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Championship Fever: Week 1

After months of anticipation, NFL football is finally underway! In light of the fresh season, I wanted to start a new series about the Colts chances of winning the Super Bowl. After every week, I will look at previous performances as well as future contests and update my feelings on the likelihood of the Colts becoming Super Bowl 55 champions.


To put it simply, the Colts blew it against the Jaguars on Sunday. The first half of the schedule, for the Colts, was supposed to be easy. They were going to steamroll their way through the first 7 weeks and play a marquee matchup against the Ravens in week 8. Well, it appears they have a lot of work to do if they want to compete with a team like the Ravens.

Let’s take a look at the Colts’ Super Bowl hopes after Week 1:

NEGATIVES

It only makes sense to start with the negatives after a week like this, there are a lot of them.

By now I’m sure you all know that Marlon Mack went down with an injury during the game. It was ultimately determined that he tore his Achilles tendon and will be out for the rest of the season. The loss of Marlon Mack will have a major impact on the team. This would be Mack’s fourth season with the Colts, and there were high expectations for him coming into the year. Thankfully, the team does have depth at the running back position, I’m sure Colts’ GM Chris Ballard is happy he drafted Jonathan Taylor this year. Taylor will ultimately become the starting back this weekend against the Vikings.

Staying on the offensive side of the ball, there was one other significant weak spot. I hate to say it, but T.Y. Hilton, the Colts’ top receiver and one of the longest-tenured players on the team, dropped back to back passes on the final offensive drive of the game. The Colts needed a touchdown to tie the game and Hilton dropped a pass on 3rd down, then followed up with another drop on 4th to solidify the win for the Jaguars. I’m not saying by any means that you should worry about his production moving forward, but veteran superstars like Hilton need to be productive late in games if the Colts have any chance of being a serious threat this season.

Neither pass was by any means an easy catch, but they were absolutely catchable. The Colts and their fans expect more from Hilton, and he knows that.

Defensively, I can’t imagine the team having a much worse performance than what they displayed on Sunday. This was only one game, so I’m hopeful it was just rust and the defense will start to turn things around as they continue playing lesser opponents.

To give you an idea of how poorly the defense played, more specifically the secondary, let’s look at some numbers.

Gardner Minshew threw 19 completions on just 20 attempts for 173 yards in the air and a whopping 3 touchdowns.

Who are the other three quarterbacks? Drew Brees, Marcus Mariota, and none other than the Colts’ very own Philip Rivers.

The biggest weakness of this game was how many points and opportunities were left on the field.

For starters, Philip Rivers threw 2 interceptions, and almost a third if it hadn’t been called back for a penalty. Interceptions are going to come with him, the team knew that when they signed him, but they can be very costly. In this case, the first interception led to a Jaguars touchdown, and the second led to a Jaguars field goal.

Speaking of field goals, why can’t the Colts find a guy who can kick one? The Colts’ rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship missed a 30-yard field goal attempt on Sunday, and it gave me so many flashbacks to the nightmare that was Colts’ special teams last season. They can’t continue to have these problems. A 30-yard field goal should be automatic in this league, and for some reason the Colts can’t find anyone who can be consistent from short distances. Maybe I’m just being selfish because I’m used to watching the greatest kicker of all time in Adam Vinatieri, who was automatic from nearly every distance for so many years, but it’s absolutely unacceptable to leave easy points on the field like that.

Some of Frank Reich’s decision making was questionable as well. Out of nowhere, Jacoby Brissett came out to run a play in the red zone and was sacked by Myles Jack for a loss of 6 yards. The only reason no one is talking about it is because the Colts were able to put up a touchdown on the very next play. That’s beside the point, though. What was Reich thinking? Not one part of that play showed even a glimmer of promise. I understand he likes to take chances, but this seemed extremely pointless.

Reich elected to go for it several times on fourth down, which I admire because it is risky and the analytics show that it is smart to go for it in certain situations. The most notable of these fourth down attempts took place towards the end of the first quarter. It’s 4th down inside the Jaguars’ 5-yard line. The Colts decide it’s a good idea to run the ball up the middle with Nyheim Hines, who ends up getting stopped and can’t push up far enough for the first down or touchdown. I loved going for it in this situation, I was even okay with running the ball. The problem was that Reich decided to put his smallest running back out there to execute the play. Jonathan Taylor weighs nearly 30 pounds more than Hines, maybe it would have been smart for him to try and power through. It’s little details like this that could have been the difference between winning and losing this game. So frustrating.


POSITIVES

Believe it or not, there actually were a few positives from this game that give me some hope for the future of this season.

First of all, Rivers threw for 363 yards. We knew that he would have turnover troubles, but we also knew that he could consistently throw for 300 yards plus in the air. For me, there is a clear upgrade at quarterback compared to last season. It’s a lot more comforting to have a guy who is not afraid to take a shot at the deep ball every once in a while.

Another huge bright spot was Parris Campbell. This guy was electric all game long, and was Rivers’ favorite target. Campbell had 6 receptions for 71 yards and even ran the ball once for 9. He will be a huge asset to this team with both his speed and chemistry with Rivers.

For how poorly the defense played, I think a couple players should be highlighted. First, Denico Autry had two sacks on Minshew on Sunday, he was otherwise quiet but I’ll take those sacks any day of the week. Justin Houston also had a big sack in this game, and was applying good pressure throughout. Unfortunately, that’s all I’ve got defensively. They were that bad.


FEVER

The Colts have only played one game this season, so there isn’t much to go by. I would love to say they will be AFC South champions, and I still think that is possible. However, after watching the game on Sunday, I have to go by what I know. What I know is that the Colts have the ability to play way better than they did against the Jaguars. I also know that the defense did not look prepared for anything. Do I think this trend will continue? Absolutely not. But, I have to go by what I’ve seen over what I anticipate. The team lost to a division rival. Worse than that, they lost to the supposed worst team in the division. The Colts are therefore very cool right now on the thermometer. No fever… yet.