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Senior NFL Columnist

Monday Musings: Colts get tough, look like true contenders

The Indianapolis Colts aren't a year away. I was wrong about that.

I thought they would have a little bit of a struggle this season and take a step back before roaring back as legitimate Super Bowl contenders in 2014. The numbers from 2012, their magical playoff season with rookie Andrew Luck, made their 11-5 record look misleading, but their first five games of 2013 show that they should indeed be considered a real playoff threat right now.

The Colts are 4-1 after beating the Seahawks on Sunday, giving them victories over 4-1 Seattle and the 3-2 49ers, the NFL's supposed tough guys. In coming back to beat the Seahawks, the Colts showed that they are for real, capable of doing damage come playoff time. They are in first place in the AFC South, two games ahead of the 2-3 Texans.

It wasn't a pretty day for their offense, or Luck, but they did enough to pull out a game in which they trailed 12-0 in the first quarter. Seattle looked to dominate the game for much of it, but Luck threw two touchdown passes to T.Y. Hilton and led the Colts on two long fourth-quarter drives to win it.

The Colts' next three games will go a long way toward deciding their season, and all three are in prime time. They play at San Diego next Monday, play host to the Broncos in Peyton Manning's return to Indianapolis the following Sunday and then after a bye they play Houston on Nov. 4.

The one thing you notice about this Colts team compared to last season's version is it is tougher on both lines. That's something general manager Ryan Grigson wanted to instill in his team this season, and it appears that's the case.

"We have good players and coaches, but what makes this entire team special is the heart, and especially the grit, they demonstrate no matter the circumstances," Grigson said.

Because of that, they are contenders -- a lot faster than I expected it to happen.

I still can't believe that a quarterback can throw for 506 yards and five touchdowns and get ripped for losing a game with a late-game interception like Tony Romo is getting it now. Romo was sensational against the Broncos with his big day, but when he made a bad decision and threw an interception late to set up the game-winning field goal for Denver, the heat Romo took was unreal. Was it a bad pass? Yes. But without Romo the Cowboys lose by 20. He was sensational. And all anybody can focus on is the last pass. Please. Give this guy a break. The reason the Cowboys are even in games at times is because of him. One bad play doesn't wipe out a special day. I just don't get it. That's football ignorance.

Matt Schaub has thrown a pick-six in four consecutive games, which is downright horrible. Schaub seems to have really lost his confidence. It's almost as if he's afraid to make throws. You can't play that way. If he continues to struggle, the Texans could look to backup T.J. Yates. But is he really the long-term answer? Schaub will stay as quarterback for now. How much longer he's in that spot is uncertain. At 2-3, the Texans are reeling.

The Miami offensive line might be the undoing of the Dolphins' chances of making the playoffs. They gave up six sacks to the Ravens in Baltimore's victory Sunday. The Dolphins have now allowed 24 sacks on the season, a pace that puts them on record to break the team's single-season mark. Terrell Suggs whipped Jonathan Martin for three sacks this week. But Martin is not alone in the struggles of the offensive line. They head to a bye this week, and you can bet the Dolphins will be spending a lot of time on pass protection.

The Lions found out just how valuable Calvin Johnson is to their offense when he didn't play against the Packers. The Lions couldn't get anything going and the underneath stuff to Reggie Bush wasn't available. Johnson is the NFL's best receiver, and what he does to a defense is invaluable.

Can one franchise be as jinxed as the Jaguars? They are 0-5, haven't been competitive in any game, traded their starting left tackle and then had their first-round pick go down with a season-ending ankle injury. Ouch. When the Jaguars traded Eugene Monroe to the Ravens, they did so with the idea of moving Luke Joeckel to the left side, but he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the team's loss to the Rams. That put Cameron Bradfield in at left tackle. This team is certainly capable of going winless.

Can Jimmy Graham be covered? He is having an unreal season for the Saints . Memo to NFL GMs: Go scout college basketball players. They are future NFL tight ends. Graham has 593 yards and five scores in five games.

Cam Newton was terrible in the Panthers' loss to the Cardinals. He threw three picks, lost a fumble and was sacked seven times. The Cardinals beat up the Panthers' offensive line. The seat under Ron Rivera is getting hotter by the minute.

The Cardinals need to give Andre Ellington more carries. He had seven for 53 yards against the Panthers. He has the ability to be a game-breaker.

I wasn't sure Alshon Jeffrey ran well enough to be a top receiver. But he's proving me wrong. He had 218 yards receiving against the Saints this week. He has had consecutive big games. With Brandon Marshall on the other side for the Bears, he gets a lot of single coverage. That matters.

Nick Perry finally flourished for the Packers. He had two sacks. With Clay Matthews possibly missing time with a thumb injury, Perry and Mike Neal have to continue to provide pressure from the outside.

The Giants have given up at least 31 points in all five games, all losses, and they have turned it over at least three times each game. You can't win that way. That's why they are 0-5. But Tom Coughlin is not in trouble. That's stupid. And they are still only two games out of first place.

The Bengals defense is for real. They held Tom Brady under 200 yards passing and snapped his touchdown-pass streak at 52 games. It's time defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer gets a chance to be a head coach.

Wonder who Bucs coach Greg Schiano will blame now that Josh Freeman isn't around? Just asking.

I still worry about the 49ers' passing game. They beat the Texans, but Colin Kaepernick completed just five passes. That has to be better.

Why did Titans coach Mike Munchak try a field goal on the last play of the game down nine against the Chiefs? It made no sense. Why not throw a shot into the end zone? Touchdown or field goal, it didn't matter. Weird.

Dontari Poe continues to impress. He is a force inside for the Chiefs.

Start working on the Canton bust for Eagles coach Chip Kelly again.

Nice to see Sam Bradford do some good things. Rams fans probably say it's about time. I still think he's the long-term guy.

Please never play another game that starts at 11:30 p.m. It's bad for the sleep.

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