Through seven weeks, the Indianapolis Colts looked like a blossoming contender. Their run offense DVOA was second in the league through Week 5, and the pass offense was clicking as well as it possibly could be.
That balance has changed drastically since their bye, and most of that has to do with the absence of Reggie Wayne.
Wayne is one of the best receivers in the NFL anyway, and a potential Hall of Famer somewhere down the line, but his importance was especially amplified because of just how little Indianapolis had in the passing game to work with this season. Losing tight end Dwayne Allen in Week 1 was a blow that hampered a lot of their passing game versatility. Losing Wayne to a torn ACL against the Broncos was a knockout shot.
Since the Colts are still just a few years removed from what we'll call The Curtis Painter Season -- when their roster was stripped to the bare bones -- they aren't yet at the point where they have accumulated the quality depth they'd need to overcome an injury like this. Darrius Heyward-Bey, a free agent brought in from Oakland, has a minus-26.0 percent DVOA in 68 targets as Wayne's main replacement. (DVOA is Football Outsiders' defense-adjusted value over average metric, explained here.)
Coby Fleener has been a disappointment as a secondary weapon, as he's been neither a mismatch nor a good blocker. LaVon Brazill and Da'Rick Rogers have supplemented T.Y. Hilton with some nice production as of late, but Brazill is toting a minus-18.6 percent DVOA for the season, and there's a reason Rogers was available as an undrafted free agent.