The Indianapolis Colts (3-5) will travel to take on the Carolina Panthers (1-6) on Sunday, looking for their first win in nearly a month. The combination of a turnover-prone offense and a porous defense has resulted in three straight losses for the Colts, including last week's collapse against the New Orleans Saints.
While the Colts hope to end their three-game skid, the Panthers just put an end to their own losing streak. In Week 8, Carolina edged the Houston Texans in a low-scoring affair and rookie quarterback Bryce Young finally got the first win of his NFL career. Carolina's record may not be great, as Young learns to adjust to the big leagues, and Indianapolis may be favorites but the Colts can't afford to take any game for granted. Let's explore exactly how Indianapolis can secure a victory against the Panthers.
3. Colts need to establish the run and actually stick with it
The numbers don't lie — Indianapolis has one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL. The Colts are averaging 129 yards on the ground per game this season despite Jonathan Taylor missing the first four games of the year. That's the ninth-best mark in the league. Since his return, Taylor has run for 207 yards, 170 of which have come in the last two weeks alone, even though he's still splitting carries with Zack Moss.
Indianapolis should be able to lean on their elite running back duo as a consistent source of production, but first-year head coach Shane Steichen's game plan hasn't always prioritized the ground game. For example, consider Steichen's confounding use of Taylor in the loss to the Saints. The former first-team All-Pro tore up the New Orleans defense to the tune of 94 yards on 11 carries in the first half. Down by one heading into the third quarter, the Colts seemed poised to continue riding Taylor. Instead, he only had one second-half carry and Indianapolis was held to seven points for the remainder of the game.
The Colts' strategy on offense shouldn't be complicated on Sunday. Carolina has the fourth-worst rushing defense in the league, while Indianapolis has a two-headed monster in the backfield. If Taylor and Moss can set the tone from kickoff and maintain that momentum across four quarters, this matchup should be smooth sailing for the Colts. A strong running game will help Indianapolis control the tempo, relieve some pressure off starting quarterback Gardner Minshew, and give the defense a break.