1. What's wrong with the Indianapolis Colts? I can understand a Week 1 loss to an underestimated Buffalo Bills team, but an awful loss to the New York Jets and then a come-from-behind against the Tennessee Titans?
Can I just say almost everything?
In all seriousness, the Colts have not looked good whatsoever this season, besides for the fourth quarter of the Titans game in which they looked great. In eleven of their 12 quarters, they have looked bad, which seems shocking for a team that entered the season with such high expectations.
But I actually think it's rather simple: the Colts built their entire team around Andrew Luck. We've seen in the past three years that he is able to help carry them and cover over a lot of weaknesses, and the Colts were counting on that happening again this year. Building around a star quarterback is not a bad strategy, but so far this year, Luck hasn't been good either. He has been just as much of a problem as the rest of the team, and that has exposed the flaws the rest of the team has.
When Andrew Luck isn't covering up those flaws, they are exposed for everyone else to see and the Colts look terrible. That's why, in the fourth quarter against the Titans when Luck caught fire, the rest of the team looked a lot better as well.
So, to be honest, I think the Colts' struggles boil down to Andrew Luck. Not that he deserves all of the blame but rather that, since he hasn't been playing well, we've seen just how bad this team is and how many flaws have been masked by their quarterback in the past few years. The good news for the Colts, though, is that we know Luck can get it going at any point, so there's plenty of reason to think that once he starts playing well the Colts will look much better.
2. What's the greatest deficiency on the Colts offense? How should an opposing defensive coordinator game plan against it?
The biggest weakness on the Colts' offense is clearly their offensive line, which hasn't been particularly good ever since Luck entered the league, and in fact going back longer than that to the later years of the Peyton Manning era as well. And so far this year, they've lived up to those expectations, as they have been bad this year as well. They have struggled to protect Andrew Luck, have struggled to adapt to blitzes, and have been flagged way too many times for holding penalties (eleven of them in three games!).
Add it all together and they are not a good unit whatsoever, and I don't think there's much the Colts can do to improve it that much based on the talent they have. So if I'm an opposing defensive coordinator, I'm looking at what teams have been doing already this year and sending pressure after the quarterback, particularly attacking the middle of the line.
The sack numbers might not be as high, but we've yet to see this line stop a pass rush with any consistency.
3. From what you know about the Andrew Luck injury, is it as serious as Jaguars fans hope it is?
Yes. We don't have any details on the severity of the injury, because the Colts at first denied that it even existed and then gave limited details when they did admit it.
What we know is that Luck is already really beat up from this season and that he's dealing with an injury to his throwing shoulder -- not a good injury for a quarterback. He has hardly thrown at all in practice this week, and the Colts signed a third quarterback to the roster on Friday. The fact that the Colts play twice in five days (against the Jaguars on Sunday and then on the road against the Texans on Thursday) will also come into play in the Colts' decision as well.
So we don't have many details at this point, but yes, I think it's very, very possible that he will miss the game on Sunday with the injury.
4. Is there a Jaguars player on either side of the ball that you say, "If the Colts don't stop him, we're in trouble"?
I think that the player that instantly comes to mind is Allen Robinson.
The Colts have dealt with a lot of injuries to the cornerback position this year, so it will be interesting to see how they play Robinson -- will Vontae Davis shadow him, or will the Colts simply play their corners on their respective sides? The bottom line is that the Colts can't let Robinson beat them. He's a playmaker and is a threat to defenses, and while guys like Allen Hurns can make plays as well, I think the Colts would be in a good place if they could take away Robinson and make Blake Bortles and the other receivers beat them.
But if the Colts continually let Robinson past them and can't stop him, they could be in for a long day.
5. What's your prediction for Sunday? Can the Jaguars take advantage of an injured Andrew Luck, or will it be business as usual for the Colts?
I just have a hard time seeing the Colts put it all together for this game with all of the questions.
At this point, I'm operating under the assumption that Andrew Luck won't play, but even if he does, he's ailing because of his shoulder injury and I'm not sure how effective he will be or how much the Colts could ask for him. So I think that, regardless of who is at quarterback, we'll see a lot of Frank Gore on Sunday. He's more than capable of handling it, but we know that at some point the team will need to make some big throws.
Can the line hold up enough to protect? Can an injured Luck or a veteran Hasselbeck make those throws? Can the defense hold the Jaguars enough to let the offense run the ball and establish their ground game without having to turn to the passing game to try to comeback?
The Colts have a lot of issues, and if they don't have their franchise quarterback playing to hold it all together, I'm not at all confident in a Colts win. I think we might see the Colts' 14-game division win streak come to an end this weekend.