Mike McCarthy said the next five games are going to tell us a lot about this year's Packers. What might they tell us?
For starters, the next five games will tell us how the Packers will be positioned for their stretch run, a seven-game finishing schedule that'll include five games against NFC North opponents. The next five will also tell us about this team's ability to play on the road, because that's where the next three are.
Aside from that, the Packers would seem to be entering a favorable stretch of schedule. Most of the "experts" would expect the Packers to head into their bye week a hot team positioned to make a move on the playoffs. Ultimately, that's what the next five games are going to determine.
Will the Packers continue to improve on defense? At the same time a year ago, the Packers defense was in decline. That would seem to be the greatest difference between this year's and last year's teams.
Has the offense turned a corner and is beginning to ease back into the rhythm it enjoyed for nearly all of last season? Will this offense achieve balance between run and pass? It didn't do that a year ago and opponents began disregarding the run and tilting their games heavily toward the pass late in the season.
The next opponent for the Packers is a Colts team with a rookie quarterback and a heavy heart for the leave of absence its coach, Chuck Pagano, had to begin this week when it was revealed that Pagano is facing a battle against leukemia. Will that news be a distraction or a motivation to the young Colts? That would seem to be the No. 1 storyline this week.
From the Packers' perspective, this Sunday's game is a chance to top the .500 mark for the first time this season. This is a chance to get into the black and get on a roll. That's what the next five games are going to determine. Will the Packers be on a roll when they head into their division schedule?
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Colts.
1. Turn it up a notch—Young teams with rookie quarterbacks can be fragile. Don't let them hang around.
2. Create turnovers—The Packers have only created four turnovers in four games. That's the next step for this defense: Take the ball away.
3. Protect the quarterback—Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis can take over a game; they still have that kind of ability. They are the veteran stars of a team in rebuilding.
4. Keep running the ball—It offers several advantages, beginning with making Freeney and Mathis play the run instead of rushing the passer. It also shows an attempt at balance, which will be on tape for future opponents to see.
5. Close the roof—The Packers are on a five-game dome winning streak.
6. Pressure Luck—Andrew Luck has a Stanford pedigree, but he's still a rookie quarterback and a strong pass rush is the best way of rushing him into bad decisions.
7. Match their motivation—The Colts will want to win this one for their coach. They'll have an emotional edge.
8. Pay attention to Wayne—Reggie Wayne has 23 catches in three games. Luck looks to him.
9. Attack!—The Colts have injuries at cornerback.
10. Please your fans—They will be there. Additional coverage - Oct. 4