5 Bold Predictions for Indianapolis Colts' Week 6 Matchup
There are some bold predictions you can expect to play out in this game.
After starting the season at 1-1 after a close win over the Oakland Raiders and a disappointing loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Colts are now looking like one of the best teams in football. They've gone 3-0 since trading for Trent Richardson with big wins over the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.
The mentality of this Colts team is completely different than from a season ago. After a pass-heavy season and a struggling defense in 2012, the Colts now firmly believe in running the ball and playing physical defense, which is really starting to pay off.
Facing the Chargers isn't going to be an automatic win for Indianapolis. Those simply don't exist in today's NFL, but here are my bold predictions for the game, which I believe the Colts will win.
Andrew Luck Throws for 350 Yards or More
A year ago, a big passing performance would have been expected from Andrew Luck.
He had three games of over 350 yards passing along with six games over more than 300 yards passing.
This season, Luck has thrown for over 300 yards just once, back in a Week 2 loss to the Dolphins. He has 1,144 yards passing so far this season, but that number is going to go up quite a bit this week.
The Chargers have struggled mightily on defense. Last week, they gave up 27 points against the Raiders with Terrelle Pryor throwing for 221 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 135.7 on the day. The Chargers rank 27th in the NFL in pass defense, allowing an average of 288.8 passing yards per game.
As much as the Colts like to run, they need a game to get Luck going. His numbers look much better this season, although not as flashy. He has completed 62.2 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and two interceptions for a 94.1 passer rating.
A weak Chargers' secondary will to give T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne space to make more plays. The Colts may be playing ahead of the Chargers for most of this game, but it will be a great opportunity to give Luck a chance to air it out and start opening up more rushing lanes.
Donald Brown Runs for More Yards Than Trent Richardson
You can cue the boos now.
Donald Brown has become an unpopular player in Indianapolis over the past couple of seasons, but he's stepped up big when called upon so far this season. His rushing DVOA in 2013 is the highest for any back in the league with fewer than 40 rushes at 65.2 percent according to Football Outsiders.
The Colts' trade for Trent Richardson has been an exciting one that a lot of fans are happy with right now. Still, he's trying to get more comfortable in this offense. He ran for just 56 yards on 18 carries last Sunday against Seattle, averaging 3.1 yards per carry. He broke a couple of big runs in the second half, but that first half was really ugly.
So far, Brown has rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown on only 19 carries. Yes, you heard that right, Brown is averaging 8.3 yards per carry.
The Chargers don't do a good job against the run, and while Richardson is a good starting back, I think the decisiveness of Brown will lead to some big runs and let him outrush Richardson this week.
Antonio Gates Gets Two Touchdowns
The Colts haven't had to play against any big names at the tight end position yet this season.
However, when they played the Miami Dolphins, their young tight end/fullback hybrid Charles Clay had five catches for 109 yards, including a 67-yard gain.
Antonio Gates is the Chargers' leading receiver through five weeks. He has caught 32 passes for 438 yards and two touchdowns. He has the third-highest receiving DVOA for tight ends, according to Football Outsiders at 23.1 percent, trailing only Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas.
This is going to be a real mismatch for the Colts that we just haven't gotten a good look at yet. They could have had the opportunity to play against Vernon Davis in Week 3 against the 49ers, but he sat out injured.
I think the Colts have a bit of trouble containing Gates, a future Hall of Famer, and Gates will be able to find the end zone a couple of times in this game.
Robert Mathis Continues Incredible Hot Streak
Robert Mathis is on an absolute tear and on an incredibly unrealistic pace that isn't going to slow down on Monday night.
At 32 years old, Mathis leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks through five games. At this rate, he's on pace for over 30 sacks, which would shatter the previous record of 22.5 by Michael Strahan. According to Pro Football Focus, Mathis has the top pass-rush grade for 3-4 outside linebackers with a 9.2 grade. He had a huge game against the Seahawks with two sacks, including a strip-sack to end the first half.
Meanwhile, Chargers left tackle King Dunlap presents a mismatch. He's been a good lineman in the running game, but he has struggled in pass protection, which is strange considering the fact that the Chargers haven't faced many elite pass-rushers to this point.
Philip Rivers has been sacked just eight times this season, but that number will reach double-digits with ease on Monday night. Mathis is going to continue dominating offensive linemen and will still lead the league in sacks after this week.
The Colts Improve to 5-1 in Dominating Fashion
Even though they lost to the Raiders last week, the Chargers are a good football team.
However, that's not going to be the case for the Chargers against the Colts.
As negative as I've been on them over this season, the Colts continue to exceed my expectations. I was legitimately prepared for two blowout losses to the 49ers and Seahawks, but the Colts stuck with their game plan and came away with big wins.
The Chargers have a much weaker defense than either of those two teams. They rank 29th in total defense with 406 yards allowed a game and they don't have a lot of talent in that area.
On offense, the Chargers will struggle containing Robert Mathis and making plays through the air against the tough secondary of Greg Toler, Vontae Davis, Antoine Bethea and Darius Butler.
It may sound too positive, but I'm officially sold on this team as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. This game will only confirm my beliefs.