A game that can almost seal the deal for the Indianapolis Colts in the mostly weak AFC South, facing a Pittsburgh Steelers team that has yet to win twice in a row this season, and is coming off a victory.
Despite being a defensive juggernaut this season (allowing only 311 yards per game overall), the Colts have the number one offense in the NFL. They lead the league with 329.6 passing yards per game while also gaining 123 yards on the ground each time they’re out on the field. After opening the season with two losses, they’ve now won five consecutive games as for the first time in his career, Andrew Luck has been let loose.
The third-year quarterback is leading the NFL with 2331 passing yards, throwing for over 300 in five consecutive games. He has also thrown 19 touchdown passes, tied with Peyton Manning for the most in the league so far. He’s 7th in the NFL with a 100.5 passer rating, and his 7.72 yards per attempt are good enough for 8th in the NFL. No one is calling Luck the best quarterback in the league, but he keeps making progress in the right direction, and is getting more on his plate from Chuck Pagano, something he’s been handling very well.
The defense isn’t too shabby either. They shutout the Cincinnati Bengals in a 27-0 victory, and have allowed 17 points or less in four of their five wins. They’re allowing just over 270 yards over their winning streak, and were able to limit the Bengals to just 135 yards in the win, the lowest offensive total for any team so far in the 2014 NFL season. The only team in the top 5 of both defense and offense this season, they’ve racked up 20 sacks over the last five games, allowing only 26% conversions on third downs.
The Pittsburgh Steelers walked away with a win over the Houston Texans from Monday Night Football despite falling behind 13-0 early on. It came mostly thanks to forcing turnovers on back to back plays, which is quite rare for a team that has an NFL low 64 takeaways since the beginning of the 2011 season, which marks the beginning of their decline under Mike Tomlin, which has led to missing the playoffs two consecutive years.
Despite poor protection, Ben Roethlisberger is doing a good job of avoiding bad passes, intercepted only three times so far this season. His biggest weapon has been Le’Veon Bell, averaging 134 yards per game from scrimmage, leading the team in rushing (599 yards) and comes in second in receiving (339 yards). Antonio Brown has 719 receiving yards for the Steelers this season, also catching five touchdown passes.
One thing the Colts don’t do well is take care of the ball – they’ve turned the ball over 13 times so far this season, fourth worst in the NFL. Reggie Wayne won’t be playing which means Luck might target T.Y. Hilton even more than usual (68 targets so far this season, 5th in the league). Hilton is third in the NFL with 711 receiving yards so far, catching only one touchdown pass though.
The last three games between the teams have been decided by four points or less, with the Steelers winning 23-20 on September 25, 2011, their last encounter. Andrew Luck will be facing the Steelers for the first time.