After what has felt like a very long week from the Colts shutout loss at home against Jacksonville, game day has finally arrived. Indianapolis has made the short trip to Cincinnati hoping to put another game in the win column and try to get back within reach of the AFC South. Given the struggles this team has had in the last few weeks, it is hard to expect that to happen.
In order to set proper expectations, it is fair to acknowledge the injuries this team carries with it into the game. Their most effective pass rusher and play-maker at linebacker, John Simon, will not be able to play in this one. Their best cornerback in 2017, Rashaan Melvin, will be unable to play. The team’s top draft pick and most exciting young defensive piece Malik Hooker was lost for the season in last week’s loss to the Jaguars.
Missing their best defensive pieces at every level but the defensive line will certainly do the Colts no favors and won’t help them overcome the odds on the road.
Offensively, the team with without its franchise quarterback Andrew Luck who can only hope to return to practice in the coming week. Second-year backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett showed early promise but has started to unravel a bit. The blame for his struggles can be shared.
On the one hand, he has not been getting the ball out of his hands fast enough and has made it very difficult for his offensive line. On the other hand, the offensive line lost starting tackle Denzelle Good early in the season, has had to shuffle players at the center position, and has lost their best guard Jack Mewhort for the year. It comes as no surprise that this group has also played a role in allowing pressure to reach Brissett.
Veteran short-yardage back Robert Turbin is out for the year, veteran wide receiver T.Y. Hilton has disappeared in the last couple of games, always reliable tight end Jack Doyle has not been his reliable self, and second-year receiver Chester Rogers saw his first game action of the season in Week 7.
This team is still a work in progress. It is waist deep in a rebuild with a new general manager. It is pleading for a change at head coach.
As Matt Danely reported this morning, the official inactive list for the Colts includes: Andrew Luck, John Simon, Rashaan Melvin, Isaiah Williams, Dillon Day, and Anthony Walker.
It is extremely frustrating to be at this point in the season and to have your first round pick out for the year — who might even miss the start of the 2018 season; your second round pick consistently being left on the sidelines and losing out on a chance to gain experience; your third round pick failing to put things together and not showing a great deal of promise as a pass rusher; one fourth round pick not on the team; and one fifth round pick missing much of the year with a hamstring injury only to be back on the inactive list after he spends some time in practice. This leaves only fourth round rookie Marlon Mack, fifth round rookie Nate Hairston, and undrafted rookie Rigoberto Sanchez as players who have shown enough early this season to think they will make an impact in the second half.
5 Keys to the Game
- The offensive coaching staff must have a game plan in place that focuses on getting the ball out of the hands of Jacoby Brissett much faster than it has to this point in the season. Brissett must get through his reads faster and must recognize when it is best to utilize his dump-off options. If the Colts feel the have to rely on the pass for more than 60 percent of their offense, it will be a long day.
- As previously discussed, the offense must maintain balance. While you could be forgiven if you didn’t realize that the Colts had a relatively effective day running the football a week ago, the team did relatively well on the ground. Rob Chudzinski must maintain some control over his offense and make sure that the pre-snap checks don’t result in a glaring lack of offensive balance at the end of another game.
- Defensively, the Colts will have to play laterally in this game. Andy Dalton will utilize Giovanni Bernard and Joe Mixon out of the backfield and will test the speed of the Colts defense by hitting them with quick passes as well. T.J. Yeldon had a fantastic day last week and used his speed to do some real damage. This week both Mixon and Bernard can play a similar game.
- Colts receivers cannot be ghosts. T.Y. Hilton has to make his presence felt and start to take back over in the offense. Jack Doyle has to be the reliable option for Brissett that he has been for Andrew Luck. Chester Rogers needs to show some progress after his first regular season action after recovering from a hamstring. Finally, when the Colts get into the red zone, Donte Moncrief needs to be the same kind of touchdown magnet as he has been early in his NFL career.
- The Colts secondary will need to cut down on mistakes. While the scheme is not ideal and does not play to the strengths of its players, it is a common scheme that doesn’t get gashed all over the league as a rule. Part of the reason the Colts have been giving up so many big plays is because the secondary and inside linebackers have gotten their assignments crossed up. While playing tighter coverage is likely not in the cards mid-season, the team has to play more disciplined to win football games.
1:00 PM ET on Sunday, October 29, 2017
Paul Brown Stadium — Cincinnati, OH
CBS — Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta
WFNI (107.5FM/1070 The Fan) and WLHK (Country 97.1 Hank FM) — Bob Lamey, Jim Sorgi, Matt Taylor (sideline)
Sports USA — Larry Kahn, Hank Bauer
TV National Broadcast Map
See which games will be shown in your area, from 506Sports.com.
Jerome Boger. He is in his 14th year of NFL officiating.