Six games have provided an unexpected roller coaster ride for the Indianapolis Colts.
Moving forward with several challenging games still to come, here’s a list of the most pressing concerns the Colts need to fix if possible, or at the very least improve upon.
* Penalties — The Colts are tied for third in the NFL with 49 infractions for 417 yards. Extrapolate that for a 16-game season and it’s 130 penalties for 1,112 yards. Not only would that represent a significant increase from 105 for 848 yards last season, it would be the most since 1979, when the Baltimore Colts committed 137 for 1,239 yards.
* Holding — Sixteen of these penalties tie for the league lead with Chicago. The league average is 8.5 per team. Offensive left tackle Anthony Castonzo, the team’s best blocker, has been flagged a team-high four times. What’s most disconcerting about these calls are the timing. Thirteen of those penalties have wiped out a combined 186 yards in gains. That includes nine plays that gained double digits, the most notable 37- and 30-yard pass plays.
* Turnovers — A dozen giveaways opposite six takeaways have the Colts at minus-6 in turnover ratio, tied for 30th with Jacksonville. Only Detroit is worse at minus-8. Quarterback Andrew Luck has thrown seven interceptions in four starts. The Colts have fumbled eight times and lost five. Opponents have fumbled six times but the Colts haven’t recovered one.
* Sacks — Eleven sacks allowed translates to 29 for a season, the same number of sacks allowed last year. That ranked eighth a year ago. It ranks 12th for sacks per game now. On the flip side, the Colts have just eight sacks by eight different players. Outside linebacker Trent Cole doesn't have any. He was given a two-year, $14-million contract in free agency. The team sack total figures out to 21 for the season, which would be the lowest number since 1993.
* Quarterback hits — Luck and Matt Hasselbeck have taken 41, which ties Detroit for fourth most in the league. Last season, Colts quarterbacks took 107 hits, which again was fourth in the NFL. That’s obviously way too many, as if Luck’s two-game absence with a sore shoulder isn’t enough proof. Conversely, the Colts defense has 23 quarterback hits. The minus-18 differential, again, is among the league’s worst.
* Total yards — It should come as no surprise that the Colts rankings aren’t high. They’re 19th overall on offense at 347.2 yards per game, 22nd in rushing with a 96.7-yard average, 13th in passing with a 250.5-yard average. The defense ranks 29th overall at 401.8 yards allowed per game, 20th in rushing defense with a 112.7 yards allowed average, 28th in passing defense with a 289.2 yards allowed average.
* Points — The offense ranks 23rd with a 21-point average. The defense ranks 18th with a 24.5 points allowed average.
* Score by quarters — The Colts have been outscored 56-31 in the second quarter and 38-15 in the third quarter, a 48-point differential. They enjoy a modest 27-24 scoring edge in the first quarter, 50-29 advantage in the fourth quarter and 3-0 in overtime. Last season, the Colts weren’t outscored in any quarter and enjoyed a 33-point edge in the first quarter, had 17 more points in the second, 32 more in the third and seven more in the fourth.
Those are enough numbers to make a head spin for now.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.