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Catching up with … the Colts 11.08.12 at 1:35 pm ET
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Andrew Luck (AP)

The latest in our semi-regular series that looks at the other potential playoff teams in the AFC. This week, it’s the Colts.

Well, this was unexpected.

The Colts’ 5-3 start this season can be partially attributed to a spark providing from a new coaching staff, a hotshot quarterback and the emotional charge provided by the team rallying behind head coach Chuck Pagano, who is undergoing treatment for leukemia, going from “Suck for Luck” to “Don’t Suck for Chuck.” It can also partially be attributed to the fact that the Colts were bad last season, but not 2-14 bad.

It’s been a bizarre early going for the Colts, who lost their season opener to the Bears … which makes sense. Then, they beat an upstart Vikings team, which was surprising. Then, they lost to the Jaguars (Jacksonville’s only victory so far this season), which makes no sense. After a Week 4 bye, the Colts seem to have figured out who they are as a team, racking up four wins in five weeks, including a win against the Packers in Week 5, a week before, oddly enough, a rough loss to the Jets the following week.

The main storyline for the Colts this season has been their playing for their ill coach, a motivation that has led to some great victories. While it may be time to wonder how many times the Colts can play the “Win This One for Chuck” Card, here’s what we know about the Colts:

1. Andrew Luck is as good as advertised

The success of the top overall pick this season really raises one important question for the Indianapolis Colts: Just how bad were their quarterbacks last season?

After an early season experiment with then-38-year old Kerry Collins blew up in their faces, the Colts tried to run with Peyton Manning’s former backup Curtis Painter at the helm, which also failed to produce much offense or, more importantly, any wins. The answer, it turned out, came in the form of journeyman Dan Orlovsky, who posted decent numbers in leading the Colts to two wins in their final three games, putting up serviceable numbers in the process.

What may be surprising is the fact that Luck hasn’t been all that more efficient than his predecessors. Luck’s current passer rating of 79.0 is actually lower than Orlovsky’s 82.4 and all that much higher than the team rating of 72.2. The biggest difference has actually been in terms of pure production, which is where Luck has completely transcended the Colts’ quarterback play in 2011.

After eight weeks, Luck is currently tied with Manning at fourth in the NFL in passing yardage with 2,404 yards, good for 300.5 yards per game. Painter, the Colts’ 2011 leader in yards per game, averaged just 171.2 yards per outing. Luck has also posted improved numbers in interception percentage, touchdown percentage and ESPN’s QBR stat with a mark of 76.09. No Colts quarterback posted a mark above 50 — the average rating — for 2011.

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