On Sunday, two of the best teams in the NFL will meet in Lucas Oil Stadium. Those two teams will be lead by two young, talented, stars-in-the-making quarterbacks. On one sideline there will be a coach who inspired a nation. On the other... a <expletive deleted>. One team fighting for a division, the other fighting for the conference. On paper, it may be the best game of the entire weekend.
To celebrate, FOX has sent superstar announcers Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch to commentate this week's Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts showdown. Oh FOX, that's so Blaine Gabbert of you.
Who will win? Who will lose?! WE'LL FIND OUT AFTER THE JUMP.
COLTS - SEAHAWKS - BURKHARDT - LYNCH - PAGANO - CARROLL. NFL ON FOX. CATCH THE EXCITEMENT.
Tale of the tape
How do the Colts and Seahawks measure up against each other on offense and defense? Let us take a look. NFL.com conventional rankings are listed first, with FootballOutsiders.com advanced stats (DVOA) in parenthesis.
|Passing||23rd (14th)||7th (6th)||25th (5th)||4th (1st)|
|Rushing||4th (2nd)||16th (26th)||5th (11th)||18th (10th)|
|Total||9th (4th)||8th (13th)||12th (9th)||5th (1st)|
When the Colts have the ball
|Indianapolis Colts Offense||Seattle Seahawks Defense|
|87 WR R. Wayne||79 LDE R. Bryant|
|80 TE C. Fleener||99 DT T. McDaniel|
|74 LT A. Castonzo||92 DT B. Mebane|
|69 LG H. Thornton||91 DE C. Clemons|
|64 C S. Satele||53 OLB M. Smith|
|75 RG M. McGlynn||54 MLB B. Wagner|
|78 RT G. Cherilus||50 OLB K. Wright|
|81 WR D. Heyward-Bey||25 CB R. Sherman|
|12 QB A. Luck||31 SS K. Chancellor|
|39 FB S. Havili||29 FS E. Thomas|
|44 RB A. Bradshaw||39 CB B. Browner|
That last sentence, sorry for turning this into a stream-of-conciousness, but I think a key word in really all strategy games is "balance." I talked about balance last week with regards to going deep more often, but there's another kind of balance, one that's even more important. In poker, it's called "balancing your range" - playing such a variety of hands in such a manner that your opponent(s) don't know what you have. This applies in football, as well. You want to "balance your range" by being able to run out of your passing formations and pass out of your running formations. Or, even better, being able to do everything out of 1 or 2 formations. This is obviously a bit of a dream right now, with the injury to Dwayne Allen, but that should be the "end" goal for this offense: the ability to run everything out of their base offense. RIght now, I still feel they are too reliant on "run" and "pass" formations.
1. Rich man, poor man - I was against the Trent Richardson trade. I'm not a fan of drafting a RB in the 1st round and I'm certainly not a fan of giving up a 1st-round pick for a RB 18 games into his NFL career. That said, I don't think the Colts are putting TRich in the best position to succeed. Brown and Bradshaw have both found more success because they are running out of formations that better suit the Colts OL. They aren't good enough to push defenses around. They have to exploit angle, momentum, and misdirection. They need the defense to think pass when it's a run, they need the defense to think left when it's going right. Lining up with 6OL and a FB on 1st-and-10 is just letting the defense hone in on the running game. Not only is it bad for Richardson's stats, it's not great on his body, either. Let him take that punishment on the goal line, not every down.
2. Be quick, like ninja - I love the deep passing game. I think TY Hilton is being used poorly. I think he should DEMAND a trade to Arizona so that Bruce Arians can fix my fantasy teams. But in this game, quick is where it's at. Design routes that get the receivers open quickly and let Luck get rid of the ball before the pass rush can reach him. Not only will this help extend drives, but it will frustrate and tire out the pass rush out. They did it against the 49ers, I expect them to do it again this week.
When the Seahawks have the ball
|Indianapolis Colts Defense||Seattle Seahawks Offense|
|90 DE C. Redding||18 WR S. Rice|
|97 NT A. Franklin||67 LT P. McQuistan|
|95 DT F. Moala||77 LG J. Carpenter|
|93 OLB E. Walden||60 C M. Unger|
|51 ILB P. Angerer||64 RG J. Sweezy|
|50 ILB J. Freeman||68 RT B. Giacomini|
|98 OLB R. Mathis||86 TE Z. Miller|
|28 CB G. Toler||81 WR G. Tate|
|26 FS D. Howell||3 QB R. Wilson|
|41 SS A. Bethea||40 FB D. Coleman|
|23 CB V. Davis||24 RB M. Lynch|
Over the past-two weeks, the Colts have gone with an aggressive press-man and a single-high safety look. This has worked for two reasons: 1) CBs Greg Toler and Vontae Davis have done a great job at not only getting a good jam at the line of scrimmage, but of providing extremely tight coverage and 2) the 49ers and Jaguars didn't have enough receiving weapons to make them pay. So the question is: are WRs Doug Baldwin (3rd DVOA, 18th PFF), Sidney Rice (25th DVOA, 37th PFF) and Golden Tate (29th DVOA, 33rd PFF) good enough to make the Colts pay if they employ the single-high safety?
If they can get that kind of pressure while maintaining their gap discipline (keeping Wilson in the pocket), they will get to the Seahawks' QB. If they get to the Seahawks' QB, the numbers (we'll get to them later) show that he will make mistakes. If he makes mistakes, I'm tellin' you right now: the Colts will win!
What I'm watching for, defense:
1. Where's Walden - Last week, Erik Walden had his best game of the year. Unfortunately, it came against the Jaguars. But it was a good game. I watched him closely, especially after the injury to Werner, to see how he held up. There were a couple of really nice plays in there, and no glaring mistakes. Was this Walden getting his act together? Or a byproduct of playing one of the worst offenses in NFL history? Definitely a lot of the latter, but let's be optimistic and not rule out a little bit of the former. With Werner out until after the bye week, the Colts are going to need Walden to continue to play well.
2. WILLLLLLLLLLLLLLSON - Wilson has been good this year, but he hasn't been perfect. You probably don't know this, because no one has told you, but Russell Wilson has 3 interceptions on the year and 4 (FOUR) fumbles (2 lost). If you can pressure him, he WILL make mistakes. The Colts must be able to do to Wilson what they did to Kaepernick. While Wilson has a few more weapons than Kaepernick, his offensive line is hurting. And as everyone should know by now: neutralize the QB and you neutralize his weapons. Or, as Terry Silver said in Karate Kid III, while teaching Daniel-san his patented Quicksilver Method: IF A QB CAN'T SEE, HE CAN'T THROW. FEAR DOES NOT EXIST IN THIS DOJO. HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIYA. I need a vacation.
Keys to the game (Besides outscoring your opponent)
1. Protect Luck (For the fifth-consecutive week!) - No jokes this week. The Seahawks - on the strength of their dominant defensive line - are one of the best pass rushing teams in the NFL. The foursome of Bryant, McDaniel, Mebane, and Clemons are able to create havoc in the offensive backfield without any assistance via blitzes. This pass rush, in tandem with an aggressive press-man philosophy in the secondary, robs opposing QBs of time to think and windows to throw into. If the Colts are going to have success in the passing game on Sunday, it will start up front with the offensive line.
If Luck can get time, the numbers suggest that he should be able to make plays: Seattle is 29th in the league at covering #1 WRs per DVOA. The rest of their coverage numbers (vs WRs) are pretty favorable, as well: 18th against #2 WRs and 15th against "Other". Where they do shine, however, is against the TE: Seattle ranks 1st in DVOA in covering TEs. So while there's been a lot of love for Fleener in recent weeks, I'm not sure I expect him to have a big day catching the ball.
Seattle has a great defense, but it can be scored on. If Luck has time in the pocket, he's good enough to exploit every possible opportunity. If the OL fails to protect him, expect to see throws similar to the interception(s) thrown against Jacksonville last week.
Extra stat note: the Colts may want to use the shotgun formation sparingly this week: Seattle is tops in the league against the shotgun formation (by DVOA) while "only" 14th in the league against non-shotgun plays. Maybe we're taking these stats things too serious.
2. Run the ball (no, really) - But Greg you say you have to pass to win!!! It's true, the Colts aren't going to be able to win on Sunday without a big game from Andrew Luck, but as we saw against the 49ers, a big game doesn't always have to include gaudy passing numbers. Sometimes, not turning the ball over, making the smart, efficient play, and capitalizing on the 1 or 2 chances you do get is enough. That's what Luck will have to do on Sunday.
The rest of the damage will have to come on the ground. I mention this earlier in the piece, but I hope the Colts are able to incorporate Trent Richardson into their more creative running plays, the type that Ahmad Bradshaw and Donald Brown have been running this season. It's those plays - the ones that allow the OL to use angles, not power, and the threat of the pass, not overwhelming blocking numbers - that have really made this running game effective.
So why run? Seattle ranks 1st against the pass in DVOA, 2nd in PFF, and 4th in conventional yards-per-game. Against the run, they rank 10th in DVOA, 4th in PFF, and 18th in conventional yards-per-game. Seattle's run defense isn't a weakness, it's just not as dominant as their pass defense. That gives this Colts rushing attack, which ranks top-4 in DVOA, PFF, and conventional stats, a chance to make a difference. And who knows, maybe if the running game is effective, it gets the Seattle secondary to peak in the backfield, which allows Andrew Luck to hit a big play off of play action. In a game I feel will come down to 1 or 2 big plays, that could be the difference between a big win and a disappointing loss.
Some extra notes before we move on. Anthony Castonzo has been one of the best LT in the entire NFL this season, and he's a particularly good run blocker, so running behind him is never a bad thing, but FootballOutsider's - they chart every game, so I trust them and so should you - numbers suggest that plays to the right might be more effective (if the Colts blocking holds up, of course). Seattle ranks 1st in runs around left end and 6th on runs behind the LT, but 24th on runs up the middle, 18th on runs at the RT, and 28th on runs around the right end. This may be one of the games the Colts break out the unbalanced line and run right until the Seahawks show they can stop it.
3. Get to Russell Wilson - It's no secret that all QBs struggle when pressured, so we're not reinventing the wheel here, but Russell Wilson - especially this year - has been especially bad in the face of pressure. For the season, Wilson has passed for 787yds while completing 61.5% of his passes, with 6TDs and 3INTs, for a qbrating of 95.3. Those are perfectly fine numbers. Under pressure, however, his numbers plummet: 7 of 26 (26.9%) for 119 yards (4.6ypa), 1 TD, 2 INT, and a 26.9 qbrating.
The danger with Wilson - as it is with Andrew Luck and 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick - is that you have to create "controlled" pressure. If you get up field and do a fly by on the QB, sure, you're "creating pressure", but you're also creating a running lane. And if you give Russell Wilson a lane, he'll take it. The good news for the Colts is since their week 1 debacle against Terrelle Pryor, they've been great at pressuring the QB without creating a running lane.
Can Robert Mathis continue his torrid sack pace? Can the Colts get to Wilson without blitzing? If you answer yes to these questions, then the Colts probably win this game. On the turf, at home with the crowd noise? And against a banged up Seattle OL? I need to stop writing about this, I almost feel optimistic.
4. No soup for Lynch - Like the Colts, the Seahawks like to insulate their young QB with a punishing running game, and when it comes to punishment, no one dishes out more than Marshawn Lynch. While he's not off to the best start of his career (308 yards on 79 carries for 3.9ypc and only 3 runs of 20+ yards), Lynch is still dangerous enough to turn every carry into a highlight reel run. Unlike last week, the Colts will get no... "easy" plays against Seattle.
The key for the Colts will be stopping the run without having to bring a safety into the box with regularity. This means Erik Walden will have to build on what I consider his best game of his entire life last week against the Jaguars. If he can be THAT Erik Walden every week - nothing flashy, no WOW plays - but also not getting pushed around by 5th-string TEs who just signed Saturday morning fresh out of the CFL - the Colts have a shot. If they are forced to bring Bethea/Landry/Howell into the box, Russell Wilson and his trio of capable WRs will make the Colts pay.
The injury reports
NOTE: This guide comes out Thursdays, official injury statuses are not released until Friday, the Probable or Questionable designation in these reports is based on Wed/Thur participation only.
|RB Ahmad Bradshaw||NECK (QUESTIONABLE)|
|CB Vontae Davis||FOOT (QUESTIONABLE)|
|FB Stanley Havili||ANKLE (I DON'T THINK SO)|
|S Delano Howell||TOE (QUESTIONABLE)|
|DT Ricky Jean Francois||GROIN (QUESTIONABLE)|
|S LaRon Landry||ANKLE (QUESTIONABLE)|
|G Hugh Thornton||SHOULDER (QUESTIONABLE)|
|OLB Bjoern Werner||FOOT (OUT)|
|DE Michael Bennett||BACK (PROBABLE)|
|DE Chris Clemons||NOT INJURY RELATED (PROBABLE)|
|RT Breno Giacomini||KNEE (QUESTIONABLE)|
|DT Jordan Hill||Biceps (PROBABLE)|
|SS Jeron Johnson||HAMSTRING (QUESTIONABLE)|
|CB Jeremy Lane||HAMSTRING (QUESTIONABLE)|
|RB Marshawn Lynch||NOT INJURY RELATED (PROBABLE)|
|C Max Unger||ARM (QUESTIONABLE)|
|RB Spencer Ware||ANKLE (QUESTIONABLE)|
|LB KJ Wright||SHOULDER (PROBABLE)|
Series note and a video
- The Colts and the Seahawks have squared off 10 times in the regular season with the Colts holding a 6-4 series lead.
Identifying the coverage
Who(Visually): Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch
Who(Audio): Bob Lamey and Jim Sorgi
Is the Game on in your area? Good question! The people at 506Sports will be able to tell you.
Officiating Crew: RON WINTERRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
Seattle - 21, Colts - 20
Ron Winter?! FUCK! He a Colts Hater!
The Colts need to run a lot of stack and bunch sets with pick routes to neutralize the press coverage.
Because I like this stuff: https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2013/10/02/signature-stats-pass-rushing-productivity/
Mathis and Redding earned mention here. I hope we keep seeing this level of production from Redding. Also notable: #TheReal93 made the list but is now probably done.
FO's drive stats paint a pretty rosy picture, though opponent weighting is still sketchy this early in the season. The Colts O is incredibly efficient--in a Manning-esque way. Worst part (as always) is field position. And the D drive stats are the best I've seen for us in a while--top third of the league for the most part with a 13th overall ranking.
Flip side--Seattle is a few steps behind Indy on O and a few ahead (not that much, really despite their fearsome rep) on D. Based on the drive stats we have a slight edge. Throw in HFA... and it looks good. I really wish we had Bradshaw and Werner (is Landry suiting up?) but think Colts pull it out by 2--thanks entirely to HFA. Those of you going to the game, yell like hell. I'll be doing the same from here in Seattle, but doubt I'll be loud enough to have an effect.
Last week TEs went for 141 and a TD against the Hawks... Maybe Fleener will have a decent game after all.
Wont even be close. Colts enjoy some home cookin' and the 12th man cranks up the decibal level when Seattle has the ball.
Colts roll . . . . .31-16.
BTW, Greg - GREAT write up !
@todd_e_smith Superman III analogy: perfection.
I do feel somewhat optimistic about this game. If the Colts can strike early, I like their chances. But, I think the Colts' defense will decide it. If the defense allows the Seahawks to get out to a lead of more than a touchdown, it will be difficult for the offense to catch up at any point. Get to Wilson, win the game.
Damn you Greg... you've baited me into this.
I absolutely HATE the Richardson trade. (But since I have been wrong about just about every move the Colts have made lately, I've tried to keep quiet to save myself future embarrassment.)
Against the 49ers (and yes I know it was Richardson's first Colts game) but how different was the plays Bradshaw was running and the plays called for Richardson? Especially the second half, when Bradshaw was dominating and Richardson was getting chalked, wasn't Bradshaw running from a running formation?
But the bottom line is that for Richardson to be worth a number one pick, he has to be able to do things other backs can't. Like be able to run, even when the defense is expecting it. If he can't do this... well, we already had Bradshaw and Brown (and Ballard) without giving up the future.
@GregCowanCA mistake. Didn’t change headline from “when the Jags have the ball “. To Seahawks.
Hm. Indy went 7-1 at home last season despite hosting the Vikings, Packers, and Texans; Seattle went 3-5 on the road last year, and almost suffered losses to Carolina and Houston this year. Were the game in Seattle, I'd call it a wash, but ... I dunno. I'm feeling Indy on this one.
KNOCK. ON. WOOD.
@Bobman1 my gut says no Bradshaw/Werner (obvious) and no Landry.
All of the advanced metrics really do paint this in the Colts favor. I also think this has some "no one believes in us" factor (everyone will pick Seattle).
Colts haven't been at home for 2 weeks. Crowd will be rev'd. Mathis will have an extra jump.
This is DEFINITELY a winnable game. I wanted to pick them. I lack the stones.
@bradicus18 Honestly, I went back and forth. My original prediction was 20.5 - 20.5, but that was the easy way out.
In the end, as impressed as I've been with the Colts the past two weeks, I'm still a bit unsure of who/what they are as a team. Seattle is one of the two best teams in the league. It's tough.
@DougEngland Bradshaw had some running formations, but also some shotgun formations, some more spread looks. It's more of a mix. With Richardson, there's no mix.
@DougEngland I dunno. After Ballard and Allen went out, I think Indy's management saw a team in disarray, needing some sort of momentum; by signing Richardson, they totally changed their team's attitude. It went from 'we're losing players left and right' to 'holy christ, look who we just picked up!'
If signing Richardson allows Indy to get momentum (check) and keep momentum (we'll see on Sunday), that trade - despite everything attached to it, and the loss of a draft pick - helped convert Indy's season. Without that trade, Indy looked like a sinking ship; with it, they look like a team ready to make a push this year.
And hey, two touchdowns later ... I like it.
@muiscmanindy i have no idea what you're talking about. ;) thank you
@GregC @bradicus18 I totally agree, this game could go either way. I think it will be ugly. At first, I thought annihilation was possible, but with the defense playing some inspired football, maybe they have figured it out? I hope so. Seattle will be a big test. I don't fault anyone for picking Seattle to win this one.
@GregC My point was simply that in my estimation, to be worth a first round draft pick, Richardson needs to be able to do things that average backs cannot. (Like still be able to get positive results in obvious running sttuations.)
With Ballard out, and now Bradshaw in question, I have no doubt that Richardson will be very valuable. BUT will he be that more effective than a back like Maghee the Colts could have gotten without surrendering a First Round pick?
@GregCowanCA nice reverse jinx at the end of hitchhikers. Also, isn’t their OL banged up?
@coltsauth_todd @GregC @bradicus18 I'm really hesitant to put KC in that discussion. I'm not basing this off of records, just watching them play and how their team is built, Seattle is dominant on both sides of the ball. I'm not saying the Super Bowl will be Denver - Seattle (it rarely works out that way), but I think those two teams should be favored in every game they play, unless/until they play each other.
@DougEngland I'm on your side here, trust me. But the trade is over and now I'm just trying to make the best of it.
My immediate feelings after the trade were: he would need to develop into a ~5.0ypc guy to justify the pick, based on how well other Colts RBs were performing in this offense. He's not proven to be anything special, yet. But I do think part of that is on the coaching staff.
I think they would have been just as well off grabbing McGahee off the wire to replace Ballard. If Richardson really is a special player worth a first round pick it seems kinda odd that the Browns started winning immediately after dumping him.
@GregC @Bobman1 @muiscmanindy Sorry if counting Unger was cheating. (I certainly consider us to be missing our top two RBs, even thought Ballard was IRed week ago), our RG, TE, etc. Anyway, latest as of Thurs 8:30 pm is that Unger still was not a full practice participant and they are "hopeful" but I'd guess he's 50/50 and even if he does play... it might benefit us. Also Zach Miller (TE) did not practice due to a hammy, which would mean another starter on the OL missing. We may be getting lucky here.
Though with Landry uncertain, I wonder why Joe Lefeged was cut. I suspect it's not injury, but behavior (DNP Thursday, cut Thursday night). Bummer, I liked him on ST and as a backup S.
@GregCowanCA @muiscmanindy Seattle media indicate it's two guys, maybe three. RT had knee scoped this week and is out. C Max Unger is iffy and LT Okung should be out still. Bennett (DE injured back last week) probably will play and they get OLB Bruce Irvin back from suspension like we get Brazill.
@muiscmanindy it was last week. Looks like they'll only be down one this week