Colts can’t afford a slow start to the season
The Indianapolis Colts often times struggle out of the gates, but with a backloaded schedule they can’t afford to pile up losses early on in 2016.
The Colts have a history of slow starts over the past four years. Slow starts to the regular season and slow starts in games. Both have required late season and game heroics and it is one of the reasons why Andrew Luck has so many fourth quarter comebacks.
In the past four seasons the Colts are 2-6 in the first two weeks of the season. They rebound in Weeks 3-4 going 6-1 (they had a Bye Week in Week 4 of 2012), but that is in large part due to facing the likes of the Titans and Jaguars, something the Colts can’t bank on in 2016.
The first five weeks of the schedule is incredibly favorable for the Colts. They face the Lions in Week 1 (without Calvin Johnson), they’re at the Broncos in Week 2 (who look more dangerous after the season opener), the Chargers come to Indy in Week 3 (without um, a defense?). In Week 4 they travel to London to face the Jaguars, which will be challenging for both teams and is a toss up. They’ll return to host the Bears who are a bit of a mystery heading into the season.
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All five games are very winnable. A 4-1 start to the season would be fantastic for any team, but especially for the Colts who have to gain some confidence before the schedule gets rougher.
The back half, or really two-thirds, is unpleasant. Featuring a number of tough road games and a visit from a team that is still scoring on them. The saving grace is that there aren’t really any back-to-back clear losses.
Coach Chuck Pagano has often been asked about the slow starts, at least in terms of games, and he often talks about getting going quicker. Yet rarely does that change and it makes one wonder about his game planning process (like, does he in fact make a game plan?).
The first five games of the season are going to dictate the success of 2016. The Colts will need to go at least 3-2 during this period to have any hope of weathering the storm late in the year.
A fast start to the season will also help with injuries (at least those who are currently hurt). Winning early will take the pressure off those who are healing up to return before they are ready. It basically gives them a bit of a luxury to sit a banged up player for an extra game.
If the Colts drop their first two or three, pressure starts to mount and no one will feel it more than Luck. Given his history, that kind of pressure is why he doesn’t slide on scrambles or why he hangs in the pocket for so long to force a throw. Perhaps that mentality gets better as he gets more experience, but another slow start to the year could easily find Luck desperate to make a play and getting hurt again.
This is a thin team, a few cracks and everything could easily fall about in 2016. This is also a roster that needs to tread water for a few weeks until a number of key players return (especially on defense). They find a way to win early, get those players back on the field, and suddenly 2016 looks much better. Couple that with a smarter, more patient Luck (who has the weapons for an MVP type seasons, but maybe not the line) and a playoff spot is easily in the cards.
It all starts with beating Detroit on Sunday.