The Los Angeles Rams are 1-0 following a 34-14 win over the Chicago Bears to open the season. From our Instant Reaction podcast (under 20 minutes), Winners and Losers, Moment of the Game, post-game press conferences, and a whole lot more, Turf Show Times has comprehensive coverage of Rams-Bears already and will continue to go into more detail about what happened over the coming days.
However, we also get to put Chicago in the rearview mirror on Monday and won’t have to worry about “looking ahead too soon” by giving you a full primer on LA’s next opponent.
The 0-1 Indianapolis Colts.
With plenty of Colts preview coverage also to come in the next six days, here’s everything you need to know first about the Rams’ Week 2 enemies.
2020 record: 11-5
Playoffs: Lost Wild Card to Bills, 27-24
Head coach: Frank Reich (Year 4, 28-20 record)
Specialty: Believing in quarterbacks who others had stopped believing in
OC: Marcus Brady (1st year; former OC Nick Siranni now HC for Eagles)
DC: Matt Eberflus (4th year; top-10 in points/yards in two of three campaigns)
Let’s get into some personnel differences, if you remember the 2020 Colts.
Changes on Offense:
QB - From Philip Rivers to Carson Wentz
LT - From Anthony Castonzo to Eric Fisher
WR1 - T.Y. Hilton (IR) to Michael Pittman, Jr (2nd year)
WR TY Hilton, OT Sam Tevi, WR Dezmon Patmon, QB Sam Ehlinger, WR J.J. Nelson
What to expect from Indy’s offense:
Similar to the LA Rams, the Colts made a big change at quarterback, will have one new starter on the offensive line, and some differences at wide receiver, but otherwise return plenty of experienced starters to the offense.
The o-line is at least 80-percent fantastic:
Along the offensive line, LG Quenton Nelson, C Ryan Kelly, RG Mark Glowinski, and RT Braden Smith represent one of the toughest offensive lines to defeat in the NFL. Indianapolis brought in Eric Fisher to be the new tackle, one year after the Kansas City Chiefs decided they needed an upgrade to Fisher, but there should be less pressure on him to be “the guy” with an all-pro like Nelson to his right.
Jonathan Taylor is a breakout star in the making:
Jonathan Taylor, a second round pick in 2020, returns at running back after rushing for 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns in 15 games as a rookie. He also caught 36 passes on only 39 target, gaining 299 yards in the air. Taylor was especially ridiculous at the end of 2020:
119 carries, 741 rushing yards, 6.2 YPC, and seven rushing touchdowns in his final six games.
He also scored a touchdown in the Colts’ playoff loss to Buffalo.
Somebody needs to step up at wide receiver:
T.Y. Hilton returned for a 10th season in Indy, but will start the season on IR. That means that second-year pro Michael Pittman will need to assert himself as the man for Carson Wentz. Though Pittman was a bit inconsistent in 2020, that is to be expected and forgiven of any rookie; he did catch five passes for 90 yards against the Bills in the playoffs and he could potentially see a career-high in targets in Week 2.
He may be followed in the pecking order by WR Zach Pascal (a little more than 600 yards and exactly five touchdowns in each of the last two seasons), 2019 second round pick Parris Campbell (thus far a disappointment with the Colts), and surprise training camp standout Mike Strachan, a seventh round pick who was turning heads all throughout August.
Tight end Jack Doyle is most there to block, but is capable of making difficult catches.
Finally, the team is so high on running back Nyheim Hines that they gave him a contract extension before the season. Hines had 862 total yards and seven touchdowns on 152 touches in 2020.
They will be led by Reich, mostly, but also first-time offensive coordinator Marcus Brady. After losing Sirianni to Philadelphia, the Colts promoted the 41-year-old Brady — a nine-year coaching veteran in the CFL — who has served as QBs coach for Reich since 2018, as the next OC.
2020 offensive ranks
Turnovers: 3rd (fewest fumbles lost in the NFL)
Net yards per pass attempt: 9th
Passing touchdowns: 22nd
Rushing yards: 11th
Yards per carry: 14th
Rushing touchdowns: 6th
Points per drive: 12th
DVOA: 12th (16th in passing, 12th in rushing)
Offensive “strength of schedule”: 32nd by DVOA*
*Essentially, FootballOutsiders is saying that last season the Colts faced the easiest schedule of defenses in the NFL by average DVOA. I would caution against believing rankings such as this as a hard and fast rule but it is also difficult to ignore that there is a wide gap between Indianapolis and the next team, the Houston Texans.
Changes on Defense:
DE - Justin Houston to Kwity Paye
ILB - Anthony Walker to Bobby Okereke
OLB - Okereke to Zaire Franklin
DE Dayo Odeyingbo
The Colts parted with free agent Justin Houston after he had posted 19 sacks and an NFL-high three safeties over his two seasons in Indianapolis, but feel confident in first round pick Kwity Paye as his replacement. Paye, notable for being number one on Bruce Feldman’s athletic “freaks” list, was praised for his play in training camp and the preseason and could be a difficult pass rusher to block already.
Former inside linebacker Anthony Walker was overshadowed by Darius Leonard during his career, but signed with the Cleveland Browns and is an underrated leader, player in his own right. But Okereke seems set for even bigger things than Walker and could be a breakout player on the Indianapolis defense this season.
Zaire Franklin is a tougher case to judge.
A highly respected captain who excels on special teams, Franklin will be tasked with outside linebacker after only playing in 262 defensive snaps in his first three seasons.
Around those changes are mainstays like DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard, and Xavier Rhodes, all once or currently regarded among the best players at their positions in the league.
With those three, plus Okereke, nose tackle Grover Stewart, and safeties Julian Blackmon, Khari Willis, the Colts have a case for a top-10 defense again.
On the downside, there may be questions about cornerbacks Kenny Moore II and Rock Ya-Sin, especially about whether or not they can cover the likes of Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Van Jefferson, and DeSean Jackson.
The Colts defense did not look “top-10 worthy” in their first game of the season.
2020 Defensive Ranks
Points Allowed: 10th
Yards Allowed: 8th
Turnovers Forced: 5th
Net Yards per Pass Attempt Allowed: 19th
Passing Touchdowns Allowed: 12th
Rushing Yards Allowed: 2nd
Yards Per Carry Allowed: 2nd
Rushing Touchdowns Allowed: 4th
Points Per Drive Allowed: 9th
DVOA: 7th (8th against pass, 9th against run)
Defensive “strength of schedule” rank: 15th (average difficulty)
K Rodrigo Blankenship was solid as an undrafted rookie in 2020, converting 32-of-37 field goal attempts, but going 10-of-14 beyond 40 yards and 43-of-45 on extra points.
P Rigoberto Sanchez is in his fifth year as Indy’s punter.
PR Nyheim Hines led the NFL with 30 punt returns in 2020 and he led the NFL with two punt return touchdowns in 2019.
What happened in Week 1?
Score: Seahawks 28, Colts 16
The Colts mostly struggled offensively and defensively in their season opener against Seattle, losing 28-16 behind four touchdown passes by Russell Wilson. Though Carson Wentz was fine in his debut — 25/38, 251 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, four rushes for 23 yards — he didn’t really answer questions about his ball security issues (three sacks, one lost fumble) or his ability to move the offense down the field (6.6 yards per attempt). Despite hosting the Seahawks, was rarely “in” this game and a late touchdown is the only thing that cut the score differential to 12.
As of Monday, I’m unaware of any serious injuries to Colts players on Sunday, so otherwise they should be at full strength until further notice.