Last season we saw the Colts play at 1:00 on Sunday pretty much every week, save the mandatory Thursday night appearance in Jacksonville. Over the next four weeks, we'll get to see the Colts on Sunday Night Football twice, and this week the Colts will get to wait a day, playing on Monday night in San Diego against the Chargers. I anxiously await the nickname Jon "this guy" Gruden has for Andrew Luck. After an 11-5 season a year ago, and a 4-1 start in 2013, it's about freaking time this team is showcased in prime-time.
The Chargers have been up-and-down in 2013, sitting at just 2-3 on the season. They have a pair of 3 point losses, both of which they led for a good portion of the game against the Texans and Titans, and a 3 point win in Philadelphia, so they've been accustomed to playing in games that come down to the wire. Last week they lost to the Raiders 27-17, and turnovers were the killer, committing five of them. As you'll see in the numbers, the struggles are all on one side of the ball, and it isn't the problem that's been around the last few years.
One player who I'm sure was very much looking forward to this game was Dwight Freeney, but he suffered a season-ending quad injury, so he won't get a chance to go up against the team he built a Hall-of-Fame career with. Freeney was disappointed the Colts didn't make him an offer last offseason, and was playing pretty well before his injury. I'm sure he's happy for his old running mate Robert Mathis, who is having a monster season, but he's gotta feel awful he can't play in this game. I'm ok knowing Luck won't get swallowed up by one of the NFL's best.
The other sub-plot of Monday night's game will be Head Coach Chuck Pagano coaching against his younger brother John, who is the Defensive Coordinator for the Chargers. Now I'm guessing they won't be directly coaching against each other, unless Chuck decides he wants to start calling plays. There's also Colts Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky, who was in San Diego before taking the job in Indianapolis before last season, and Chargers GM Tom Telesco, who was Bill Polian's right-hand man for over a decade with the Colts. There are a lot more ties between these two teams than I ever realized.
Over the years the Chargers have really been a thorn in the Colts side, winning five of the last six games, and having won 15 of the 24 total games between the two franchises. It's also really easy to remember something from each and every one of those recent games:
- 2004: "That's the record breaker!"
- 2005: Michael Turner "burns" Colts perfect season
- 2007 Season: Manning throws 6 interceptions, Adam Vinatieri misses chip shot that would have won it any way.
- 2007 Playoffs: Billy Volek and Turner march down the field, Marvin Harrison fumbles, Colts lose in Divisional round
- 2008 Playoffs: Mike Scifres. Guh.
- 2010: Manning throws four INTs, two returned for TDs.
Now that we're in the "new era" of Colts football, I'd like to keep the old era of losing to the Chargers in the most excruciating ways possible back there as well.
How do the Colts and Chargers match-up this season? Let's dive into the numbers and find out:
Statistical Preview between the Colts and Chargers:
|Orange Zone Eff||60.2%||12||57.8%||20||49.2%||22||58.8%||21|
|Avg Start Pos||27.2||23||25.2||4||31.7||12||21.8||2|
|3 and Outs||1.92||6||2.68||26||1.85||5||3.25||23|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.461||3||0.699||25||0.787||14||1.151||3|
Keys to the Game:
- As you can see, the strength of both teams is on the Offense. We already know how good the Colts have been, but the Chargers being a top 5 Offense? A bit surprising to me.
- Both teams should be able to sustain drives, as they are both in the top 5 of most of the drive-related stats. Prepare for some long sighs with some third down pickups by the Chargers, as they've been excellent on 3rd/4th down.
- The biggest key Monday night will be Turnovers, and it isn't even close. In fact, if the Colts turn the ball over, I'd be very concerned. The Colts are tops in the league in taking care of the football, while the Chargers have only forced two turnovers in five games. On the flip side, one of the things the Chargers don't do well on Offense is take care of the ball, turning it over, on average, twice per game, which is exactly what the Colts Defense has been doing. If the Colts can't get any turnovers, it's going to be bad news.
- The Chargers Offense also has had issues putting points on board when getting close in opponents' territory, ranking just 22nd in Orange Zone Efficiency, and 29th in Red Zone Efficiency. The Chargers will get into scoring position, much like the Seahawks did many times last week. holding them to five field goal attempts, and just two touchdowns. I'd really like the Colts to do that again.
- When the Colts have the ball, expect them to have to drive 80+ yards most of the time, as the Chargers Defense ranks 2nd in Average Starting Position. Because, Mike Scifres.
- The Chargers Defense is not very good stopping the pass or stopping the run. That means the Colts should use the pass to get the lead, and use the run to maintain it. I'd really like it if the Chargers take at least one more week before figuring things out defensively.
Even though some members of the media have already overlooked the Colts opponent for this week and starting focusing on Week 7, but I actually think this Colts team won't do that at all. New coaching staff, almost all new players, and a road game on Monday night are a good reason to not overlook the Chargers. I don't think the impending return of Peyton Manning will have any effect on Monday night, thankfully..
The numbers all say an offensive show from both team, with the Colts Defense being slightly better than the Chargers. The worst Defense the Colts have played to date, the Jaguars, they smoked 37-3. I see the Colts scoring early and often, with the Chargers settling for more field goals than they should in order to win the game.
Colts 34, Chargers 25