Colts Tune-up for Week 1 Game against Oakland
Photo courtesy of Yahoo!, cover photo courtesy of ESPN.
Neither the Indianapolis Colts nor the Oakland Raiders have played a single regular season game yet in 2013, but they are already two teams trending in very different directions. The Colts are beginning to catch some steam in the national media as a darkhorse team to make some noise in the AFC playoffs this season. They have an established young nucleus of Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen and Jerrell Freeman with very strong veteran leadership of players like Reggie Wayne, Cory Redding, Robert Mathis and Antoine Bethea.
The Raiders on the other hand, resemble a car with a flat tire just trying to drive down the highway. They have a young, new starting quarterback who carries plenty of skepticism in Terrelle Pryor, and they have got an unlimited amount of holes among the entire roster. Their best player, Darren McFadden has been labeled injury prone, and their first round draft pick had been held out of action for a good portion of preseason practices.
On paper this is an ugly matchup and it may very well end up that way. However, if we dig into it, what are some of the things we can look forward to and expect to see in this contest from the Colts?
Will the Colts’ Offense Capitalize on a Weaker Opponent?
Last season, the Colts did not always take advantage of a weaker opponent and pound them. They were blown out by the New York Jets, lost at the end of the game to the Jacksonville Jaguars and struggled to beat teams like the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. They showed up and played above their mean against top-notch teams like the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans. Can this team be consistent and beat the teams they are supposed to, all while matching the level of competition head-to-head against the league’s best teams?
Against the Raiders, this should not be an issue. The Colts have the upper hand in every single facet of the game. I would expect the final score to be a difference of at least two scores.
Will Darrius Heyward-Bey have a “How do you like me now” Game?
The knock on Darrius Heyward-Bey during his whole career (played completely in Oakland thus far) has been inconsistency and the frequency of dropped passes. He came to Indianapolis in a much more stable situation with an intact coaching staff, a quarterback on the verge of being elite and one of the best wide receivers in the game to learn from. It would be an assumption to say that Heyward-Bey feels like he has something to prove on Sunday.
When you look at it, there is a good chance Heyward-Bey has quite the game. Oakland’s top three cornerbacks, Mike Jenkins, Tracy Porter and D.J. Hayden average about 5’11”, 192lbs. Heyward-Bey is 6’2”, 210lbs – that is a difference of three inches and eighteen pounds. With an endless amount of weapons at quarterback Andrew Luck’s disposal, Heyward-Bey is going to get plenty of one-on-one looks and plenty of opportunities to make plays.
Will the Colts Defense Contain Terrelle Pryor on the Ground Successfully?
One of the biggest keys to the game for the Colts will be keeping Terrelle Pryor in the pocket and making him try to beat the defense through the air – a notion that sounds extremely unlikely. If the Colts defense consistently allows Pryor to roll out of the pocket and pick up yardage with his legs then there could be a struggle.
The possibility that both Kavell Conner and Pat Angerer may not play in this game is a minor concern in terms of the run defense. However, the good news for the Colts is that the third man in line, Kelvin Sheppard has been there and done that and has starting NFL experience. Another thing the Colts have working for them is that the majority of their defensive backs – especially Antoine Bethea, LaRon Landry and Vontae Davis are great tacklers and can make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. This will be a big factor in keeping Pryor from beating them with his legs.
Photo courtesy of the NFL.
Will the Colts Play a Complete Game?
Usually, a goal of every team heading into every game is to win all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams. People know the Colts are strong at one of these phases, the offense. However, they have got to prove they will be successful on defense and special teams. The Colts should not have any issues imposing their will against the Oakland defense.
The Colts defense has remained no better than average for years, but they finally have the makeup of a defense that can go out and punch opponents in the mouth. All over the defense you will find big guys, physical guys and a couple players whose M.O. is to make plays. If the defense can go out and dominate the Raiders Sunday, then that may give the defense the confidence they need to begin dominating some teams.
For the last phase, special teams has been a struggle for the Colts for as long as I can remember. Every so often the team will have a good kick returner or punt returner, but never either that remains on the team for an extended period of time. The team appears to be relying on recent trade acquisition David Reed to shake off injuries and fumble problems to return kicks. Up-and-coming star receiver T.Y. Hilton will handle the punt return duties and surely will for the next several years. If the Oakland Raiders are as bad on special teams coverage as they appear on offense and defense, then this could be a long, long day for the Raiders.
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