Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!
We’re closing out this holiday weekend with our weekly “5 Questions” game preview which is brought to you by Stampede Blue’s Chris Sheperd. Our guests always have a ton to say about their team, so let’s go ahead and dive on in.
1.) What do fans think of the decision to bench Matt Ryan for a second time this season in favor of Nick Foles? The latter hasn’t started a game in 12 months and had only one start during the entire 2021 season. Is this the right move in your eyes, especially with no postseason to play for?
At this point it seems like Colts fans just want change. Matt Ryan has been (unfairly) asked to carry a team with a bad offensive line and he has played poorly. He looks shell shocked. He doesn’t seem able to do any of the things that once made him a top 10 NFL quarterback. Colts fans who are still trying to assign blame for the way this season has gone, have assigned it to Matt Ryan. Ryan hasn’t been great but he shouldn’t have needed to be great to do what the Colts promised him he would be responsible for doing.
From my perspective benching Matt Ryan was the right call. His contract includes huge guarantees for 2023 if he gets injured and is unable to pass a physical. But starting Nick Foles is asinine. What does anyone gain from seeing Foles on the field? We know who he is and it’s just not going to go well. In my not so humble opinion the Colts should be starting Sam Ehlinger for these last three games. Ehlinger was not good in his two starts earlier this season but he’s a 24 year old, second year quarterback. They should be playing him to evaluate him for the backup role in 2023 and beyond, if he shows any kind of growth that’s a positive.
The Colts have three quarterbacks on their roster, two of them are likely to retire after the season. One of them is 24. None of them are good. The team has been eliminated from playoff contention and Peyton Manning isn’t walking through those doors. It doesn’t matter who they start, their chances of winning the next three games aren’t any lower playing the young guy.
2.) How has the fan base received Jeff Saturday as the head coach? After beginning his coaching tenure with a win over the Raiders, his latest game was....historically bad. The Colts dropped a 33-0 lead at halftime to lose to the Vikings a week ago and I can only believe that forced a lot of fans to call for his job. How do you personally feel about Saturday and what would you like to see the Colts this offseason when it comes to changing their coaching staff?
I took a beating from a large portion of the fanbase for calling Jeff Saturday’s hire what it was: stupid. Colts owner Jim Irsay fired a good coach who had a winning record despite never starting the same QB in back to back years because he was finally given a roster that was just too bad to overcome. In my opinion, that was a mistake, but it’s a mistake that happens in the NFL. You hate to see it, but it happens. What you don’t see happen is the owner firing that coach in-season, over the phone no less, and then turning around and hiring his friend who had a career 20-16 record as a low-level high school coach, to be the head coach of a pro football team.
In decades of watching football I’ve seen some insanely stupid things: Dan Orlavsky’s safety, Mark Sanchez’s butt-fumble, the Colts swinging gate disaster of 2015. I watched the Raiders draft Jamarcus Russell and Darrius Heyward-Bey, the entire Matt Millen era in Detroit. I used to own a copy of former Bears OC Terry Shea’s playbook (Google it)- I have seen the pinnacle of NFL incompetence and Jim Irsay’s decision to hire a former player and TV personality to be the head coach, is right up there with the dumbest of the dumb.
Now after we’ve all witnessed what the Jeff Saturday coaching experience is like, those Colts fans who gave me such a hard time have mysteriously disappeared.
What do I want to see for the future? That’s a great question. After seeing this season play out my fear is that any coach with multiple options will be unlikely to choose to come to Indy unless their other option is the Texans. So I would be shocked to see a premier head coaching candidate end up in Indy. General manager Chris Ballard deserves a lot of blame for what has happened this season, but he is very well connected in addition to being a good scout. I would like to see him get the chance to go through a hiring process and choose the next coach. What I’m afraid will happen is that Jim Irsay will do his best Al Davis impersonation and hire Lane Kiffin.
3.) If you were Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, how would you go about this Colts defense? Which players would you try to exploit the most?
The biggest thing on the ground is consistently running outside. Rushing inside is tough to do with Grover Stewart and DeForrest Buckner clogging up those gaps. The Colts haven’t had great discipline stopping those runs that challenge either edge in recent weeks so I would start there, eventually you’re going to get things moving in the right direction. In the passing game, honestly it doesn’t matter, I have Justin Herbert. Since everyone wants a plan, I’m going to try to get Zaire Franklin one on one down field against, well, anyone. So either overload sets or flooding zones and keying on him is where I would start. Franklin has been awesome this year filling in for Shaq Leonard but he can struggle in coverage. Also anytime Mike Williams is matched up on Isaiah Rodgers, I’m very interested in what happens there.
4.) Same question but flip sides of the ball. If you were Brandon Staley, how would you go about stopping this Colts offense? Which players would you focus on the most? Which players do you think are underrated on that side of the ball?
This sounds cliche but the defense just needs to do the things it’s best at. The QB is Nick Foles. All-pro RB Jonathan Taylor isn’t playing. The offensive line is bad (but slightly better than it was earlier this season). It doesn’t matter, as long as the defense plays it’s assignments, they will get the stops they need to get. As far as underrated players go, Michael Pittman Jr. is absolutely underrated. I’m not saying he’s a top 10 or even top 20 receiver but he is a really good player stuck in a terrible offense who has had a different QB every year he’s been in the NFL. Dude’s a good player.
5.) The Chargers are currently four-point favorites over the Colts on the road in Indianapolis with the over/under set at 45.5. Give us a few lines on how you see this game shaking out, a final score prediction, and whether or not you’re taking the over/under in this one.
The 2022 Indianapolis Colts are allergic to scoring more than 20 points in a game.
I realize the Colts just scored 36 points last week, but hear me out. The first drive of the game the Colts offense made it 57 yards and kicked a field goal. After that they scored on a blocked punt. Then they recovered a fumble and then drove down the field to score a touchdown. Then they got a stop on 4th and 1 at the Vikings 31 yard line, they ended up kicking a 26 yard field goal. Then the Vikings did the same thing, again and turned it over on downs on their own 31 (seriously) the Colts kicked a 49 yard field goal. Then a bad route resulted in a pick-6. Then the Colts work a successful four minute drill to drive down and kick another field goal. In the second half the only points they scored came after a big kick return from rookie Dallis Flowers set them up at their own 40, they went on to kick a 52 yard field goal.
So if you take out all of the insanely stupid things that happened the Colts offense only scored points on four decent drives and that’s including the drive that started with a 48 yard kick return. On those four drives they scored a total of 16 points. The other 20 points came on extremely dumb decisions and flukey plays. So please understand me when I say, as long as the Chargers don’t spot the Colts 7 points at the start of the game, I don’t expect Indy to score more than 19 points. They just really struggle to do it.
Until a few weeks ago I was super bullish on the Colts defense (for good reason) but it seems that guys are probably more worried about being healthy for next season than playing high level defense, especially when the offense can’t score 20+ points. So in my opinion, give it time and the defense will falter. This one might be close early on but the Chargers should pull away in the second half.
My score prediction is 31-17, Chargers, so I’ll take the over but I don’t love that bet.