With the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts scheduled to kick off on Monday, I reached out to our friends over at Stampede Blue. The great Josh Wilson kindly took the time to answer my questions.
Let's take a look at the answers.
1) The Eagles are missing a number of starters on their offensive line. Starting All-Pro left guard Evan Mathis (injured reserve, designated to return) and fill-in starting right tackle Allen Barbre (injured reserve) won't play. Right tackle Lane Johnson is still serving a four-game suspension. How does the Indianapolis front seven match-up against this weakened Eagles unit?
On paper, the Colts front-seven looks good. Against the Broncos run game last week, they played well. And run defense really seems to be the strength of this front-seven, so it'll be very interesting to see them go against LeSean McCoy. Certainly, McCoy is a top back in the league and very dangerous so the Colts will have their hands full. The most intriguing part of the Eagles missing two linemen this week is with the Colts pass rush. Quite simply, it wasn't there against the Broncos and without Robert Mathis that will be a problem all season long. The Colts are going to need to blitz to try to get pressure, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see them go after the left guard and right tackle spots with the injuries there. The Colts are going to have plenty of trouble generating pass rush this year, so I'm interested to see what they can do against this short-handed Eagles line.
2) I was reading an article this offseason on rotoViz entitled "Has Nick Foles surpassed Andrew Luck?". It compares the first 21 career games played by Foles and Luck and points out how Foles has the better completion percentage (62.9% to 55.4%), touchdown-to-interception ratio (5.0 to 1.3), and yards per pass attempt (8.4 to 6.4). Despite this, I'm willing to imagine a number of Colts fans would say Luck is better. So my question is: to what extent is Andrew Luck a better quarterback than Nick Foles?
Without taking anything away from Nick Foles, who I think is a good quarterback, Andrew Luck is clearly better and by quite a bit. The biggest thing most people say when talking about Nick Foles is that he didn't turn the ball over much in 2013, and that's certainly true and impressive. But Andrew Luck actually turned the ball over the fewest times of any quarterback who started every game (Foles only started 13, otherwise he would have been first) and had a very, very good interception percentage of 1.6%. So both Andrew Luck and Nick Foles didn't turn the ball over very much last year.
Furthermore, however, Luck just brings so much to the table. Nobody in the league over the past couple of years has been hit nearly as much as Luck, yet he routinely breaks tackles, avoids sacks, takes a hit, buys time in the pocket, throws on the run, or makes plays with his legs. His passing has been great too, and every week he makes a couple of plays that are still just awe-inspiring. His leadership of the team and command of the offense is to be noted, as is his toughness. Plus, he's playing on a team in which he has to do it all. Nobody in the NFL has more comebacks than him over the past two years, and that's because his team routinely gets behind before turning to Luck to dig them out of the hole. There's a very strong argument to be made that no team in the league relies on their quarterback more heavily than the Colts do on Andrew Luck. All of this isn't to bash Nick Foles, who I think is a good quarterback and the Eagles should be very happy to have him, but there's no question that Luck is better and is at the top of the class of the young quarterbacks.
3) What is the biggest strength and weakness of this Colts team?
Well, the biggest strength is the player we just discussed, Andrew Luck. He's unquestionably the Colts' most important player and he's their best player too. He has plenty of receiving targets in T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks, Dwayne Allen, and Coby Fleener, and the expectation for Luck by many around the league is for him to enter that category of "elite" this year. He's clearly the biggest strength of the team. The biggest weakness is pretty clear too, and that's the pass rush (or lack thereof). The Colts knew they would have to play for the first four games without Robert Mathis (suspension), but he recently tore his Achilles and is out for the year. They really don't have anyone to replace him and that showed against the Broncos. They'll try to generate some rush through blitzes, but it's a huge weakness and hurts the entire defense and team.
4) Name a Colts player on offense and defense that the Eagles need to watch out for.
On offense, I'm going to say wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. The Colts really didn't get him too involved last week and I expect them to be pretty focused on integrating Hilton into their offense this week. He's simply too good of a player for them not to do so. Watch out for Hilton on some underneath crossing routes and then some deep shots. I would be surprised if the Colts aren't intentional about getting the ball to Hilton this week. As for the defensive side of the ball, I think the Colts are really going to be focused on stopping the run, and as such I think that defensive lineman Arthur Jones could be a guy to watch. He was brought in this offseason in order to improve the run defense, and we need to see it on the field. With a team like the Eagles and LeSean McCoy coming to town, I'll definitely be watching Arthur Jones and he's a guy that Eagles fans might want to keep an eye on too.
5) Let's hear a score prediction. Who wins this game and why?
I really don't have a good idea on this game yet. I've gone back and forth on whether to pick the Colts or the Eagles. Before the season, I picked the Eagles, but I'm not sure about this week. I think that it'll be a competitive game, but given the fact that it's in Indianapolis, that the Colts are looking to get on the right track after a loss week one, the fact that they've yet to lose back-to-back games under Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck, and just the team overall, I think I'm going to take the Colts.
As for the score? I'll say something like 31-28, Colts.
Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,000,000 Fantasy Football Contest for Week 1's NFL games. It's only $25 to join and first place wins $100,000. Starts Sunday, September 7th at 1pm ET. Here's the link. FYI: These are just my opinions and Fanduel gave me money to play.