So, now Indy has lost Melvin Bullitt.
It's clearly a big blow, but the larger question is: is this team done?
No, not by a long-shot.
1. Home games-The Colts have already played three road games. They won one. Not up to Indy's standards or our hopes, but probably good enough. The fact is that the Colts still have a major home field advantage. They haven't lost a meaningful home game since week three of 2008 when Manning was still recovering. They play one team with a winning record (Houston) at home the rest of the year. Two games are night games. I can't see the Colts going any worse than 7-1 at home. That's a formula for success in the NFL.
2. Winnable road games-If the Colts can win at home, they need only to win 2 or 3 road games to have a 10 or 11 win team at worst. Games at Oakland, Philly and Washington are all winnable. Suddenly the Pats trade of Randy Moss makes that team look infinitely less threatening.
3. Been there done that-While I so eloquently pointed out that it's not 2008, another reader has mentioned that it does feel a lot like the end of 2006. It sort of feels like 2004 as well. The truth is that this team has come back from slow starts before, just not as often as they've wiped the floor with teams. This offense is better than the 2008 team (which couldn't run at all). If you check the advanced stats, Indy's run game is fifth in power situations and 7th in fewest runs stuffed (a MASSIVE improvement over last year). The 2008 team was 21st and 27th in the same stats.
4. The 'best' AFC teams have bad offenses-It's hard to know what Pittsburgh will be, but the Colts can't be scared of the Jets or Baltimore, even on the road.
Will this team get to 12 wins? It would be difficult without a massive improvement from the defense. Can they get to 10 or 11? Sure, and I think they will. Honestly, if Tony was still around, I wouldn't be worried at all. That's not to say I don't believe in Caldwell, I just don't know if I can believe in him. My doubt has more to do with the fact that he hasn't earned my faith rather than that he's lost it.
My best guess is that Indy heads into the bye week 4-2 and plays for first place in a month against the Texans. After that, we should have a better guess as to what this team really is.