For another look at the 2012 Indianapolis Colts, I went ahead and watched last week's Colts game. Last week, the Colts went to Detroit and defeated the Lions, 35-33, to improve their record on the season to 8-4. They were down for most of the game, but Andrew Luck threw two touchdown passes in the final three minutes, including the game-winner as time expired, to lift his team to the victory.
In this second look at the 2012 Colts, I'm going to make a conscious effort not to repeat too many things from my EI post before the first matchup. Some of it I will, just to establish the ground rules and because I think it's sufficiently important.
1. Andrew Luck has great pocket movement. The Colts this week will be without starting left guard Joe Reitz, and Seth Olsen, his replacement, is the scrub Karl Klug annihilated for a sack last year, but it probably won't matter. When I pegged Luck's potential at Aaron Rodgers at draft time, that pocket movement and ability to avoid rushers, while not necessarily avoiding sacks (the Colts rank 16th by Football Outsiders Adjusted Sack Rate), is why.
2. Against the Lions, the Colts averaged having more than 3 wide receivers on the field at the same time. Reggie Wayne played all 77 snaps, Donnie Avery 76, and TY Hilton 68, plus Lavon Brazill 18. Given my open mockery of an (albeit not as healthy) Lions cornerback grouping, this may have been a function of the opponent. I'd expect the Colts to have fewer than the at least 11 plays they had against the Lions without a running back on the field.
3. I compared Dwayne Allen to a Craig Stevens-type before the first matchup. That underrates Allen, who's a better athlete than I thought he was. The Titans were good last week against Texans tight end Owen Daniels, and I don't think Allen is quite Daniels' equal as a receiver, but he may be a better all-around player.
4. The Colts had a ton of trouble blocking the Lions defensive line and were unable to establish any sort of rushing attack. I don't know what this will mean against the Titans, considering the talent disparity won't be nearly so great.
5. The Titans didn't do as good a job as they could have done last game of attacking Cassius Vaughn, who's now starting after Jerraud Powers got hurt. That should be more of a priority this week.
6. Robert Mathis is back after missing the first game. Mike Otto did a nice job against Dwight Freeney filling in for Michael Roos last time, but it's a different ballgame with both Freeney and Mathis playing. I thought they both showed well against the Lions, even though the Colts didn't come up with any sacks.
7. These previews are hard to write at times because the Titans will do at least one thing terrible basically every week, but that thing (or things) will change from game to game. One thing I would expect to be terrible this week is the Titans' run game; the Lions were unproductive running last week, the Titans were just successful enough not to stop running in the first matchup and terrible against the Texans last week, and the Titans will be starting 4 backup offensive linemen.
8. This was in some ways a kind of a reversal from the game in Nashville. Then, the Titans only really had 7 possessions, while the Colts had 9 (including the one at the end of the fourth quarter). In this game, the Colts had the ball 16 times and the Lions 16 as well (including a garbage end of half possession). The Colts ran basically the same number of plays in both games, but they had four players with gains of 40+ yards compared to only one play of more than 22 yards against the Titans.
Now is the point at which I generally try to turn these thoughts on the opponent into some sort of conclusion. As I just noted, though, it's very hard to tell what you're going to get from the Titans in any given week. The defense actually played okay last week, but that was only their second performance of the season that was better than bad (Miami being the other one). The run offense, as I've already noted and as I also mentioned on Twitter, was terrible. The pass offense was, if anything, even worse. I don't even trust the defensive performance, as I thought the Texans really dialed things back after going up early. The Colts are not some great team the Titans couldn't beat, but it's just so hard for me to predict the Titans to do anything well in any given week. The Colts are favored by 6. That seems reasonable. If the Titans play well, they can win this game. If they don't, they'll lose. That more or less boils down to Jake Locker playing well. I don't trust him to, thus I predicted a Colts victory in my Q&A with Nate. I could easily be wrong on that.