The Colts are sitting at the bottom of the league standings at 1-5, but miraculously aren’t too far outside of the playoff picture due to poor records in the rest of the AFC South. With the rest of the division at 3-3, mid-season has become crunch time for Indianapolis.
Some growing pains were to be expected this year. 2018 has been a roller coaster for Indianapolis. Starting way back in the February-March timeframe, longtime New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had verbally agreed to become the next coach of the Indianapolis Colts. He had brought in a number of assistants that would be his coaching staff, only to back out of the agreement last minute. The Colts, left scrambling, decided to retain the McDaniels leftover coaching staff, and bring in their backup plan in now head coach Frank Reich.
The backup role is familiar to Frank Reich. For much of his NFL playing career, Reich was a backup quarterback in Buffalo, he’s been picked second on multiple assistant coaching job searches, and he was the offensive coordinator of the Eagles last year, as they knocked off Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback (Nick Foles).
Now Reich has the reins. He’ll lead the Colts into Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday to face the Buffalo Bills. While this Bills team is far different than the ones that appeared in four straight Super Bowls in the early 90’s, Frank Reich’s feeling of coming full circle is not lost on him.
This year’s Buffalo Bills team seems pretty easy to pin down. They’re a solid defensive team ( top 10 rush, pass, and total yards against ), but rank near the bottom of the league on offense. They have lacked the ability to put up points, as they average just 12.7 points per game this year (32nd). They have also struggled to move the ball with any real effectiveness. They rank 31st in total yards per game with a measly 222.5.
Last week’s game against Houston was a mess for Buffalo. Josh Allen left the game early due to an elbow injury that will keep him out for several weeks, and then quarterback Nathan Peterman threw two late interceptions to help the Texans stage a comeback. Peterman’s play has been so bad, it prompted the Bills to retrieve 35 year old veteran quarterback, Derek Anderson from his beach vacation. Anderson will get the start against Indianapolis this Sunday.
Keys to Indianapolis victory:
1) Contain LeSean McCoy: While the Buffalo Bills fun game has been missing since the beginning of the season, McCoy’s track record in previous seasons shows that he’s capable of breaking a game open at any moment. Indianapolis ranks 16th in average rushing yards against their defense this season. However, they are 4th against yards per rushing attempt with just 3.7.
2) Make Derek Anderson wish he was still on vacation: With just under a week to prepare for a road game in Indianapolis, Derek Anderson will be under center this week for the Bills offense. Getting pressure up front and disrupting passing lanes is a must against the journeyman veteran who has spent 12 years in the league.
3) Don’t turn the ball over: The Bills aren’t doing many things right on the offensive side, but on the defensive side, the rank 3rd in total yards against, 6th in pass yards against, and 8th in rush yards against. All of that, while forcing 12 turnovers ( 7 fumbles/5 interceptions), and compiling 19 sacks (tied for 5th) make Buffalo a serious defensive opponent. If Indy hopes to win this game, protecting the ball in critical.
With little time to prepare, I think Derek Anderson will be the determining factor in this game. I think these teams are pretty evenly matched, but I think with Anderson coming in to the huddle from his vacation will make him a bit rusty. The Indianapolis defensive front should have ample opportunities to get pressure on Anderson against a Bills offensive line that has given up 23 sacks on the year.
Bills: 17 Colts: 27