The Indianapolis Colts’ home matchup Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars was widely believed to be the game where the NFL’s only winless team finally would break through and notch its first victory of 2011.
So much for that.
The Colts looked woefully inept on offense in falling 17-3 to the Jaguars (3-6) at Lucas Oil Stadium, and they head into their much-needed bye week at 0-10.
The team’s chances at avoiding the (im)perfect season growing slimmer and slimmer, here are some issues that stand out with a franchise that has many.
- We now can be certain: Curtis Painter is not a starting quarterback. Painter has been regressing ever since his stellar first-half performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5. That trend continued Sunday. The third-year player looked woeful in completing 13 of 19 passes for 94 yards and throwing two official interceptions (another was negated by a successful Colts challenge of 12 Jaguar defenders on the field), the last of which led to Painter’s benching. Backup Dan Orlovsky, who relieved Painter late for the second straight week, immediately suffered a sack-fumble that set up Jacksonville’s dagger touchdown. Orlovsky did, however, move the team down the field later and connected with receiver Reggie Wayne, something Painter has been unable to do lately. It does bode the question, with this being the bye week, whether the organization is wondering whether to give up on Painter after seven unsuccessful starts and let Orlovsky man the helm for the remainder of the schedule. It’s become clear that Painter isn’t a starter at the NFL level. Even so, I still believe the Colts were correct to insert him this year. The franchise needed to see what it had in the guy who always had appeared incapable but hadn’t had a shot in a meaningful situation.
- No coaching changes will take place this week. It’s starting to look like Colts coach Jim Caldwell and his staff will not make it to next season in their current capacities, and that certainly will be the case if the Colts end the 2011 slate winless. That said, anyone who thinks the team should go ahead and make that change during the bye week is going to be disappointed and, in all honesty, is crazy. What do the Colts have to gain by firing Caldwell right now? It’s not like the club can send its entire coaching staff packing with six games yet to play. The other question is who on Caldwell’s staff would take over as interim? Clyde Christensen? Larry Coyer? Two gentlemen Colts fans aren’t enthralled with in the slightest? How would they suddenly win games with this roster? Again, it appears these disgruntled fans are likely to get their wish. It’s just not coming this week. Nor should it.
- What’s the best chance at a win now? A lot of people thought Jacksonville at home was the one. Evidently not. So what game on the remaining schedule is the best bet for a breakthrough win? Or is there one? I suppose the Colts’ next game — at home against Carolina in two weeks — could be a candidate. The Panthers (2-7) got throttled 30-3 by the Titans at home Sunday, and rookie quarterback Cam Newton has had an up-and-down couple of weeks. Still, though, Carolina has a formidable ground attack, and if that’s steady, Newton and receiver Steve Smith can be deadly through the air. The Colts defense has not stopped much of anything this year. The next two games on the schedule — at New England and at Baltimore — are not realistic opportunities on paper. The last two home contests, division games against Tennessee and Houston, could be trap games for two playoff-hungry squads. However, both teams have beaten Indy already. I suppose you could make the same arguments for the finale at Jacksonville on New Year’s Day. It’s looking bleak, but I’d say the two best chances are Carolina at home and the finale at the Jaguars.