Getting to Know The Rams Week 2 Opponent:
The Los Angeles Rams beat the Bears 34-14 and go on the road this week to Lucas Oil Stadium to face the Indianapolis Colts. The Rams open up as four-point favorites (the Vegas Zone) despite the fact that the Colts got smoked by Seattle 28-16. Perhaps the line is simply a product of Vegas not really having a good read on the Colts given their preseason expectations to win the AFC South and the Rams blowing out a clearly inferior opponent. The Colts are a bit of an enigma because on paper they SHOULD be better but it doesn’t look like their big gamble on Carson Wentz is going to work out, at least early on.
2020 Season In Review
The Colts finished their season 11-5 with four first-team All-Pros in Guard Quenton Nelson, Defensive Tackle DeForest Buckner, Linebacker Darius Leonard, and Special Teamer George Odum. Center Ryan Kelly and Long Snapper Luke Rhodes made the second team. Frank Reich almost pulled off an AFC South win but lost to the Titans via tiebreakers. The Colts likely win the South if they had not been the only team Jacksonville beat all last season.
Despite that troubling week one loss, they rode Old Man Philip Rivers to a wild card weekend loss to the Buffalo Bills 27-24. General Manager Chris Ballard has done a solid job drafting after taking over for Ryan Grigson who left the cupboards bare while Andrew Luck carried the team all by himself until his abrupt (but in retrospect logical) retirement.
Key Additions And Departures
After the Colts lost to the Bills, Philip Rivers decided to hang it up and coach high school so the Colts needed a quarterback. They decided to trade a 2021 3rd and a conditional 2022 pick to the Eagles (it becomes a first if the Colts make the playoffs) for much-maligned Carson Wentz. Wentz is reunited with coach Frank Reich who was his offensive coordinator in Philadelphia helping Wentz come close to winning an MVP in 2017.
Despite sitting on a ton of cap space, the Colts were content to sit out on free agency opting instead to extend Darius Leonard, corner Xavier Rhodes, and running back Marlon Mack. They also brought in former Chiefs tackle Eric Fisher who is coming off an Achilles tear and is still rehabbing to come back.
Their losses were far greater losing tackle Anthony Castonzo, defensive end Justin Houston, and safety Malik Hooker. From an injury perspective, they are without T.Y. Hilton for at least three weeks following neck surgery.
Despite not adding any major pieces outside of Carson Wentz, a lot of pundits have them contending for the AFC South again. The division isn’t exactly robust and the Titans are clearly worse than they were last year so that’s not an unfounded take. They have a solid three-headed unit at runningback with Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor, and Nyheim Hines. Zach Pascal has emerged as the number two receiver the Colts have been desperate for since Reggie Wayne (Pascal is NOT as good as Wayne but it’s been that rough since). Frank Reich is a gifted offensive coach and if anyone can salvage Wentz it’s him. Whether or not Wentz is around to be salvaged is another story.
The offseason was bumpy with Wentz having foot surgery during camp and Quenton Nelson having foot and back issues. Wentz also had an unsurprising brush with Covid, and given his injury history, he’s likely to always be orbiting the injury report.
The defense should still be robust, and despite their secondary getting cooked by Russell Wilson, they are a force to be reckoned with. Their run defense allowed Seattle’s running game 140 yards total but gave up no touchdowns.
The offensive line allowed three sacks (their defense also recorded three sacks) and despite controlling the ball over 10 minutes longer than Seattle, and having 19 more plays on offense, the Colts couldn’t score against Seattle. It doesn’t look like Wentz is in 2017 form just yet.
History Against The Rams
All-time (so including Baltimore) the Colts lead the series 23-20-2. That said, the last time the Rams played the Colts was Sean McVay‘s debut as a head coach winning 46-9. That said, it was a game that featured the great Jared Goff–Scott Tolzien duel at quarterback. Both teams are DRAMATICALLY different now than they were in 2017.
This matchup is intriguing because the Rams defense appeared to take a step back against the Bears and the Aaron Donald-Quenton Nelson matchup should generate more hype than the epic Simpson-Tatum fight in ’97.
Offensively, the Rams need to establish the run game sooner and will face a tough road against Darius Leonard and that Colts front seven. The passing game should succeed the same way Seattle did.
The Colts offense presents a challenge for the Rams defense in so much as Carson Wentz, even a diminished Carson Wentz is better than Andy Dalton and Reich is a much better tactician than Matt Nagy. The Colts don’t want to be behind the eight ball at 0-2 and be in another position where they lose to the Titans on a tiebreaker. For the Rams, they need to be up 2-0 because next week they host the Bucs and there is no margin of error in the NFC West.