For the Indianapolis Colts this week against the Detroit Lions, an interesting tactic seems to be taking place.
Kill them with kindness.
How else can you explain the recent stories that popped up in the local paper?
Colts cornerback Darius Butler told the Indianapolis Star: “If you want to go create a receiver on Madden, that’s going to look like Calvin Johnson.”
Regarding Lions DT Ndamakong Suh, Colts Guard Joe Reitz said: “When it’s a guy like that, you have to make sure you’re blocking him all the way to the whistle because you know that he’s going to give you effort, 100 percent every snap until the whistle. We need to make sure we’re matching that level of intensity he brings.”
That sounds like a lot of admiration going down a one-way street. But, you can’t really blame the Colts. Maybe they are trying to lull the Lions into a (somewhat) false sense of superiority in the hopes of catching them off guard. But, really, it’s all true. Johnson has more than earned his Megatron nickname, and if you thought no one on this team could cover Rob Gronkowski, imagine the kind of devastation Johnson can wreak on the Colts secondary. And who on the offensive line do you really feel confident about being able to successfully keep Suh – the league’s most intense (read: dirtiest) defensive player – off of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck? In my honest opinion, no one.
The Colts defense will come into Detroit with the a depleted secondary – now without starting safety Tom Zbikowski – against the #1 passing offense in the NFL. No one is going to mistake Lions’ quarterback Matt Stafford with Tom Brady, but the lack of playmakers on defense provides the potential for a huge day for both Stafford and Johnson. The Colts will have to double cover Johnson and that will probably lead to one of two things. 1). It will leave another Lions receiver or tight end open enough to do damage or 2). The double coverage won’t matter and Johnson will still dominate.
The real only way to try and keep this from happening are long, time consuming scoring drives. 70, 75, 80 yard drives that last for 8 minutes or more would be ideal. And they are going to have to score touchdowns. If the Colts drive down into the red zone and can’t convert touchdowns and have to kick field goals, this game is over.
Suh is pure man-beast, and has shown time in and time out that he will do whatever it takes to get to the quarterback (or ball carrier), legal or otherwise. Fines, suspensions, none of it matters to Suh. The Indy offensive line has already had all kinds of problems in protection, and Andrew Luck leads the league in drawing illegal helmet hit penalties drawn (author’s note: I have no idea if that is actually true, but he has drawn a lot).
This will be a case where Luck may have to use his athleticism to stay in the game. Luck is, rightfully so, a pocket passer and not Mike Vick (or RGIII), but he can move. He hasn’t carried the ball more than 7 times in a game this year. This may be the game where he needs to do that as Suh will likely have no issues getting through the likes of Reitz, G Mike McGlynn, and C Samson Satele. And Luck may not be the only Colt who will need to have success on the ground. Running backs Vick Ballard and Donald Brown need to run hard against the Lions 21st ranked rush defense.
Luck’s struggles on the road may yet continue against Detroit, who only gives up 221.5 yards per game through the air, though that could be credited to teams being able to run the ball on the with a relative amount of ease. One thing that might go in Luck’s favor is the fact that the Lions play at Ford Field which is a domed/roofed stadium. All of Luck’s previous road games have been against teams that play outdoors in the elements – Chicago (Soldier Field), New York (MetLife Stadium), Tennessee (LP Field), New England (Gillette Stadium), and Jacksonville (EverBank Field). Luck, obviously, plays all his home games indoors at Lucas Oil Stadium. Another thing is that the Lions are almost as bad in forcing interceptions as the Colts are (7 on the season, tied for 25th). That might be especially good news for the rookie, with 10 of his 13 interceptions this year coming on the road (and outdoors).
It’s not going to be an easy game for the Colts, but it is a winnable one. On to my predictions:
Luck – This is a game where he’s going to have to play out of his mind for the Colts to win. The Lions have too much firepower potential to settle for field goals. I definitely see interim Head Coach Bruce Arians airing it out if only on principle. We’ve been waiting for Luck to have that absolute lights out game – and no, I don’t count the Miami game as lights out. Yards are good, but those need to come with touchdowns. Lots of touchdowns. I may be dreaming big here, but I see Luck unloading for 375 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Go ahead and add 10 runs for 75 yards.
Matt Stafford – The Lions quarterback has struggled to find consistency this season after throwing for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns last year. So far in 2012, Stafford only has one more touchdown than Luck does (14 to 13) and just 224 yards more than the rookie (3,429 vs. 3,205). This game though, Stafford should be able to add a few more to both of the totals and distance himself from Luck even more. With Megatron likely running free most of the game, Stafford throws for 420 yards and 4 touchdowns, being picked off once as well.
Calvin Johnson – Speaking of… There’s not a whole lot more I’ll need to say here than I’ve already said about Johnson earlier in the post. The Colts simply will not be able to cover him. Megatron will catch 14 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns.
Reggie Wayne – Johnson won’t be the only receiver to make plays this game. Reggie Wayne has been on it all year. He has the most pass receptions in the league through 11 games (83) and trails only – yep, you guessed it – Calvin Johnson in yardage. Where both Johnson and Wayne have failed to impress is in scoring catches. Wayne has only 3 on the season, and Johnson just 4. Wayne won’t put up the same numbers Megatron will, but expect him to catch 9 passes for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Final Score – I’m predicting some big point potential here, and usually that means it will actually wind up being a close, low scoring game. But I’m sticking with the big numbers. Lions will win it, 34-31.
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