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Colts Weekly Preview: Week 1 Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills
It’s back! IT’S BACK! FOOTBALL IS BACK! I have been waiting for this day sense the eighteenth evening in January this year, when the Colts were thoroughly manhandled by the Patriots. I still have a sour taste in my mouth from that game, and am looking forward to some real football again (let’s face it preseason is not real).
I am so excited for this season because the Colts should actually have a running game. Even if Frank gore is a shell of his past self, he is still much better than Trent Richardson. Gore isn’t the only new addition to this already explosive offense; the Colts also obtained Andre Johnson in free agency. Johnson is coming in to replace Reggie Wayne, who the Colts opted to not resign in the offseason.
Reggie Wayne, an all-time great and future hall of famer, will certainly be missed this year by everyone in the Colts family. That being said, Johnson will be a pretty solid improvement at the position as Wayne was getting older and was having a hard time staying healthy. Wayne signed a two year deal with the worst team possible, the New England Patriots. Thankfully, Wayne was not enjoying football in the wrong shade of blue and asked to be released. If he does not get picked up by anyone (look for Green Bay to make a move), I wouldn’t be surprised that if the Colts catch the injury bug again this year, they knock on Reggie’s door. It would certainly be nice to hear the Reg-gie chants again in Lucas Oil Stadium.
If you want more of a team overview you can check that out on my Early Look at the 2015 Indianapolis Colts Hub.
What are the Colts strengths in this game?
Obviously every year is filled with surprises and we don’t know everything about the team yet, but the Colts’ offense should be even better than it was last year, and it was one of the best, despite not having an identity in the running game. With Andrew Luck as the signal caller, the Colts will always have a chance to score a lot of points and win. The Colts have one of if not the best receiving corps in the league and should be able to shred any defense.
The Colts also have a very good secondary led by Vontae Davis. They should look even better than they are this week when they play the Bills. Tyrod Taylor is the starting quarterback for the Bills and despite this being his fifth season in the league, he does not have much experience. To go along with the secondary, the Colts should have Robert Mathis back rushing the passer. Mathis should be able to put pressure on Taylor and force him into poor decisions.
What are the Bills strengths in this game?
The Bills are returning a top five defense from last year, and with adding Rex Ryan as the head coach, they look to build on that. The Bills have the whole package, they can stop the run and defend the pass. They will look to make the Colts one dimensional by taking away the run. If history tells us anything, the Colts will probably have a hard time running the ball as it is, and Frank Gore likely won’t be the reason why.
The Bills also like to run the ball, and will likely be forced to do so with Taylor in the backfield. Taylor was a very efficient runner in college and will probably have a pretty significant role in the Bills ground and pound philosophy. LeSean McCoy has come over from the Eagles and is looking to have an even better year than he did last year to get back at the Eagles for dumping him.
What are the Colts weaknesses in this game?
The Colts have a history of struggling to stop the run and with Arthur Jones being placed on the injured reserve (IR), they may struggle again this year. Reports are that Coach Chuck Pagano was more involved in the defense this year. Hopefully that is good news for the Colts as Pagano was once considered one of the great defensive minds in the NFL. With an inexperienced quarterback in the backfield, the Colts should be able to load the box to stop the run.
The Colts have also been inept in running the ball over the last few years. Having Gore in the backfield should definitely help, however, the Colts are not very deep at the position. Gore is an aging running back without a solid backup which could cause issues for the Colts. I see the Colts throwing the ball a lot more than running it like they did last year, but they will need to figure out a way to win in the trenches and open some holes for their backs.
What are the Bills weaknesses in this game?
The overwhelming issue for the Bills this year is going to be the same as it was last year, their quarterback play. Taylor may end up being a solution for the Bills in the long run, but he is going to have his lumps this year, especially early. He is a dangerous quarterback to game plan for, however, with his duel threat abilities. I see the Bills trying to model Russell Wilson and do mostly game managing while making a few big throws.
I wouldn’t call having Rex Ryan as your coach a weakness, but implementing a new system may take a few games for everyone to become comfortable. I think Ryan’s game planning and schemes, especially on the defensive side will serve the Bills well, but it may be too early in the year to see the full effects of the Ryan system.
Colts' Keys to the Game:
Can the Colts get Frank Gore and their running game going?
I feel like a broken record, but the last couple years have been dreadful in the running game for the Colts. They have brought in Gore to help balance this high powered offense, but will the 32 year old be able to hand a full load in the NFL. The Colts will likely try to use their passing game to open up their running game, and if they are potent enough through the air it should help give Gore some room to run.
How will the offensive line do in protection and opening holes for the running backs?
This offensive line has been rebuilt and the Colts are looking to improve in pass protection and run blocking this year. It shouldn’t be hard to improve as they were pretty bad last year. The anchor of the line is left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who has been the one solid piece for an ever changing unit. One thing is for sure, if the Colts want to take the next step this year, they will need to improve in this aspect of the game.
Can the Colts defense slow down the Bills running game?
I believe a large answer to this question will be answered if Vontae Davis and Greg Toller can lock down the receivers in man coverage to allow the rest of the defense to focus on the run. If the Colts don’t need to give additional help in the passing game, they should be able to accomplish the task at hand.
Bills' Keys to the Game:
Can the Bills move Luck off of his spot, and by making him move can they contain him?
The Bills cannot let Andrew Luck get comfortable in the pocket, they need to make him move and make throws on the run. They will need to knock him down and sack him if possible. If they do make him move out of the pocket, they will also need to make sure they don’t let him pick up large chunks of yards on the ground. Luck is a big, strong, athletic quarterback with deceiving speed, if he breaks contain he will make you pay.
Can the Bills get any production from their quarterback?
Taylor is a fifth year player out of Virginia Tech, but he hasn’t had much experience playing in the league. Like many inexperienced players he will have his ups and his downs, and he will probably have the ball out of his hands most of the game. Coach Ryan has said on numerous occasions he wants a gritty running game. Look for the Bills to try to bore the Colts running the ball and then take shots down the field.
Can the defense force turnovers and provide good field position to their young quarterback?
Andrew Luck threw more touchdowns than anyone else last year, but he also threw a lot of interceptions. He also had an issue holding onto the ball when getting sacked. The only player who turned the ball over more than Luck was the turnover machine, Jay Cutler. If the Bills can force turnovers on Sunday the Colts may be in trouble.
Who will win?
The Colts are the favorites to go into Buffalo and get the win, but I think it will a pretty hard fought fight. It is a game that the Colts could drop early in the season. However, I think the high powered passing game will allow the Colts to get an early lead, which will force the Bills to throw to keep up. Taylor is an inexperience quarterback and will struggle.
I pick the Colts to win and cover the two and a half point spread.
To check out the rest of my picks you can go my NFL WEEK 1 HUB.