Shane Steichen vs. Frank Reich
Truly must-see TV for Colts’ fans, not much for anyone else considering both teams are really bad this season. Reich seems a bit sour to me because of the way he was fired, and because of the fact that he was fired after receiving support from both Irsay and Ballard. Shane Steichen was essentially brought in to replace and to lead the Colts into the future. So far, it seems like the Colts nailed the decision, as Steichen is keeping the Colts’ offense performing at above-average levels despite losing his starting quarterback, and Reich is struggling a lot in Carolina, having only won his first game last week against Houston needing a last minute field goal to do so. Reich might pull every single trick up his sleeve to try and stick it to the Colts on Sunday.
DeForest Buckner vs. Panthers’ IOL
Buckner has been among the Colts’ lone bright spots on defense this year, with him and Franklin basically carrying the defense on their backs. This is an excellent matchup for Buckner against a short rookie quarterback and an interior offensive line for the Panthers that has been absolutely dreadful this season. Buckner has the chance to have his most disruptive game this year, and with the way the Colts’ secondary is looking it will be really needed.
Blake Freeland vs. Brian Burns
Braden Smith will most likely miss his fourth consecutive game, so rookie swing tackle Blake Freeland will get another chance to start, and his bad luck with matchups continues as he will have to face off against Brian Burns. While Burns has not been as disruptive this season, he is still among the most dominant edge rushers in the NFL and his speed and athleticisim will be tough to handle for Freeland.
Jaylon Jones / Whoever plays in the other spot vs. Adam Thielen
The Colts’ cornerback situation is really bad, as suspensions and injuries have ravaged the position group. Jaylon Jones has been a pleasant surprise this season, and he is not a liability at all on the outside but is still a rookie and is prone to making the occasional mistake. It is the other side that worries me though, with probably either Darrell Baker Jr. or Troy Brown starting on Sunday. Reich will most likely look to put Adam Thielen against either of them, to create the most enticing matchup for Bryce Young.
Shaq Leonard vs. Not creating turnovers
Shaq has not created a single turnover this season, and his value to the defense depends a lot on his ability to create those. He is among the highest paid linebackers in the NFL, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt early on in the season because he was getting back to playing form. Now 8 games into the season and Leonard does not look any better. He voiced his concerns about his playing time, but in my opinion there is no way he is being played less than he should be.