Indianapolis Colts week 12 preview: Buffalo Bills

The Indianapolis colts try to rebound following a 35 point beat down against New England last week against fellow AFC East member Buffalo.

Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck will especially be looking to make a better impression, following a three interception performance (2 that were returned for scores) in Foxboro. At this point, with two stellar outings by Washington’s Robert Griffin III, Luck has probably fallen out of the lead for the Offensive Rookie of the Year Race for now. Against this Buffalo Bills defense though, Luck has a chance to make another good impression. If he’s smart with the ball.

Buffalo does rank 15th in the NFL in passing yards allowed, with 2,341 yards to date. However, they have given up 24 touchdowns through the air (19th). This is a team who gave up 266 yards and 3 scores to Mark Sanchez, and 303 yards and 3 touchdowns to Alex Smith. Neither guy is known for dominating in the passing game. Not to mention what Tom Brady has done to this team. In two games, Brady has thrown for 577 yards and 5 touchdowns.

But where the Colts really need to shine is on the ground. Do that and the pass game will take care of itself. Buffalo’s run defense is 30th in the NFL, allowing 153.3 yards per game and rank dead last in touchdowns allowed (16). This is a good thing for rookie running back Vick Ballard, who has been getting more and more carries as the season goes on due to improvements he’s made on the ground. In the Colts first five games, Ballard only carried the ball an average of 5.8 times with 13.4 yards per game (2.3 per carry). In the last five, he’s carried an average of 15.2 times with 63.8 yards per game (4.2 per carry). And that’s with splitting carries with Donald Brown and Delone Carter. Ballard is gaining interim coach Bruce Arians’ confidence, and it’s showing on the field. Against the Patriots last week, Ballard ran for 72 yards on 16 carries (4.5 per carry), and probably would have hit the 100 yard mark if the Colts hadn’t dug themselves into a huge hole in the second quarter.

The defense has to play better, without question, to avoid that happening again against Buffalo. But the Colts have a few things going for them. First, the game is played at home. The Colts have a 4-1 record at Lucas Oil versus a 1-4 record on the road. We’ve rehashed the scoring disparities and Luck’s performances in previous posts; so needless to say, they are scoring more and turning the ball over far fewer at home. Of Luck’s twelve interceptions, just two have happened in Indianapolis.

The other feather in the Colts’ cap is the health of the team. DE Cory Redding and S Antoine Bethea may be able to go today. Rookie 5th round pick NT Josh Chapman is also listed as probable, though I wouldn’t bet on him seeing much, if any action just yet. On the offensive side, WR Donnie Avery should also play, though tight end Coby Fleener will likely miss another game while he recovers from a shoulder injury.

3 Things to Watch

Colts corners vs. Bills pass game – I probably don’t need to point out the devastation that rained down on the Colts’ cornerbacks last week against New England. Suffice it to say, they were bad. Really bad. With Jerraud Powers out for the rest of the season and Vontae Davis likely out another game, it’s going to be up to Darius Butler and Cassius Vaughn to keep Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson in check. The Bills pass game isn’t lights-out, but they do have big play and big game potential.

Colts offensive line vs. Bills defensive line – If you just look at the numbers, the Colts offensive line has given up only 22 sacks so far this season (15th). But those of us who have watched the team week in and week out now that number would likely be in the forties if it wasn’t for Andrew Luck’s mobility and athleticism in and out of the pocket. Even with that athletic ability, Luck has taken some pretty good shots throughout the year. On the flip side, the Buffalo defense has only registered 23 sacks (18th). But the Bills do have Mario Williams. Williams isn’t as dominant this year as the Bills had hoped, but he’s going against a Colts offensive line that is just now getting some continuity, but sill chock full of inexperience.

Andrew Luck – At home, Luck has been lights out for a rookie. So far at the Luke, Luck is averaging 303.6 yards per game throwing, 8 touchdowns, and just 2 interceptions. That includes a rookie-record 433 yards against Miami in week 9. He’s also run the ball 18 times for 122 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers are impressive, but I would venture to say that we have yet to see Luck have a truly dominant performance, including the Miami game. Remember, though he did pass for 433 yards, the Colts only won that game 23-20. It would be nice to see Luck just unload one game his rookie year, throwing for four or more touchdowns and limiting the interceptions to one or fewer.

My 5 Predictions

Luck – I said it would be nice to see him throw four touchdowns, but I don’t see it happening today. However, I will say 320 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions for the rookie.

Ballard -I like what I have seen from Ballard the past five weeks, and I think he should continue to get the lions’ share of the carries. Against Buffalo’s terrible run defense, and the fact they are running on the quick FieldTurf at Lucas Oil, and I think a big day is in store. Ballard hits 115 yards and a touchdown.

Fitzpatrick – Luck isn’t the only one who could have a huge day today. The colts couldn’t stop my grandmother last week, and I don’t think they’ll be able to much better this week, although the Bills don’t have the benefit of a Gronkowski or Welker. Still, Fitz can chuck the rock, and I see him matching Luck’s 300 yard game with two touchdowns.

C.J. Spiller – Of all the Bills who should be excited for this game, Spiller should be #1 on the list. The Colts have been just as bad on run defense, giving up 120 yards per game and 11 touchdowns. Spiller is averaging 6.6 yards per carry for the season. He should be able to the 120 yard mark with two scores if his own.

Final Score – Two big-play potential offenses and fairly bad defenses should equal a fun shootout. I see the Colts overcoming the Bills though, 38-28.

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