The Colts are fresh off of a big win against the previously undefeated Seahawks and come in with an impressive 4-1 record. Robert Mathis has shown that he’s still at the top of his game with his league leading 9.5 sacks and 25 total pressures and Andrew Luck has built upon a solid rookie season by improving his consistency and accuracy. The Colts also now have a legitimate every-down running back in Trent Richardson when he’s on his game. Riding a three-game winning streak and coming in against a very beat-up Chargers team, could this be the dreaded ‘trap game?’
For the Chargers, losing handily to a Raiders team that many experts predicted to be a top candidate for the 2014 first overall draft pick has to be disappointing. Just as it began to look like Philip Rivers was at his absolute best, the Raiders intercepted him three times and dominated the game. The defense hasn’t put up much resistance so far, and lack of depth has made injuries difficult to overcome. That said, the Chargers have remained competitive for the most part this season, and they have some rising stars on offense that could play a big role this weekend. Let’s see how some of the matchups could play out.
Philip Rivers vs. Indy’s Pass Defense
Even in an off-game last week, Rivers threw for 411 yards and completed over 70% of his passes. Through the first five games of the season, Rivers has a ridiculous 73.7% completion rate, as well as an Accuracy Percentage of 82.9%. On the surface, one might think that he’s been dinking and dunking all season, but his Average Depth of Target has gone from 7.8 in 2012 to 8.5 (middle of the pack) in 2013. Rivers has shaved 0.38 seconds off of his Average Time to Throw from last season, and is even throwing the deep ball well. Now with Keenan Allen, Vincent Brown, and Danny Woodhead becoming significant threats, Rivers can find reliable targets all over the field.
Although the Colts’ pass defense doesn’t look incredibly imposing on paper, they have allowed the sixth-fewest passing yards per game this season, in addition to a QB Rating of just 68.4 against them. No individual member of the secondary has been beaten consistently, while Darius Butler and Vontae Davis have been particularly solid. One area the Colts will need to clean up is the coverage of their inside linebackers, who will likely see a lot of Antonio Gates as well as Woodhead in coverage.
Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton vs. San Diego’s Secondary
When facing the Colts, everybody has to be wary of Reggie Wayne. He hasn’t put up the type of numbers that really stand out this year, but he has achieved an overall grade of +5.8, good for 13th among wide receivers. Wayne can still go off at any time, and he’ll face a young secondary that has been burned by plenty of receivers this season. Andrew Luck has to like his odds when throwing to Wayne in this matchup. T.Y. Hilton continues his deep assault on NFL secondaries. Over a third of Hilton’s targets have come deeper than 20 yards downfield, and he has amassed 191 yards and two TDs on those targets without any drops. San Diego’s secondary has been a revolving door in more ways than one. Injuries have resulted in players being moved all over, and poor play has allowed opposing receivers to get open almost at will. The cornerbacks in particular have struggled mightily. Derek Cox, Richard Marshall, Johnny Patrick, and Shareece Wright all have coverage grades of –4.3 or worse. If somebody doesn’t step up, it could be a long day for the pass defense.
Indy’s Interior Offensive Line vs. San Diego’s Defensive Line
This 3-on-3 matchup involves two sides who have had trouble all year. If one can find some success this week, it would be huge. The Colts have gotten some quality play out of both tackle spots, but the rest of the line has been a mess. Due in large part to the interior of the line, the Colts rank 28th in Pass Blocking Efficiency as a team at 69.4. The run blocking hasn’t exactly been stellar either, as Samson Satele (-4.2) and Mike McGlynn (–6.5) have been quite bad. All that has contributed to Trent Richardson gaining just 1.04 yards before contact on average.
For the Chargers, defensive ends Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes both seemed ready to take the next step coming into 2013. Unfortunately, both have regressed and have negative grades for the season. Reyes appeared on his way to becoming one of the better pass rushing 3-4 ends, but this season his lack of pressure has been a big problem. Run defense hasn’t been much better. Liuget, however did put in a very good all-around performance a week ago, and perhaps he will build on it this week. In the middle, Cam Thomas has made little positive impact to this point, often being pushed around in the running game. This week, the two sides should be pretty evenly matched, so it will be interesting to see who gets the better of who.
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