It's time for another installment of my pre-Colts game Q&A with Nate Dunlevy. This is our fifth season doing this, and in that time, Nate has moved from his own site 18 to 88 to bigger and better things as Lead Writer for Bleacher Report at their AFC South blog. He's also written two books, including Blue Blood, a history of the Colts in Indianapolis, and Invincible, Indiana, a novel of Indiana high school basketball, while also still being part of the cast of writers at Colts Authority. You also can (and should) follow him on Twitter.
Total Titans: Before the game in Nashville in late October, you said Andrew Luck had been basically average. Is that still about where you'd put his level of performance?
Nate Dunlevy: Luck's play is so difficult to evaluate because the offense they run breaks most normal stats. It's all vertical passing. Statistically, Luck has been very average, but his play at the end of halves and games has been incredible. That's lead to way more wins than this team has any right to get. For a rookie, it's been incredible. For a seasoned vet, it's been just ok.
Total Titans: In case the Titans decide to cover Reggie Wayne this time around, even when he lines up in the slot, what will the Colts try offensively that's worked for them?
Dunlevy: Coby Fleener is back and healthy, and I would expect him to get a lot of action against the Titans. Indy has also been running T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill deep pretty often.
Total Titans: You indicated before the last matchup the Colts are pretty bad defensively, so of course the Titans went out and scored 13 points. What do the Colts do well defensively, or at least better than they do other things?
Dunlevy: That first game was odd in part because there were so few possessions. All the drives were long, and I think each team only saw the ball 3 times each in the first half.
The one thing the Colts do decently is get solid linebacker play. They don't have a good run defense, but it has the ability to rise up when it needs to. They can't cover and don't force turnovers, so keep in mind this is a sliding scale.
Total Titans: The Colts defense has forced eight turnovers in 12 games. How can this happen? Are they just insanely unlucky when it comes to forcing turnovers, or are they just that bad at it?
Dunlevy: They are bad at it. There's no fumble luck working against them, they just don't have enough dynamic players. Their corners are all below average, and none of them would start on any other playoff team. Their linebackers are decent without being dynamic. So that leaves Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. The only problem is that both of them have battled injuries. All in all, it's just not a good unit.
Total Titans: The Colts are 8-4. They've been outscored by 41 points. They're one of three teams with Football Outsiders playoff odds between 58 and 70% competing, more or less, for two wild card slots. Is it a disappointment at this point if the Colts don't make the postseason?
Dunlevy: In the marco sense, this team has accomplished far more than anyone has the right to demand. However, with four games left, knowing that one (maybe two at the outside) wins will put them in the playoffs and they get the Titans and Chiefs…yeah, missing the postseason would be a let down of the highest order.
Total Titans: Finally, if you'd like to make a score prediction, please feel free.
Dunlevy: Colts 20 – Titans 14.