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Eagles vs. Colts Game Preview: Five questions and answers with the enemy

Previewing the Eagles’ Week 3 matchup.

Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts are set to play each other this Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. In order to preview the Eagles’ Week 3 game, I reached out to our associates over at Stampede Blue. The cunning Chris Blystone (@chrisblystone) took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming tilt. Let’s take a look at his answers.

1 - Is Andrew Luck back to being the same player he was before last year? What’s your confidence level in him?

He is definitely back to doing the same kinds of things that made him such an incredible talent at quarterback. There have been a lot of questions about his ability because with Frank Reich calling the plays, the ball is coming out faster and the offense has largely been focused on the short passing game.

A lot of focus has been given to his shorter passes in an attempt to claim that Luck can’t make those longer throws anymore. That simply isn’t accurate. The Colts have been without their starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo to start the season, and that absence has meant changing things up a bit to avoid subjecting Luck to a lot of unnecessary hits.

Running a lot of rub routes and plays that stretch the defense horizontally doesn’t always make for a sexy stat line, but it has been working effectively for the offense so far. When the Colts get Castonzo back and healthy, I expect they’ll utilize more deep shots, which is a strength of Luck’s game. However, Eagles fans can appreciate that keeping your starting quarterback healthy and on the field is critical, and as a fan base, most fans have seen enough to feel comfortable with the fact that Luck can make all the throws he needs to make to win a lot of football games.

2 - What’s your early impression of former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich as the Colts’ head coach?

He has been incredible. From day one, he has been a unifying force for this young team. At training camp you could see a coaching staff that was dedicated to developing players and making them better. When guys messed up a drill, they were stopped immediately and corrected.

We have heard from the beginning that players are taught to understand the “why” of each play, so that they buy in and understand what the team is trying to do. With such a young core group of players, this has already begun to develop a close bond and has resulted in noticeable effort differences, specifically on the offensive line and on defense.

The Colts have been perennially bad on the offensive line, yet Reich and his staff have gotten this line to buy in to the idea that they are Andrew Luck’s secret service, and that they have to give their all to keep his pocket clean. That was the mentality of the offensive line when Peyton Manning was under center here, and it is such a relief to see it being developed again.

The cultural change has been primarily noticeable to those who have been really plugged in to the many goings on of the team, but no one can miss the stark contrast between the previous coaching staff’s play calls and Frank Reich’s. The Colts’ offense has shown up with a clear and effective game plan that is tailored to the opponent.

Where they often struggled to get started on offense and had to rely on Luck to make things happen late in the game, this team draws up plays that scheme receivers open and give Luck easy reads. In previous years, when T.Y. Hilton didn’t make big plays, the offense went nowhere. In week 1, Andrew Luck threw to 9 different receivers. In week 2, he threw to 8. This is a refreshing and fun offense to watch, and it is nice to see someone who understands the modern NFL calling the shots for this team, finally.

3 - What is the Colts’ biggest strength? Where do they have the biggest edge in this game?

The biggest strength of this team isn’t a mystery. It is Andrew Luck. He has been forced to carry this team since he arrived back in 2012. Fortunately, it seems that the new front office and coaching staff don’t plan on making him do that forever, and have put together some decent drafts and started building a much improved team around him.

However, those steps are in their infancy, and until some of those players are developed and prove themselves, this team depends on Andrew Luck to win football games. So far this season, Luck has thrown two really bad interceptions, but otherwise looked very good. His pocket movement, ability to work his progressions, and get the ball to the right guy have been big so far. His mobility also makes him a real threat to be accounted for on the ground, although that is not a weapon the staff is likely to use much given his injury history.

I expect the Colts to use their quick passing game to get the ball out of Andrew Luck’s hands quickly and attempt to negate the Eagles’ pass rush. This has been their approach in both games so far, and it has the Colts on pace to cut their total sacks given up in half from last season, despite playing against two relatively formidable defensive lines of the Bengals and Redskins.

The tight ends and running backs will be used frequently, and the Colts will use a lot of “rub routes” to try to get yards after the catch. These have been relatively effective thus far, and I expect that is likely to continue to work well against the Eagles.

4 - What is the Colts’ biggest weakness? What concerns you the most about the Eagles?

The greatest weakness for this team is their secondary. All three starting cornerbacks are in their second season, as is Malik Hooker, the starting free safety. That youth and inexperience up against a top tier quarterback is a major weakness that I expect to be targeted. Malik Hooker, like Wentz, went down in the middle of last season with a torn ACL and MCL. He is somehow back in action already, but he hasn’t been quite as impactful as he was last season, as I am sure he is not yet operating at his top ability.

Hooker has the potential to make plays on the ball, and so do the corners, but they’ll make a lot of mistakes too, and that is going to show. Wentz should be able to move the ball effectively against them as long as the Eagles’ offensive line holds the Colts’ pass rush up, as I expect they will. To win this game, the Colts will need their cornerbacks to grow up fast.

5 - Who wins this game and why? Score prediction? And what are your expectations for the rest of this Colts season?

I struggle with this game, because before the season I picked this out as a guaranteed loss for the Colts. Through two games, my optimism is surging and logic is fleeing my brain. As a Colts fan, I understand more than most how much of a difference getting your franchise quarterback makes. I fully expect Carson Wentz to breathe new life into a team that has struggled a bit in the first two weeks.

The Colts defense had a standout performance last week, proving that they are better than many give them credit for. However, I am not convinced they have the ability to do that consistently yet. The Eagles are perhaps the most balanced team the Colts will face all season. I think this will be a close game, and I think it is absolutely possible that the Colts could sneak a win, but that isn’t my expectation. I think this game finishes 24-27 Eagles.

As far as the rest of the season, I think the outlook is positive for the Colts. Inside the division the Titans and Texans both look pretty rough, and regardless of how good their defense is, Blake Bortles is a liability for the Jaguars. I expect this team will win quite a few more games and be right in the mix for a playoff spot by the end of the season, which is well ahead of any expectations for them.

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