Indianapolis Colts (0-0) at Buffalo Bills (0-0)
Sunday, September 13th
1 PM ET, CBS
The Colts have been mentioned as the favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, and while I’m not quite ready to go there just yet, it’s clearly apparent that they have one of the best teams in the league. Leading the offense is Andrew Luck. While his DirecTV ads are painful, his play on the field isn’t, as he is the second best quarterback in the league right now. Luck can make every throw on the field, he’s very cerebral, and when the protection breaks down in front of him (which it does frequently), he has good enough speed to take off and pick up solid yards. As if having the game’s second best passer wasn’t enough, Luck got some new weapons this offseason that have made the offense downright unstoppable. Andre Johnson was acquired via free agency from division rival Houston, while Phillip Dorsett was selected in the first round. Both of these University of Miami alumni should be contributors this season, as Johnson should break double digit touchdowns while Dorsett is fast enough to get by almost any defender. Those two, as well as T.Y. Hilton, who had his best season as a pro last year, make up what may be the best receiving core in the NFL. They’ll face perhaps their toughest test of the season this week as the Bills have a great secondary. Stephon Gilmore is an underrated corner who is a true number one at the position. Ronald Darby was inconsistent this preseason, but he’s got enough talent to improve as the season prgresses. And aptly named nickelback Nickell Robey is one of the best in the business at his spot. Those corners combined with the stellar safety play of Corey Graham and Aaron Williams will provide Indianapolis’ passing attack with quite the challenge.
As mentioned, Indianapolis added weapons to their offense this offseason. After having a porous rushing attack last year, the Colts picked up former San Francisco great Frank Gore to provide stability in the backfield. Gore still looks like a player in his prime, as his diminished workload led people to believe he’d lost a step. Back on another title contending team, Gore should have another big season this year. Unfortunately for Gore, he faces a stiff challenge this week, as Buffalo owns one of the league’s top rushing defenses. Marcell Dareus, the team’s nose tackle, is suspended for this contest, but the Williams “brothers”, Kyle and Mario, should be able to pick up the slack. Linebackers Preston Brown and Nigel Bradham are both very adept at stopping the run. The one weakness on the Indianapolis offense is their offensive line. Outside of tackles Anthony Castonzo and Jack Mewhort, the Colts offensive line is very mediocre, so keeping the Bills top ranked defense could prove to be a tough task.
While Indianapolis owns one of the game’s top passers, Buffalo has been mired in quarterback controversy all offseason. It seems like they may hav found the answer, for now, in Tyrod Taylor. Taylor had a very impressive preseason, in which some members of the media stated that he reminded them of Russell Wilson. The fact of the matter is is that Taylor has only had one career start and hasn’t even attempted a gamesworth of passes yet. Taylor does have a good supporting cast around him, though. Sammy Watkins was plagued by porous quarterback play last year, but still managed to almost put up 1000 yards. He has otherwordly talent. Opposite him is Robert Woods, a solid complement to Watkins. Buffalo also has Percy Harvin, who, if he can stay healthy, could add a dimision to the Bills offense that hasn’t been there in years. Harvin can play runningback in addition to wide reciver, so expect to see him utilized in both roles Sunday. The Colts don’t have a very good pass defense outside of Vontae Davis, who is one of the league’s best at cornerback.
For years Buffalo has relied on Fred Jackson to be the team’s lead back. Other players were expected to play the position, but Jackson outworked them year in and year out and cemented him place in Buffalo allure. This offseason the Bills brought in LeSean McCoy to become their franchise back, which effectively ended Jackson’s tender in Buffalo. McCoy has proven himself for years as one of the game’s best at the position, and now he’ll be tasked with being the bell cow for the offense. McCoy doesn’t have too difficult a matchup this week, as Indianapolis doesn’t have much of a run defense. While D’Qwell Jackson is still a tackling machine, the loss of Arthur Lynch was huge for a stop unit already lacking playmakers. Buffalo also has a solid offensive line, led by left tackle Cordy Glenn, which should be able to stymie the Colts improved pass rush.
Henry Anderson. Anderson is a rookie defensive end from Stanford, and he was one of the key players on a Stanford stop unit known for handling almost any offense it faced. Anderson, despite being 290 pounds, was able to get after the quarterback at a solid rate his senior year in Palo Alto while also being the team’s top run stuffer. With Arthur Jones out for the season, Anderson will have to grow up quickly, as Rex Ryan loves to run the football. This will be a big test for Anderson, but one he proved he could handle while playing for the tree.
Tyrod Taylor. Calling the quarterback an X-factor is a no-brainer, but with the type of talent Buffalo has on its roster, the play of Taylor will certainly be the deciding factor for the team in this game. Taylor has the ability to take off and run at will, something he did a lot in the preseason. Taylor also exhibited a live throwing arm, and he wasn’t afraid to stay in the pocket and finish his throws through contact. If Taylor can play smart and not turn the ball over, Buffalo has more than a fighting chance against the AFC favorites.
Result: Buffalo 23, Indianapolis 17
Our first upset of the season, albeit a minor one. All anyone wants to talk about is how unstoppable the Colts offense is. And while it is a top ranked attack, the Bills proved in multiple games last year that it could handle elite quarterbacks. The fact that this game is also being played in Buffalo is just the icing on the cake. I believe Tyrod Taylor will be smart with the football, and LeSean McCoy and the other runningbacks will get plenty of touches to keep the ball out of Andrew Luck’s hands.
Andrew Luck: 23-43, 258, 2 TD’s, 2 INT’s; 6 carries, 37 yards
Tyrod Taylor: 18-27, 239, 1 TD; 9 carries, 69 yards
Frank Gore: 17 carries, 71 yards; 2 catches, 15 yards, 1 TD
LeSean McCoy: 16 carries, 59 yards, 1 TD; 4 catches, 38 yards
Bryce Brown: 8 carries, 47 yards
Karlos Williams: 7 carries, 34 yards
T.Y. Hilton: 5 catches, 55 yards
Andre Johnson: 5 catches, 54 yards, 1 TD
Phillip Dorsett: 3 catches, 52 yards
Sammy Watkins: 4 catches, 58 yards, 1 TD
Robert Woods: 4 catches, 42 yards
Percy Harvin: 3 catches, 16 yards; 2 carries, 11 yards
Coby Fleener: 6 catches, 67 yards
Dwayne Allen: 2 catches, 15 yards, 1 TD
Charles Clay: 3 catches, 56 yards