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From underdogs to favorites, Colts looking to avoid upset

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Heading into the season, it was not inconceivable for the rebuilding Colts to be part of an upset.

It’s still not. They could easily lose Sunday.

Think about that for a moment.

If the Colts lose at home, where they are 3-1 and a few agonizing ticks from being 4-0, it will be an upset.

Welcome to the zany new world order, where the Colts somehow, in some inexplicable way, have turned traditional expectations upside down.

Seven games into a season that was supposed to be among the worst, if not the worst, in franchise history, it is poised to be one of its more historic for quite the opposite reason.

Projected by nearly all preseason power ranking measures to be the weakest of the NFL’s 32 teams heading into 2012 , the Colts are anything but. They are 4-3. They are in the playoff race. And if they lose at home to Miami, it will be an upset.

Yes, an upset.

Granted, the Dolphins also are a surprise team. They are 4-3. They are in the playoff race. But it’s hard to imagine the Colts being underdogs at Lucas Oil Stadium, especially coming off their first road win of the season.

By no means a polished or finished product, the Colts have proved that their improbable success to date is no fluke. They’ve taken few backward steps. They’ve improved each week. They’ve played with unflinching confidence at home and are coming off a supremely satisfying comeback win at Tennessee.

Perhaps most telling, they’ve overcome myriad obstacles that easily could trip up the best of teams.

For starters, they’re young. Incredibly young. Their quarterback is a rookie. At times, up to four rookies have started on offense. They have 10 on the roster.

On the other side of the ball, injuries have been rampant. The two best players, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, have missed games. Pat Angerer, last year’s leading tackler, sat out the first five games and has been slowly worked back into the mix.

And then there’s the matter of the head coach, who’s battling a treatable form of leukemia. Chuck Pagano hasn’t coached a game since Sept. 23 and is out indefinitely. Chances are he won’t return to a full-time role until next season.

Yet here the Colts are, one game above .500 with a chance to go two above right at midseason.

True, there are no guarantees the winning will continue. This is still a team rebuilding from the basement up. But the fluke stage has passed. The Colts have won on their own merits. They’ve executed with remarkable poise on offense and defense that belies their inexperience.

Granted, it’s not always been pretty. But 4-3 is 4-3. And if they’re not 5-3 heading into Week 9, it will only mean one thing — Miami pulled an upset.

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