INDIANAPOLIS – It was not the start Chuck Pagano envisioned at all this offseason.
For the third straight season, Pagano and his Colts find themselves in a familiar, albeit not ideal, situation after two weeks.
The Colts have been here before.
Sitting at 0-2 after two losses in which both games were not decided until the final minutes, the Colts now go into a stretch that is more critical than anyone could have pictured before the start of 2016.
With the Texans at 2-0 heading into a Thursday night contest against the Patriots, the Colts could enter Sunday, needing a win to avoid being three games behind the AFC South leaders after three weeks.
As you would expect, Pagano is steadfast in the message for his team this week.
"Nothing else matters but the next game," Pagano said on Monday, "and getting a win and trying to find a way to get that first win."
Good news is on the horizon for the Colts.
First, the Colts are starting to finally get some key defensive players back to practice. Both Henry Anderson and Vontae Davis could make their 2016 debuts in Week Three. Getting such key defensive pieces back is much needed after that unit has played with so many new faces in the first two weeks of 2016.
Secondly, the upcoming schedule is favorable for the Colts. The next three opponents for the Colts have a combined record of 1-5 and none of those games will be at road venues.
Let's take a look at the next five games for the Colts, with three divisional games, all away from home, included in this stretch.
- Week Three vs. San Diego (1-1): The Chargers come to Indy with some injuries of their own. A banged up skill group in San Diego hasn't kept the Chargers from averaging 32.5 points per game, the second most in the NFL.
- Week Four vs. Jacksonville (0-2): A trip to London will be all about business for the Colts. After so much offseason talk about the Jaguars, they have struggled to start the season in losing to Green Bay and San Diego. This will begin a stretch of three AFC South games in four weeks for the Colts.
- Week Five vs. Chicago (0-2): The Colts will return from London and play a game the very next week, which is the first time an NFL team has done that since The International Series began in 2007. Chicago could be without starting quarterback Jay Cutler (thumb injury).
- Week Six at Houston (2-0): A Sunday night contest against the Texans will have significant implications on the division standings. The Colts have won some recent thrillers down in Houston and this one will likely mean even more for the visitors.
- Week Seven at Tennessee (1-1): Wrapping up three divisional games in four weeks, the Colts will see the Titans in Week Seven. Tennessee has a new-look ground game and got a nice road win at Detroit last week.
Back in 2014, the Colts rattled off five straight wins following an 0-2 start to the season.
Last year, a 13-point comeback victory in Week Three, started three consecutive wins after two losses to begin the year.
Before any such streak occurs again, win No. 1 is a must.
"Again, we have been here before," Pagano says of being 0-2 to start a season.
"It wasn't the plan that we had drawn up, but it's where we are at. Our guys understand what it takes to get yourself back on track. We've got the right guys for the job and we will get that done."