With the shocking announcement of Andrew Luck’s retirement mere weeks ago, things have been a little hectic. However, enough time has passed that things have settled down and order has been restored (for the most part).
Due to that, we can look at this game in a vacuum and see the obvious strengths and advantages of each team.
Although the Chargers should enter Sunday as the favorites, no win is guaranteed in the NFL. So what do they have to do to start the year off 1-0?
Here are three keys for the Los Angeles Chargers to defeating the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 of the regular season.
3. Attack Jacoby Brissett
If you want to call it an “advantage” for the Indianapolis Colts in the Andrew Luck news, it’s that Jacoby Brissett played all preseason as the starter.
Brissett was running with the starters in training camp and the preseason due to a Luck injury. So when Luck retired, it’s not like Brissett was hastily thrown into a position he wasn’t ready for.
Even more so to that point, Brissett was the starting quarterback back in 2017. With Luck hurt, Brissett played all 16 games and showed a lot of promise.
With all that in mind, it’s not like the Chargers are going up against a deer in the headlights. They’re going up against a quarterback who has had plenty of experience in the NFL. He’s also a quarterback that had just four attempts last season though.
So while he’s not new to the game, he might not be completely comfortable week 1. The best thing the Chargers can do for that is attack him. Keep the pressure on him heavy. If Brissett has no time in the pocket, he won’t be able to get comfortable.
Yes, you could say this is the case for any QB, but it doubles for Brissett for two reasons.
First of all is the playing time. He’ll need to readjust to a full NFL game against starters the whole time. Things will be going in full speed non-stop. Don’t let him get readjusted.
Second, Brissett can run. He had 260 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 2017. If the pocket collapses around him though, there will be nowhere for him to go.
Keep him contained to the pocket and you’re taking away one of his weapons.
2. Stick to the Outside
This goes for the passing game. Phillip Rivers has consistently been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for a long time. Without Melvin Gordon though, he might not have the same running game to lean on. So Rivers will need to do the heavy lifting.
The Colts improved their cornerbacks this offseason but the secondary still isn’t perfect. Meanwhile, Darius Leonard proved to be one of the best linebackers in football in his rookie season last year.
With that in mind, it’s pretty simple. Leonard will be covering the middle of the field more often than not. Keep the ball away from him. Stick to passes on the outside of the field.
This will expose the weaker part of the defense while making Leonard factor into the game as little as possible.
1. Be Prepared for Quick Passes
Yes, the best weapon the Indianapolis Colts offense has is T.Y. Hilton. His ability to beat a defense deep is near the tops in the NFL. Add in the fact that the Colts offensive line is greatly improved over the last few years and the deep ball becomes even more of a threat.
The offensive line will give the quarterback time to wait for Hilton (or any other receiver) to get open deep. So that should be the big concern, right?
Not at all. The Colts used short passes a lot last year – just look at their running backs. Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines are both great receiving weapons out of the backfield. Add in the fact that they’ve added some new receivers and now have Jacoby Brissett at quarterback and this increases even more.
Although Brissett had the entire preseason as the starter, he’s still not Andrew Luck. Yes, he’s actually a very solid option and deserved that contract extension, but the Colts will likely rely on quick, short passes – at least to start the year.
This will help keep Brissett protected and get his confidence and rhythm up. H will flick it out to his weapons fast, and let them make moves in the open field.
Will the Colts likely try for a few home run plays? Absolutely. It won’t be nearly the factor in week 1 as it was all last year though.
The Los Angeles Chargers would be wise to focus on stopping the quick plays.
If they can do that they shut down the offense completely.