Week 2 of the NFL season is upon us, and for the second consecutive weekend we get to see the Colts in primetime, this time on Monday Night Football against a not-so-familiar opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles. Playing a home game on a Monday has been a rarity for the Colts, only hosting once since the 2006 season (2010 against the Texans). The schedule makers clearly have an issue scheduling the Colts at home on a non-Sunday, as they've played only once at home on a Thursday (not this year either). I'm not suggesting there is some conspiracy against it, but the Colts have played five road MNF games in the span they've had just one at home. Just weird. It should be noted, though, that the Colts have won their last seven home MNF games, winning by an average score of 36-19.
Both of these teams decided they didn't want to start their 2014 season until the second half of Week 1, with the Eagles falling behind Jacksonville 17-0 at halftime while the Colts got down 24-0 before a late 1st half TD gave them just a 17 point deficit at the half as well. The difference in the two games was the Colts played against a team that made the Super Bowl last year on the road, and the Eagles played the Jaguars at home, thus a 34-17 Philly win. We'll get into the numbers of how the Eagles played last week a bit later on.
Because the Colts and Eagles are non-conference opponents, they only get to play each other once every four years, so taking anything that happened in their last meeting and predicting anything for Monday is a fool's errand. But it's still fun to see the history between the two teams (other than the 3,629 trades the two teams have had over the last three years). Overall the Colts are 10-7 all-time against the Eagles (5-3 while in Indy), and have won four of the last five meetings between the teams. The last time they played was in 2010, a 26-24 Eagles win that was most remembered for the vicious hit laid on Austin Collie, as well as the awful looking throwback jerseys the Colts wore that day. Ugh. The last time they played in Indy, in 2006, Joseph Addai had the game of his life, rushing for 171 yards and 4 TDs in a 45-21 win.
What will the 2014 version look like? Let's jump in and find out:
Statistical Preview between the Colts and Eagles:
|Orange Zone Eff||28.6%||29||85.7%||30||46.4%||25||48.6%||10|
|Avg Start Pos||29.3||12||24.8||15||34.3||4||25.2||17|
|3 and Outs||3.00||12||3.00||11||2.00||5||8.00||1|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.643||11||1.014||15||0.610||9||0.775||20|
Keys to the Game:
- First, a disclaimer on the stats. As I mentioned above, there was a stark contrast in the level of opponent these two teams played in Week 1, so you can't take these numbers as gospel. It can help lead us to some conclusions, but these numbers would be vastly different if we had a little more data behind them to adjust for opponent. It's for reasons like this why I talk about adjusted numbers all the time. It's an apples-to-apples comparison.
- Let's start with when the Colts have the ball. Chuck Pagano has stated he wants the ball for 40 minutes Monday, and we all know that only matters as long as the other team doesn't decide to just keep scoring quickly. Last week the Eagles held the Jaguars to the lowest Time of Possession per Drive in the league, so the Colts have their work cut out for them. However, last year the Eagles ranked 31st in the NFL in this category, giving up drives, on average, of 2:55. Being generous, that's 13 drives, on average, to hit Pagano's mark. I'll believe it when I see it.
- The Colts did move the ball last week against the Broncos, especially in the second half (more on this later), and will need to do it to fulfill the game of keep-away Pagano wants to play. They are going to have to be better than the 35% from a week ago, and get themselves in more manageable situations. Last week they average-to-go distance on 3rd down was seven yards. Converting those on a consistent basis is not easy to do.
- The Colts will have to convert any drives into points, and most of them into touchdowns to keep up with Chip Kelly's offense. Last week they failed miserably, while the Eagles held Jacksonville to no points on their lone trip inside the 20. This was a strength of the Colts a season ago, so I hope last week was just a hiccup.
- The Eagles Offensive numbers from last week don't look very good at all, ranking 25th overall. That should give you no indication of how good this offense can be.
- They turned the ball over three times, and the Colts will need to capitalize on the mistakes made by the Eagles. Fumble luck was against the Colts last week. Let's hope it swings the other way this week, as the Eagles were certainly mistake-prone last week.
- The Eagles play extremely fast. You'll notice they were 30th in Time of Possession per Drive. They ran the 2nd most plays of anyone last week with 82. They'll snap the ball within 20 seconds. The Colts will need to be ready with substitutions, because this is hurry-up that you rarely see anywhere else.
- Non-Stats Key #1: Philly will be without two starters from their Offensive Line, including Pro Bowl G Evan Mathis. The Colts need to get some sort of pressure on Nick Foles, and it'll probably have to come in the form of blitzing. Right now, the Colts strength is in their CBs, so you have to make them play 1-on-1 and take your chances.
- Non-Stats Key #2: There is a pretty big mis-match on the sidelines, and it isn't in the Colts favor. We all know how the Colts fall behind only to come roaring back with second half adjustments. The Eagles had 7 losses last year including the Playoffs. You know what the biggest lead was in any of those games? Four points. This is not a team the Colts can afford to fall behind, because the Eagles don't give up leads. The Colts coaching staff has failed to change any preparation philosophy, which has me fearful we'll see the Colts go down early and never be heard from again. Early deficit = game over.
I actually think these two teams are pretty evenly matched talent-wise, so it should be a good game. I think the Eagles Offense will wear down the Colts Defense, leaving them with no gas to help fuel a comeback attempt we all know is inevitable. Andrew Luck and the Offense will try their best to get there, but I just don't see it happening. The Colts will start the season 0-2, and panic will set in on W. 56th Street (even though it shouldn't).
Eagles 23, Colts 22
Thursday Night Pick: Steelers 24, Ravens 19