3. Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck’s impact on the Indianapolis Colts is pretty difficult to understate, because he was so instrumental to the Colts success last season. I don’t know how many rookie quarterbacks in NFL history were able to carry their team into the playoffs, but that’s exactly what Andrew Luck did for the Colts last season. Despite playing behind a disastrous offensive line and being backed up by a poor running game, Luck led a team with an equally poor defense to the playoffs. Easy schedule? Yes. But excellent play from a supremely talented rookie QB? Most definitely. Bruce Arians’s scheme of “QB, make some defenders miss due to your bad OL, then make a great, deep throw” worked at an incredibly efficient rate thanks to Luck’s elite physical tools and decision-making. This guy is just an incredible quarterback, and there is little doubt in my mind that he is the class of last year’s rookie QBs. Russell Wilson is great too, but Luck is just on a different level.
Speaking of the Seahawks (I’ll get to previewing that game in a bit), wide receiver Doug Baldwin- Luck’s former teammate at Stanford- stated yesterday that he thinks Andrew Luck can be the greatest QB of all-time. While that seems like hyperbole and a short-sighted statement to loft on a second-year player, I think it is equally short-sighted to dismiss the possibility of Luck being the greatest QB of all-time. It isn’t likely since being the best at anything is incredibly difficult, but Luck definitely has a fair shot. As Baldwin said, look at his accomplishments as a rookie. There is no doubting Luck’s arm strength, accuracy, rushing ability, strength, intelligence, and leadership. The guy simply has the total package, and the Colts are blessed to have another great one.
4. Quickly previewing the Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks are arguably the best team in the NFL, but that’s also what we said about the San Francisco 49ers before they played against the Indianapolis Colts…and lost. Granted, the Seahawks are in a much different (better) position than their NFC West rivals, especially considering how much they drubbed the Niners the week before Colin Kaepernick and crew lost to Indy. So can the Colts upset the Seahawks? I’m not so sure.
The Colts best chance of winning this game is by hoping they can ride Andrew Luck’s arm to victory and get a big game out of Richardson. I’m not confident in Trent Richardson’s ability to beat the Seahawks run defense, because it is excellent. That said, Arian Foster showed us last week that the Seahawks run defense also isn’t impenetrable. The Seahawks have a insanely talented secondary aptly nicknamed “The Legion of Boom”, but a smart quarterback can beat them. Just don’t throw it to Richard Sherman and make sure to stretch the field. A Luck-T.Y. Hilton connection would have to be on point for the Colts to win this game, and Richardson would definitely have to open things up. Luck is so good that he could have a big game against the Seahawks, but that won’t be the case if the Colts offense becomes one-dimensional. While the Colts need to ride Luck’s arm, they can’t allow the Seahawks to sell out on the pass if Richardson- or Donald Brown- struggles.
I’m not a big fan of the Colts defense, because I think Marshawn Lynch can have a nice game on these guys. Getting LaRon Landry back is of paramount importance, because he sets the tone against the run and is one of the best players on the Colts defense. They need him to be able to set the tone in the box with his menacing style of play, but he’s going to be out this week. Landry is set to return in Week 6 against the San Diego Chargers, so at least he’ll come in by then. The Colts pass defense looks a lot better overall compared to last year’s group, but there are still a few issues. The Colts have a chance at knocking off the Seahawks, but I think they just end up keeping this one close (think, 27-23).
5. Robert Mathis
I didn’t mention this guy when briefly running through some random thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts, because I feel like Robert Mathis deserves an entire blurb to himself. Long-time pass rushing partner Dwight Freeney was flourishing for the San Diego Chargers before his quad injury, and Mathis has also looked excellent this year as a 3-4 pass rushing OLB. In fact, he’s been one of the best pass rushers and 3-4 OLBs in the NFL so far this season. Let’s take a look at some of the stats, shall we.
According to the Pro Football Focus, 12 of Mathis’s tackles have been defensive stops, which means that they have all been victories for the defense. He has the 12th-highest overall PFF grade of all 3-4 OLBs, 7th-most defensive stops, and the 7th-most pressures. So not only has Mathis recorded an impeccable 7.5 sacks, but he has also recorded pressure at a consistent rate. That’s the most important part of being an effective pass rusher, because hurries tell much more of the story than sacks do.
Mathis should have a big game against the Seahawks this Sunday, because the Seahawks are banged up on the offensive line, and the Colts do a terrific job of generating mis-matches by shifting Mathis on either side of the defense. Watch him closely in this game, and watch him closely all season long to see if he can keep up the sensational play.