The Philadelphia Eagles are set to play at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday afternoon. In order to preview this Week 11 matchup, I reached out to our enemies over at Stampede Blue. The cool Chris Shepherd took the time to answer my questions about this upcoming battle. Let’s take a look at the answers. [For my answers to Chris’s questions about the Eagles, stay tuned to SB.]
Our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook have all of the odds for this week’s games.
1 - Do you think Frank Reich deserved to be fired and do you think Chris Ballard should be next?
If anyone can find me another NFL head coach who started seven different quarterbacks in five seasons and finished their fifth year with a winning percentage better than Reich’s (.547) I’ll take back everything positive I’ve ever said about him. Since no one can do that, I’ll stand behind saying Frank Reich is a good football coach. I don’t think he deserved to be fired. I’m not sure what it accomplished. I’ve seen a lot of Colts fans point to last week’s win against the Raiders and declare that without Jeff Saturday the Colts don’t win the game and I’ve got to say, that’s laughable. The Raiders are so bad they made the Indy offensive line look good, which is amazing. The Colts offensive line has been so bad this year it doesn’t matter who’s coaching, it doesn’t matter who’s calling the plays, nothing is going to work when the line is as bad as it has been. So no, I don’t think Frank Reich deserved to be fired. After a long (and very bad) season, would he have needed to be fired so that the team could get a fresh start with a new coach? Maybe, but that’s not what you asked.
Should Chris Ballard be fired... This is a tough one. Full disclosure- I met Frank Reich at the 2020 Senior Bowl. In that moment he was everything good you’ve ever heard about the man that is Frank Reich. It’s difficult to put into words how genuine the guy was. He could have gone 0-17 and I still would have been a fan of the guy. So given how I feel about his firing I can’t help but feel incensed that Chris Ballard thought starting Matt Pryor at left tackle this season would be good enough. Ballard drafted a project left tackle, let a good starting guard walk in free agency and penciled in two starting offensive linemen who wouldn’t start for Temple (only kind of joking) and called it good. Not to mention his mishandling of the QB position every year since Andrew Luck retired. So I’m not that fired up about Ballard’s roster building strategy, but man, the guy can really work a draft. I wouldn’t be sad to see him go, but I won’t be upset if he stays. It’s tough to find a GM who is as good as he is, even with the flaws he’s shown. It can always be so much worse.
2 - Do you think the Colts miss Nick Sirianni?
Without a doubt. When Reich hired Sirianni it raised some eyebrows because nobody had really ever heard of him, he wasn’t on anyone’s short list of OC’s, but it’s apparent that Reich saw something special in the guy. One misconception fans seem to have about coordinators who don’t call plays is that they don’t really do much. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. They literally coordinate the offense each week. It’s a huge job. So losing someone like Nick Sirianni has absolutely had a negative impact on the Indianapolis Colts.
3 - Did you like the Jeff Saturday hire? Are you buying that he showed promise in his debut or was the Colts winning largely a product of the Raiders being awful?
Did I like it? No. Do I like it now? Also, still no.
Colts fans seem to be taking a victory lap after beating the Raiders. The. Raiders. I was at the game and I spent a lot of time watching Saturday through my binoculars (because I am officially old enough to be the guy who brings binoculars to a game and not care at all what people think of him) and I thought it was weird he kept fidgeting with the headset and talking to guys with the tablet before there was really any tape to review. After the game The Athletic’s Zak Keefer reported Jeff Saturday didn’t know how to use his headset or the tablets during the game, it turns out our head coach couldn’t use basic game day tools of the trade- I was right to find it odd. Jeff Saturday did not contribute to the victory in any direct way. For all the Colts fans reading this- sorry, it’s true.
There were two indirect ways Jeff Saturday helped get the Colts a win against the Raiders however. The first being the owner, after telling Frank Reich to bench Matt Ryan, let Jeff Saturday choose his own starter and Jeff did what any reasonable person with eyes would do and started Matt Ryan. This wasn’t exactly a stroke of genius. It was the owner letting the head coach start the better player at the game’s most important position.
The other thing that Jeff Saturday did, is hold the locker room together while letting his coaches do their jobs. I don’t think Jeff Saturday did anything wrong, he was offered a well paying job he wasn’t qualified for and he took it. I would too. It’s hard to dislike Saturday, once again, he seems like a really good guy. So even though I think his hiring was insane, it’s impossible to discount the fact that Jeff Saturday has uncommon self awareness and leadership ability. He was able to earn the respect of his players and keep them engaged long enough to get a win last week and that’s not nothing. But if he is somehow able to keep the rest of the season from becoming an unmitigated disaster, he deserves a statue outside of the stadium. Unfortunately for the statue builders of Indianapolis, I don’t think Jim Irsay will be commissioning that piece anytime soon.
4 - What is the Colts’ biggest strength and biggest weakness right now?
Strength: The defensive line. Specifically DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart. Buckner is Buckner, he’s long, he’s athletic, he’s a lot for the interior of a line to deal with. Everybody knows DeFo. But Grover Stewart, for most of this season, has been completely unblockable one on one. Running his direction is only a little more successful than kneeling.
Weakness: I spoiled this one earlier but it’s the offensive line. Matt Pryor was given a $5.5 million contract in the offseason and has started at three different positions on the OL. He has also been benched at three different positions. It sounds like hyperbole when I say this, I assure you it is not; Matt Pryor is the worst starting offensive lineman I have ever had the displeasure of watching. I- quite literally- could play at a level similar to Matt Pryor this season. Granted I would be hurt, very, very hurt, but for the series I was on the field the results would have been the same. At left tackle the Colts are starting Bernhard Raimann, a third round rookie out of Central Michigan. Starting Raimann is the right thing to do considering the circumstances but this is only Raimann’s third season playing offensive line and he’s doing it against, you know, NFL edge rushers. Not to mention that lifetime good-but-not-great center Ryan Kelly seems to have aged 10 years in the last 10 months- things have not looked great up front. Even Quenton Nelson hasn’t been himself this season. Though I suspect there has been an undisclosed injury with Q as he has progressively played better and better each week and looks to be getting back to the player he was before this season.
5 - Who wins this game and why? With DraftKings Sportsbook listing the Eagles as 6.5-point favorites, what’s your score prediction? And what are your expectations for the rest of this Colts season?
Score predictions are so tough with this Colts team. The defense is legitimately really good. When the offense doesn’t put them in impossible situations they can do things like limit the Kansas City Chiefs to 17 points- and even in that game the Chiefs had touchdown drives of 35 and 21 yards, so even when the offense does put them in a bad spot, they’ve still been able to keep games close. The real question is can the Colts offense limit their own mistakes, block up the Eagles pass rush and score enough points to keep it interesting.
I think this one ends up being somewhere around 24-13 Eagles. Philly is just so much better than the Colts.
The rest of this season should earn the Colts a top 10 pick, as long as Chris Ballard doesn’t use it on a guard, there might be something to look forward to after all.