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Colts face daunting task over next five games

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As of right now, four of the Colts' next five opponents are undefeated. It will be a daunting task and a measuring stick for the 3-2 Colts, to be sure.

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It doesn't take an expert to know that the Indianapolis Colts haven't looked that great so far this season.  They started 0-2 but have managed to claw their way back to 3-2 on the season thanks to three straight wins against AFC South opponents.  Against the AFC South, the Colts are 3-0 and have outscored opponents 78-66.  Against non-AFC South teams, the Colts are 0-2 and have been outscored 47-21.

Credit the Colts for winning the games they needed to win.  With Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback, the Colts managed to get two division wins in five days and take a commanding lead of the AFC South division.  That is absolutely worthy of recognition, but three wins against the worst division in football doesn't tell us a ton about where this team is by comparison to other NFL teams.  Don't worry, however: that will come soon enough.

In fact, it will come in the next two months.  Here's the Colts' upcoming schedule over the next few weeks:

New England Patriots (4-0)

New Orleans Saints (1-4)

at Carolina Panthers (4-0)

Denver Broncos (5-0)

Bye Week

at Atlanta Falcons (5-0)

If the Colts played each of those five right now, they would probably be favored in just one of them (against the Saints in week seven).  Otherwise, they'll be taking on four of the league's current unbeaten teams (there are six total) over the next six weeks (five games).  That's a brutal stretch, and it should tell us a lot about this Colts team.

That's also why it was so huge that Matt Hasselbeck led the Colts to two wins.  Many, including myself, didn't think that the Colts could beat either the Jaguars or the Texans without Andrew Luck, but they did just that.  If they hadn't, they would be 1-4 right now and could realistically lose four of their next five.  At their bye week, they could have been just 2-7, and that could have led to changes.  But now?  Now they've built up a two-game lead in the AFC South, and it's realistic to think that they could enter their bye week 4-5, and that's assuming there's no upsets.  That's not what the Colts would like, but it's also not the end of the world and they would still be right in the midst of the playoff picture - perhaps still leading the AFC South.

Of course, let's be perfectly clear: the Colts don't want to lose several games over the coming weeks.  And if Andrew Luck can come back healthy, it's reasonable to think that the Colts will be able to pull one or two "upsets."  But there's no doubt that the Colts' schedule over the next six weeks is very tough, and it will be a huge test for a team that entered the season with Super Bowl expectations.

That test begins next Sunday night in Indianapolis on primetime television, as the New England Patriots come to town to take on the Colts.