INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts' Week 9 victory over the Green Bay Packers brought with it an obvious amount of positives for the team, which headed into its bye week with much more confidence.
Perhaps most importantly, however, was that the win for the Colts really helped keep them right in the thick of things when it comes to the AFC South Division standings, as both the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars lost that week, while the division leaders, the Houston Texans, were on their bye week.
With the bye week now over and the Colts refreshed for a second-half run, the Titans come to town on Sunday looking to avenge their 34-26 home loss to Indianapolis on Oct. 23. The winner of Sunday's game really will establish themselves as the primary threat to the Texans down the stretch.
As Colts head coach Chuck Pagano explained Monday night in his weekly appearance on "Colts Roundtable Live," which airs on 1070 The Fan, Indianapolis (4-5) knows it is facing a Tennessee (5-5) squad that is playing much better than it did in that Week 7 matchup. But the focus for the remainder of the season will be on the Colts, and not on what other teams are doing.
"We're going to worry about us, and that's about it," Pagano told host Bob Lamey. "We know we've got seven left, but we're going to take them one at a time.
"(We're) excited about this opportunity. Huge challenge — home game. Home game, Division game. Division rival. And they have not forgotten what happened down there, and this is a football team coming in here that's playing really, really good football right now, so we'll have our hands full," Pagano continued. "But again, if we just take care of us and do the right thing — and I know we've got great vets in the locker room, and the leadership will be good and we'll come up with solid plans and then go play — but we've got to protect our house. We've got to play well at home."
Here's some other highlights from Monday's show, including some questions fielded from fans by Colts general manager Ryan Grigson:————————————Colts general manager Ryan GrigsonInbox question, asking about the several notable restricted free agents the Colts have coming up this offseason, and which ones he thinks the team can re-sign?
Grigson: "You know, right now I think you have to look at it as the season is only halfway done. There's always a plan in mind, but that plan doesn't really truly come together — you don't get the, really, feel for how you're going to approach the offseason until the regular season is over, to where you can look at all the film, re-assess everything and re-assess the roster all three phases and so forth, look at your financials, look at the draft. There's a lot of different moving parts that go into looking at that, but, again, we're only halfway through, and all those guys that are going to be up, you know, there's still a lot more tape to be put out there."**
Caller Rob, asking if there was any interest from the Colts in acquiring Jamie Collins from the Patriots?** Grigson: "My phone's always on, and we're always going to look at any situation or player that can potentially make us better and get us to where we want to go. But he was not in the mix."Caller Chris, asking about what he looks at specifically when addressing a team need in the offseason; particularly when exploring utilizing free agency vs. the draft? Grigson: "I think it comes down to a lot of different factors. You know, when you go the free agency route, that's someone that's not homegrown, so those players have to be able to fit a lot of different needs, not only from a tangible perspective, but from an intangible perspective. So you've got to check off a lot of boxes. You know, I've learned some hard lessons here in free agency, and, again, the house usually does win in that regard, but I think you have to look at, we want to re-sign our own — do our best to re-sign our own — and we have to be fiscally responsible, and the pool isn't quite what it used to be in those respects, so we have to be really streamlined in who we select in free agency. We have to be right on those guys. There's really no margin for error with a free agent acquisition. You're obviously in a better situation in the near-term with a ready-made free agent-type player than a rookie, and of course you get your guys that can play — Denzelle Good plays as a seventh rounder from Mars Hill (University) and does pretty well as a rookie when he's pressed into action. But you have players in free agency that you can sit and watch film objectively of them playing against opponents you're playing against in the NFL. You know there's going to be more of a leap of faith to throw in a rookie in some spots and say, 'We're just going to roll with this guy,' because there's going to be a learning curve, no matter how good he is. And that's different by position."Inbox question, asking how the team plans to play two games in five days with Pittsburgh coming up after Tennessee? Grigson: "Well, you know, first and foremost, I think the players that will be affected by it, we just have to be pros. The guys have to be pros, take care of themselves, be smart. We've been down this road before; I think it comes down to a mindset. You look at the game in London, we're the first team to come back and play right after that, and I kind of put that in the same boat — it's a mindset. You've got to attack that week, regardless of how tired you are or what have you. You've just got to rise to the occasion. I think, what was it, '14, was it? We went out to San Diego, played on a Monday night, it was 2013, I think, and they came back and then beat the Broncos on a short week. So we've done it. We tend to do well with our backs to the wall, for whatever reason — we're kind of a resilient group like that, and our coach is wired that way. So I think, again, it's about mindset."Inbox question, asking what rookies have really stepped up in your eyes, and is Joe Haeg the team's future at right guard? Grigson: "Well we're excited about a lot of our young players, first- and second-year guys. I mean, of the 16 picks, 12 are contributing from that group. We've got seven starters — really nine, technically, have started — out of those two draft classes. So we're really excited about those guys going forward, they're helping us win football games, they're growing, they're learning. You know, they're going to make their mistakes, but the nice thing about those players is you don't know where their ceiling is still, and that's a good thing in terms of your personnel, that there's still a ceiling. So in terms of Joe Haeg, he sets the bar high, and then a guy like Ryan Kelly, both those guys — especially Haeg with the amount of versatility he's shown — it's just not a common thing. I think we've talked about it a lot, and it comes down to he knows how to play the game. I think it goes back to his approach and mindset as a walk-on at 220 pounds, I think, when he got to North Dakota State, and won five national championships. He came there as a skinny guy and built himself into what he is now; he's inherently a very smart person, which, you know, for our fans out there, if you just Google his name, there's some really great articles that are about just his intelligence at North Dakota State and his family and how smart he is and how smart his family thought he was growing up and so forth, so that doesn't hurt, to shrink that curve when you're that smart, especially as an offensive lineman. Because he's hit the ground running at about any spot that we've put him."Inbox question, asking if he feels the secondary is starting to come together? How much are T.J. Green and Rashaan Melvin shaping up? Grigson: "Well I believe this is Rashaan's fifth year in the league; T.J.'s a rookie. So he's growing. He has exceptional tools, as we all know. Honestly, any concerns about him being physical or not, coming from offense to defense, I think that's been dispelled real quick, the way he throws his body around out there. But I think once he gets his sea legs, he's going to be a really good player. Rashaan is someone that, heck, had started out as a late add in camp for the Dolphins, and we brought him in the week of Week 1 off the street, and he just answered the bell. He's had his moments, but for the most part, you couldn't ask more of a guy from where he came, and he's someone that is encouraging. We've had those types of signing in the past, and it's a guy just buying in, coaches are doing a great job with him. He has the traits to be successful in the league at that position, and for a fourth corner you couldn't really ask for more."Inbox question, asking how he would assess the play of Josh Ferguson? Grigson: "You know, Josh is a young player, and he's had his bumps in the road. I'm sure there's plays he wishes he had back. But there's a key word here, and there's rookie development, and you're going to hit some walls, you're going to have some bumps in the road, but we believe in his athletic upside, and these things take time. I just point to the fact that he is contributing in a big way on special teams, and without that block up in Lambeau, maybe we don't have the catalyst and the big return, because he stuck it up in there and put his face on that guy and he opened up a lane for 28. And that's an encouraging thing, because it's not a toughness issue, it's not an athletic (issue), I think it's an experience thing. Josh has such speed, and he can do a lot in this offense. It's just, he needs to — like anybody else, though — make the most of his opportunities, because they don't last forever."Question from Lamey, asking if he's encouraged as the team's health seems to be improving as the season wears on?
Grigson: "I don't even like to talk about it, to be honest with you. In this league, it's almost a misnomer, the word 'healthy.' Especially at this point of the year, guys never are going to feel 100 percent. But it is nice to hear our skills guys and those types of players feeling fresh and rejuvenated, because that's why I do think this time for this bye is important, because you're at the halfway point, and I think you're not going to mend those bigger-type of injuries overnight or in a week's time, but a lot of those soft tissue ones that, if you keep grinding on it week in and week out you're going to have to maintain to get through, now those are hopefully fully healed to where a guy can just open it up and play and not think about it. So I think it was good timing in that respect for the bye."