Last week the Indianapolis Colts finally got things going on offense and put together an impressive offensive performance that saw Matt Ryan throw for nearly 400 yards and three touchdowns. For the first time this season, they scored more than 20 points, and more importantly, they got a win against a division opponent. This week they’ll have a chance to get another win inside the division against the Tennessee Titans. Here’s what to watch for in week seven.
- How will the Colts respond to their week four loss to these Titans?
At one point on October 2nd, 2022, in the first half the Indianapolis Colts were losing 24-3. They scored a touchdown just before the half and went to the locker room down by 14 points. In the second half, both teams combined for just one more touchdown, a pass to Mo Alie-Cox. The Colts lost 24-17.
More than just losing the game was how they lost. The Colts fumbled three times, losing two and a batted Matt Ryan pass was intercepted, giving the Titans the ball already in scoring position. The story of the early season Colts was the turnovers, specifically the fumbles, but the defense has been solid most of the season, except for the first half against the Titans. Derrick Henry was able to rack up 147 yards and a touchdown on 25 touches. Henry was able to hit a 22-yard gainer on a swing pass to the flat and also bounced a run outside that picked up 19. The defense did, however, shut out the Titans in the second half.
So one of the questions going into week seven is “how will the Colts respond?”. On offense, they couldn’t get anything going and it all started with the offensive line. The Colts believe they’ve found their best five going forward, this week we might get to see if that’s true. The Colts gave up 24 points, but the offense turned the ball over on the wrong side of the field, twice. The Colts' defense only gave up 10 points when the offense didn’t put them in a terrible position.
- Is the Offensive Line Fixed
For the first time this season, the Colts played a game in week six where they didn’t allow a sack. The box score looks good but if you watched the game you might have noticed that Matt Ryan was still taking a lot of hits. On the other hand, the pass protection was as good as it’s been all season and there were actually some holes for backs to run through.
While Matt Pryor is still bad at professional football, it will be interesting to see how this starting five come together as the season progresses. The longer an offensive line plays together, the better they will play and they need to keep things going this week with Denico Autry and Jeffery Simmons planning to mess up the Colts' plans on Sunday.
- Injuries to Key Players
Shaquille Leonard made his return in week four against the Titans only to take some friendly fire at the goal line, breaking his nose, and he has been sidelined ever since.
Jonathan Taylor has missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain he suffered in week four against these same Titans.
Nyheim Hines lost consciousness on the field during the first drive of the Colts' week five game against the Denver Broncos.
At this time the only player I’m confident will play is Hines. Though this is a very important divisional game and it’s possible both Leonard and Taylor lace ‘em up to try to get a win this weekend. This is worth monitoring.
- Who Wins the Division?
The key to winning your division in the NFL is winning your games. That much is obvious. But at the end of the season if you find that you and your closest divisional opponent have the same record, who between the two of you won the most divisional games becomes vitally important. It could mean the difference between winning the division and missing the playoffs completely.
This week, due to the wisdom of the NFL schedule makers, we could see the AFC South divisional title decided. Now, there’s still a lot of season left and frankly, the Colts' next four opponents look a lot better than the Titans' next four. But if the Colts lose this game it will drop them to 1-3-1 against the division and the Titans will sit firmly in first place with a 4-2 overall record and 2-0 in the division.
A lot of things can happen over the course of a season and there’s rarely such a thing as a “must-win” game in week seven in the NFL, but this one is close to that if the 2022 Indianapolis Colts hope to have a chance to play meaningful football in December.
The Colts haven’t looked that good this season and yet, they’ve managed to win three of their last four games. This week we might see if last week’s win was a blip or if it was a sign of a trend of better football for the team. Either way, the Colts need to find a way to win in the worst way against the back-to-back division champions.
“To be the man, you gotta beat the man”