The Indianapolis Colts open the 2015 season with a road game against the Buffalo Bills. The Colts need to get out to a hot start this season if they have any hopes of securing home field advantage in the playoffs. While the Bills aren’t a complete team, and have question marks on offense, their defense was one of the best in the NFL.
The Colts are opening the season with two games against stout defenses and inferior offenses. This is a good chance to stress test the offense while letting the defense (especially the line) build some confidence. Unfortunately, starting the season 2-0 for the Colts does the Patriots a minor favor as it will give them a leg up in the AFC East.
Here’s what fans should be on the lookout for this Sunday:
Fireworks. This offense is staggering when you look at it on paper. Another potential Hall of Fame receiver in Andre Johnson, one of the best running backs over the past decade with Frank Gore, and T.Y. Hilton hitting his prime. That doesn’t even account for the dynamic tight ends and backup receivers. All with Andrew Luck conducting the offense. The Colts are going to dictate to opposing defenses this season and will be able to move the ball at will. But don’t expect the Colts to hang 30-plus on the Bills who allowed just 14.5 points per game at home last season.
(9.5). Luckily for Indianapolis, Dareus (recently minted as one of the league’s highest paid defenders) was suspended for the season opener for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Week 1 will provide a test for the line, especially if the Bills plan on blitzing heavily. If the line manages to play well, expect a huge day for Luck.
Single High Coverage. The Bills have stated this week that they’ll be using a lot of single high coverage and blitzing. It’s a novel approach, but one that will ultimately prove folly for the Bills. Luck had the highest grade against blitzers in the NFL last year. Luck has gotten adept at making adjustments at the line of scrimmage and with all the talent receiving options he very well may pick Buffalo apart. Single coverage also means there won’t be an extra safety downfield to stop speedsters Hilton and Phillip Dorsett. Expect a few big plays from the Colts as Luck makes Rex Ryan pay for blitzing.
Real Carries. We saw Frank Gore in the preseason for all of two carries for 10 yards, and that was more than enough. Sunday we’ll actually see Gore for an extended amount of time and something that should resemble a real running game for the Colts as well. The Colts haven’t had a 1,000 yard rusher since 2007 when it was Joseph Addai. Gore has had over 1,100 yards for the past four seasons. At the very least, opposing defenses will have to respect his abilities which will give some teeth to play action plays. The threat of the run is more important than actually running the ball on this offense.
The Youth Movement. The Colts are going to start two rookies on the defensive line, a bold move but one that was basically dictated by circumstance. The bad news is they’ll face LeSean McCoy at running back. On the other hand, his offensive line is suspect and McCoy is coming off a sore hamstring that has kept him off the football field for weeks. Expect the Colts to sell out against the run (and read-option) and dare Taylor to beat them with his arm (a strategy they used well last season).
The Return?Robert Mathis could return to the football field for the first time in over a year. Even if he isn’t his 2013 self (he won’t be) he’s still a difference maker on defense. He’s been practicing all week and slowly upping his reps but will be a gametime decision as to whether or not he plays. If he does, it will likely be in special situations like obvious passing downs. Gut feels says that Mathis does play in a limited capacity on Sunday, living up to his promise of being ready for Week 1.
First Start. The Bills are giving fourth-year player Tyrod Taylor the start this week. He’s a duel threat QB which means Buffalo will be running a fair amount of read-option on Sunday. This feels similar to when the Oakland Raiders started Terrelle Pryor against the Colts two years ago where Pryor had over 100 rushing yards. He played well in the preseason and could be a challenge for the Colts to contain.