INDIANAPOLIS — For the second consecutive week, the Indianapolis Colts cashed in on a complete team effort in a multi-score victory over the New York Jets, 36-7.
Some trends are developing in the way that the Colts and their players are evaluated around the NFL, perhaps most notably the offseason acquisitions of quarterback Philip Rivers, DeForest Buckner, and Xavier Rhodes, who have played well through three weeks.
Rhodes and Buckner joined tight end Mo Alie-Cox — making his second appearance in as many weeks — on Pro Football Focus’ “NFL Week 3 Team of the Week.”
Here are the Colts players who ranked in the top 10 of their position.
Cornerback No. 1 (93.8), 53 snaps (83%)
1 tackle, 2 interceptions (44 yards, 1 touchdown), 2 pass breakups
Rhodes returned an interception for a TD less than three minutes into the game. However, it wasn’t his only big play.
The Jets scored their lone TD on the ensuing drive, and two drives later were back in the red zone, flirting with another score. Rhodes recognized Jets quarterback Sam Darnold’s target in the back of the end zone and made another interception for a touchback.
Rhodes was targeted five times and only allowed one reception for 11 yards.
Rhodes earned PFF’s top grade among all NFL defenders in Week 3, and his 93.8 grade was the highest in a single game in his career. He now sits as the league’s top-graded cornerback through three weeks as a result.
Here’s what PFF had to say about their “Defensive Player of the Week:”
“What a turnaround for Xavier Rhodes. After allowing a 131.1 passer rating in coverage in 2019 and producing the eighth-lowest coverage grade at the position in Minnesota in 2019, Rhodes was cut and ended up with Indianapolis. In Week 1, he looked like the same old guy as he had a 39.3 coverage grade for the game. He had a strong showing in Week 2 against his former team (80.3 coverage grade), but managed to top that in Week 3 with the best performance of his eight-year career. Rhodes earned a 94 coverage grade against the New York Jets, allowing just one catch for 11 yards while intercepting two — one of which went for six.”
Maybe a change of scenery is all Rhodes needed.
Tight End No. 1 (92.7), 36 snaps (60%)
3 receptions (3 targets), 50 yards (16.7 avg.), 1 TD
For the second consecutive week, Alie-Cox earns the top spot among NFL tight ends. The third-year basketball convert scored his first TD of the season early in the second quarter, and then had a career-long 45-yard catch and run just a few minutes later.
Alie-Cox also earned quality grades as a run blocker (76.3, fifth).
Defensive lineman No. 2 (89.7), 47 snaps (73%)
6 tackles, 1 quarterback hit
The Colts traded away their 2020 first-round draft pick to the San Francisco 49ers for Buckner, and they are getting their money’s worth. Through three weeks, Buckner ranks fourth among all NFL defensive linemen and was second overall on Sunday.
Six tackles for an interior lineman shows a player who was all over the place, but he was also credited with five pressures on the quarterback (four hurries, one hit). PFF also gave him four “stops,” which is a forced “failure” by the offense.
Safety No. 3 (83.1), 23 snaps (36%)
4 tackles (2 for loss), 1 pass breakup
The Colts signed Wilson during training camp, and he made noise right away as a playmaker.
Against the Jets, he filled in for rookie safety Julian Blackmon, who was on a play count as he continues to work his way back from a 2019 late-season ACL tear. Wilson came up from his safety spot to impose himself with a pair of tackles for loss and a pass breakup. He was credited with three stops, and he only allowed one reception on two targets, which was one of his tackles for loss (-4 yards).
Not bad for a guy who’s only been with the team for a month and a half.
Quarterback No. 8 (82.2), 46 snaps (77%)
17-of-21 passing (80.9%) for 217 yards (10.3 YPA), 1 TD, 125.6 passer rating
"Philip Rivers performed in typical Rivers fashion, getting rid of the ball in 2.49 seconds with an average depth of target of 6.8,” PFF said. “Rivers’ touchdown pass in the first quarter to Week 2’s highest-graded player, Mo Alie-Cox, was his 400th touchdown pass of his career.”
Rivers threw the ball just 21 times, but his passing yards per attempt of 10.3 was the best among all quarterbacks in Week 3. On top of completing 81% of his passes, Rivers went seven-of-eight on throws 10-plus yards downfield for 144 yards.
Wide Receiver No. 10 (81.8), 31 snaps (52%)
3 receptions (3 targets) for 52 yards (17.3 avg.)
It wasn’t the gaudy statistical game that people have been looking for, but Hilton bounced back from his early-season slump, according to PFF.
He was efficient, catching all three of his targets (all resulting in first downs), and made a nifty tight-rope maneuver on his game-long 25-yard reception in the second quarter. Rivers had a passer rating of 118.8 when targeting “The Ghost.”
Punter No. 2 (68.9), 18 snaps (67%)
4 punts, 43.8 avg., 3 inside-20
Rivers told CBS Sports sideline reporter Melanie Collins after the game that Sanchez “punted the stew out of the ball,” and whatever that means, he couldn’t have been more right.
Sanchez punted four times, and three of the four were downed inside the Jets’ 10-yard line. None of Sanchez’s punts were returned — his average hang time of 4.58 seconds ranked eighth — and all four were fair caught.
He’s not known as one of the more powerful punters in the league, but especially this season, Sanchez has displayed a lot of finesse.
It’s not only individual success for the Colts that has piqued PFF’s interest. They have also taken notice of the team as a unit, writing the following entry in their key takeaways of Week 3:
The Indianapolis Colts are Low-Key Looking Pretty Hot
“There is only one team in the NFL that ranks in the top five in percentage of pass plays producing positive EPA and top five in percentage of pass plays allowed that produced positive EPA: The Indianapolis Colts.
“Yes, they just got done blowing out perhaps the worst team in the NFL in Week 3, but Indy was still shining both on offense and defense even prior to facing the New York Jets. Philip Rivers is looking sharp and is one of four quarterbacks to produce top-10 marks in both positively graded and negatively graded throw rate (Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Jared Goff are the other three). Through three games, Rivers is the seventh highest-graded passer at 82.1. It’s amazing what having an offensive line that’s not a liability can do for a quarterback. From a clean-pocket, Rivers has recorded the highest rate of accurate passes thrown at 75.3%. There were a few bad throws the veteran had in his debut in Week 1, but the offense has been clicking the last couple of weeks. It will be interesting to see how Rivers and the offense fares against the Bears this week, considering they have a good defense and, well, Minnesota and New York both have really bad ones.
“On defense, Indy’s outside cornerbacks have combined to form the highest-graded unit in the NFL and their combined passer rating allowed of 49.6 is also the best. Similar to the offense, the Colts defense has been clicking in the last two weeks, as they have allowed -0.44 EPA per pass play. For perspective, second sits at -0.22.
“We are going to find out a lot about this Colts team against the Bears’ defense in Week 4, but I’m really liking what I have seen thus far.”
(Jake Arthur has covered the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for nearly a decade and is a contributor for the team's official website, Colts.com. He’s on Twitter and Facebook @JakeArthurNFL, and his email is email@example.com.)