It’s the first Seahawks primetime game of the week, and it definitely did not work out the way that NBC had hoped for when this was on the schedule originally.
The Colts will be without star quarterback Andrew Luck for the fourth time this season. Without him, Indy is the most outscored team in the NFL this year and will be starting Jacoby Brissett for the third time. Meanwhile, the 1-2 Seattle Seahawks don’t have an offense to speak of (unless you want to put a quarter in the swear jar) and apparently also don’t play run defense anymore.
It could be an ugly game. To discuss that ugliness, I sent five Qs to Chris Blystone of the Colts blog Stampede Blue, and in return, he sent me five As. Here they be:
How do you expect Jacoby Brissett to play on Sunday now that he's in his third week as the starter?
This will be an interesting test for Brissett. This will be his first road game and it comes in one of the absolute toughest places to play a road game. The one thing Brissett has shown that is really encouraging is that he is completely calm under pressure. I don’t think that the atmosphere will get to him any more than it would anyone else.
A lot of the things we really like about Andrew Luck are things that Brissett possesses as well. He has that poise in the pocket that is hard to teach, he can gouge a team with his running ability, and his ability to stretch the field with the deep ball is solid. I don’t think he will play scared. I expect him to test the Seattle secondary and scramble if the opportunity presents itself.
We have seen him struggle with accuracy and with holding the ball longer than we would like, but even those issues seemed improved in his second outing, and may be symptoms of being so new in a system. With the news that Luck may be practicing this next week and ready to hit the field by week 6 or 7, this is Brissett’s time to put solid film out there and create some real value for himself. I expect him to rise to the challenge and perform well against a very good defense.
What's the biggest strength of the Colts defense?
The Colts defense finds its biggest strength in the defensive line. Johnathan Hankins and Al Woods really solidified this unit and the depth players there are almost all better than the guys who were starting last season. Henry Anderson is back completely after tearing his ACL during what started out as a very good rookie season in 2015. They play the run particularly well but also were able to get after Carson Palmer and the Cardinals banged up offensive line in the pass rush. Given the struggles of the Seahawks offensive line I’d expect them to be aggressive in trying to collapse the pocket and keep Russell Wilson under pressure. Given a quarterback of his quality and the Colts youth and inexperience in the secondary, they cannot afford to let him get comfortable.
Do you expect Chuck Pagano to still be the coach by the end of the season?
I would be totally stunned if he retained his job after this season. Without Andrew Luck, his poor game management and struggles making adjustments in game have been exceedingly obvious. His decision making has been an active hindrance to the Colts in games and his tendency to play conservatively not to lose rather than playing to win has been a huge problem for this team. It is hard to believe on a roster where GM Chris Ballard ruthlessly separated the wheat from the chaff and discarded mediocre players in search of improvement that he would not do the same with a coach for whom mediocre might be a compliment.
Who is the most underrated player on Indy's offense and defense?
That is a great question. On offense, it is probably Jack Doyle. He is as reliable a player at the tight end position as there is and acts as a great security blanket on 3rd down. Since coming into the league as an undrafted free agent all Doyle has done is make plays, and he just has that tendency you can’t coach to be in the right place at the right time during critical situations. If his isn’t a name you knew going into this game, it is probably one you’ll be familiar with afterward.
As far as defense there are a ton of underrated players. One who is underrated but won’t be for much longer is linebacker John Simon. He was a turnover machine in the preseason and has carried his impact over into the regular season. Hungry after coming from a Texans defense where he was a role player, Simon has already netted 2 sacks and is still carving out his role in the pass rush as well as be a force against the run. He is exactly the reliable contributor this Colts defense has not had in past years, and his presence is definitely having an effect on this roster.
How upset are you about the way the Andrew Luck situation has been handled over the last 1-2 years with his shoulder? How could it be that after an offseason with little concern that he'd miss any action suddenly turn into him barely avoiding the PUP and now looking like maybe he could have / should have gone on the PUP?
I am not really upset about it, and with Colts fans it is a mixed bag of feelings on the issue. The main point of frustration is the lack of communication by the organization about it. The national perception is that somehow his injury was grossly mishandled, but in reality, they followed the advice of their medical team and did their best to avoid a surgical solution. When that route did not result in the healing they had hoped, Luck opted for surgery.
With new GM Chris Ballard gutting the Colts roster, realistic fans understood this year to be at best a remodel, at worst a total rebuild of this team. Ballard is a realistic person and saw at once and has conveyed to fans that this is not a team that is where it needs to be yet. They have never provided a timeline, with the exception of Irsay saying, perhaps foolishly, that he hoped Luck would be ready to start the season. Neither Ballard or Pagano have ever really echoed that expectation. So while Luck’s slow return has been disappointing because it makes for less entertaining football, it is not really a complete surprise.
With regard to going on PUP, there are clear reasons why I think doing that did not make sense. First, I do not think they had any idea exactly how long it would take for him to be ready to resume practice, but Ballard has said repeatedly that they want him to get a couple of weeks at minimum on the practice field with the team before suiting up for a game. The plan is for him to practice starting next week, which would not have been possible if he was placed on the PUP list. Even if he does not return until after week 6, being on PUP would have prevented him from those practices with the team until after week 6.