Davenport: Fleener and Brown Key for Indy

Not that I've been advocating for Brown's play since week three or anything, but other people are finally getting on board as well. A 5.9 yard/carry rushing average certainly helps, as does his 153 yards on 18 targets in the passing game. Meanwhile, Coby Fleener – after floundering in the deep game week after week, and being forced into impossible coverage – decided to go to work last week, tearing every catch upfield for huge gains.

He might be overreacting, but Gary Davenport thinks that those two will be keys to Indy's playoff hopes.

Yes, the Colts gave up a first-round pick to get Richardson. The Colts need to come to the same realization the Browns did: investing a first-round pick in Richardson was a mistake. Brown hasn't just outperformed Richardson on a per-touch basis. It hasn't been close, and the difference in play between the two backs was glaring against Tennessee.

I'm still not done with Richardson; I think he has potential, but lacks the instinct to make quick decisions when he needs to. In the passing game, T-Rich was great last week. In the run, he was driven straight up the gut time and time again (although his one slant route only went for three). Indy should keep Richardson, drop Bradshaw, and watch their run game evolve into a Ballard-Brown-Richardson trio next season.

Two young guys, one change-it-up veteran. Keep Brown for a year, let Ballard and Richardson duke it out for the starting job in 2015.

Fleener, meanwhile, isn't Indy's best tight end, but Luck's been testing him enough for us to see remarkable progress in his play. Often in the tightest coverage, Fleener will be instrumental to Indy's playoff chances – but not in a 'absolutely can't play without him' way. Fleener adds a short option to Indy's passing game, see. His big catches yesterday were a result of smart playcalling and speed, not downfield throwing.

Griff Whalen hasn't had the experience he needs, and will likely take a few more weeks to come into his own this year. He has the talent to get there, but until he does, Luck will need a reliable 5-yard option. That guy? Fleener. His hands are more reliable every week, his routes are tighter. With Dwayne Allen in the lineup, Fleener wouldn't have the same opportunity to succeed this year; with experience, he's becoming more important every week.

Who knows? Maybe he will be the guy they rely on in February. Fingers crossed.