Here’s why Colts fans shouldn’t be worried about missing key players vs Titans

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 29: General manager Chris Ballard of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 29: General manager Chris Ballard of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Despite the Colts missing multiple players, the Titans should still expect a competitive game.

Between the Colts and Titans, 10 starters won’t be playing in the big matchup Sunday. This already feels like a much different game than the one we saw 17 days ago.

This week’s biggest miss will be DeForest Buckner, who was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list earlier this week. Buckner has been arguably the best player on defense and has fully been worth the first-round pick the Colts traded to the San Francisco 49ers.

Last year, interior pressure was a big problem, which led to the pass-rush burden falling on Justin Houston. This season, the Colts’ interior line has been one of the best in the NFL, and that’s translated to Indy having the league’s top defense up until this point in the season.

Bucker’s contributions go well beyond the box score. Though he has just two sacks and four tackles for a loss, he’s registered 16 QB hits across 10 games and has opened up a lot of opportunities along the defensive line since he draws double teams. In fact, he gets doubled more than any other defensive lineman aside from Rams star Aaron Donald.

This has allowed Denico Autry, Grover Stewart and Tyquan Lewis to take leaps. They’ve all produced in some positive capacity for the Colts in 2020 and a big reason is because of offensive lines shifting a majority of their focus to Buckner.

The Colts will be without Buckner and Autry this week, however, which won’t make things any easier. That doesn’t mean fans should be worried, though. We can’t be underestimating the work general manager Chris Ballard has done to construct this deep roster. Indy is prepared for a short-handed week like this.

Like we mentioned, Stewart and Lewis should be ready to replace a good amount of the production lost by Buckner and Autry. Additionally, there’s still Darius Leonard running the show on defense and he’s backed by a stout secondary, featuring Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Julian Blackmon.

On the offensive side of the ball, Indy has a tremendously deep backfield that is deployed properly based on defensive matchups, so the loss of Jonathan Taylor to the COVID-19 list is hardly an issue. And the ball is spread tremendously across the receiving corps — that’s three tight ends and five wideouts. And though Ryan Kelly will miss Sunday’s game, rookie Danny Pinter will be ready to step in and get the job done.

That’s a playoff roster if we’ve ever seen one. And the Colts will be put to the test today and will have to prove their mettle with such a season-defining game at their feet.