The Indianapolis Colts play their home opener Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are coming off a victory against the Jaguars, in a game where they scored 34 unanswered points. The Colts came up short against the Broncos, but were very close to tying it up late. Both teams have highly efficient, fast paced offenses and you can expect this game to rack up a lot of points.
What the Colts Need to do to Win
The Colts have never lost back-to-back games in the Luck/Pagano era, so their intensity should be at a high.
On offense, the offense will need to be much more consistent than what they were last week. They have to be within 7 points of the Eagles at halftime in order for them to have a strong chance of winning; they cannot go down by 24 like they did last week. Last season and in this year’s preseason, the Colts got off to quick starts by going on pass heavy, no huddle drives and they effectively got the ball down the field. This is what the Colts should do in this game, they should come out with a bang and pass the ball 7 out of every 8 plays. This will eventually soften up the Eagles defense and then the Colts can establish a running game (as the game goes on). They need to have a quick start; it’s almost crucial in this game.
Andrew Luck needs to reduce the amount of risks and mistakes he makes. Luck needs to use his legs as well and he needs to gain yards with his feet. What he likes to do is force passes, even when there is a running lane open. He needs to stop taking risks and start utilizing his running ability more often.
In terms of the running backs, both Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw should see the field an equal amount of times. Both played well last week and their different skill sets compliment each other well, making it tough for the Eagles’ defense to predict. I’d like to see Trent Richardson on third downs, as he caught passes last week and blocked well. He’s the better option on those downs, but Bradshaw is good in short yardage situations and on early downs.
The receivers need to have a big game. Last week, only Wayne had a good game, with Hilton and Nicks having off nights. All three need to be on the same page tonight and they’ll need more of an impact from TY Hilton. Hilton had a crucial drop and didn’t have any impactful plays. He needs to be open down the field and needs to come up on crucial third downs. He needs to take some pressure off of Reggie Wayne. Hakeem Nicks doesn’t need to have a huge game as the #3 receiver but he needs to show up at times and he needs to make plays when the ball is coming his way; that is his role with the team.
Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener need to show up in the redzone. Allen played well last week but Fleener was horrendous and made some crucial errors. The Colts were close to winning the game and Fleener’s mistakes attributed to the loss, so he cannot have another week like that.
The offensive line will have a tough task against the Eagles front 7. Trent Cole is a tough player to handle, but Anthony Castonzo should do well against him. The issue is up the middle. Fletcher Cox can do some damage up the middle and the Eagles can get sacks from everything. They (and Andrew Luck) need to be wary of the blitzes the Eagles bring from every angle.
The offensive gameplan should be to come out and pass the ball a lot early on, and then as the game goes on, start to establish the run. In the 2nd half, they should obviously adjust to what happened in the first half but come out with a pass heavy attack. They need to get everyone involved.
On defense, they’ll need to get in Nick Foles’ face and make him make mistakes. He looked very bad in the first half last week against the Jaguars and that was due to the Jaguars getting great pressure on him and making him force passes.
The defensive line will be crucial in terms of stopping the running game. The Eagles have one of the best running games in the NFL with Lesean McCoy and Darren Sproles and they’ll need to slow down any runs up the middle. They’ll need to clog up holes and need to make McCoy second-guess his choices. That’s only half the battle with him, once he’s stuttering in the backfield; he needs to be wrapped and tackled, which is easier said than done with him. Getting to and swarming McCoy is crucially important to hindering their running game. They need to clog up the middle.
The linebackers are responsible for taking care of the running game and getting pressure on Nick Foles. Jerrell Freeman is out and Josh McNary will replace him. McNary played well last week and could do a good job as a starter. They should use him in blitz packages and let him penetrate the offensive line. He needs to get pressure up the middle and cover the tight ends. Jackson should worry about the running game and the running game only. He is not good in coverage. Bjoern Werner needs to try and get some pressure on Foles, but he’s going up against Jason Peters, so he should have a quiet game. That means that Erik Walden will have to get some pressure on the outside while setting the edge. He will be an important player for the Colts.
The secondary must eliminate the deep threat posed by the Eagles offense. The Eagles love to go deep and they do it often, so the safeties must eliminate that threat by playing extra deep on obvious passing downs and even on some early downs. They must play jam/man coverage on the line and they need to play the safeties over the top. If they can limit this passing offense, they’ll have a good chance of winning, because the Eagles offense thrives on those big plays. Jeremy Maclin needs to be watched as he can be a threat down the field or on quick, short passes.
The defensive gameplan should be to get pressure up the middle and to swarm Lesean McCoy and the running game. They should be cautious in coverage and completely eliminate any deep passes.
What the Eagles Need to do to Win
On offense, the Eagles need to stick to what they do best: wear down defenses with their fast paced offense. They need to have a balanced attack, and they need to make sure that they establish a running game. What the Eagles did so well was that gave McCoy the bulk of the carries, but they weren’t afraid to ride with Darren Sproles and give him carries when he was hot. The Eagles should ride the hotter back. In terms of passing the ball, Nick Foles needs to have a mistake free game. It will be tough with some of his offensive linemen out, but if the pressure is getting to him, they should establish a short, conservative passing attack with a fierce ground attack. If the Eagles can stay mistake free, establish a running game and keep Foles upright, they’ll be able to put up a lot of points on offense.
On defense, the Eagles will need to get pressure on Luck and they need to blitz up the gut. Their interior offensive line is weak and they’ll need to exploit it. They need to get Luck on the move and make him feel uncomfortable. In terms of coverages, Reggie Wayne needs to be watched over the intermediate part of the field and the safety need to play deep on obvious passing downs to eliminate the deep threat posed by TY Hilton. They need to have extra guys in coverage on passing downs, and get extra pressure on Luck to force him outside the pocket.
When you have two high flying offenses, you can expect to have some intriguing matchups at the skill positions, and that seems to be the case in this game.
The first big battle is between the Colts’ front 7 and the Eagles’ offensive line. The Eagles’ offensive line is banged up and the Colts don’t have Robert Mathis, meaning they’ll need to get pressure from other guys. If the Colts intend on slowing down their offense, they’ll need a stout pass rush.
Another big battle is between the Colts’ receivers and the Eagles’ secondary. The winner of this battle will have a big say in who wins the game. The Colts rely on their passing offense, and if the Eagles do a good job in taking away the Colts’ receivers, they’ll hinder what the Colts can do on offense.
No interceptions are thrown in the game.
Indianapolis Colts 26 vs Philadelphia Eagles 24