COLTS VS. RAMS
SUNDAY, 4:05 P.M. ET, LOS ANGELES MEMORIAL COLISEUM, LOS ANGELES
Announcers: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn
About the Colts: What many people have suspected for months is true: The Colts will open the 2017 season without QB
How long Luck remains out is the most pressing issue for this franchise, which looks like a postseason long shot even when he’s healthy. QB is Luck’s replacement, but recent acquisition could be another option. The last time Indianapolis went into a season without its starter, in 2011, the Peyton Manning-less Colts were surprisingly competitive in a three-point loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. These Colts have nowhere near the firepower of the Manning teams and will have to rely on aging RB Gore and a young receiving corps led by Hilton.
About the Rams: Is ready to take the first step toward NFL stardom? Or is he the next JaMarcus Russell? This season could go a long way toward determining that, and the Rams’ favorable September schedule could provide an opportunity for the secondyear quarterback to get off to a good start. Goff has a new toy in WR who didn’t make much of a preseason impact after being acquired from the Buffalo Bills in August. How quickly Goff and Watkins can form symmetry could be the key to Los Angeles’ offensive success. Just as important is getting RB and the ground game back on course after a frustrating 2016 season. The Rams, like the Colts, could be without their best player; DT sat out the preseason because of a contract dispute. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins gets a fresh start in Los Angeles.
Donald isn’t the only Rams defender who’s unhappy with his contract situation. Johnson griped about not being signed to a long-term contract and could be playing his final opener with the Rams. He’ll be an important piece in trying to slow down the Colts’ most potent offensive player.
While Watkins got all of the attention in the preseason, Austin might be the one who
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
1. A little luck ( but no Luck): The Colts probably don’t need Tolzien to play like Luck, but they could use a few breaks in the passing game. Getting a big play or two from Hilton would be a good start.
2. Throw body blows: In the event of Donald being absent — or rusty, if he reports and plays — the Rams could be a little soft up the middle. Like a boxer who has found a sore spot, the Colts need to keep pounding the belly of the L.A. defense.
3. Channel your inner Jeff Fisher: The ground-and-pound offense that the former Rams coach tried to feature didn’t equate to a lot of success, but the Rams will still need to use a healthy dose of Gurley and the running game.
4. Rattle the passer: Tolzien isn’t exactly a rookie — he has been in the league for four years, three more than Goff — but he probably could be rattled with a little pressure.