By Jerrell Richardson
Indianapolis Colts (1-1)
Head Coach: Chuck Pagano
Players To Watch: Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne
The Indianapolis Colts rode the play of Andrew Luck, as well as the emotional lift provided by playing for their head coach who was battling leukemia, to the playoffs in 2012. With Pagano back on the sidelines, the team must rely on Luck and the talent on the field, and so far they are off to a modest start in 2013.
In the season opener they beat the Raiders, and are coming off a close loss to the Dolphins a week ago. If they hope to avoid an early season losing streak, the Colts are going to have to play their best game of the season, and do it on the road. To make matters worse, they have to do it against a San Francisco team that is coming off an embarrassing defeat, and will try and take out some frustration on Luck and company.
When San Francisco Has the Ball: Advantage 49ers
The best thing you can say about the Colts defense is that they are allowing 17 points a game. However, this has been due to a bend-but-don’t-break mentality, which is never successful over time. In their two games this year, Indianapolis has faced two athletic quarterbacks, both with very little NFL experience, and the Colts defense has struggled.
Terrelle Pryor passed for 217 yards and rushed for 112, and Ryan Tannehill threw for 319 yards. While the success of Pryor and Tannehill do not mean that Colin Kaepernick will have a big game, it does mean that he will not struggle, which is not good for a defense looking to lead its team to an upset.
While the Indianapolis defense has struggled against opposing quarterbacks, the same can’t be said against the run. While Pryor was running wild, Darren McFadden was unable to get anything going, and the Dolphins as a team barely eclipsed 100 yards (rushing for 101). Frank Gore and the 49er rushing attack has been missing in action this season, and doesn’t figure to have a big game this week, but the running game should be able to give the offense just enough balance to keep the defense honest.
When Indianapolis Has the Ball: Advantage 49ers
Andrew Luck lived up to the hype that surrounded him entering the NFL last year as the overall number one pick. However, the fact remains that he went to one of the worst teams in football, and the cast around him is just not that good. He has veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne, and several familiar faces from his Stanford days, including tight end Cody Fleener and wide reevier Griff Whalen, but in terms of a playmaker, Wayne is the only real threat. The offense’s ability to score starts and finishes with Luck, who is facing on the NFL’s best.
The Colts running attack was not very good before Ahmad Bradshaw was thrust into the starting role due to an injury to second year back Vick Ballard. Bradshaw is a more then capable back, but the fact remains that he was released by the Giants and not the Colt’s starter for a reason.
Bradshaw will have a hard time finding room to run against the 49er front seven. The Colts will have to run the ball to keep San Francisco guessing, but will ultimately rely on Luck’s ability to move the chains with his arms and occasionally his legs, while hoping that the defense keeps them within striking distance.
Winner Avoids Losing Record
Both teams are coming off losses, and know that another one will give them a losing record in the early stages of this season. Even with a lot of football left to be played, a losing record will make the road to the playoffs extremely difficult for both teams, making this a must-win for both sides. The 49ers are the better team and should win, but they are facing a team with a playmaker at the quarterback position, and if he gets it going, then he can keep his team in the game.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.