By Tom James
For the Kokomo Tribune
The Indianapolis Colts have surprised many fans and media around the National Football League after getting off to a 4-3 start this season.
After all, the Colts underwent a major roster shift during the offseason by releasing or not re-signing several notable veteran starters. Indianapolis is now one of the youngest, and least experienced, teams in the league.
But after last Sunday’s 19-13 road win over Tennessee, the team’s second straight win, the Colts find themselves alone in second place in the AFC South.
Indianapolis has already doubled its win total from a year ago (2-14) and have moved from being 32nd in the weekly ESPN NFL power rankings to being the sixth-ranked team in the AFC.
Not too shabby. Most Colts players will say that their record should be 5-2 after letting a late lead slip away in a 22-17 loss to Jacksonville at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sept. 23.
One thing is certain, though. Nobody — be it Indianapolis’ players or coaches — are getting too caught up in the team’s modest taste of success. Even if some of the national media are talking about a possible post-season run as a wild-card participant.
Another possible wild-card contender is this week’s opponent at Lucas Oil Stadium, Miami. The Dolphins are also 4-3 with a rookie quarterback (Ryan Tannehill), a first-year coach (Joe Philbin) and a rebuilt roster.
“I think you realize who cares if the playoffs started today. They don’t. It doesn’t matter what your record is now. It matters what it is after that last week,” rookie quarterback Andrew Luck said Wednesday.
“Realize [that] it’s a week-by-week thing. I realize that’s a very cliché thing. We are not looking ahead to anything. It’s the Dolphins. It’s great that people say nice things about us, great if people said bad things about us, whatever. It’s part of playing this game. We are just worried about trying to win football games.”
Luck says the focus this week is on the Dolphins and nothing else.
“Absolutely. This is the biggest game to date and that’s how we’ll approach it because it is. It truly is,” he said.
The quarterback’s concentration this week in practice, as well as Sunday during the game, will be on trying to figure out a Miami defense that has played well in recent weeks.
“Absolutely. I think how good the Dolphins are on third down, red zone, rushing the passer, blitzing, we’ve got to be on our stuff. Turnovers, no can do. Negative plays can’t happen,” Luck said. “We are going to have to be 100 percent focused and hopefully that’ll give us a chance to win.”
Cornerback Vontae Davis (knee) and rookie tight end Coby Fleener (shoulder) have both been ruled out of Sunday’s game with the Dolphins.
They were hurt in last week’s win over Tennessee. Davis and Fleener are expected to be sidelined for two weeks. Also sitting out Wednesday’s practice were outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (ankle), inside linebacker Pat Angerer (foot) and inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (foot).
Freeney has been nursing a sore ankle all season but is expected to start the Miami game. Angerer was wearing a boot on his right foot and Freeman had one on his left foot Wednesday.
Cornerback Darius Butler (shoulder) and outside linebacker Robert Mathis (knee) had limited work on Wednesday. They may be cleared later in the week to play against the Dolphins. Defensive tackle Fili Moala (knee) and Luck (knee) both fully practiced.
Moala has been sidelined for the last three weeks but saw some limited work in practice last week, as did Mathis. Luck has been undergoing treatment for a sore knee the last two weeks but is fine otherwise. He will start the Miami game.
The Colts elevated cornerback Marshay Green and fullback Robert Hughes to the active roster and signed cornerback Teddy Williams to the practice squad.
Indianapolis also released nose tackle Antonio Dixon and veteran running back Mewelde Moore. The team added running back Alvester Alexander to the practice squad. It’s the second time this season that Alexander has been on the Colts’ practice squad.
Rookie nose tackle Josh Chapman (knee) is in his second week of practice as a member of the reserved/physically unable to play list. No decision is expected this week on Chapman’s chances of playing against Miami or next week at New England.
Rookie offensive tackle Justin Anderson (foot) practiced for the first time Wednesday as a member of the reserved/PUP list.