On October 8, 2017, the Indianapolis Colts will host the San Francisco 49ers. In this week five match up I sought to understand our opponent and get a better idea for what we’re up against. The 49ers are just three years removed from firing the best coach they’ve had since Bill Walsh. The last time our Colts played these 49ers we saw Amahad Bradshaw and the offensive line out-Harbaugh, Harbaugh. The Colts ran the ball and stopped the run. They were able to shut down Colin Kaepernick (impressive in 2013). A lot of faces have changed for both teams since 2013, including new GM John Lynch, hopefully that turnover won’t hurt our chances this time around. Let’s figure out what we can expect in week five.
Punter: Bradley Pinion
Bradley Pinion by all reasonable metrics is a solid punter. So far he’s downed 10 punts inside the 20, good enough to be tied for 2nd in the league. He’s tied for 8th in net yards with a 44.3 average per kick. Our own Rigoberto Sanchez mirrors Pinion pretty well, having downed 9 punts inside the 20, and ranking 7th in the league with 44.4 yards per kick.
If you’re into punting, you’re a weirdo, but this will be a fun game for you to watch. Two young punters with golden legs will face off in Indianapolis in a battle of decent defenses and terrible offenses.
In all seriousness, this is a game that may be determined by field position, and the two teams are pretty evenly matched. If Pinion throws a pass on a fake it will be the first of his three-year career. Anything’s possible, but I wouldn’t expect it.
Kicker: Robbie Gould
In 2006, Robbie Gould was a first team all pro, since then, he’s been a really good kicker also. He seems to have dealt with injuries over the past few seasons but when healthy is a very accurate kicker.
In a game like this one, the kickers are going to matter more than normal. The match up of Robbie Gould vs Adam Vinatieri isn’t going to make any headlines, but it might make the difference in the game.
Returner: Trent Taylor
Yeah, I know this isn’t a video of him returning a punt. I couldn’t find one of those anywhere online, and I’m just not going to go home on my lunch break to pull you a video of a 20-yard return.
So I found you this video of the guy making a nice catch. What you need to know about him as a returner: He doesn’t have good long speed, but the guy has great change of direction skills. He is undersized at 5’8” and 180-ish. Though he is a solid 180 and has the ability to slip through diving arm tackles. Don’t expect him to just fall over on first contact.
He isn’t easy to bring down in the open field evidenced by his 11.0 yards per return this season. At this point in the year some returners have their average inflated by one or two long returns that will deflate with time and more opportunities. Taylor, on the other hand, has a long return of just 21 yards on the season. I don’t expect to see any long game breaking returns from the guy. He ran a slow 40 and while he doesn’t look like that on the field, I think he’s a guy that’s going to live off of being able to get in and out of cuts quickly.
If the game becomes a battle for field position, Taylor is a guy to watch. If he can consistently get the ball from the 15 yard line to the 25-30 yard line that could make a huge difference over the course of four quarters. He isn’t someone I expect to end up on the highlight reel after the game, but his impact could be huge.
Wildcards of the game
These are the “if” guys of our match-up. If they live up to the hype, draft position or past success, they could impact the game in a big way. This week I believe the biggest wildcards are Brian Hoyer and Jimmie Ward.
He plays the most difficult position in pro sports. He can’t make reads post snap and the game is going to come down to limiting mistakes. Shanahan has done a good job during his career working with what he has at the QB position, but ultimately it’s up to Hoyer to execute on the field. This game is on his shoulders, and if he manages to avoid what is looking like a very opportunistic defense, it will be surprising and likely will lead to good things for his team.
Ward is moving from cornerback to free safety in a defense that wants to run a lot of single high cover three looks. Are there more difficult position changes? Sure, going from tight end to left tackle beats it, going from running back to quarterback, for example, would be harder.
With that said, this is a pretty huge change and his ability to play center field and doing so without making huge game changing mistakes when facing a wide receiver like TY Hilton is going to present a challenge. If he does the things he needs to do, Ward is physically talented enough for the role. This will be a test mentally and he could swing the game with a single failure.
Final Thoughts for The Week
The San Francisco 49ers are a young team that absolutely needs to find a better QB to compete in the future. With that said, they have a very talented defense and a solid offensive line and running backs. I see them fielding a very competitive team within the next three years, but 2017 just isn’t it for them.
I would have loved to have a shot at hiring Kyle Shanahan to coach our Colts, but what’s done is done. San Francisco has a good coach, hopefully for them John Lynch continues to give him the talent he needs to compete.
Chuck Pagano will be out-coached in this game. The 49ers will be out-talented. It could go either way, but ultimately I feel this match up favors the home team.
This segment will keep an eye on our draft positioning as the year progresses. No, I’m not suggesting that we throw the season or that we should all look forward to the draft. Rather I hope that this will allow us all to be aware of next offseason and realize how much our 2018 outlook can change from week to week.
I would like to point out a really cool site that covers the NBA, NHL and NFL: Tankathon. It has a funny name but it serves a cool purpose, weeding out tie breakers to show who is slated to draft where.
2018 Colts Draft Position Post Week Three:
Coin flip for 5th/6th Overall
I really believe this team will work its way out of the top 10 picks. I’m not being a homer; I’m not optimistic about this team. It’s just if the rumors are true about Andrew Luck and his return is coming in the next month, this team is good enough to win with a superstar quarterback.
Brissett is a good young QB that absolutely can lead a team. He could be a good fit in places like New York (either team), Pittsburgh, New Orleans or as fate would have it, San Francisco as well as many others. But at this point in his young career, he isn’t a guy that can cover up all of the holes on the Colts roster. Luck can. Once he’s back I believe we will rattle off a number of wins and look far better than we have any right to.
As I’ve said before a top 5/10 pick would, in theory, upgrade at least one position in a huge way. It’s just getting that pick that will be so brutal.