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Indianapolis Colts, Week 18 | Know your foe

It's hard to put into words the season that the Colts have had, but let me try.

  • Tied the Texans in the first game, coming back from 20-3 to do so, missing GW 43-yard field goal in OT.
  • Got blanked in Jacksonville, again, where they haven't won in forever.
  • Beat the potential number one seed Kansas City Chiefs.
  • Lost both games to the Titans.
  • Benched their former MVP QB, installed first time starter.
  • Fired their head coach and offensive coordinator.
  • Hired a head coach who'd never coached in the NFL.
  • Turned an offensive analyst/assistant into the play caller.
  • Reinstated the original starting QB.
  • Upset the Raiders that week.
  • Lost two-score lead to former Colts OC and current Eagles head coach Nick Siranni.
  • Gave up 33 points in the fourth quarter to the Cowboys.
  • Blew a 33-point lead, the largest blown lead in the history of the NFL, to the Vikings.
  • Lost All-Pro RB for the remainder of the year in that Vikings loss. (Had just two 100 yard rushing games compared to ten in 2021)
  • Replaced the starting QB again with former Super Bowl MVP.
  • Former Super Bowl MVP gets hammered and knocked out of 28-point loss on the road.

That's all? Of course, that's asked rhetorically, but my goodness what an incredibly unfortunate season it's been in Indianapolis for many. With all the upheaval that occurred this season for the Colts, it seems as if there's no team that wants this season to end more than the Colts. The offense has taken a nose dive in one year's time. The Colts have run for 45+ yards less ON AVERAGE than they did last year. The passing game has also struggled, especially so with three different starting quarterbacks under center. The OL has looked like a shell of its former self, even with three stalwarts playing nearly all season long. The defense has lacked bite, mostly because stud LB Shaq Leonard missed all but three games.

That said, here's what we do know. Jeff Saturday is the Colts head coach for one more week. Sam Ehlinger will start at QB. The game will kickoff at 1 PM EST. The rest? Well, no one knows and, even more up in the air, is what happens on the day after the game. Monday is going to be an interesting day throughout the league, especially so in Indianapolis.

As such, let's get to know our Week 18 foe, 17 weeks later - the 2022 Indianapolis Colts.

2022 Schedule (4-11-1)
Week 1 - T @ HOUSTON TEXANS 20-20
Week 2 - L @ Jacksonville Jaguars 24-0
Week 3 - W Kansas City Chiefs 20-17
Week 4 - L Tennessee Titans 24-17
Week 5 - W @ Denver Broncos 12-9
Week 6 - W Jacksonville Jaguars 34-27
Week 7 - L @ Tennessee Titans 19-10
Week 8 - L Washington Commanders 17-16
Week 9 - L @ New England Patriots 26-3
Week 10 - W @ Las Vegas Raiders 25-20
Week 11 - L Philadelphia Eagles 17-16
Week 12 - L Pittsburgh Steelers 24-17
Week 13 - L @ Dallas Cowboys 54-19
Week 14 - BYE
Week 15 - L @ Minnesota Vikings 39-36
Week 16 - L Los Angeles Chargers 20-3
Week 17 - L @ New York Giants 38-10
Week 18 - Houston Texans

Colts OFFENSE (in 2022 regular season)
Rushing yards per game - 104.4 ypg (24th in the NFL)
Passing yards per game - 201.9 ypg (23rd)
Total offense per game - 306.3 ypg (30th)
Turnovers lost - 31 (13 fumbles lost,18 INT)

Expected Colts starting offense for Week 18
QB - Sam Ehlinger
TE - Mo Alie-Cox
WR - Michael Pittman Jr.
WR - Parris Campbell
LG - Quenton Nelson
C - Ryan Kelly
RG - Will Fries
RT - Braden Smith

Key Offensive Non-Starters

RB - Deon Jackson
WR - Mike Strachan
OT - Matt Pryor
OL - Danny Pinter

Italics - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2022

Keys to winning v. the Colts offense

1. Wham, Bam, Sam I Am - The Colts have announced that former University of Texas gunslinger Sam Ehlinger will start on Sunday against the Texans. He started two games prior to the firing of Frank Reich and then replaced an injured Nick Foles in last week's game against the Giants. He did throw the first TD of his career to Michael Pittman Jr. but it's been a mixed bag in his three appearances. Here's the most important thing for the Texans defense this week - he can, and will, run. A lot. That's his best asset - his ability to create on the run. So, don't let him. Trap/envelope him in the pocket and take away his sight lanes from the pocket.

2. No JT 28 - For the first time since he came into the league in 2020, Jonathan Taylor will not play against the Texans. That's wonderful news to not have to face him - it's not wonderful that he's injured, but to not have to tangle with JT 28 after what he did to the Texans in his first five games against them is a major gift. Zack Moss runs hard, a lot like Dameon Pierce does, so bringing the big boy pads is necessary, for sure. But, he's not going to hit home runs like Taylor has, can and will continue to do in the future.

3. Emerging. Finally? - Former Ohio State star playmaker Parris Campbell had as tough a start to his career as imaginable. Frank Reich loved him in the 2019 NFL Draft and thought he could be a difference maker from jump. Well, after three injury-plagued seasons, Campbell is finally making an impact. Put it this way, he has 57 receptions through 16 games, which is 23 MORE THAN his three-year TOTAL. He hasn't hit the big play often this year, but he did have a 49-yard grab against the Giants last week, showing he's still got that game breaking ability. Getting him the ball down the field should be something the Colts attempt to do more this week than the first meeting in week one against the Texans.

Colts DEFENSE (in 2022 regular season)
Rushing yards allowed per game - 128.1 ypg (23rd in the NFL)
Passing yards allowed per game - 204.3 ypg (11th)
Total offense allowed per game - 332.4 ypg (16th)
Turnovers generated - 18 (8 INT, 10 fumble recoveries - Colts are -13 in TO margin in 2022)

Expected Colts starting defense for Week 18
DE - Kwity Paye
DT - DeForest Buckner
DT - Grover Stewart
DE - Dayo Odeyingbo
LB - Zaire Franklin
LB - Bobby Okereke
S - Rodney McLeod
S - Julian Blackmon

Key Defensive Non-Starters
LB - E.J. Speed

Italics - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2022

Keys to winning v. the Colts defense

1. No Leonard, Yes Okereke - There is never a bright spot in a four-win season in the NFL, especially so when the heart and soul of the defense (Shaquille Leonard) played but three games in the season. But, the Colts found that Leonard's running mate Bobby Okereke is more than just a second fiddle player in this defense. He's playing as well as any point in his career and that peaked with his 17-tackle/one FF performance last weekend. He's always been explosive and cerebral and that's now showing itself on the field consistently. When Leonard comes back, he'll have a twin and not an underling. That's going to be rough for opponents in 2023, but Okereke's solo act will have one more appearance in 2022 against our Texans.

  1. A Shell of Itself - The Colts have put Leonard, Kenny Moore II, Yannick Ngakoue, Tyquan Lewis on IR this year. That's three former Pro Bowlers and a versatile edge rusher off the roster for Week 18's finale. That's been as difficult to handle as anything for the Colts this season. The Colts had plenty of defensive depth heading into the season, but losing two of its most important players (Leonard and Moore) heading into this matchup, makes them a completely different defense than even the one the Texans faced in Week One.

3. Still Here - But, the biggest factors, figuratively and literally, on this defense are still kicking and screaming, figuratively, of course. Given the Texans issues on the interior offensive line, star DTs Grover Stewart and DeForest Buckner can wreck shop in a quick minute in this game. Even when Leonard and Moore are on the field, the Stewart/Buckner interior duo still holds the key to the game. Stewart made a ton of plays in the first matchup against the Texans, but Buckner wasn't nearly as productive as he'd been in previous games against Houston. I expect both of them to ratchet up the juice to close the season with a bang.

Browse photos from the Texans-Jaguars Week 17 matchup.

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