The Indianapolis Colts take on the Minnesota Vikings today in their home opener at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts, who lost 41-21 last week against the Chicago Bears, look for a rebound performance and try to get rookie quarterback Andrew Luck his first ever NFL win.
Lest you forget, Luck’s numbers (and results) from his first game were eerily similar to that of Peyton Manning’s first start. If that pattern continues, it might not look too good for Indy. In Manning’s second game, he threw for only 188 yards with a 63.7% completion rating, and a touchdown, but also another 3 interceptions, all giving him passer rating of 51.1. I expect that we are going to see slightly improved numbers for Luck than that, however. Luck threw for three interceptions last week, but one of those came off of a tipped pass, and the other was an under thrown ball where Luck was certain he was getting an off sides call that he never got. He’s going to be a little sharper about those things against the Vikings, who aren’t exactly the Bears, defensively speaking. Against the Jaguars last week, Blaine Gabbert was able to throw for 260 yards and no interceptions. Granted, the Jaguars have Maurice Jones-Drew in the backfield who is the legitimate run threat that Indianapolis so far lacks. That can open up quite a lot in the pass game, no matter who you play.
The Colts again are dealing with injuries. Already ruled out for today’s games are OLB Dwight Freeney, WR Austin Collie, and LG Joe Reitz. RT Winston Justice suffered a concussion last week, but has been cleared to start today’s game. The Colts defense started very strong against Chicago, but when Freeney went out with a sprained ankle, Jay Cutler started eating the secondary up. The Vikings don’t have the big, deep threat that the Bears do in Brandon Marshall, but they do have a play-maker in Percy Harvin. Oh yeah, and some guy named Adrian Peterson. With Freeney’s absence, Pat Angerer’s absence, and the (lack of) cohesion of the secondary so far, Peterson could have a monster game.
3 Things to Watch
Colts Offensive Line – I get that the guys on the offensive line is are mostly new and still trying to mesh with one another. But their going up against another defense that can flat out get after the quarterback, especially all-pro DE Jared Allen. Given the type of performance the line gave last week (mostly after Justice left from his concussion), Allen has to be extremely excited to play this game. LT Anthony Castonzo and Justice will have to give their complete A-games to keep Luck off his back today.
Adrian Peterson – Any questions about Peterson’s health and conditioning rehabbing from an ACL tear last year were answered definitively against Jacksonville. Peterson carried 17 times for 84 yards, scoring twice. Against the Freeney and Angerer-less Colts defense, don’t be surprised to see Peterson have a 20-25 carry day.
Donald Brown – The numbers last week actually weren’t too bad – 9 carries for 48 yards and 1 touchdown. But the majority of that came on two runs on the same drive, each for 18 yards. So if you take those away, on the other 7 carries, Brown only totaled 12 yards. Ouch. He also dropped two wide open passes, on that would have extended an Indianapolis drive instead of forcing a punt. Make no mistake, Brown has to play better if he wants to stay the Colts primary option at running back, and Luck needs the help to open up things down field.
My 5 Predictions
Andrew Luck – We touched on this earlier. I don’t expect another Peyton Manning mirror game by Luck. I think he puts a little more touch on his passes and gets a bit more help in the drop department by his receivers not named Reggie Wayne. Here’s my best guess – 20/34 passing (58.8%), 272 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT.
Robert Mathis – If there was one bright spot last week for the defense, it was Mathis. The highest paid defensive player in the NFL registered two sacks last week, and will be going up against a rookie LT in Matt Kalil. And if the Colts don’t line Mathis up against Kalil to start with, they should just hang it up there. Mathis gets another 2 sacks today.
Colts defense – Peterson is going to be the key on this one. The Colts big guys (Cory Redding, Antonio Johnson, and Fili Moala) have to get some penetration to force Peterson outside. Even then, Peterson has the speed to break into the secondary where he can do some real damage, so Mathis and Jerry Hughes will have to be disciplined and not out-run the tackle as the case has been in both pre-season and last week’s game.
Vikings offense – I think Christian Ponder will be a decent quarterback, but I don’t see him duplicating his success against Jacksonville last week. The focus on this game will be run heavy, to loosen up the colts secondary, and then will occasionally throw it deep to try and make the big plays. Ponder will throw for only a max of 200 yards, and the Colts will notch their first INT of the season by a cornerback (Jerrell Freeman, who ran one back last week, is a linebacker).
Final score – Colts 20, Minnesota 14.
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