While every football game can be boiled down to who wins in the "trenches," today's contest between the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions will especially hinge on that matchup. Specifically, the challenge will be for the Colts offensive line who will be facing their toughest challenge of the year in the fearsome foursome of the Lions.
The Lions will score points. They have the second rated offense in the NFL and the league's best pass defense. Even with Vontae Davis back, the Colts simply don't have the personnel to shut down Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. If they're on your fantasy team, start them.
For the Colts to win, they will have to match those scores. The Colts do have the personnel to do that. Andrew Luck is battling to be the NFL's Rookie of the Year, TY Hilton is emerging as a top rookie wide receiver, Vick Ballard the same in the backfield, and then there's Reggie Wayne. He's…well, he's still Reggie Wayne. Against the Lions battered secondary (featuring former Colts' whipping boy, Jacob Lacey), the opportunities will be there for the Colts to put points on the board. That is if the Colts' line can give Luck enough time to use all his weapons.
The Colts are in the middle of the pack in sacks allowed this season, giving up 18. They've done a good job against some good pass rushers such as Minnesota's Jared Allen and Miami's Cameron Wake. Those games were at home, however, and they've struggled to keep the pocket clean for Luck on the road. Luck's ability to escape has also helped keep those numbers down.
The Lions' linemen are by far the most athletic bunch the Colts have seen this season. Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams (and possibly Nick Fairley) are among the league's best at getting pressure up the middle. Even though Suh's numbers have fallen off this season, that's largely due to the attention he receives with opponents' double teams.
That allows defensive ends Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch to have one on one matchups with the tackles. The really dangerous part about the Lions' pass rush is their speed and ability to chase down opposing quarterbacks. Luck has been able to outrun most of his defensive pursuers this season. He won't find that as easy today in Detroit.
The Colts will have to follow the blueprint on beating the Lions pass rush by double teaming Suh with Samson Satele and one of the guards. That means that they'll also need to have Dwayne Allen staying in to chip on the defensive ends most of the time.
Look for a lot of two tight end sets for the Colts today with Coby Fleener back in the lineup. Bruce Arians would also be wise to dial up enough misdirection and screen passes to keep the Lions honest.
If the Colts can do those things, they could get the signature road win they've been looking for. I'm going to predict that they're able to do some of that, but not enough to match Stafford and the Lion's offense.
Final score: Lions 41, Colts 31
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