In order for the Indianapolis Colts to pull out a Week 1 win, the team will have to play their hearts out against a powerful divisional rival, the Houston Texans. But the Colts will need to do more than just play a well-fought game.
With Peyton Manning out for the first time in 208 consecutive games, veteran Kerry Collins will step in as the guy under center for the Colts, and while fans shouldn't expect the Colts to dominate the Texans, all hope isn't lost.
Now that Manning is out indefinitely, the importance of holding down the fort has set in, and Collins has the next-guy-up mentality. Let's take a look at the keys to success for the Colts.
Clyde Christensen might be the Colts' offensive coordinator, and he helps devise the Colts' game plan, but Peyton Manning has been the guy who calls all of the plays.
It is important that Manning travels to Houston with the team, unless for some reason it would be detrimental to the healing process.
Manning would be able to give advice and impart his knowledge of the system on Kerry Collins, and he could use his savvy thinking to help draw up plays.
If the Colt's want a shot at coming out of Houston ahead, they should think about using Manning on the sideline.
It's no secret the Colts will run more than they would have if Peyton Manning was playing.
Due to injury, Joseph Addai only saw action in eight games in the regular season last year, so Addai's backups, Delone Carter and Donald Brown, will get a lot of carries.
Expect the players to see the ball around 40-45 times as the Colts will try to speed the game up and control the clock, but it is important that Kerry Collins keeps the defense honest as well.
Collins will need to test the Texans' safeties and take some shots down field so the Houston defense can't stack the box.
The Colts will need a productive running game on Sunday to be successful, and they will try to establish the run early.
With the power of the Houston offense, the Colts will have to pick their poison. They will have to either give up passing yards or rushing yards, but with the possibility that Arian Foster is going to miss the game and the mere existence of Andre Johnson, the Colts should try to force the Texans to run.
Even if Foster is not playing, or struggling to produce because his hamstring is bothering him, the running game will still be difficult to stop. The Texans have solid backups in Ben Tate, Derrick Ward, and there might even be a Steve Slaton sighting.
The Colts don't want a shootout, and they will need to control the clock. One way of doing so is to make the Texans run the ball, and that is likely what defensive coordinator Larry Coyer will try to do.
One of the most prolific offensive players in the NFL, Andre Johnson, will need to be double teamed throughout the game.
Double teaming Johnson doesn't guarantee that he will be stopped, but it gives the Colts the best chance of forcing the run by trying to taking away Matt Schaub's favorite weapon.
The Texans have other players that can catch the ball. Tight ends Joel Dreessen and Owen Daniels, and wide receivers Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones, are all capable.
The Colts will need to pay attention to all of them, but Johnson is so good if left open he could put up more points that all the others combined.
Sir Isaac Newton would have trouble learning the Colts intricate offense in two weeks, so don't expect Kerry Collins to.
Clyde Christensen will need to dumb down the playbook, and he should pick plays that show Collins' strengths.
Some plays in the Colts' playbook are predicated on precision passing and timing. Those plays should be thrown out until Collins gets a better grasp of the playbook and a better feel for the Colts' receivers.
In Collins' prime, he was known for his rocket arm, and although he doesn't have the cannon he once had, Collins can still move the ball down field. While the Colts should keep some of the short yardage plays, they should also let Collins air it out.
Now that Wade Philips has instituted a new 3-4 scheme for the Texans, former first-overall draft pick Mario Williams has moved from defensive end to weak-side linebacker.
It still has to be seen if Williams can have the same impact he did as an end, but the offensive line needs to keep an eye on the him.
If he can get free, Williams will be giving Kerry Collins a headache all day long, literally.
Even though he will try to get the ball out of his hands quickly, Kerry Collins will need the offensive line to have a great game.
With a massive amount of inexperience across the offensive line, except for Jeff Saturday at center, the Colts linemen will be learning on the job.
Luckily, the Colts start the season off going against a mediocre defense (although the Texans' defense has improved by signing Johnathan Joseph at cornerback and Wade Philips as defensive coordinator), but if the linemen can't get it together it could be a long day and a long season for the Colts.
The Pro Bowl defensive ends, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, will need to contain the run off the edge, but they will also have to get after Matt Schaub.
Third-round draft pick, Drake Nevis, will provide depth behind Fili Moala and Antonio Johnson at defensive tackle, who will all have to plug up the middle of the line.
If the linebackers are used heavily in coverage, the defensive line will be tasked with stopping the Texans running game, a must if the Colts want to keep the game low scoring.
Whoever is throwing the ball, they need to find Reggie Wayne.
Wayne is the Colts' number one wide receiver, and in each of the past five years he has had over 80 receptions.
Wayne might be used to draw attention away from the Colts' other weapons, but Collins should test the Houston coverage a time or two.
Although the Colts will try to pound the ball against the Texans, Collins needs to make a point of getting Wayne involved in the game.
Reggie Wayne should see the ball, but Kerry Collins needs to find other players and spread the ball around, too.
Dallas Clark has the grit needed to catch the ball over the middle, and he also provides Collins with another deep threat. Whether Colllins is checking down or bombing the ball, he should be looking for Clark.
Austin Collie is sort of like a running back in the slot. Peyton Manning used him to pick up first down after first down as well as finding him in the end zone. Collie is one of the team's most dangerous red-zone threats and when the team's needs a score, Collins should use the sure-handed Collie.
Pierre Garcon's speed is another weapon for the Colt's offense. The Texans just don't have the depth to cover such a talented group of wide receivers, and Garcon should be able to take advantage of that.
If the Colts are having trouble with pass protection, they should use two tight end sets with Jacob Tamme and Clark. The two can help with protection, or after a chip block they could release off the line to catch a short pass, which will also help with the many blitzes the Colts offense will see.
Collins will be heading a offense that's loaded with talent, and if he can make some nice throws, the Colts might just score more than everyone assumes they will.