The Indianapolis Colts are not having a lot of luck when it comes to injuries this off-season. They bring a depleted line up in to week one of 2016, and with any good fortune for the Lions, the Indianapolis Colts will fail in their quest to become men by the traditions of the proud Masai tribe. Of course that is why they play the games, and any team with a high level quarterback and a good stable of receivers can get the job done in any given game.
The Indianapolis Colts do run a 3-4 defense, the same base formation that gave the Lions’ offensive line fits in the first week of the preseason, but this defense is not on the same level as the Steelers’. With key players Vontae Davis, Henry Anderson, Clayton Geathers, Sio Moore, Darius Butler, Kendall Langford, and Patrick Robinson all either confirmed out, missing practice, or limited in practice on Wednesday, this is an opportunity for the Lions to come out of the gate hot on offense.
On offense the Indianapolis Colts have one of the deepest receiving corps in football, a running back that seemingly never ages, and a quarterback who is looking to prove that his terrible 2015 season was an aberration. They also remain reasonably injury free, missing only Jack Mewhort from their line up. Their offensive line is not a great group without him in it, which should allow the Lions to disrupt the Colts’ passing game through pressure. Now for the key match ups in week one of the regular season:
Nevin Lawson vs. Donte Moncrief
Sure, Darius Slay and TY Hilton will likely be going at it in a titanic battle of two of the best at their position in football, but the vast majority of the time in any marquee match up, the game is decided elsewhere. Nevin Lawson being the starting corner across from Darius Slay is one of the reasons that the Lions are not getting any respect from national media, often in the bottom five projected records of the league. This game is going to be a very big test for the third year man out of Utah State. In the tale of the tape Moncrief has Lawson outgunned to the tune of three inches and 31 lbs. Both players have good speed and quickness, so Lawson will likely have to win the technique battle in order to keep Slay on the more dangerous receiver across the field. Physically Slay matches up better with Moncrief than Lawson, but Hilton is the unquestioned number one receiver in this offense. That means that the best place for Slay is covering Hilton. If the Lions are forced to put Slay on Moncrief because Lawson cannot deal with the physical play, that would be a very good thing for the Colts offense.
DeAndre Levy vs. Frank Gore
In the running game these two are likely to meet each other in the hole now and again, but that is not the match up I am focusing on. Where DeAndre Levy has been at his best, and Gore has been capable of doing a lot of damage, is in the passing game. If Levy can limit the effectiveness of the Colts’ screen game, it will go a long way toward forcing Indianapolis into a more standard passing attack, allowing Devin Taylor and Ziggy Ansah to pin their ears back in pursuit of Andrew Luck on passing downs. Before his injury I would have taken Levy in this matchup all day, but this will be the first extended game action that we see from him in over a year. Picking up cheap first downs with the screen game will be a key for the Indianapolis Colts’ offense, and stopping them from doing so will be a key for the Detroit Lions’ defense.
Haloti Ngata vs. Ryan Kelly
There has been a lot of talk this off-season about Ngata having adjusted to his responsibilities in the scheme that the Lions play and being ready to dominate. Well this week the interior of the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive line may be extremely undermanned. If the hype around Ngata is even half-justified, he should be an irresistible force in the middle of the field. The Colts however picked a center in the first round who comes from a program that has coaching pretty close to the level that he will see in the NFL. They drafted him in the first round because he is supposed to be ready for this. In week one, take your eyes off the ball once in a while and check out the battle three to five yards in front of where Andrew Luck is standing.
Taylor Decker vs. Robert Mathis
Another in the continual barrage of the most experienced and skilled pass rushers in the NFL, Decker gets the assignment of facing Mathis, and occasionally when Mathis gets tired he’s spelled by Trent Cole. Neither of the two is the player they once were but they combined for ten sacks last season while splitting time, and have all of the veteran savvy to turn a rookie lineman in to a pretzel. This is not the toughest test Decker will see by a long shot, but we are definitely going to find out if his progression in the third preseason game, where he played very well against the Ravens is indicative of where he is at. The Indianapolis Colts on the other hand need to put Matthew Stafford in the dirt. Early and often, they need to get hits on Stafford to make up for their depleted secondary.
Tavon Wilson vs. Dwayne Allen
Surprise! Tavon Wilson is your starting strong safety for week one! His prize is having to be the man covering Andrew Luck’s favorite safety valve, tight end Dwayne Allen. The Lions tend to deal with players like Allen with a combination of DeAndre Levy and their strong safety. Historically the downs where it’s been the safety handling the load have been the ones where tight ends have found their production, and the Lions need Wilson to step up and get the job done. The Colts have no shortage of targets but their tight end is incredibly important if they can’t keep Andrew Luck on his feet behind a depleted line. Particularly in the red zone the chemistry between Luck and Allen has been dangerous, with Allen scoring eight times in thirteen games in 2014, the last full season Luck played.
Detroit Lions vs. Indianapolis Colts
I think the Lions take this one. Prior to the preseason I did not like this matchup, but the injury problems the Indianapolis Colts have had in the last few weeks have made them an easy target, as much as there are ever any easy targets in the NFL. Lions 31 Colts 24.
Oh right, I Promised a Snack Idea in the Snippet
My Snack of the week is pretty simple. My girlfriend loves Chipotle Guacamole. All I am going to do is grill four round steaks rubbed with 2 Tsp of ground peppercorns, one clove of crushed garlic, and 1 Tsp of sea salt per steak prior to going on the grill. I’ll cook them medium rare, let them sit for five minutes or so and then chop them in to half inch squares. I’ll mix the meat and all the fluid off the cutting board with the guac, and dip tortilla chips in the mess. Yes I am a savage; but it also thins the guac out a bit making it easier to dip without snapping the chips. That’s also good spread across a baguette cut in half with shredded tex-mex cheese and toasted until the cheese is melted. This stuff doesn’t keep well, use it up or toss it. #onepride