The Colts Mailbag is back! Colts.com readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.
Missed out this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for next time by clicking here, or by taking part in the Colts.com Forums. You can also send your questions to @JJStankevitz on Twitter.
Let's get after this week's questions:
Jonathon Gray, Richmond, Ind.: As a fan who barely remembers the pre-Manning days, I'm not sure what to make of the situation the team is in right now. It appears that, although we were 3-5-1 when we fired Coach Reich, we are definitely not trying to tank right now, even though that may be the best way to assure ourselves an opportunity to improve our long term quarterback situation. Am I wrong to still be rooting for a wild card berth and Coach Saturday's success, even though it will likely prolong our time in the quarterback wilderness?
JJ Stankevitz: Nothing in football is assured, Jonathon, except that you'll play 17 games in a regular season.
There's no guarantee "tanking" – which, as you said, the Colts are absolutely not doing – will lead to a team an opportunity to draft a young quarterback it likes. And there's no guarantee that quarterback will work out in the long-term. The first and third quarterbacks drafted in 2017 (Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson) are no longer with the teams that picked them; the first and second quarterbacks drafted in 2018 (Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold) both wound up with the Carolina Panthers. Meanwhile, the second quarterback drafted in 2017 (Patrick Mahomes) and the third quarterback drafted in 2018 (Josh Allen) are perennial MVP candidates.
So no, you're not wrong to root for the Colts to make a playoff push in the second half of the season. Sometimes, all you need is a spot in the playoffs to make a run. And the Colts very much still have a chance to earn a spot in the playoffs, as I'll get into in the next question. But I'll leave you with Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay's message about the direction of the franchise under interim head coach Jeff Saturday: "Everything that's been done has been done to win."
Tanner Edge, West Terre Haute, Ind.: Hi JJ! It was a breath of fresh air watching our Colts play this past Sunday. Is it unrealistic to think that we still have a shot at making the playoffs? How do things need to shake out if we are going to make a run in the postseason? Go Colts!
JJ Stankevitz: A simple way to think about this – the Colts need to equal the win total of whatever team with which they're competing for a playoff spot. By virtue of that season-opening tie with the Houston Texans, if the Colts finish, say, 10-6-1 and the Patriots finish 10-7, the Colts would make the playoffs over New England.
So that's all to say this season is far from being over. The Colts do have what looks like a difficult remaining schedule over the final seven games of the season, although this team did take down the Kansas City Chiefs back in Week 3:
- Week 11: vs. Eagles (8-1)
- Week 12: vs. Steelers (3-6)
- Week 13: at Cowboys (6-3)
- Week 14: Bye
- Week 15: at Vikings (8-1)
- Week 16: vs. Chargers (5-4)
- Week 17: at Giants (7-2)
- Week 18: vs. Texans (1-7-1)
The New York Times gives the Colts a 21 percent chance to make the playoffs; FiveThirtyEight pegs it at 29 percent; Football Outsiders has it at 9.4 percent. Currently, the Colts are in 10th place in the AFC, behind these teams:
- 5th place New York Jets (6-3)
- 6th place Buffalo Bills (6-3)
- 7th place New England Patriots (5-4)
- 8th place Los Angeles Chargers (5-4)
- 9th place Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)
I'm not sure there's necessarily a magic win total the Colts need to get to, but it's notable that the Pittsburgh Steelers earned the AFC No. 7 seed with a 9-7-1 record in 2021; in the NFC last year, the Philadelphia Eagles made the playoffs with a 9-8 record.
View postgame celebration photos following the Colts 25-20 win versus the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium.
Blase Petak, Omaha, Neb.: With the O-Line troubles we've had, and the clear improvement vs the Raiders, has Coach Saturday had a direct impact in any way being a former center? If so, what has he told the guys that made them step up?
JJ Stankevitz: Good question, Blase. Matt Ryan was pressured on just four of his 30 dropbacks, and the lone sack he took wasn't tagged to the offensive line, per Pro Football Focus (it came on that third-and-one play-action early in the third quarter). And the offensive line did a tremendous job blocking for Jonathan Taylor, who lost yardage on only one of his 22 carries.
And here's how Saturday said he addressed the Colts' offensive line upon arriving in Indianapolis last week:
"It's just accountability on all fronts," Saturday said. "Obviously, I know that position specifically and I have a lot of respect for what those guys have done and the way we've carried ourselves at that position on the team. I believe it needed to be addressed and emphasized. Those guys responded tremendously. Again, I know how hard it is. I know how hard these guys work. This was not an effort issue, this is an accountability. This is what it's going to look like play after play after play and those guys have responded and I think they've appreciated it. Again, I'll hold you accountable, I'll also be a big cheerleader. That's what I was on Sunday and really excited how they responded."
Hank Trotter, Carmel, Ind.: What was the worst thing that happened and the best thing that happened as a result of the play calling or other moves in last week's game? How much do you think could be improved?
JJ Stankevitz: The worst thing probably was the sack Ryan took on that third-and-1 play early in the third quarter, which first-time offensive playcaller Parks Frazier talked about this week. But those plays are going to happen, and the Colts – as a collective – made sure it was an isolated incident over the course of their 25-20 win over the Raiders.
"There was a point there where some things didn't go our way," Frazier said. "We didn't execute like we wanted to. For me, I'm always going to point the finger at myself. So, I don't know if I would say I was necessarily second guessing myself, but I was asking myself the question, should I have done this better? That's what I'm always looking to do.
"Jeff was amazing on the headset and honestly, the entire staff just encouraging me saying, 'Hey man, keep calling it. You're dealing just keep calling it.' It gave me the confidence to continue to do what we were doing in the game. It was back and forth. It was a fun experience for me to be able to answer the call a couple of times when we needed to and the guys were unbelievable the entire game. Staff, players, just continuing to fight back. It was just an all-around great effort."
One of the best things was that, as a result of all those moves – Frazier taking over as playcaller, Ryan starting at quarterback, the offensive line responding to Saturday – the Colts only had two plays out of 57 lose yardage against the Raiders. That allowed the offense to get into a rhythm and keep Las Vegas off balance all afternoon, and spoke to quality of the gameplan and execution the Colts had on Sunday.
Robert Reynolds, Ladoga, Ind.: How do you think the offense can win against Philly's defense? What will they need to do to get it done?
JJ Stankevitz: Replicating what the Washington Commanders did on Monday night is an easy answer, but an incredibly difficult solution. Washington's offense ran 81 plays to Philadelphia's 47 and had the ball for a remarkable 40 minutes and 24 seconds, but there were two big, not-easily-replicable reasons behind those numbers: The Commanders converted 12 of 21 (!!) third downs and recovered three Eagles fumbles. There've only been 17 non-overtime games since 1994 in which a team has had at least 21 third down tries and converted over half of those.
And the Eagles only had three turnovers all season before having four against the Commanders.
Anyways, on defense, the Eagles have loads of talent at every level – D-line, linebackers, defensive backs. Interior linemen Javon Hargrave and Fletcher Cox are a fantastic duo (10 1/2 combined sacks) and edge rusher Hassan Reddick brings 6 1/2 sacks to Philadelphia's pass rush. Linebacker T.J. Edwards is sixth in the NFL with 86 tackles. On the back end, Jonathan Gannon's defense is allowing five yards per pass – the second-lowest average in the NFL – with guys like safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and cornerback Darius Slay playing at high levels.
But if the Colts can execute as well as they did against the Raiders – especially up front with the offensive line – they'll absolutely have a chance to win against the 8-1 Eagles on Sunday.