COLTS VS. RAMS

SUN­DAY, 4:05 P.M. ET, LOS AN­GE­LES ME­MO­RIAL COLISEUM, LOS AN­GE­LES

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - NL WEST - Luck. Scott Tolzien Todd Gur­ley Ja­coby Bris­sett Jared Goff Frank T.Y. Sammy Watkins, Aaron Don­ald Matchup to watch: Hil­ton vs. Rams CB Tru­maine John­son. Player to watch: Rams WR Tavon Austin.

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.

Scott John­son

STAN SZETO, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

An­drew

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