Monday, October 14, 2013

Indianapolis Colts vs San Diego Chargers: IND -1 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

In the Vegas look-ahead line, the Chargers were actually favored -2.5. This line might be surprising now, but with the Colts taking down the undefeated Seahawks and the Chargers laying an egg in Oakland, the markets have flipped the script.

When the lines re-opened on Sunday night, this game was a 'pick em'. Almost immediately, early money came flying in on the Colts. You can find -1's if you shop around, but many books are already inching the line further to -1.5. By kickoff, I wouldn't be surprised if it went all the way up to -3, which is where my numbers have this game.

When the Chargers have the ball

You know that we are living in different times when the San Diego offensive line rank near the top of the league in sacks allowed and the Indianapolis defense has a backbone.

Having said that, the Chargers offensive line rank has more to do with the quick-release approach of coach Mike McCoy than the names on the backs of the jersey. They've been playing with a scotched-taped unit for much of the season.  For this game, they are on track to get King Dunlap back, but I'm not sure that is saying much.

They also get Ryan Mathews coming off a concussion, and they'll need him to stay healthy as the San Diego run offense continues to toil in the bottom half of the league. Either way, Rivers will continue feeding the ball in the air as Vincent Brown and Antonio Gates have been big bright spots. Now Keenan Allen is also steppin' up, which gives the Indy defense one more weapon to worry about.

Leading the way for the Colts defense will continue to be Robert Mathis. He's coming off his best performance of the season and he led the NFL in sacks heading into Sunday.

A true barometer you can look to see how much this unit has improved is how they do in "make-or-break" situations. On third down, Indy'd defense is among the best in the league. Where they continue to have problems is with their red zone defense. Still, it's a far cry from where this defense used to be.

They finally have an improving pass defense, but this will be a big test to see how they hold up in prime-time.

When the Colts have the ball

What more needs to be said about Andrew Luck?  Not much seems to phase this kid and he showed his mettle once again as he overcome a stout Seattle defense in the clutch.

How will the Chargers defend him? When the Seahawks blitzed, Luck completed 8 of 9 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. They are excellent in drive efficiency rankings, as well as on third down and in the red zone.

Even the running game is efficient when it needs to be. The flashy runs from Richardson aren't there as expected, but in short yardage situations and in times when they need to sustain a drive, they've been able to get enough on the ground.

This might also mark the game where T.Y. Hilton breaks out.  For whatever reason Darrius Heyward-Bey is still seeing more time, but if we're judging on merit, that can't last for long.

It would really help the Chargers if they still had Dwight Freeney, but his injury has left a gaping hole. Jarrett Johnson was their next best pass-rusher, but he hasn't practiced all week either. He's a game-time decision, but I'd be surprised if he was effective even if he did play. Corey Liuget had a nice game last week, but he'll need to be better against this offense if they hope to slow them down. Kendall Reyes, Larry English, and the rest of the front haven't had much of an impact.

Without pressure up front, this secondary continues to get torched. Derek Cox and Richard Marshall will be targeted all night long. This unit ranks dead last in the NFL.

This defense can't slow down drives, get off the field on third down, or stop anybody once they get inside the 20.

Bottom Line

Offensively, there isn't much Indy is doing wrong these days. They don't have the rushing numbers that you'd expect, but their efficiency is really high. Often times, it's not about how many yards you gain on the ground, but whether or not you can move the chains and chew the clock when needed. San Diego's defense is in for a long day, especially against the pass where they rank dead last in the league. Losing Freeney was a death blow.

The good news for the Chargers is their offense is much improved over last year. They can't run the ball worth a lick, but Rivers continues to put up big numbers.  Can they put up enough against this Colts defense? We'll see, but this is no longer the soft Indy D of yesteryear. With some added players and a few scheme adjustments, they now have some sandpaper to them.

NFL Pick: IND -1.