Indianapolis Colts (0-0) at Los Angeles Chargers (0-0)
NFL: Sunday, September 8th, 2019 at 4:05 pm ET (StubHub Center)
Line and Odds: Los Angeles Chargers -6.5 Over/Under: 45
NFL Picks Los Angeles Chargers vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts prepare to start the season as the shock of Andrew Luck's retirement still hovers over the team. The Colts' offense will now be led by 26-year-old QB Jacoby Brissett. He will have big shoes to fill because the Colts' offense under Andrew Luck put up some pretty impressive numbers. Indianapolis scored 27.1 points per game last season, ranking 5th in the NFL in scoring offense. They ranked 6th in points per possession, averaging 2.38 points per offensive drive. Indianapolis ranked 10th in net yards per drive, gaining an average of 33.9 yards per offensive possession. The strength of the Colts' offense last year was their high performance in the most important situations. Last season, the Colts converted 48.6% of their third down attempts. They scored touchdowns on 68.8% of their red zone attempts in 2018. They ranked 1st in third down conversion percentage and 5th in red zone touchdown percentage. One thing that will work to Brissett's benefit, unlike when he played in 2017, is that the Colts will have a great offensive line to protect him. Colts QBs were sacked on just 2.4% of their dropbacks, the lowest mark in the league.
While the offense is undergoing a big change at QB, the Colts' defense remains in-tact. Indianapolis ranked 10th in scoring defense last season, giving up 21.5 points per game. They allowed 5.5 yards per play, which ranked 11th-best in the NFL. Indianapolis also ranked 11th in defensive red zone touchdown percentage. Indy allowed touchdowns on 53.5% of their opponents' red zone trips. The Colts' defense ranked 8th in defensive turnover percentage, forcing turnovers on 14.5% of their opponents' offensive drives. Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus is looking to see his defense play better on 3rd downs. Indianapolis gave up first downs on 41.0% of their opponents' third down attempts, ranking 21st in 3rd down conversion defense. Overall, the Colts' defense finished 9th in defensive expected points added. The 2019 Colts defense is poised to be the best defense Colts fans have seen in many years.
After a disappointing loss to New England that ended their 2018 season, the Los Angeles Chargers enter the 2019 season with Super Bowl aspirations. Pro Bowler Melvin Gordon is holding out, but they still have Philip Rivers and a stable of running backs that they like. Head Coach Anthony Lynn will look to Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson for production out of the running back spot. Austin Ekeler actually had higher yards per carry, higher yards per target, and higher yards per touch averages than Melvin Gordon did in 2018. Los Angeles had one of the most explosive offenses in football last season. The 2018 Chargers ranked 6th in scoring offense, averaging 26.8 points per game. They ranked 3rd in yards per play, gaining an average of 6.3 yards per play. Los Angeles was well-balanced when it came to yardage production. The Rivers-led passing game ranked 3rd with 8.4 yards per pass attempt. They were 7th in yards per rush attempt last season. Even without Melvin Gordon, I expect the Chargers' offense to be one of the best in the league, once again.
Los Angeles' defense will have to take the field without All-Pro Safety Derwin James this year. James was one of the most versatile defenders in the league in 2018 with 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 13 passes broken up. However, the Chargers still have a talented defense led by Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. The 2018 Chargers' defense ranked 8th in scoring defense, allowing 20.6 points per game. They ranked 10th in the NFL in defensive expected points added. Los Angeles also ranked 10th in yards per play allowed, giving up 5.4 yards per play. They ranked 9th in yards allowed per pass attempt and 15th in yards allowed per rush. In 2018, the Chargers had a "bend-but-don't-break" defense. Los Angeles gave up 31.5 yards per offensive drive in 2018, the 18th-best mark in the NFL. However, they ranked 5th in red zone touchdown defense. The Chargers' defense gave up touchdowns on just 50.0% of their opponents' red zone trips. If the Chargers can withstand the loss of Derwin James, they will field a strong defense once again.
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