2019 Colts Season Preview: Colts/Chargers, Week 1

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts' season kicks off in the Los Angeles Chargers' cozy 27,000-seat soccer stadium in Week 1. But don't you go thinking a smaller home crowd will make this any less tough of a matchup for the Colts.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is still determined as ever as he chases that elusive first Super Bowl appearance. Rivers is a familiar target for new Colts edge rusher Justin Houston, who has 7.5 career sacks against the Chargers. Rivers also makes up a third of one of the league's top sets of triplets with running back Melvin Gordon and wide receiver Keenan Allen. Tight end Hunter Henry should also be back in action after sitting out 2018 with a torn ACL.

Quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts' electric offense will have an excellent matchup against a loaded Chargers defense featuring one of the NFL's top pass-rush tandems in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, as well as cornerback Casey Hayward and safety Derwin James patrolling the secondary.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Sunday, Sept. 8 at 4:05 p.m. ET
  • Carson, Calif.; Dignity Health Sports Park
  • TV: CBS

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • 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.

COACHING STAFF

Colts:

  • HC Frank Reich
  • OC Nick Sirianni
  • DC Matt Eberflus
  • STC Bubba Ventrone

Chargers:

  • HC Anthony Lynn
  • OC Ken Whisenhunt
  • DC Gus Bradley
  • STC George Stewart

KEY NEW FACES

Colts:

  • DE/LB Ben Banogu
  • WR Parris Campbell
  • WR Devin Funchess
  • DE Justin Houston
  • CB Rock Ya-Sin

Chargers:

  • S Nasir Adderley
  • LB Thomas Davis
  • DL Jerry Tillery
  • LB Drue Tranquill

OTHER SIGNIFICANT CHANGES

Colts:

  • Overall, this was a pretty quiet offseason for the Colts for a change. It was about building onto and shaping the current roster rather than shaking things up or making sweeping changes. Former starting receivers Ryan Grant and Dontrelle Inman both departed in free agency, and veterans Mike Mitchell and Al Woods also were not re-signed by the team. Offensive lineman Matt Slauson retired following a 10-year career.

Chargers:

  • There are several notable names no longer with the Chargers, as safety Jahleel Addae, linebacker Kyle Emanuel, tight end Antonio Gates, defensive tackle Darius Philon, cornerback Jason Verrett and wide receiver Tyrell Williams are all no longer with the organization.

EARLY STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH

  • Picking Up Where The Colts Left Off — The Colts got off to a rough start in 2018, going 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?
  • 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 and Marvell Tell III, will we see the defense's evolution continue into an overwhelming unit that offenses can't get around?
  • Luck's Shiny, New Toys — Luck got some dangerous new weapons this offseason in receivers Parris Campbell and Devin Funchess. Deon Cain is also expected back after missing his 2018 rookie season with an ACL injury. With how much Luck loves to spread the ball around, what will we see from these new cogs in the Colts' offensive machine?
  • Can Colts Special Teams Harass Young Chargers Specialists? — The Chargers have really struggled with their placekicking game in the past couple seasons. Former Colt Michael Badgley, going into his second season, seemed to level things out for them last season, but he is only going into season No. 2. Likewise, among Los Angeles' two punters, one is a rookie undrafted free agent in Tyler Newsome, and the other is a journeyman who hasn't been on a roster since 2016 in Ty Long. The Colts' special teams are very good under coordinator Bubba Ventrone. Will they be able to rattle the Chargers specialists' cage?
  • 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.

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

  • Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Chargers CB Casey Hayward — We may not see this matchup much if the 2016 game is any indicator, but when we do, it should be quite the battle. This pits one of the league's top receivers against one of its top corners. Hilton in the slot against Desmond King will also be one to watch, as King is already established as one of the NFL's top nickel defenders.
  • Colts TE Eric Ebron vs. Chargers S Derwin James — This may be the matchup of the day, as the league's reigning tight end touchdown leader goes up against one of the league's truly elite safeties.
  • 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. Castonzo 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 will also be his first offseason training strictly as a tackle.
  • Colts DE Justin Houston vs. Chargers OT Russell Okung — The Colts' new defensive weapon gets a matchup he's familiar with right out of the gate, as Houston and Okung know each other through their AFC West battles over the last two seasons.
  • 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 vs. Williams will be the size-vs.-size matchup in which we've seen Desir have success against the likes of DeAndre Hopkins

BETTING LINE

RETURNING LEADERS

Colts:

  • Passing — QB Andrew Luck (4,593 yards)
  • 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)

Chargers:

  • Passing — QB Philip Rivers (4,308 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Melvin Gordon (885 yards)
  • Receiving — WR Keenan Allen (1,196 yards)
  • Touchdowns — RB Melvin Gordon (14)
  • Tackles — S Derwin James (105)
  • Sacks — DE Melvin Ingram (7.0)
  • Interceptions — S Derwin James, CB Desmond King (3)

COMPARING 2018 STATS

Colts:

  • 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)

Chargers:

  • 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

  • Andrew Luck needs one rushing touchdown to pass Bert Jones (14) for the second-most in franchise history for a quarterback.
  • Marlon Mack needs one 100-yard rushing performance to tie Dominic Rhodes (five) for the 10th-most such games in franchise history.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Eric Ebron needs two receiving touchdowns to pass Jack Doyle (14) for the eight-most receiving touchdowns by a tight end in franchise history.
  • Adam Vinatieri needs one game played to pass Gary Anderson (353) for the second-most games played in NFL history.

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