Given the fast starts the team has gotten off to in the Manning era, the Colts have certainly fared better at the bye since 1998 than their current 4-2 record, but they've also done worse. Indianapolis started undefeated a surprising five times in the last 13 seasons, with the high point being their 7-0 start to the 2005 season before they headed to the break.
Since 1998, they are 8-4, but have not lost following a bye since 2004. They even followed up a disappointing 1-2 start in 2008 to defeat the Houston Texans 31-27 after a Week 4 bye. Interestingly enough, they face the Texans in Week 8 this year.
They have only had more than two losses on four occasions, with one of those coming in Manning's rookie season of 1998, another in 2001 when the team also started 1-2 and finished at 6-10, and the aforementioned 2008 season, where they won nine straight to end the season and finished 12-4.
Manning's rookie season can be thrown at a comparison season, since the team finished 3-13 that year and it is mathematically impossible for them to finish with 13 losses this season. A 6-10 finish is a possibility for this season's team, but seems unlikely given the fact that they have a strong history after the bye in recent seasons and are, overall, playing too well to lose six more games for the balance of 2010.
The only other time the team had a bye in Week 7 was 2003, when they started 5-1 on their way to a 12-4 record and a berth in the AFC Championship game. That team beat the eventual 5-11 Browns, 5-11 Jaguars, and 8-8 Saints, lost to the eventual NFC champion Panthers, crushed the AFC South division champion Titans 33-7, and staged a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback to defeat the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers 38-35.
In Week 8, they beat the Houston Texans 30-21 in the old RCA Dome. That was a strong offensive team and 2003 began the Golden Age of Manning's statistical greatness, as Manning attempted 566 passes. The team also rushed 455 times that season, with Edgerrin James leading the way with 310 attempts. That was more of a balanced offense than this year's team, as Manning is on pace to attempt 677 passes in 2010 versus only 368 rushes.
The best comparison season seems to be 2008, when Jeff Saturday was injured in the preseason, Indianapolis struggled out of the gate, Manning was pressured too much, the team abandoned the run, and the defense, at times, was unable to stop the run. After six games, that team was 3-3 and the dynasty of regular season dominance appeared to be in jeopardy.
After slumping to 3-4, they turned things around on offense and defense, starting running the ball more, starting stopping the run better, and won 12 games on their way to a sixth straight season with 12 wins.
Lost in the fact that the Colts suddenly seem mortal with a 4-2 record is the fact that they've faced only one team with a losing record — Denver, their Week 3 opponent is currently 2-4 — and that both losses came on the road to division rivals. Indianapolis will take those teams more seriously in the second half of this season and both of those games will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium, instead of on the road. In fact, three of the remaining four games that the Colts have against division opponents are at home, where they are undefeated this season.
Six of the final ten games of the season will be played in Indianapolis, where they will play three out of four games at Lucas Oil Stadium after playing three out of four on the road in the first quarter of 2010. Four of their remaining ten games are against teams that currently have losing records and, given the fact that everyone in the AFC South is currently at .500 or better, that will likely change by game time as the teams within the division beat each other and lose or win games out of the division. It's possible that Indianapolis has an eighth 12-win season left in them, but that may be thinking too far ahead.
The issue at the moment is the fact that both of their losses are conference losses and both losses are to division opponents. The Colts need to finish strong against their remaining division schedule and make sure that, if they need to lose a game, it is a non-conference loss. It's doubtful that this team has the mettle to rip off ten straight wins after the bye in order to match their 14-2 record from 2009, so the hope is that they lose strategically when they lose.
After the team won an astounding 115 games in the previous decade and posted a .719 winning percentage, Indianapolis fans are accustomed to a certain level of success. With the remaining schedule for this season and the talent on hand, this is no time to panic.
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