After another very disappointing loss to yet another division opponent, the Tennessee Titans, the Indianapolis Colts hope to bounce back on a short week to take out the Denver Broncos. The Broncos themselves, are coming off of a very disappointing loss against a bad divisional opponent and will be hungry to get a win, too.
These two teams seem very evenly matched on paper, lets's take a look at a few of the things to watch for on Thursday Night Football.
- Can the Colts Offense Get on Track
For the second week in a row in this article, we’re talking about this and we’ll talk about it until the Indy offense gets on track. The issues have been a three-headed monster. The first issue is that Frank Reich is calling his offense like Carson Wentz is still his quarterback, but that wouldn’t be an issue at all if the second issue, the offensive line, was playing well.
If you want to know "what's wrong" with Jonathan Taylor, we need to have a talk about #69. Saying he struggles with 2nd level blocks is an insult to guys who struggle with 2nd level blocks. pic.twitter.com/iPvNbTIUJ5— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) October 5, 2022
If Frank Reich dials up the perfect run scheme and Matt Pryor fails to get to the second level like this, then it doesn’t matter what run was called.
He has great leverage here, he just has to wall this guy off. pic.twitter.com/iGQeiduJn7— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) October 5, 2022
Keep watching left tackle Matt Pryor.
Really need Raimann to get healthy. pic.twitter.com/8Q9KU0FVOh— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) October 5, 2022
It’s no wonder the Colts' offense, which was uniquely good on the ground a year ago, looks different now.
I don't even know what to say about this. Here he lines up, tackle over, on the right next to Braden Smith. I'll let you judge his performance. pic.twitter.com/QMH1HVtgn0— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) October 5, 2022
So you see, if Frank Reich were calling the same plays he was a year ago and his offensive line (even just his left tackle) were executing their blocks, we would all have a much different view of this offense. As it stands either he will have to adjust to a pass-first approach or the offensive line will have to improve.
In short, Frank’s going to have to change from what made the Colts the hottest team in the league for 4-6 weeks in 2021. Jonathan Taylor is a special player but nobody can run behind a bad offensive line. The line has been better in pass protection and this week the Broncos come in having lost pass rusher Randy Gregory who has been on a tear so far this season. His loss means one of two things: The first option is the Broncos' pass rush suffers and Matt Ryan has a lot of time to throw. The second option is the Colts' line does its best to launch the career of a pass rusher none of us has ever heard of and the offense sputters.
The third thing that has caused the Colts' offense to sputter this season is Matt Ryan’s fumbles. I’ve never seen a Colts QB fumble at this pace and it’s not great. The Colts have turned the ball over 9 times, which is somehow only fourth-most in the league. Regardless, the Colts have to protect the football if they hope to have any chance to get the offense on track this week.
- Will the Broncos Offense Get on Track Against a Good Colts Defense
So far this season these two teams have been mirror images of each other. Bad offenses often held up by good defenses. This game will be won or lost in the trenches on offense for both teams. Can Russell Wilson put it all together and put points on the board against a Colts defense that has given up the 13th-fewest points this season? Will the Colts force Wilson to make bad decisions? This is one to watch, tonight.
- The Colts Pass Rush
Russell Wilson has been sacked 12 times. As Colts fans, we understand how hard it is to move the ball when your QB is constantly getting smacked around, having seen Matt Ryan take 15 sacks so far this season. As predicted, the Colts' pass rush under Gus Bradley has looked very good. Kwity Paye is on pace for more than 12 sacks this season. This game, against a bad Broncos offensive line, is the perfect opportunity for Deforest Buckner and Yannick Ngakoue to finally get going in the right direction after slow starts for both men.
- How Will The Broncos Look Without Javonte Williams
When I talked with Ian St. Clair of Mile High Report he downplayed the loss of Javonte Williams, saying that it wasn’t great but that he hasn’t been that productive. This is understandable given the problems they’ve had with their offensive line. With that said, Williams was their lead back but he has also received the second most targets (22) and reeled in the second most catches (16) on the team.
He’s only turned those receiving opportunities into 76 yards, which is indicative of lots of checkdowns from Russell Wilson. So it will be interesting to see how his loss might change the offense on a bigger scale from there just being a new running back in for the Broncos.
Further, that new running back will be Melvin Gordon. The thing to watch for with Gordon is that he has 4 fumbles on 37 carries in 4 games and is averaging 3.8 YPC.
- Will the Colts Get Off to a Good Start
Last week, if it seemed like no one told the Colts they were allowed to play good football in the first half so they waited until the second half, you’re not alone. Let's hope they get off to a faster start in this game than they have this season before it’s too late to save either one.
I absolutely hate Thursday Night Football. We aren’t going to learn anything about the team win or lose because this is TNF. Obviously, we want a win, but we still won’t know if either team will be good. A loss for the Colts just means so far they’ve looked bad. There’s very little game planning that can happen on TNF. The players haven’t recovered from last week's game and players are going to get hurt tonight that likely wouldn’t have if this game were being played on Sunday.
So outside of another number in the win or loss column, this game isn’t going to tell us much about this team, and believe it or not it’s still early. There’s still time but not that much time anymore.
Enjoy the game. Enjoy primetime.
Abolish Thursday Night Football
And Go Colts.