What an eventful week. A bad loss to the Miami Dolphins at home, losing Donald Thomas for the season with a torn quad, losing Dwayne Allen for the season with a hip injury, making a historical blockbuster trade for Trent Richardson, the normal injury stuff, and the fact that the Colts have a pretty HUGE game this weekend against the San Francisco 49ers. The game is in San Francisco at 4:25 p.m. eastern time and will be broadcast nationally on CBS, with their A team - Jim Nantz and Phil Simms - in the booth. The game will be broadcast locally on the radio on WFNI and WHLK by Bob Lamey and Jim Sorgi.
Here's all you need to know about the game, with my prediction included.
What Happened Last Week?
Last week the Colts hosted the Miami Dolphins in a game that both teams needed to win. And the Colts didn't. They failed to protect Luck on the final drive, resulting in a failed fourth quarter comeback attempt, but the issues went way beyond just that. There were bad passes from Luck. The defense, by and large, was inconsistent and their bad overshadowed their good. The offensive line couldn't protect Luck. And much, much more. All of that said - the Colts were in it to the very end, losing in a close game 24-20. The same can't be said of the 49ers. They were embarrassed by the Seattle Seahawks, losing 29-3. Granted, it was against the league's best defense and one of the league's best offenses, but that is supposed to be true of the 49ers as well. Last Sunday, it definitely wasn't. Colin Kaepernick threw three picks in the loss, and while it's no reason to hit the panic button for the 49ers, it was an even worse loss than the Colts' loss to the Dolphins was. The bottom line is that both teams should be motivated for this game and both teams should have something to prove.
Story lines Galore!!!
So yeah, this game has a lot of story lines. I'll list the big ones:
- Jim Harbaugh vs. his former team - Harbaugh was a big part of the Colts being popular in Indianapolis before Peyton Manning got there, and he's still easily the third best QB to play for the Indianapolis Colts (behind Manning and Luck).
- Vic Fangio vs. his former team - Fangio was the Colts defensive coordinator from 1999-2001 and has served in that same role with the 49ers ever since Harbaugh took over.
- Jim Harbaugh (and Vic Fangio!) against Andrew Luck and the Stanford guys. When Andrew Luck was coming out of high school, he made the decision to go to Stanford and play for Jim Harbaugh, a fiery coach who was beginning to turn around the program. With Luck, that transformation happened quickly. Vic Fangio was also Harbaugh's defensive coordinator while at Stanford. The Colts have several former Stanford guys: Luck, Coby Fleener, Griff Whalen, Delano Howell, and Pep Hamilton.
- Davis vs. Davis. Colts' cornerback Vontae Davis and 49ers' tight end Vernon Davis are both very good players and they're also brothers. Their teams will go up against each other on Sunday. I don't know whether we'll see Davis on Davis at any point in the game, but still, it's a cool storyline with the brothers going against each other.
- First west coast trip for Luck's Colts. Last year, the Colts never traveled to the west coast to play a game and only once played a 4:25 eastern time game (at the New England Patriots). Traveling west is usually a difficult task for teams (or traveling east, depending on where the team is at), so it will be interesting to see how they do.
- Trent Richardson's first game as a Colt. Enough said. Ok, maybe not, but we'll look at it a bit later.
A Certain Running Back's Colts Debut
The big storyline this week not only at the Colts' West 56th Street complex but also throughout the entire NFL? The Colts' blockbuster trade for Browns running back Trent Richardson. We've covered the topic a ton this week (for analysis, go here and here and here and here and here, and to listen to Brad and I talk about it for almost an hour on our podcast head here), so I'm not going to repeat it right now, but the bottom line is that, as Chuck Pagano said, the Colts "did not bring him in here to be a water boy." Richardson will play and his workload will be as much as he can handle. It will be very interesting to watch him on Sunday and see just how much he does and how effective he will be.
Defending the Read Option
I've also mentioned this quite a bit in the past week, but basically here's what I've said regarding stopping the read option: Chuck Pagano has been adamant that he has a way to stop it after spending much of the offseason figuring out how to. I'm pretty confident his plan is the right one (hit the quarterback), but it's all a matter of being in the right position to make plays. Being without LaRon Landry hurts a lot as well, but the main thing I'll be watching for regarding the Colts defenders against the read option is whether or not they're out of position. If they're in position, I think they will do decent against this offense. But if they're out of position - it could get and that wouldn't be good for Pagano at all. The Colts need to stop Colin Kaepernick's read option offense, and Chuck Pagano's plan will finally be put to the test.
For more about defending the read option, I wrote about it in depth before the season started here.
If worst comes to worst and everyone listed as questionable or worse on this week's injury report doesn't play (which very likely won't happen), the Colts would be without 8 of their projected day one starters. And it's only week three. That's not good at all. The only player not out for the year that is confirmed out for Sunday's game is LaRon Landry, but several others' status is in serious doubt. Here is Friday's full injury report. For my full analysis of it, head here.
LaRon Landry, safety (ankle)
Pat Angerer, linebacker (knee)
Antoine Bethea, safety (toe)
Cory Redding, defensive end (back)
Samson Satele, center (elbow)
Kavell Conner, linebacker (ankle)
Darrius Heyward-Bey, wide receiver (ribs)
T.Y. Hilton, wide receiver (groin)
David Reed, wide receiver (quad)
Reggie Wayne, wide receiver (shoulder)
The trade for Trent Richardson provided a MUCH needed break and ray of hope to Colts fans, but there's still a game to be played on Sunday on the west coast against a very good team who are the defending NFC Champions. The Colts haven't looked great in either of the first two weeks, they're going to be without some key players, their offensive line is even more of a mess now than it was at the beginning of the season because they're moving guys around a lot (if Satele doesn't play Sunday, they will have 3 guys starting in different positions for the line with Hugh Thornton at right guard, Mike McGlynn moving to center and Jeff Linkenbach starting at left guard), and the defense didn't look good at all against a mobile Terrelle Pryor in week one and Colin Kaepernick is much better than him. Honestly, this would be a huge win for the Colts, but I just don't see it happening. In fact, I don't even think they will be in a position for Luck to pull out a win in the 4th quarter this week. The Colts just have too many questions and this week just isn't the week to sort through them - on the road against a very good 49ers team. This one could be ugly, but it will be incredibly important not to overreact if they lose. If they win, though, overreact all you want. It'd be a HUGE win. But I'm not predicting that. Not even close. COLTS 21, 49ERS 35