division teams and others fighting for a playoff spot. Should they stumble Cincy will rise. The Chargers shouldn't be trusted as they have nothing for the Broncos and face a schedule loaded with other AFC wild card contenders.
Among those teams I'd only take the Steelers and possibly the Bengals as clear favorites over the Colts. Toss in other pretenders like the Jets, the Raiders and the Titans and I'd take the Colts every day, twice on Sunday. Sure the Jets beat Indy once but would you expect that again?
Maybe I'm insane but based on the crop of AFC teams I'd argue that considering Indy any worse than the 6th best team in the conference would be a huge mistake.
Then again I've been wrong before.