Here is my inaugural pre-season game preview, for the Colts game against the St. Louis Rams. I’ll keep this format throughout the pre-season. For the regular season games, the format will change slightly, but will look fairly close to this. Anyway, on to the preview:
3 Things to Watch
1. Andrew Luck
Not sure I really have to mention this one, but just in case…
The start of the New Colts Order officially begins this Sunday when Andrew Luck and the Colts take the field for their first in-game experience. All eyes will justifiably be on the “New Franchise” to see how he handles himself against real pros who are trying to knock the stuff out of the first overall pick. Being that it is pre-season, the Rams defense will likely not throw the book at Luck, but expect blitzes and movement on the line to try and confuse the rookie. Luck should play well in to the second quarter, if not the entire first half. RGIII played a bit less than that against the Bills, but Luck has a lot younger team that he needs to try and develop decent chemistry with than Griffin does.
2. Offensive Line
The key here is how much gelling the fat guys on the line have done during OTAs and training camp thus far. With Anthony Castonzo the lone hold over from last year’s team, it could very well look like a revolving door early on. Chris Long, if he plays at all, may have a busy first series trying to jar Luck. (I would doubt he’d be in much more than a few snaps). My eyes will be locked in on new starting center Samson Satele who, while reportedly talented, has already been with a few teams and viewed as somewhat of disappointment.
3. Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney
Again, since these guys are veterans who view pre-season as little more than an inconvenience, both Freeney and Mathis may not play much versus the Rams. If I were Coach Pagano, though, I’d want them both out there for at least 3 or 4 defensive series to help them get adjusted to game speed at their new outside linebacker spots. With the reports I have read from the Indy Star guys (Mike Chappell and Phillip Wilson especially), it sounds like Mathis will be dropping into coverage a lot whereas Freeney will still focus on getting after the quarterback. If they play the entire first quarter, it should be entertaining to watch. But they need in-game reps to get more comfortable heading into the regular season.
Match-ups to Watch
Andrew Luck vs. Janoris Jenkins – This is probably the most interesting match-up to me only because it pits the highly-touted rookie quarterback up against the highly-touted rookie cornerback. We’ll see who has made the most progress in training camp so far.
Freeney/Mathis vs. Rams O-Line – As stated above, this will be key to see how Freeney and Mathis will be used in the Colts hybrid 3-4 defense. I am expecting to see Freeney move around a lot prior to the snap.
My 5 Predictions
For regular season games I will always provide a final score guess, but the pre-season is a little different. I’ll list out a few things I think will happen, and put a guess to the first-half score at the end. For the following pre-season games, I’ll predict the score to the point in the game I think the starters will play.
1. Andrew Luck will throw at least 1 interception - its OK folks. He’s a rookie. It happens.
2. Andrew Luck will lead at least two scoring drives – Whether or not the drives are touchdowns or field goals, I’ll save for a little bit later.
3. The Colts O-line starters will allow at least 2 sacks – This is more of a knock on the Colts than it is any real respect for the Rams D. But they are just as knew as the quarterback behind them.
4. WR LaVon Brazill will surprise you – The reports from training camp (which I have yet to attend myself) are that Brazill is a burner who is quickly developing a rapport with Luck. I’m guessing we’ll see that a bit against St. Louis.
5. First half score – Colts – 10, Rams 7. Luck will lead a drive to get 3 points in the first quarter, and then throw a touchdown pass to Coby Fleener or Dwayne Allen before the first half expires.
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