12 Things to Watch in Sunday's Colts-Seahawks Game
Oooh. I'm so scared.
Last week, the Colts curb-stomped Jacksonville on their way to their third win of the year. This week, they take on arguably the second-best team in football. Seattle comes to the Luke in search of a perfect 5-0 start. Here's what to watch for...
1. Watch for the stretch. It's here. While the path to 3-1 wasn't quite what everyone expected, the fact is that the Colts are exactly where most of us figured they would be. Sunday opens the second, and most difficult, quarter of the season for the Horse. The second half of the year has five or so wins in it. If the Colts can go 1-3 over their next four games, they have a decent shot at making the playoffs. If they can split, they'll win double-digit games. Of course, they could also go 0-4 very easily, even if they play good football. This stretch is so difficult that Sunday's game is probably the most winnable of the four. If the Colts are a good team, or at least a playoff team, they have to find a way to put victories in the difficult games.
2. Watch for the excuses. People have been making excuses for Trent Richardson since he came into the NFL last year. He had hurt ribs. His line didn't block. He's new to the offense. That last one will likely hang over him for awhile. It's been a while since a good runner was traded mid-season, but it happened a few times in the 80s. Herschel Walker and Eric Dickerson were both instant hits in their new cities. Basically, excuse time is done. If Richardson really is a dynamic elite runner, he needs to start showing it. Seattle is a tough run defense, however, so if he has another sub-4.0 yards per carry week, watch for some to keep coming up with reasons why. There's a need to justify this trade in the minds of fans and analysts because of the price Indy paid. Had he been traded for a fifth-round pick, people would already be talking about how badly he sucks.
3. Watch for the master. As good as the Seahawks pass defense is, they are inexplicably bad against number one wideouts. That works out nicely for the Colts who happen to feature on of the great ones. Reggie Wayne could well go over 1,000 career catches this week, and he's on pace for another killer 90 catch, 1,200 yard, eight-score year. Wayne has had at least three catches every game of Andrew Luck's career, and at least five in 16 of the 20 games they've played together. Look for 100 yards from Reggie this week.
4. Watch the slogan. The Indy secondary has adopted the slogan #NoFlyZone as their motto, and they'll get a great chance to test it this weekend. Seattle's corners are generally considered the league's best right now, but the Indy crew has held their own. The Colts have been especially effective against extra receivers. Vontae Davis has been solid, and Greg Toler has been up and down, but Darius Butler (who I interviewed this week) and Cassius Vaughn have been lock down against guys in the slot. The Colts have the best DVOA in football against third and fourth receivers. Shutting down Doug Baldwin (third in the NFL in DVOA) will be the challenge, but beyond him, the Colts should have success.
5. Watch for the comparison. With Colin Kaepernick struggling and RG3 limping around, the "next great quarterback" competition has narrowed for the moment from four to two. Luck and Wilson stand head and shoulders above their peers. I voted for Wilson for Rookie of the Year in the PFWA awards last year, but would have ranked him second to Luck heading into this year. By DVOA the two are nearly identical, but Luck holds a big edge in QBR thanks to his legs and his fourth-quarter exploits. Luck is the better player, but it's very close. It's a privilege to watch these two up close at this stage of their careers. Both figure to be relevant for a long time.
6. Watch the seam. As noted last week, Coby Fleener is having a nice season. He's on pace for 48 catches, 660 yards, and eight scores. All would be better than the numbers Dwayne Allen put up last year. That kind of production will be hard to replicate against the best defense in the league against tight ends. The good news is that Owen Daniels put up six for 72 against Seattle last week, and he's used in a similar way to Fleener. The bad news is that the Seahawks have picked off five passes intended for tight ends. Luck is going to have pick his spots to target Fleener.
7. Watch the Game Script. I love the work of Chase Stuart at Footballperspective.com on game scripts. This comes from the idea of tracking not only run/pass ratio, but doing so with the actual score in mind. Teams that have a big lead run more than teams that are behind, so when calculating run-pass balance, we need to control for that. The only game the Colts have run more than they passed was Week 3 against San Francisco, a game in which they lead throughout. It was also balanced against the Raiders, but again, Indy led most of the way, and the run plays were bolstered by six Andrew Luck carries. Even in the San Fran game, the ratio was balanced until Indy ran on 12 of the final 14 plays to put the game away. All this to say, the Indy O is playing very well right now, and they are passing more than they run. On the year, counting Luck scrambles as passes, Indy is throwing around 57 or 58 percent of the time. That's just not that far off from what I would consider ideal, and given the fact that they've played from ahead, it's pretty good.
8. Watch for beast mode. Marshawn Lynch has had some sick runs, and containing him will be difficult for the Colts. Indy's run defense is suspect no matter how you measure it (26th DVOA, 4.2 YPC), but Lynch has had his own struggles (negative DVOA, 3.9 YPC). Indy can't allow him to cut loose. They have to bring him down early in the carry and not allow themselves to get pushed around on the ground. Also, I think robots that transform into animals is almost as dumb as robots that transform into guns, jukeboxes and Volkswagens. I want a robot that transforms into something cool, like a spaceship, or a bigger robot.
9. Watch for grunge. You may have noticed a distinct lack of wit in this week's column. That's because you haven't gotten to the joke point. This week's joke point is all about grunge music and disaffected youth and how Seattle is too cool for school and there's something about Kurt Cobain, and it's all very hip and relevant, or at least it would be if we were still in 1995. That's because for me, it is 1995. It always will be 1995. Jim Harbaugh is still quarterbacking the Colts (I know, right?), Reggie Miller is still playing, I still wear flannel shirts and Seattle is all about garage bands and mid-90s disaffection. The point is that I'm old, and Seattle is a dang hard place to make fun of. Oh yeah, and it rains a lot there! Zing!
The previous point reinforces the tried and true rule of comedy in 2013: if you can't be funny, be meta. Most people can't tell the difference anyway. Lord knows I can't.
10. Watch the scramble. Luck and Wilson are two of the best running quarterbacks in the game, precisely because neither guy is trying to be a running quarterback. The Colts struggled with Pryor against Oakland, but held Kaepernick down by keeping him in the pocket and forcing him to throw. That won't work against Wilson. He actually can throw. Indy will have bring him down behind the line of scrimmage. With a sack rate of almost 12 percent, it should be possible. Whichever QB makes more back-breaking plays with his legs will likely come out on top.
11. Watch Walden. Eric Walden has not looked good on tape. He has four tackles in four games and has been woefully out of place against the running quarterbacks. With Bjoern Werner likely out, Walden has to play and contribute. He's been a disaster most weeks, picking up a negative pass rush score in every game. Of course, he's augmented that with bad run defense. The only thing he does with any proclivity is drop into coverage. Robert Mathis is doing all the heavy lifting, so watch for Walden to either pick up the slack or for Mathis to face an unceasing stream of double teams.
12. Watch for the tension. I've flipped on this game a dozen times. On one hand, I think Indy has a lot of flaws, and it's difficult to get past how they played the last time I saw them up close. On the other hand, the NFC isn't a fantastic as it first appeared and this is a 1 PM game for Seattle on the road. My head tells me Indy gets beat, but my gut keeps saying this is a game they pull out. Colts 24 Seahawks 21.
Im always willing to have patience with young players no matter who they are so im willing to give Richardson more time to prove himself. I understand that others were against the trade at the outset and aren't willing to cut him slack, that's how these things go. I just think its unfair to compare any current RB (other than AP) to the great Walker and Dickerson. If the expectations are that TRich is going to be a top 10ish RB of all time I would reckon you'll always be disappointed.
Trent Richardson's O-line was so bad in Cleveland, that Bernie Kosar is even using it as an excuse for failing field sobriety tests after his recent DUI. Sad but true. Okay, funny, as well.
Seattle is so "bad" against #1 WRs because the FO stats are highly dependent on INTs and they have picked off 5 of their 7 versus TEs and none against #1 WRs. I don't think it's a weakness, just the result of analysis bias (unintentional) and small sample size. Their DBs and S's are still plenty good. Vociferous, even.
This week in Seattle, my kids' football practices have been rained out twice (one coach co-opted the field turf baseball infields for a practice); we've had a record wet September in an area that rains a lot. Yes, it's freakin' wet. My lawn grows six inches every week and I can't mow it because it's rained every day. I'll be raising elk soon. And I'm going camping next weekend with the Boy Scouts. Kill me, please.
Nate, I agree with your score, though I might aim a little lower, like 20-17.
Nate, you were really down on the Vontae Davis trade last year and it seems to have worked out. I'm more than willing to give Richardson more time. Walden, however... what were they thinking? Mathis will be triple-teamed, and still manage a sack. In other news, I just bought a Freeney Colts jersey online this morning, about seven years too late. I'm wearing my old Addai jersey at my desk in downtown Seattle as I type this. Got a few comments already.
And, sir, you aren't remotely old. When you start ridiculing 70's disco with first-hand memories of girls you had a crush on in 7th grade who wore Jordache jeans (snipped from an FO discussion board), then we can talk.
"The previous point reinforces the tried and true rule of comedy in 2013: if you can't be funny, be meta."
QUIT GIVING AWAY MY SECRETS!!!
Completely agree about Trent. I'm still hoping he proves us wrong, but I think the Colts spent a first round pick on a goal line back. I really wish that pick could have been used on a future replacement for Wayne.
I cannot put into words the feeling I have seeing the number 93 so woefully misrepresented out on the field.
HOW exactly do we need Walden to play and contribute, this weekend? I mean, we don't need him to really get at Wilson, right? If so, I'm scared. If we need him less as a pass rusher and more as a 'contain man', I have my fingers crossed that he can be patient, take up space and not get beat. Boy, high hopes, right?
I have a sizeable man-crush on Chase Stuart. I'd like to be him when I grow up, kthx.
Reading his work is a good antidote for my sadness over Collie signing with the Patriots. THANKS, OBAMA.
What do you think of DHB, so far this season? Seems like they value his YAC generating skills more than his ability to outrun defenders on deep routes.
No Seatle and PEDs jokes?
(As all great humor is based on truth, I would have thought this would be ripe for the picking.)
Here, I'll start.
Why do the Seahawks have the shortest team meeting in the league? Because all their players have ADD.
Why did the amount the Seahawk player could bench press, suddenly drop dramatically ? He actually took Adderall for his ADD.
What is the diffference between a High School kid with ADD and a Seahawk player with ADD? A full 1.5 seconds in their 40 time.
@NateDunlevy Am I crazy for thinking DHB will need to take the top off the defense this game? Hasn't yet, but, line hasn't really allowed it
@NateDunlevy Nice read Nate. I was concerned about backups making mistakes and costing the Colts but so far it hasn't happened.
@NateDunlevy Getcha Skittles ready?
@CanuckColt Why do you have to make it so polarized? If you're expecting him to be a top-10 running back of all time, you're just so out of whack!
What if I'm just expecting a RB who was acquired for a 1st-round pick to be a top-10 back... for this year?
Or even the most productive back on the Colts roster.
Are those more-acceptable desires? Because he meets neither.
And people can question the trade and can criticize Richardson without doing it out of dislike for a player. Richardson is averaging 2.9ypc through 2 games with the Colts, while every other rb on the team is close to twice that.
Is that not worth even questioning?
It seems like we went from an era where Colts fans hated you if you weren't blindly negative to an era where Colts fans hate you if you aren't blindly positive. It's okay to live in the middle.
@CanuckColt But that's the point. If he is not great, a truly explosive player who can win games for you, then why give my a first round pick for him?
@Bobman1 I was down on the Davis trade because he's only signed through this year. I felt like 32 games was too little return for a player who cost a second-round pick. Yes, they can resign him, but they could have done that after this year without giving up the picks.
He was bad most of last year, so in order to recoup their value, he has to be healthy all season and be amazing.
So the only issue with the Davis trade was the price they paid.
Richardson is a different deal.
1. It's a bad deal philosophically.
2. He has no history of good play. There's nothing in his NFL resume that points to the fact that he's a good player. The eye test can lie, and so can the numbers. His eye test says he's bad. His numbers say he's bad. His last franchise said he was bad. His teammates said he was bad.
At some point, he's just bad.
@AJ_ Don't worry, AJ.
@naptown_ninja He is what Avery was supposed to be. Basically a zero DVOA. That's good. He's average. Not hurting the team.
@mdunn919 Hilton is the guy I'm looking for
@Music Man LOL yes, yes I did. HUGE Voltron fan.
Funny part is, I forgot about Voltron when I wrote that. I just had a vague instinct that I wanted a bigger robot. Then when you said it, I was like, "Hey! YES! VOLTRON! THAT'S WHAT I WANT!".
Never collected Transformers, but I had a Voltron Castle, all the Lions, ships. Loved it.
1) So Davis has to be healthy and amazing all year for the trade to be worthwhile? Why do you set the bar so high for a 2nd round pick? Based on your draft pick articles, you of all people should understand the reality that typical production from draft picks is far less than people think. Your standard for Davis seems out of whack.
2) I agree that T.Rich looks underwhelming. That said, why is the deal philosophically bad? I assume because you think RB's should never be taken that high? But then why did the great(or not so great) Bill Polian draft a RB in the first round 3 times?
@NateDunlevy I wasn't sure if the height and length of the cb's would limit him more, but somebody needs to keep the safeties out of the box
@Nate Dunlevy @Music Man speaking of animals that turn into robots and vice versa... holy stuff of nightmares, look what @royhobbson just discovered: http://thisistheverge.tumblr.com/post/63082192548/the-worlds-fastest-running-robot-is-off-the
BTW: Ugoh met the standard of average for a second round pick. A tich below. The issues is the length of team control.
Even Angerer and Moala are reasonably productive. It's just hard to get value out of two seasons.
@Nate Dunlevy @Johnny_Socko @Bobman1 I'll take your word for it on the AV numbers. Perhaps my expectations on 2nd round picks is clouded by the Colts recent history of failure in the 2nd round. I.E. Ben Ijalana, Mike Pollak, and Tony Ugoh. Along with modest success with Angerer and Moala. Nevertheless, Davis was a beast last week (granted against a JV team), so anywhere near that level of production the rest of the year will justify the trade for me.
Davis brought a value of 4 last year.
There's basically no way for him to make up the full value, but I'll give him credit if he plays amazing this year.
A second-round pick is controlled for four years. Davis's play was below average last year. There's nothing out of whack about my expectations. They are perfectly reasonable. It's nearly impossible to get full value for a second-round pick for 2 years of player control. That's why I was down on it.
2. Deal was philosophically bad because you don't trade for a RB and you try to avoid using 1st round picks on them with a couple of exceptions:
If you have a truly special player (which Polian did in Edge)
You have no other obvious needs (Addai)
Polian made a huge mistake taking Donald Brown, no question. It wasn't a position of need and Brown didn't fit the bill.
Grigson made this deal because he thinks Richardson is special. To that I can only say that there is simply no evidence of it. He has run bad and he looks bad. Beyond that, his team has huge glaring needs in 2014 at WR and pass rusher as Mathis and Wayne age.
I don't see how a RB in general was priority, much less this RB in specific.