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Colts Mailbag: Run vs. Pass, AFC Playoff Picture, Eric Fisher

The Colts host the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium in a Week 10 AFC South clash on Sunday. Check out what questions fans had ahead of the game in this week's Colts Mailbag. 

21_Mailbag_1920x1080 readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.

Missed out on the party this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for next time by clicking here, or by taking part in the Forums. You can also send your questions to @JJStankevitz on Twitter.

Let's get after this week's questions:

Dustin Woodard, Doyle, Calif.: Why don't we run the ball more and set up play action? That is when Carson thrives and looks like an MVP.

JJ Stankevitz: I keep getting questions about why the Colts don't run the ball more. But I want to use this one as a way to highlight something head coach Frank Reich said after the Colts' 45-30 win over the New York Jets, in which they ran the ball 30 times and passed the ball 30 times.

"There is a sliding scale to me on what that balance means," Reich said. "I think these days balance in the NFL as far as run pass is not necessarily 50-50. I think in the old days I think it was 50-50. I think in this brand of football, I think it is probably more like 55-45, 60-40. I think that's more of what balance is. I think 50-50 is run heavy, and I love that. I love games that we can do that. Shoot, I hope we have a lot of games that we can do that. That would be great."

Reich is right. Entering Week 10, the NFL's average run-pass ratio is 41 percent run and 59 percent pass. Only two teams – the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears – have an even 50/50 run-pass split. The Colts, at 43 percent run and 57 percent pass, are actually slightly under the league's run-pass ratio.

For some context: In 1984, when the Colts moved to Indianapolis, the league run-pass ratio was 49 percent run to 51 percent pass.

And as for setting up more play action? Carson Wentz is tied for the third-most dropbacks with play-action in the NFL this season, per Pro Football Focus.

Brian Burton, Indianapolis: Do the Colts have to run the table now to make the playoffs? What are the numbers saying right now about their chances?

JJ Stankevitz: The AFC playoff picture halfway through the season is a pretty jumbled mess. Here are the standings as they stand after the Baltimore Ravens lost to the Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football:

  • No. 1: Tennessee Titans (6-2)
  • No. 2: Baltimore Ravens (6-3)
  • No. 3: Los Angeles Chargers (5-3)
  • No. 4: Buffalo Bills (5-3)
  • Wild Card No. 1: Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)
  • Wild Card No. 2: Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)
  • Wild Card No. 3: New England Patriots (5-4)
  • Four teams out at 5-4: Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos
  • Indianapolis Colts (4-5)

Football Outsiders give the Colts a 34.6 percent chance of making the playoffs as things stand heading into Week 10. That may not seem high, but it's a little lower because the Titans have such an advantage in the AFC South (the Colts have just a 2.5 percent chance to win the division, per Football Outsiders). But the odds for those five-win teams, plus the Colts, to earn a wild card spot are:

  • 38 percent (Patriots)
  • 35 percent (Browns)
  • 32 percent (Colts)
  • 30 percent (Steelers)
  • 28 percent (Raiders)
  • 28 percent (Chiefs)
  • 25 percent (Chargers)
  • 21 percent (Broncos)
  • 18 percent (Bengals)
  • 12 percent (Bills)

This is illustrative of how competitive the AFC West and AFC North divisions are this year. While the Colts certainly would rather win the AFC South and host a playoff game, their path to the postseason is still very much open. And a lot can – and will – change every week in the AFC playoff race.

Joey Steinert, Borden, Ind.: Coming off the big Thursday Night win, we were up 42-10. Ended up winning 45-30, defense gave up 20 points after that and almost 500 yards of total offense. Was it just playing prevent defense and holding the guys back from further injury or QB play from the Jets? Also, what's the game plan for Jaguars & Trevor Lawrence on the defensive side? GO COLTS!

JJ Stankevitz: So there's probably something to your thought here, Joey, that the Colts' defense was focused on keeping everything in front of them with such a big lead. Josh Johnson was only blitzed on two of his 46 dropbacks, per PFF. His average depth of target when he wasn't pressured was about seven yards and his average time to throw was 2.5 seconds – so he was getting the ball out quick and not throwing it deep. Generally speaking, allowing explosive plays can spark comebacks, so the Colts playing to not allow those made sense.

Still, defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said this week the Colts do need to do a better job finishing games.

"In terms of the takeaways and the run defense, that's where we're positive," Eberflus said (the Colts lead the NFL in takeaways and are No. 2 in run defense DVOA). "I would say, in terms of last Thursday, what we needed to do better was finish. We needed to finish better. We needed to have a better fourth quarter.

"You look at the fourth quarter in terms of how we operated there, we needed to do a better job of getting off the field. We had our chances. We had a penalty on that third-and-long. We had a lot of other issues that happened during that. We had a takeaway that was overturned for the DPI. So, there was a lot of other things that happened there. We just need to function better as coaches and players and execute. That's what I see in terms of that game. It's into the third quarter, halfway through it's 42-10. We just have to finish better and we have to execute player-coach, coach-player."

Jerry Martin, Indianapolis: #79 Eric Fisher, We are really start to see he is getting very healthy, how close is he to 100 percent and will the Colts extend his contract?

JJ Stankevitz: Good eye, Jerry – Fisher is, indeed, playing well as he gets farther and farther removed from the Achilles' injury he suffered in the 2021 AFC Championship. Here's what he said about it back on Oct. 22:

"It's a heck of an injury. It's something that very slowly comes back. A lot of it is just a time thing and just constant repetition of working the entire lower extremity. There's been some frustrating things obviously that have happened in games with me right now. I'm trying to overcome those things, making sure that I'm doing everything I can do so I'm playing the best I can play out there. So, I'm just taking it a day at a time. I'm not dwelling on the last play, the last game, the last series, whatever. I think I've played enough ball where every play is a new play, a new opportunity and I'm striving to do my job."

If you're in to Pro Football Focus' grades, Fisher has in the last four weeks had his highest run blocking grade (92.6, Week 6) and pass blocking grade (90.0, Week 9); all four of his season-high overall PFF grades have come in the last four weeks. Fisher in that span has not been tagged with allowing a sack and has allowed only six total pressures, per PFF.

And Fisher's pass protection grade in the last four games – 83.8 – is the fifth-highest among tackles in that span.

Fisher's arrow is pointing up, and along with strong play from the rest of the Colts' offensive line, it's helped Wentz continue to trend in the right direction, too.

"Watching him each and every week, watching his confidence grow and watching the entire offense's confidence grow has been good to see," general manager Chris Ballard said this week. "Especially starting to get some more continuity along the O-line, being able to protect him better, all those things have led to him being able to play good football."

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