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2016 NFL Week 3 Preview: Indianapolis Colts vs. San Diego Chargers

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The Colts hope to avoid an 0-3 start before a trip to London, and they have to beat a team they've had very little success beating over the past 10 years, the Chargers. Can this team play a complete game and get their first win?

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

After two weeks of near-misses, and two subsequent losses, the Colts return home to try and get their first win of the year. Unfortunately it's against a team they've notoriously struggled against: the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers enter Week 3 1-1 on the season, blasting the Jaguars last week at home, and blowing a 21 point lead against the Chiefs in Week 1, ultimately losing in Overtime.

The story of the Chargers season so far looks a lot like the Colts: injuries to key players. Gone for the year are both WR Keenan Allen and RB Danny Woodhead, who were both lost early in the 2015 season as well. Include the third overall pick in last year's draft, DE Joey Bosa, who has yet to see the field this year because of an injured hamstring, and TE Antonio Gates, who is doubtful Sunday with a similar hamstring issue, and the Chargers are facing circumstances pretty close to what the Colts have gone through so far this season.

One of the biggest issues we've seen time after time with the current Colts coaching staff is their ability to fall behind double digits in the first half. It happened in Week 1, and this week's opponent could be their worst nightmare. The Chargers have outscored their two opponents in the first half 42-3, which is really not a good sign for the Colts. Now, I'm sure the Colts focused on that this week in practice (it's not something I had to search very hard for), but they've been working to fix the slow starts for four years now, so even with additional focus, I'm not sure it'll matter. Just something to watch for.

So just how bad have the Colts been against the Chargers? Since the "record breaker" in 2004, the Colts have just one win in seven games, the lone win coming in 2008 on a last second field goal by Adam Vinatieri, winning 23-20. Those losses have had a lot of strange things happen too: Defeating the 13-0 Colts in '05, Manning's six INT game where Vinatieri missed a chip shot, Billy Volek led a TD drive in the Playoffs, Mike Scifres had the best punting game in Playoff history, and Manning threw four more INTs in a game, two of which were returned for a touchdown. Only once has Andrew Luck faced the Chargers, and they could only manage three field goals in a 19-9 loss in 2013. Overall since the move to Indianapolis, the Colts are just 8-15 against the Chargers. Yeesh.

How do these two team match-up for Sunday? Let's dive in a take a look:

Statistical Comparison between the Colts and Chargers (Adjusted):

Statistic Colts Chargers
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 65.3% 28 75.7% 30 70.3% 16 68.7% 13
ANPY/A 5.591 17 6.213 25 6.177 5 5.504 14
Turnovers 1.55 12 1.47 27 1.45 5 1.79 9
Yds/Drive 29.77 17 32.56 30 29.95 16 29.81 19
ToP/Drive 2:36.0 26 2:49.0 30 2:44.0 8 2:32.0 6
Yds/Play 5.143 24 5.572 29 5.297 16 5.396 21
Orange Zone Eff 54.5% 22 61.4% 28 57.1% 13 57.8% 22
First Downs/Drive 1.68 18 1.93 32 1.78 7 1.69 18
3rd/4th Down 35.6% 27 44.6% 30 39.4% 14 35.4% 6
Avg Start Pos 28.8 24 28.6 7 31.4 2 28.8 10
3 and Outs 3.70 18 3.42 25 3.30 8 3.60 17
RZ Eff 67.9% 12 72.7% 30 66.0% 15 67.6% 19
Plays/Drive 5.656 15 5.858 29 5.611 18 5.492 7
Penalty Yds / Play 0.790 14 0.866 9 0.697 3 0.841 12
RB Success 41.2% 24 50.5% 30 44.3% 13 43.7% 17
Yds/Carry 4.12 17 4.31 25 4.34 8 4.50 31
Overall 24 32 12 16

Keys to the game:

  • The (hopeful) returns of CB Vontae Davis and DE Henry Anderson will be a welcome sight for a pass defense that will need all the help they can get against the #5 passing team in the NFL. The Colts have obviously struggled in this department so far this season, so this could get real ugly.
  • I'm looking up and down the Offensive column for the Chargers, and there's nothing that is a "weakness", but their worst stat is Drive Success Rate, ranking right in the middle of the NFL at 16th. The Colts are ranked dead last in the NFL, so this is going to be a very big challenge to slow them down.
  • The Colts lost last weekend, in large part, to turnovers, and the Chargers Defense ranks 9th in the NFL in takeaways. If the Colts are to win, they cannot turn the ball over, and they absolutely can't let the Defense score.
  • Another way the Colts can stay in the game? Scoring touchdowns in the Orange and Red Zone, something they've been excellent at so far this year. The Colts are a perfect 6 for 6 scoring touchdowns in the Red Zone, and have scored on all ten possessions inside their opponents' 35 yard line (6 TDs, 4 FGs).
  • The other thing I rarely advocate but should work this weekend: Run the ball. The Colts have been really good this season at RB Success Rate (3rd unadjusted), while the Chargers, as you can see, struggle on run defense. I'm no DFS expert, but Frank Gore might be a sneaky play this week, if the Colts see the same data that we have here.

I know everyone wants the Colts to be good, and several injured players appear like they'll be returning this week, which is great news. But the reality is this team shoots themselves in the foot far too often to have any semblance of consistency, and they just have this weird thing against the Chargers, which is completely unexplainable. Oh, and then there's this stat to ponder with their pending trip across the pond next week:

Colts are falling to 0-3, and the sky will definitely be coming with them.

Chargers 26, Colts 25