Okay, now that we’ve had a chance to digest the news that we won’t be seeing Andrew Luck for 4-6 weeks, we can finally turn our attention to an actual game. The team will be facing a good test right out of the gate against the Atlanta Falcons, a team that started off hot, but since has looked not quite the same. So as you can see it is a good opportunity for the Colts to see where they stand against a quality opponent.
The team will depend on their “new” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to shoulder the load in absence of Luck, but as witnessed earlier this season he is more than capable running the offense. This won’t be a simple plug in player and expect the same results. Hasselbeck’s approach is more reliant upon a true version of the west coast offense by getting the ball out quick and relying on shorter plays as opposed to the homerun hit. That’s not saying we won’t see him take his shots, but he won’t hold onto the ball like Luck does when he’s looking for the play to develop. Expect him to hit his checkdown if nothing is open on his primary reads. Look for him to target all of the weapons on offense if he sees them open. Hasselbeck is very accurate and careful with the ball. The only concern remains his durability and if he’ll be able to play an extended series of game.
Along with Hasselbeck, Frank Gore will have to help offset Luck not playing. Coach Chuck Pagano even indicated earlier in the week that Gore will no longer be limited to play count that was enacted earlier in the season. Gore has been flirting with a 100 yard game multiple times this season and now with the restrictions being lifted it seems that he might hit the mark which is something Colts fans have not witnessed since 2012. The line has improved since the shuffle early in the season along with change from Khaled Holmes to Jonotthon Harrison at center, Gore should be able to rack up yards with the holes opening up more.
A lot was made about the change from former O.C. Pep Hamilton to the current one Rob Chudzinski, but after the game that was played against the Broncos the team suddenly looks to be much improved offensively. One game doesn’t make a season, but what we witnessed was a team that suddenly found it’s identity.
The defense will get the opportunity to show whether they can handle good offenses when they try to stop Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Donte Freeman whom has been tearing up defenses this season. The team will have a much more difficult time stopping the run since standout rookie Henry Anderson went down with a season ending injury. Probably just as important for the defense in determining how the defense plays will be the play of cornerback Greg Toler. Look, Toler is not very good, but unfortunately he’s the best the team has behind Vontae Davis who also has been playing below his level. If Toler can avoid those plays that he seems to get caught chasing down the receiver after getting burned the then the secondary has a chance to regain their moniker-“The No Fly Zone”. Also factoring in to the secondary is starting safety Mike Adams who will miss this game. He has been one of the bright spots this season on the defense.
So what are the chances for a win by the Colts? Sure the deck seems stacked against the them: on the road, without Luck, playing an unfamiliar opponent, but after the win against the Broncos last week the team has some confidence playing a team whom many are expecting to beat the Colts. Factor in Houston and Jacksonville’s recent wins and the team can’t afford too many more losses down the stretch in order to stay in control of the AFC South race. I expect a close game and game that could propel this team to the next level. Colts pull out a squeaker 27-24.