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Indianapolis Colts Week 1: Keys to the Game

Week 1 is finally here, so let’s take a quick look through some of the key battles to watch in the Colts’ opener.

Jacoby Brissett vs. Chargers D-Line

The key to this week - and this season - is ultimately Jacoby Brissett. We know he’s not Andrew Luck, but with the other strengths currently on the roster, that’s okay. To make a Super Bowl run he needs to just be good, not necessarily great. He has shown pretty much all the signs of being able to do that, but he still needs major improvement in regards to dealing with pressure and making quicker decisions. Facing a strong Bolts pass rush Saturday will be a great test to see how far he’s come along.

In his 2017 season (via PFF), Brissett took an average of 2.97 seconds to throw, the 5th highest rate amongst all QB’s and took the most sacks (47) on dropbacks that took over 2.6 seconds. His red-zone sack rate was also an abysmal 23.3 percent, which is one of the worst of all time in this regard.

Obviously, this is a small sample size and Frank Reich is sure to help fix some of these issues, but it’s worrisome nonetheless. Joey Bosa and company will be ready to play, and if Indy doesn’t make things quick and easy on Brissett, the Chargers D-Line could end up dominating.

T.Y. Hilton vs. Chargers DBs

T.Y. Hilton will have an adjustment going from Andrew Luck back to Jacoby Brissett, but thankfully for him, he can adjust against a banged-up Chargers secondary. With All-Pro Safety Derwin James out of the line-up, Hilton can hope to provide a few of his patented splash plays this Sunday - but the main question will be where he’ll do just that.

Last season Hilton played a very balanced role in the Indy offence, registering 276 snaps on the left side of the field, 302 on the right side, and 183 in the slot. If last year’s usage is any indication of Sunday’s gameplan, this means that Hilton will likely dabble against every Charger corner. With Devin Funchess now in the fold, however, we could potentially see more of Hilton on the right side, (given Funchess’ 366 snaps on the left side compared to 152 on the flip side last season).

The Chargers do rotate their corners on both sides, so he could still end up foreshadowed by Casey Hayward, but seeing how both sides adjust to Hilton will be very interesting.

Colts Offense vs. falling behind

Okay, this isn’t a player or even position match-up, but hear me out. Last year, Los Angeles fielded a very strong defence - especially when leading. So to avoid a strong Bolts pass rush this weekend, Indy must get out to a strong start. Obviously this is ideal for any team, but for the Colts it happens to be much more imperative than it seems on the surface.

When playing against a trailing opponent last season, the Chargers D dominated opposing passing attacks, fielding 11 interceptions and 23 sacks - allowing only 16 total touchdowns in the process. Furthermore, Joey Bosa and company limited offences to only 5.3 average net yards per pass attempt (ANY/A), compared to 6.3 when tied and 7.2 when defending from behind.

With an inexperienced QB on the road, as well as these 2018 statistics, it’s needless to say that Frank Reich needs to call a strong game - and call it fast. If Indy is trailing, the results may be dire.