The Week 1 matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the Los Angeles Chargers was supposed to be one of the marquee quarterback battles of the opening weekend. Andrew Luck had just won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award, while Philip Rivers was coming off of arguably the best season of his career.
Of course, Luck’s stunning retirement last weekend threw a wrench in the highly-anticipated duel, but this is still an important matchup for both teams.
A win for the Colts could prove that they still have what it takes to be amongst the elite teams in the AFC, while the Chargers will look to make a statement to the rest of the league that they are indeed Super Bowl contenders.
The Chargers have been dealing with internal drama with respect to Melvin Gordon’s holdout, but general manager Tom Telesco officially tabled all extension talks until after this season, putting the issue to bed and officially steering the Bolts towards the opener.
With just one week to go, both teams are preparing for potentially definitive seasons. Here are four bold predictions for Colts vs. Chargers in Week 1.
4. Jacoby Brissett throws for 300-plus yards
Why not start with Andrew Luck’s successor, who started when Luck was injured during the 2017 season and now must adapt to life as the man in Indianapolis. Brissett will likely be largely responsible for determining Indy’s success (or lack thereof) in 2019, but he has a chance to prove something against the Chargers.
Los Angeles ranked ninth against the pass in 2018, and they boast playmakers like Melvin Ingram and All-Pro corner Desmond King. However, the guess here is that the loss of Derwin James, who is on Injured Reserve for three to four months, could have a drastic impact on the Chargers secondary.
One of the reasons that the Chargers were so unpredictable in 2018 is that they would line James up at linebacker, inside and outside, or at his traditional safety position. They are still dangerous as a defensive unit even without James in the lineup, but perhaps not as smart.
Brissett has the luxury of lining up behind one of the best offensive lines in football. The Chargers are likely to stack the box and force Brissett to make plays. He will have to drop back often, but he might rack up some numbers against a secondary in transition, especially if T.Y Hilton can shake King and Brissett can exploit tight ends Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron.
3. …and so will Rivers
So, we will get a quarterback shootout after all! Whereas the Chargers were pretty stout against the pass last year, the Colts were merely league average.
No Melvin Gordon assures that the Colts will see plenty of Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson, both of whom likely to run their share of routes and get involved in the passing game.
Aside from that aspect, Chargers tight end Hunter Henry returns healthy and hungry to reestablish himself as one of the best tight ends in football, and both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are certainly going to test a young Colts secondary.
The result will be a massive day for Rivers, who has had good success against the Colts in his career and will be motivated to help the Chargers send a message.
2. Jackson and Ekeler will combine for 200 yards from scrimmage
This duo could be very dangerous against the Colts. Though Jackson saw limited rushes in 2018, he filled in nicely when Gordon was injured and was also a decent pass catcher.
Meanwhile, Ekeler nearly topped 1,000 yards from scrimmage last season. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and hauled in 39 receptions on 53 targets as part of a season that is likely the reason that the Chargers may be open to trading Gordon.
The Colts were the sixth-best defense against the run last season, but they have had trouble against versatile backs that can also come out of the backfield as receivers. Look no further than last year’s AFC Divisional round against the Kansas City Chiefs, when Damien Williams carved them up for 154 yards from scrimmage.
Los Angeles will get both Jackson and Ekeler involved early and often, and they will combine for 200 yards from scrimmage in what might be a high-scoring affair.
1. Chargers over Colts, 38-27
There is every reason to believe that this game could turn into a shootout, with the Chargers looking to exploit the Colts secondary and Indianapolis hoping to keep pace.
Ultimately, Los Angeles wins a fun one to open their quest for back-to-back AFC West titles.