1. With Andrew Luck out and Matt Hasselbeck in, how have the Colts had to adjust their offense? What are the weaknesses, and are there any areas they're stronger now?
Matt Hasselbeck has done everything you could reasonably expect for a backup quarterback to do (more so, even), but the Colts' offense isn't better off with him in there than with Andrew Luck, nor are they stronger in any areas. There have been some suggesting that because Hasselbeck has gone 3-0 as a starter the team is better with him, but that's simply not true. With Hasselbeck in the game, this is an average offense that you can expect to put together a handful of good drives per game but not with much consistency. They are more reliant on the short passing game and on getting the ball out quickly. I'd probably say that's the biggest area where the Colts' offense is better with Hasselbeck than with Luck: Hasselbeck gets the ball out very quickly, which helps the offensive line out too. Luck has a tendency to hang on to the football a bit longer as he tries to make a play (which is part of what makes him dangerous), but I think Hasselbeck's style of play helps out an average offensive line.
On Sunday, I think we'll see a Colts offense that tries to rely heavily on a balanced attack (both run and pass game) while utilizing quicker passes to move them downfield. They won't take many shots deep, but they should be able to move down the field nicely at least a few times per game. The biggest thing the Colts have lacked on offense this year has been consistency, as they've been unable to get much of that going whatsoever. They most certainly aren't going to find it with Hasselbeck under center, but if the offense can play turnover free and protect the football, this unit is absolutely capable of putting up enough points to win games.
2. The Colts went on a veteran offensive weapon shopping spree this offseason: Andre Johnson, Frank Gore and they already had Ahmad Bradshaw. How has that worked out?
The Colts have seen mixed results from their offseason moves. The signing of Frank Gore was a tremendous one and has helped the Colts out massively, as they went from Trent Richardson to Frank Gore as their starter (a huge, huge upgrade). Gore has rushed for 633 yards and four scores this year while averaging 3.9 yards per carry, and while those aren't numbers that will jump off the page at you, he's still on pace to be the Colts' first 1,000-yard rusher since 2007. He has also added 25 receptions for 181 yards, serving as a threat in the receiving game. The biggest thing that Gore has given the Colts is a threat in the run game that defenses have had to account for, something they didn't have in the past few years.
Andre Johnson, however, has been largely invisible this year. He has caught 25 passes for 303 yards and three scores through ten games, but there was really only one game in which he looked like the player the Colts thought they were getting (he caught six passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans, his former team). Johnson has also struggled with drops this season, but largely he has been very, very quiet. He has started seeing his snaps decrease in favor of Donte Moncrief, the Colts' impressive second-year man, and even Griff Whalen has taken some snaps away from Johnson. He has been a pro about it, but things haven't gone well with that move for Indy.
Lastly, the Colts' pickup of Ahmad Bradshaw mid-season this year has been a huge addition. He spent the past two seasons with the Colts too, and once he was recovered from injury Indy looked into bringing him back again this year. He has played in five games this year and has rushed 27 times for 79 yards and caught 7 passes for 44 yards and three touchdowns. The numbers might not be overly impressive, but what Bradshaw brings the Colts is a terrific all-around running back who can give a boost in all three areas. He can run the ball, but that hasn't been his primary role this year. What he has really helped at is the passing game, where he is a fantastic blocker and a very dangerous threat in the receiving game (going back to last year, Bradshaw has nine receiving touchdowns in his last 15 games). In short yardage or red zone situations, a pass to Bradshaw out of the backfield is one of the most dangerous plays the Colts have. So overall, the Colts' moves on the offensive side of the football have seen mixed results, but the upgrades at running back can't be ignored.
3. Is there any relatively unknown player who could decide Sunday's game? Anyone Bucs fans don't know but really should keep an eye on?
I think one player that might not be as familiar is wide receiver Donte Moncrief, who has stepped into the role as the team's number two wide receiver recently. He's a second-year pro and has taken a number of steps forward this year. He can be a dangerous threat and is clearly the team's second-best receiving threat behind T.Y. Hilton, and Matt Hasselbeck has often looked to Moncrief in key situations (like on third down). He's a guy that I would keep an eye on during Sunday's game, as Moncrief has played well this year and could be a significant part of the offense.
4. How happy are fans with the job Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson have done over the past few years? Do they think they're the right people to get the job done?
One of the most polarizing topics in Indianapolis is about whether Ryan Grigson should go, Chuck Pagano should go, neither should go, or both should go. It's hard to get a consensus on that question, but I think it has become increasingly clear that the Colts probably just need to clean house. That's what I think is needed and I think a lot of fans are finally coming to realize that as well. One of the popular questions that many have is about assigning blame and debating who deserves the most of it, and I think it's clearly shared - but, if I had to answer, I think Ryan Grigson is the most at fault. He has built an average roster and has had both hits and misses, but some of his misses are hard to ignore (like trading for Trent Richardson, drafting Bjoern Werner, signing Trent Cole, etc.).The big moves have been the ones that Grigson has missed on often.
But with that said, the coaching hasn't been great at times either, and I think the most logical answer is to start over. Add to all of that the numerous reports about the disagreements between Grigson and Pagano and how Grigson is overstepping the boundaries of a normal GM role and the whole thing is just a mess. I couldn't have higher respect for Chuck Pagano as a person and I'll give him credit for the fact that the players still respect him a ton and he hasn't lost them. But as a coach, though, Pagano is just average - he's a guy that you can win with if Andrew Luck plays lights out and the team plays very well, but he's not a guy who's really going to help you win a Super Bowl and be a weapon in doing so. I'm not convinced either Grigson or Pagano is the answer for this team and I think, barring a miraculous Super Bowl run, they both should be gone at the end of the year.
5. The Colts have been pretty up-and-down this season, even firing their offensive coordinator at one point. Are they back on the right track after two consecutive wins? Where's this team headed the rest of the season?
Looking at the past two games, this is probably the best the Colts have played this year. Against the Broncos it was a complete performance led by Andrew Luck's best game of the year, and then against the Falcons it was the defense really stepping up and helping win that game. It's not saying a lot, but I do think this is the best that the Colts have played. I'm still hesitant to say that they're back on track, however, because I'm still not sure we've seen this team have much consistency this season. Maybe they'll start now, but I can't really predict that to happen until we actually see it. I do think, however, that the Colts are set up well for a return to the playoffs as long as they take care of business. The Colts have won 16 games in a row against their division (an NFL record), and if they win the final three AFC South games it will essentially guarantee the division title. Add to that games against the Buccaneers, Steelers, and Dolphins and it's very realistic to think that the Colts could finish with 8 or 9 wins and host a playoff game.