The Colts have what is probably the toughest game on their schedule coming this weekend--a road game against the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are battered with injury, missing key players all across their offense. Their star quarterback will make his debut, but it is fair to expect some rust from him.
Regardless, this is not a team that won the Super Bowl by accident. This is a very good football team with the kind of depth that the Colts are absolutely hoping to build in the coming years. The defense from top to bottom is second only to Jacksonville in terms of quality that the Colts will face this season.
Colts fans of all people know what a difference having your franchise QB can make, and getting Carson Wentz back is a huge lift to an offense that has struggled through the first two weeks of the season. With all that in mind, here are my bold predictions for what I think will be a very competitive football game Sunday.
Darius Leonard gets his first pick
Carson Wentz is making his return after tearing his ACL and LCL last season. The conditions for that return aren’t ideal for the Eagles. They are thin at their skill positions on offense due to injury, and that means Wentz is going to be throwing to some guys who he might not have a ton of trust with.
One guy he has an established rapport with is tight end Zach Ertz. Ertz and Wentz had a really special connection last season, and Ertz worked as a security blanket for Wentz, much like Jack Doyle has done in the past for Andrew Luck. In a game with a lot of uncertainty for Wentz in terms of targets, Ertz will be on his radar.
That means that Darius Leonard will have his work cut out for him. The Colts’ rookie got the AFC Defensive Player of the Week award for last week’s performance against the Redskins, and the Colts will need another big performance from him this week and I think they’ll get it. The combination of a rusty Carson Wentz and some great playmaking on the part of Leonard gets him his first interception in the NFL.
Jordan Wilkins has his best game
No one has run the ball on the Eagles. They have the top run defense through two weeks in terms of yards allowed with an average of 58.5 per game. I think the Colts will break that trend. The offensive line has stood up against some pretty good defenses, and while they haven’t exactly dominated on the ground, Jordan Wilkins averaged more than 6 yards per carry last Sunday.
The Colts fed the ball to Marlon Mack with mixed results against the Redskins, in large part because he didn’t look healthy. With him having missed practice most of the week, I expect that Wilkins and Hines will both see their involvement increase.
The Colts have done a lot in terms of pulling Quenton Nelson and running behind him. I expect that to continue and for Wilkins to have a significant impact on this game. His biggest limiting factor last week was that he only got 10 carries. If he can get 20 carries, I think he goes over 100 yards and really helps take pressure off Luck and lets the passing game open up.
Andrew Luck looks like an MVP
So far this season Andrew Luck has looked like a very good quarterback in a well planned and executed offense. It is not so much that he hasn’t been able to carry the team so much as that the offense hasn’t asked him to. This week, I think we start to see him rounding into form and reminding everyone just how good he is.
Last week was a rougher outing for Luck but I don’t expect that to carry over. I think this is the week we see Luck hit T.Y. Hilton downfield for a big gain on a play action or double move. We saw that this team can be susceptible to a strong passing game, and given the Colts likelihood of rushing the ball well, I expect the opportunities for some big plays will present themselves.
Given the type of offense the Colts play, there have been many who question Luck’s ability to throw the same deep ball he once did. This is the week I think that argument gets put to bed. I think he throws for 350 yards, 3 touchdowns, no picks.
Colts allow no sacks
The Colts’ offensive line has been really quite good to this point in the season. They’re missing their best player in the form of Anthony Castonzo, and yet they have stepped up in a way few thought they could, and against some really tough defenses.
The Eagles area very good defense, however, they’ve already made some statements that indicate they might be underestimating a line that has been no pushover.
Brandon Graham on Colts RT Joe Haeg: “From what I see so far, it’s going to be a good day.”— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) September 19, 2018
Frank Reich knows this defense better than just about anyone in the NFL does. They won’t likely catch the Colts off guard schematically. The Eagles also tend to rush just 4, largely because they can usually get pressure that way without blitzing. The Colts will use this to their advantage, dialing up runs that take advantage of aggressive line play, hitting the team over the middle so that Luck gets the ball out quickly, and generally making it tough for the line to be effective.
This one might be my boldest prediction yet, but to say it is a stretch that the line could do really well is to ignore a lot of solid play by them through this point in the season.
So what are your bold predictions?