Bye Week Offers Colts A Critical Look At First Nine Games

Intro: What did the Colts do well in the first nine weeks of 2016? What do they have to improve on? A look back on the 4-5 start that the Colts take into their bye week.

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INDIANAPOLIS – Was Sunday's win over the Packers an abberration? Or a sign of things to come?

The debating of such questions will run wild through Colts' fans during the team's bye week.

Sunday was a recipe in team football, with all three units making their fair share of plays for the 31-26 victory over the Packers.

It was a stark contrast from a season that had been filled with the opposite through the first eight games of the season, when the self-inflicted issues appeared far too often.

With the bye week here, let's examine some early season takeaways and how that will impact the final seven games of 2016:

Can Andrew Luck Carry The Torch?

Jim Irsay mentioned earlier this week, he still sees this offense needing to do more of the heavy lifting for the Colts to turn things around in November and December.

Is this offense capable of putting up around 30 points a game, now that the skill group around Andrew Luck is healthy?

Luck has been efficient in 2016, heading into the bye with a career-high in completion percentage.

If Luck can keep the turnovers quiet (which he's done for a majority of 2016), this offense should reach the potential many envisioned in the offseason, with T.Y. Hilton the No. 1 threat and a healthy Donte Moncrief ready to capitalize on the extra attention for The Ghost.

Eliminating The Self-Inflicted Negatives

Even in Sunday's win over the Packers, the Colts had to trudge through an afternoon with potentially costly turnovers and untimely penalties.

The Colts overcame those, but they are still walking a fine line with these issues persisting.

Penalties, dropped passes and missed tackles were three of the most common hurdles the Colts could not overcome in their handful of losses through the first nine weeks.

If we see more discipline in taking care of the problems above, then winning the AFC South becomes much more realistic.

If they don't, Houston's lead isn't going to shrink and the playoff chances for the Colts will begin to evaporate.

Offensive Line Inconsistency

The line heads into the bye week on an upswing. Even with the injuries rising, the line has shown more consistency over the past month.

Line coach Joe Philbin said earlier this week that the line has to do a better job in handling twists when they return from their bye.

The health of Jack Mewhort (tricep) will be something to pay attention to next week.

If Mewhort can return, Philbin should have some depth to play with after he started six different line units in the first nine weeks of 2016.

Can The Defense Turn It Around?

Like the offensive line, the defensive trenches has a couple of injuries to monitor (Henry Anderson and Kendall Langford).

What the unit did find in Sunday's win over the Packers was even more versatile parts in the secondary.

The Colts should feel better about what they can do at the back end of the defense involving multiple looks.

Now it's time for the defensive front to aid Erik Walden (7.0 sacks) in the pass-rushing department.

The final seven games doesn't include a lot of pass-heavy teams, but the Colts will see Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving night, having yet to sack Ben Roethlisberger in back-to-back meetings (88 total pass attempts).Easier Path To January?

The Colts will play seven games to close out the season, including three divisional home games.

At 4-5, the Colts sit two games back in the loss column of the Houston Texans (5-3).

Looking initially at the schedules to finish, it would appear the Colts have the tougher stretch.

But the Texans are still in search of their first road win of 2016 (0-3 on the road). They finish the year with five of their eight games away from home.

The Colts will come out of the bye with three out of their first four at home, with a road game against the Jets (3-6) thrown in there.

That's an opportunity to put some pressure on the Texans, with these two teams meeting at Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 11.

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