Much has happened since the Colts last played the Bills. In this meeting, the teams will be without Andrew Luck and Tyrod Taylor, respectively. One team has a new coach and general manager while the other has a new general manager and a coach who is likely spending his last few weeks in Indianapolis.
Five players who showed up on the stat sheet for the September 13, 2015 meeting in Orchard Park will take the field for Indianapolis today. Kicker Adam Vinatieri, running back Frank Gore, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, safety Darius Butler, and safety Clayton Geathers are the only players who were on that roster two years ago who are healthy, active, and likely to show up on the stat sheet again today. The Bills have only six players players who fall in this category. Those included running back LeSean McCoy, tight end Charles Clay, linebackers Jerry Hughes and Preston Brown, defensive tackle Kyle Williams, and underappreciated punter Colton Schmidt.
Another difference in this meeting is that the last meeting was between two teams who were fighting for a chance to make it into the playoffs. Both finished with 8-8 records in 2015 and so the outcome could have a big influence on their post-season hopes. This year, only Buffalo has a legitimate opportunity to make the playoffs. While both starting quarterbacks were facing off in 2015, this year will see a battle of backups.
All of these observations should mean that we’ll see something entirely different than what we’ve seen in the past. The Colts have stiffened up against the run, making LeSean McCoy less of a threat than he has been in the past. Indy’s secondary is suspect as it is riddled with rookies who are being asked to make major contributions but Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman threw 5 interceptions in 16 passes a couple of weeks ago in his NFL debut.
This seems like a stalemate for the Colts defense and Bills offense.
Indianapolis has had more consistent success running the football, particularly with Frank Gore, than they have had passing the ball. We have broken down numerous issues that are causing Jacoby Brissett to face a great deal of pressure in the pocket and resulting in an ineffective passing game. However, this week presents maybe the best opportunity for the Colts offense to gain some traction since Week 5 against San Francisco.
If you’re a Colts fan who is desperate for that good feeling that comes with a win, this is what you have to look forward to from Buffalo defensively. They are tied for 30th overall in sacks for 2017 with the Colts — accumulating 20 total. They are the 24th ranked passing defense and 25th ranked rushing defense in the NFL.
This is a perfect storm. If Indianapolis can manage to keep the pocket clean for Brissett, he can get things done. Additionally, if Frank Gore can continue to be effective between the tackles against a weak run defense, Indianapolis could maintain offensive balance and start to get something rolling. Of course, this all relies on Rob Chudzinski’s ability to exploit the opportunity so nothing can be taken for granted.
While there is a very large group of fans who likely would prefer to simply “lose out” at this point in order to maintain draft position, this one looks favorable for the Colts.
5 Keys for a Colts Win
- Win the turnover battle. With Nathan Peterman showing little reason for Buffalo to have confidence in him two weeks ago, the Colts have to find a way to be opportunistic. Whether that comes through rookie cornerbacks stepping up to make a difference or Ted Monachino finding creative ways to bring pressure, including corner and safety blitzes, it needs to happen.
- Turn red zone opportunities into touchdowns. There are a handful of times in each game that Indianapolis finds itself deep in their opponent’s territory with a chance to put points on the board. As much as Colts fans want to see Adam Vinatieri continue to put up field goals and creep closer to taking over the all-time NFL scoring lead, Brissett and Chudzinski must find ways to punch these possessions into the end zone for touchdowns. At this point it is safe to say, the Colts can’t afford to give up points.
- Involve T.Y. Hilton. Last week, Rob Chudzinski dialed up a wide receiver screen to get the ball in Hilton’s hands. For those who are wondering, it is sometimes the job of offensive coaches to scheme their best players into a position to make an impact on games. While it was refreshing to see ONE PLAY where Hilton was put in a position to make an impact, Chud needs to have more of those plays up his sleeves this week.
- Slow down Charles Clay. While Clay isn’t really one of the premier tight end in the NFL, he has built his career on being a target in the passing game. The Colts should not overlook the fact that the biggest weakness they have on defense, no matter who is playing in the secondary, is in the short middle zones that are often patrolled by inside linebackers. There isn’t a linebacker on the Colts roster who has shown a reliable ability to cover in the passing game. Maybe safety Clayton Geathers will have his role grow and help in this capacity but inexperienced quarterbacks like to find their big bodied receivers and today will likely be no different.
- Contain LeSean McCoy. While McCoy isn’t quite as explosive as he was a couple of years ago, he is still a threat to break big plays if he can get to the outside. The Colts have often done an excellent job early in games of showing contain on the edges and keeping rushers inside the tackles for Johnathan Hankins and Al Woods to feast. At different points in the game, it appears like Monachino changes things up and all of the sudden the outside linebackers begin slanting inside and leave the edges exposed. Do that against McCoy and you’ll be watching him run into the end zone.
1:00 PM ET on Sunday, December 10, 2017
New Era Field — Orchard Park, NY
CBS — Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta, Steve Tasker (sideline)
WFNI (107.5FM/1070 The Fan) and WLHK (Country 97.1 Hank FM) — Bob Lamey, Jim Sorgi, Matt Taylor (sideline)
Westwood One — Tom McCarthy and Ross Tucker
TV National Broadcast Map
See which games will be shown in your area, from 506Sports.com.
Brad Allen. He is in his fourth year of NFL officiating.
Over/Under: 0.0 | Spread: N/A (-0.0). According to Bovada, “Line not available due to questionable players. Line will be posted as soon as more information is available.”