The Indianapolis Colts are right in the midst of the crowded battle for admission to the AFC playoffs, and they can’t afford any mistakes in their quest for the postseason. Jonathan Taylor is doing everything in his power to will them there, and with a bye week on the horizon, Taylor will finally get some much-needed rest after a legendary campaign through the first 13 weeks of the year. If head coach Frank Reich and the Colts are able to properly utilize their week off, they could come out looking even better than they did heading into the bye.
A matchup with the New England patriots looms in Week 15, and that’s a tall task for any franchise in the league. The Colts will have to be at their best if they want to match up against Bill Belichick’s side, who will also be coming off a bye week. Belichick will likely spend the entire two weeks game-planning against Jonathan Taylor, so with that in mind, here are some key storylines to keep an eye on during the bye week.
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Colts Storylines During Bye Week
3. Make sure Jonathan Taylor gets as much rest as possible
What Jonathan Taylor has done for this team cannot be overstated. The second-year running back is seemingly setting new records every week as he finds the end zone without fail time, and time again. On the year, Taylor has 241 carries for 1,348 yards and 16 touchdowns across 13 games. He leads the NFL in all three of those categories, as he’s been a complete workhorse out of the backfield for the Colts. That said, getting him an extra week in between games, especially with the stingy Patriots defense waiting next week, is absolutely crucial.
Taylor has recorded over 30 carries in two of the past three weeks and hasn’t seen a snap count below 69% since Week 6. The former Wisconsin star will likely be called upon to carry the load against New England, so any time he can spend recovering will be critical.
2. T.Y. Hilton can hopefully get to full strength
As has been the case far too often for T.Y. Hilton, injuries have limited his role on the offense this year. When healthy, Hilton has proven many times what a gifted wideout he is, but constant ailments have left him unable to make a big impact. Coming off an outing against the Texans that saw him record two receptions, Hilton could use the week off to ensure he’s at full strength. Any additional weapon the Colts can utilize against the Patriots’ defense will be vital, and if Hilton isn’t at full strength he won’t be able to make any difference against an elite secondary.
This season, Hilton has played in six games, recording just 15 receptions for 177 yards and one touchdown. The pedestrian production we’ve seen out of him simply won’t cut it in a must-win game for the Colts, but if he’s able to come back at full strength then there’s a chance he can be a sneaky threat for a big game.
1. Can Frank Reich out-strategize Bill Belichick?
Much of this Week 15 matchup will come down to the execution of the game plan. Both Reich and Belichick will have two weeks to decipher game film and figure out the best plan of attack to come away with a win. Surprisingly, throughout his head-coaching career, Bill Belichick is just 13-9 coming off a bye, so perhaps Reich can bring his loss tally to double-digits.
After a run-heavy approach in Week 13, there’s a chance rookie Mac Jones could have some rust coming off the bye. After all, he only threw three passes in the Patriots’ win over Buffalo due to the nature of the weather conditions. Reich should be communicating with his staunch secondary, consisting of Kenny Moore, Rock Ya-Sin, Khari Willis, and Andrew Sendejo, among others, about how they can make Jones’ night a disaster. The Colts’ defense has surrendered an average of 270.3 yards over the past three games, the fourth-best mark in the NFL. Their pass defense ranks fifth in terms of opponents’ passing yards during that span, and they rank in the top half in terms of run defense, too. The outcome of this matchup could very well come down to who is better prepared for what the opponent throws at them.