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Schultz: Colts take control of AFC South after Week 7

Chris Schultz
10/22/2013 11:33:03 AM
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So the Indianapolis Colts have now created victories over the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. Given the inability of Jacksonville, the inconsistency of Tennessee and the injuries of Houston, the AFC South is under control by the Colts going into almost the mid-point of the 2013 season.

I thought Sunday night's game would have been a robotic win by Denver. You know, one of those games that remains close for a while and then Peyton Manning figures it out to win by 10. What I didn't anticipate was how well the defensive backs would play for the Colts and how exceptional the coverage would be by Vontae Davis, LaRon Landry, Darius Butler and Antoine Bethea. If there was a group that rose to the challenge of covering three excellent receivers it was the Colts' defensive backs.

It was also noticeable that as the game progressed both Ryan Clady and Orlando Franklin as pass protecting offensive tackles are as important as any players on the Broncos. It was just a matter of time before Robert Mathis had his way. What is the difference between Manning and Andrew Luck? The way I see it, not much. Manning's experience is greater but Luck will run effectively at any point of a game and the three runs he had made an impact that the Broncos could not defend.

Week 7 will go down as the injury week of 2013 and I hope it is not repeated. First, Brian Cushing with the Texans, broken leg and knee damage on a perfectly legal block by Jamaal Charles in Kansas City. Some may ask why Charles didn't stay up high, why did he cut him on the line of scrimmage? If he had stayed high Cushing would have picked up Charles and thrown him on top of quarterback Case Keenum. It was a complete physical mismatch and Charles had no choice.

In Chicago both Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs are gone with groin and shoulder injuries for weeks but not the season. I thought Marc Trestman did an exceptional job of explaining the loss against Washington, the details of the injuries and turning it into an optimistic opportunity for the Bears. Trestman is impressive. It has nothing to do with his CFL background but everything to do with his ability to articulate and communicate. In watching his Monday press conference he conducts himself as a pro in many clear ways. An NFL coach does not have to represent himself with professional class the way Trestman did with the Chicago media. There is nothing in their contract that says they must. Many if not all detest the Monday morning or afternoon "state of the team" address but do it anyway. Many if not all look at the media as a necessary evil, not a tool to be used. After watching the post-Chicago press conference I know exactly what is going on with the Bears heading into the bye week because the head coach told me directly.

Not to be forgotten, Doug Martin is out for maybe the season in Tampa Bay, Sam Bradford is out for the year in St Louis, Reggie Wayne is done for 2013 with the Colts, Jermichael Finley could be done in Green Bay, Nick Foles, concussion with the Eagles in the Dallas game. Have I missed any? Week 7 in NFL football was brutal.

How about the Buffalo Bills? After an overtime loss to Cincinnati they win in Miami and win convincingly. I don't know if Thad Lewis is a 16-game starter but he has fulfilled his role as a quarterback now for two weeks in a row. Mario Williams is becoming the Mario Williams of his Houston Texan days and yes, he is earning his big paydays. Pressure to perform is one thing, pressure to perform when everyone knows how much money you make is another type of pressure. But the Bills duo of Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller are making the team competitive in the AFC North. Jackson, 386 yards, Spiller 362 yards. You add them up and you have a running game after seven weeks that had 748 yards and as a team the Bills average 141 rushing yards a game. That is the good news. Bad news? They play in New Orleans against a Saints team that is coming off the bye.

In Kansas City the Chiefs are 7-0 and don't have their bye week until the second week in November. The schedule has been good to them and Alex Smith continues to be nothing more than himself. Conservative, smart and confident. Andy Reid has found the perfect quarterback for Andy Reid. I was mildly shocked when I heard that as a starter Smith is 26-5-1. That is as good as anyone in the quarterback business. The Chiefs have exceptional individual talent that now is being coordinated. Two good running backs, two good pass rushing defensive ends and two good cornerbacks. The secret to their success? On third down the Chiefs run exceptionally well-executed blitz packages. Well designed and well run because they have the aggressive athletes to run them.

In Cincinnati the Bengals are winning the close games. Two weeks ago, they prevailed 27-24 over Buffalo in overtime and Andy Dalton threw for 300 yards plus. Last week, in Detroit, another 27-24 win on a last play field goal as Dalton thew for 300 plus once again. When this season is over the Bengals could finish first in the AFC North and the last two close wins are why. They did lose cornerback Leon Hall for the season (achilles) so someone else has to step up at one of football's toughest positions.

And finally, the New York Giants are now 1-6 and on their way! Just kidding. This will be a tough season for the Giants as the Jets are now "the" football team in New York. Opening drive on Monday Night Football. Giants run 16 plays, go approximately 80 yards, take an amazing nine-and-a-half minutes off the clock and...kick a field goal. Kind of sums up the season so far in New York with the Giants.

Looking ahead, here are the best two games of Week 8. Dallas at Detroit as the Cowboys control the NFC East, and the Jets at the Bengals. One was expected to be on top of their division - the Bengals - while the other continues to improve, Jets.

Chris Schultz

Chris Schultz

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