The Indianapolis Colts host the Philadelphia Eagles for their home opener on Monday Night Football.
The Colts (0-1) failed to pull of a rally at Peyton Manning‘s current home. The Eagles (1-0) needed a second half comeback to defeat the Jaguars, but the final score was fairly one sided.
The Colts have only opened the season 0-2 one in the past 16 season, in 2011 when Manning was sidelined for the year.
Neither team is particularly known for its defense and both feature talented offense that can light up the scoreboard. Coach Chip Kelly likes to run as many plays as possible and score quickly and often. Chuck Pagano would rather possess the ball and stated earlier this week he’d like to have about 40 minutes of possession.
The Colts will need to be efficient on offense and find some way to slow down the Eagles on defense this Monday.
Here’s what you should be on the lookout for:
- Red Zone Execution. The Colts struggled from inside their opponents 20-yard line last week. Three goal-to-go situations netted the team just 10 points. The Colts have to get better with their play calling in this situation. When they have a chance to get in the end zone, it has to happen. The defense is painfully unreliable and the Colts can’t expect Andrew Luck heroics to save them every week.
- The Pace. The Eagles ran 87 offensive plays last week against the Jags. If you remember Kelly from his Oregon days, he plays incredibly fast and puts all kinds of pressure on the opposing defense. The Colts have to find a way to slow this team down and that involves creating negative offensive snaps (sacks, tackles for losses, incomplete passes). Kelly will move even faster after a big play in an attempt to deliver a knockout blow. The Colts defense isn’t exactly known for speed or coverage or, well, much else and it will take a brilliant game plan from Pagano to have an impact on this side of the ball.
- Pass Rush. Every week we will likely be saying, “Is this Bjoern Werner‘s breakout game?” Last week, the Jaguars were able to get to Nick Foles and force him into some bad decisions (for a half). The Colts have to find a way to maximize pressure while not blitzing on every play, that means great individual performances. Werner has to prove he was worth a first rounder in 2013. Foles does have a tendency to hold the ball longer than he should and if the Colts can’t get to him with extra time, it does not bode well for this week or the future.
- The Deficit. This isn’t a team the Colts can afford to fall behind to. The Eagles don’t surrender big leads. They lost seven games last season and the biggest lead in any of those games was four points. If the Colts fall behind by a wide margin early, this game is over and the Eagles will pull away quickly. The Colts have a nasty habit of slow starts but haven’t done anything to counteract this tendency. Pagano needs to put a greater emphasis on scoring early and getting out to a hot start.
- Open Receivers. Last week, Chad Henne passed for 266 yards without his best receiver, throwing two touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Eagles. Henne, who isn’t even the best QB on the Jags roster. The Eagles secondary is bad. After one game, they rank 18th against the pass per DVOA and were 25th in the NFL in 2013. Expect T.Y. Hilton to have a big bounce back game after being held in check last week. Expect Reggie Wayne to do crafty, veteran things that result in a lot of wide open catches. Even Hakeem Nicks should be able to get in on the action in a big way. The Eagles are better against the run, so passing for most of the day plays to the Colts strength and Philly’s weakness.
- The All-Time Record. Luck is just 1-2 against Kelly going back to his Stanford days. Luck’s lone win against Kelly came in 2009, his first season as a starter. It took a 51 point effort and a monster day from Toby Gerhart, who had 223 yards rushing a three touchdowns. The next two meetings saw Stanford score 30+ points, but Oregon dropping 50+ each time on the Cardinal.