INDIANAPOLIS — It's been a long eight months, but Indianapolis Colts football is back!
During the offseason, the team focused on adding more speed and playmaking ability to both sides of the ball in the NFL Draft, welcomed some talented veterans in free agency and saw a change of the guard at the quarterback position.
With all of that in mind, it's hard to know exactly what to expect from Week 1, but that's part of what makes it so exciting.
The team's' first opponent is a cross-country foe that the Colts have a long history with in the Los Angeles Chargers. Here's everything you need to know to get ready for Sunday afternoon's showdown.
- Sunday, Sept. 8, at 4:05 p.m. ET
- Carson, Calif.; Dignity Health Sports Park
- TV: CBS — Greg Gumbel (play-by-play), Trent Green (color) and Melanie Collins (sideline)
- Watch the Colts on Yahoo Sports or the Colts app, free on your phone or tablet. *Geographic and device restrictions apply. Local & primetime games only. Data charges may apply.
- Click here for more ways to watch.
- To find out what games will be on in your area, check here
- Radio: WFNI "1070 The Fan" and WLHK "HANK FM" — Matt Taylor (play-by-play), Jim Sorgi (color) and Larra Overton (sideline)
- Chargers lead, 16-10 (Colts are 1-2 in the playoffs). The Chargers have won three of the last four dating back to 2009.
- Last game — Week 3 of 2016. Colts won, 26-22.
- HC Frank Reich
- OC Nick Sirianni
- DC Matt Eberflus
- STC Bubba Ventrone
- HC Anthony Lynn
- OC Ken Whisenhunt
- DC Gus Bradley
- STC George Stewart
- OUT — DE Jabaal Sheard (knee), RB Jonathan Williams (rib)
- QUESTIONABLE — DE Kemoko Turay (neck), RB Jordan Wilkins (ankle)
- OUT — CB Trevor Williams (quad)
- DOUBTFUL — LB Jatavis Brown (ankle), WR Geremy Davis (hamstring), S Roderic Teamer (hamstring)
- QUESTIONABLE — K Michael Badgley (groin), LB Denzel Perryman (ankle), LB Drue Tranquill (back)
STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH
- Capitalize On Your Advantages — The Colts catch a break in this matchup with a few major players being out for the Chargers. Starting running back Melvin Gordon III has not yet reported to the team because of a contract dispute, starting left tackle Russell Okung is on the Non-Football Illness List after reportedly suffering from a pulmonary embolism caused by blood clots in the offseason, and All-Pro safety Derwin James is on Injured Reserve due to a foot injury. Los Angeles has capable players stepping up in those roles, but there are now areas where the Colts have clear advantages in certain matchups. If the Colts can capitalize on those, especially at left tackle, then they can make things incredibly difficult for the Chargers.
- Speed, Speed, Speed — In part what made the Colts' 2018 defense at times so effective (especially against the run) was its team speed. After adding even more speed this offseason with guys like Ben Banogu, Bobby Okereke, E.J. Speed and Marvell Tell III, will we see the defense's evolution continue into an overwhelming unit that offenses just can't get around?
- Brissett's Shiny, New Toys — Jacoby Brissett takes over as the starting quarterback and gets some dangerous new weapons in the process. Receivers Parris Campbell and Devin Funchess join an already talented group of pass-catchers, as does Deon Cain who missed his rookie season in 2018 with an ACL injury. In an offense that spreads the ball around and takes advantage of matchups, what will we see from these new cogs in the Colts' offensive machine?
- Picking Up Where The Colts Left Off — The Colts got off to a rough start in 2018, starting 1-5 before turning things around and earning a Wild Card spot in the playoffs with a 10-6 record. Will they pick up where they left off in the 2018 season on a high note, and can they avoid self-inflicted wounds in an early-season loss?
- Immediate Barometer Game For Colts — The Colts get a "how good are you?" game right away in this matchup, as do the Chargers. As we saw from last year, your performance in Week 1 far from determines who you will be as a team throughout the season, but the Colts could put the league on notice early with a strong performance against one of its most reputable teams.
- Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Chargers CB Casey Hayward Jr. — This matchup pits one of the league's top receivers against one of its top corners, and it's a chess match where both players are capable of moving around the lineup. Hilton in the slot against Desmond King II will also be one to watch, as King is already established as one of the NFL's top nickel defenders. Hilton did most of his 174-yard damage against Jason Verrett in the 2016 matchup, so it may be wise to make sure Hayward Jr. and King II are on him most of the time in this one.
- Colts OTs Anthony Castonzo/Braden Smith vs. Chargers DEs Melvin Ingram/Joey Bosa — This is an incredibly tall order for the Colts' tackles, but the same can be said for their counterparts. This offseason Castonzo said he physically feels as good as he ever has during his time in the NFL, and Smith should naturally progress going into his second season as a starting right tackle. This was also be his first offseason training strictly as a tackle.
- Colts DT Denico Autry vs. Chargers C Mike Pouncey — Being one of the league's top centers, the Chargers gave Pouncey a one-year extension this week to ensure they have his services through next season. He gets to continue proving his worth right off the bat against Autry, a defensive tackle who totaled 7.0 sacks in the second half of last season.
- Colts LB Darius Leonard vs. Chargers TE Hunter Henry — Henry will likely see several different matchups against the Colts defense, but one that makes a lot of sense on short to intermediate routes would be against Leonard, the league's reigning tackle king. Leonard had some really nice moments in the pass game as a rookie in 2018, so this is an attractive matchup.
- Colts CBs Kenny Moore II/Pierre Desir vs. Chargers WRs Keenan Allen/Mike Williams — Moore II against Allen will be one to keep your eyes glued to the entire day. Both players move around from the boundary and into the slot, so Moore II seems likely to be on Allen throughout this contest. While Allen is one of the NFL's premier receivers and is a technician as a route runner, he'll have one of its budding slot defenders on him in Moore II. Meanwhile, Desir (6-1, 192) vs. Williams (6-4, 220) will be the size-vs.-size matchup in which we've seen Desir have success before against similarly-framed receivers.
- Head referee: Shawn Smith (5 years). Click here to see all referee assignments for Week 1.
- Favorite: Chargers (-6.5)
- Over/Under: 44.5
RETURNING 2018 LEADERS
- Rushing — RB Marlon Mack (908 yards)
- Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (1,270 yards)
- Touchdowns — TE Eric Ebron (14)
- Tackles — LB Darius Leonard (163)
- Sacks — DL Denico Autry (9.0)
- Interceptions — CB Kenny Moore II (3)
- Passing — QB Philip Rivers (4,308 yards)
- Rushing — RB Melvin Gordon III (885 yards)
- Receiving — WR Keenan Allen (1,196 yards)
- Touchdowns — RB Melvin Gordon III (14)
- Tackles — S Derwin James (105)
- Sacks — DE Melvin Ingram (7.0)
- Interceptions — S Derwin James, CB Desmond King II (3)
COMPARING 2018 STATS
- Total offense — 7th (386.2 YPG)
- Scoring offense — 5th (27.1 PPG)
- Passing offense — 6th (278.8 YPG)
- Sacks allowed — 1st (18)
- Running offense — 20th (107.4 YPG)
- Third down offense — 1st (48.6%)
- Red zone offense — 5th (67.1%)
- Total defense — 11th (339.4 YPG)
- Scoring defense — 10th (21.5 PPG)
- Passing defense — 16th (237.8 YPG)
- Sacks — Tied-19th (38)
- Running defense — 8th (101.6 YPG)
- Third down defense — 23rd (41%)
- Red zone defense — 11th (55.1%)
- Time of possession — 18th (30:05)
- Turnover differential — Tied-13th (2)
- Total offense — 11th (372.6 YPG)
- Scoring offense — Tied-6th (26.8 PPG)
- Passing offense — 10th (255.6 YPG)
- Sacks allowed — Tied-10th (34)
- Running offense — 15th (117.1 YPG)
- Third down offense — 16th (39.5%)
- Red zone offense — 8th (64.4%)
- Total defense — 9th (333.7 YPG)
- Scoring defense — 8th (20.6 PPG)
- Passing defense — 9th (227.9 YPG)
- Sacks — Tied-19th (38)
- Running defense — 9th (105.8 YPG)
- Third down defense — 18th (39%)
- Red zone defense — 10th (52.5%)
- Time of possession — 13th (30:43)
- Turnover differential — Tied-15th (1)
NOTES AND QUOTES
- Colts head coach Frank Reich on the challenge the Chargers' defense presents: "Man, they've got two great edge pass rushers – not just pass rushers, they are great players. Thomas Davis at linebacker is an incredible player I have always thought. Really good secondary, instinctive players, this is a very well-coached defense. The teams that play this scheme, they tend to play that coverage 90 percent of the time. They play their form of three-deep zone. They play it a very high percentage of time. They have change ups that they do, but the theory behind that is they know how to play it and they play it well. It all starts with being able to run the football and being able to protect the passer. Those are going to be keys to victory."
- Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus on what makes the Chargers' offense so dangerous: "Well, the quarterback number one. Just the command he has of the offense and for how long he has done it. What a special player he is. Year after year the numbers he puts up and what he's been able to accomplish. I can't say enough about him. That's what stands out number one. Then I think his complement of skill players that he has if it's the backs out of the backfield or (Keenan) Allen, (Mike) Williams – all of the receivers that he has. Having the addition of the tight end (Hunter Henry) coming back I think that's good too for them. They are a well-accomplished offense and they have been for quite some time."
- Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn on Colts defensive end Justin Houston: "I'll tell you what, he is a skilled rusher. I mean he sets the edge in the run game and he can get after you in the passing game. He is going to be a force to be reckoned with like he always has been for us (laughs). I've seen him a lot here. Yeah, I was glad when he left the division, but then I got him Week 1. So, oh well (laughing)."
- Colts running back Marlon Mack needs one 100-yard rushing performance to tie Dominic Rhodes (five) for the 10th-most such games in franchise history.
- Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton needs one receiving touchdown to pass Jim Mutscheller (40) for the seventh-most receiving touchdowns in franchise history. Hilton also needs one game with 10-plus receptions to pass Don McCauley, Lydell Mitchell, Joe Washington, Anthony Johnson and Dallas Clark (3) for the third-most such games in franchise history.
- Colts tight end Jack Doyle needs 59 receiving yards to pass Tom Mitchell (1,786) for the seventh-most receiving yards by a tight end in franchise history.
- Colts tight end Eric Ebron needs two receiving touchdowns to pass Jack Doyle (14) for the eight-most receiving touchdowns by a tight end in franchise history.
- Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri needs one game played to pass Gary Anderson (353) for the second-most games played in NFL history.
CATCH BEFORE THE GAME
- Colts Release First Unofficial Depth Chart Of 2019 Regular Season
- Colts Quick Scouting Report: Week 1 Vs. Los Angeles Chargers
- Colts Daily Notebook: Chargers Preparation Goes Into Overdrive
- 2019 Colts Fantasy Preview: Colts/Chargers, Week 1
- Colts Daily Notebook: Justin Houston Has Quite The History Against Chargers
- Jabaal Sheard, Jonathan Williams Ruled Out Sunday Against Chargers