Playoff fever is running rampant in Indianapolis once again. Their Colts, after a disastrous 2-14 season a year ago, stand at 7-4 with 5 games remaining and with at least a one game lead on every other AFC wild-card contender. In fact, with the Colts’ remaining schedule, it would take a mini-collapse to not be playing come January.
But this Sunday, they have to travel to Detroit to take on the Lions, a playoff team last year. The Lions are 4-7 and in last place in the NFC North, but have one of the best offenses in football. Their passing offense is ranked number one. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown for 3,429 yards and 14 touchdowns this year to go along with 10 interceptions. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson (“Megatron”) is on pace to challenge Jerry Rice’s record for most receiving yards in a single season. Johnson has caught 73 passes for 1,257 yards and 4 touchdowns this year.
The Colts will need to shut down the passing attack of Stafford and Megatron this Sunday if they want to win. In fact, that is the biggest key to the game for the Colts:
1. Minimize Matthew and Megatron
Matthew Stafford and Calvin “Megatron” Johnson will get their yards and the Lions will get their points against this Colts defense. The key will be to minimize their impact as much as possible and to prevent the game from getting out of hand early. The Lions will come out passing, and why wouldn’t they? The Colts haven’t proven they can defend the pass, especially against the top quarterbacks. The three best quarterbacks the Colts have played (Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady) combined to complete 63.7 percent of their passes for 899 yards with 8 touchdowns and 2 picks against this Colts’ defense. Matthew Stafford fits right into their category, and no receiver the Colts have faced even compares to Megatron. How the Colts defense does in defending the Lions’ passing attack will determine whether they win or not, plain and simple.
2. Andrew Luck… of course
Andrew Luck is coming off of two of his least impressive performances of the season, and the Colts desperately need a big game Sunday from the Sports Illustrated cover boy. The difference between home and away for the rookie has been evident this year: at home Luck has 12 total touchdowns with only 4 turnovers, while on the road he has 6 total scores with 13 turnovers. But Andrew Luck has found a way to win games for the Colts this year and has also found a way to put up points (in 7 of the Colts’ 11 games this year they have scored at least 20 points). Luck will need to put up the points on Sunday – and he can. The Lions defense isn’t that great. But Andrew, let me give you this one piece of advice: wear a cup. You can thank me later.
3. Road Warriors?
The Colts are 2-3 on the road this year, and most recently were blown out in New England two weeks ago. Andrew Luck and the Colts offense have the potential to engage in a shootout with teams, but on the road they looked incapable of it in New England. They will likely get another shot at a shootout this Sunday in Detroit. Whether or not they are up to the task will decide not only whether the Colts win or not, but also whether they keep it close. The Lions will put up points. Will the Colts?
[Interesting Note: Andrew Luck on the road this year is 2-3 (.400) and Robert Griffin III is 3-3 (.500). All of the other rookie quarterbacks combined are 3-15 (.167).]
If this game were at Lucas Oil Stadium, then I would like the Colts’ chances a whole lot better. They are a team capable of a shootout, and I think that this week will be a great offensive display. The Colts will keep it close going into the fourth quarter, but the Lions’ passing offense at home is too much for a young Colts team.
My prediction: Colts 24, Lions 34