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Week 1 Preview: Detroit at Indianapolis

The 2016 NFL season is upon us!!! The Detroit Lions take on the Indianapolis Colts 4:25 PM ET on FOX at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Week 1 of the season is always exciting with little known about the 2016 version of the team. Let’s break down the matchups, advantages, key injuries and make a prediction.

Lions Pass Offense

The Lions lost Calvin Johnson but were able to replace him with a plethora of weapons for Matt Stafford in Marvin Jones and veteran Anquan Boldin. Golden Tate and Eric Ebron (practiced on Monday and Wednesday) can be very good threats and Theo Riddick is a good receiving running back. Stafford is coming off a 97 QB rating season (9th in league) and excelled with Jim Bob Cooter (110 rating in final 8 games). The Colts defense is a type of defense that the Lions were able to exploit last year under Cooter.

The Colts gave up 25.5 PPG (25th) and lost Vontae Davis (CB1 with 4 interceptions) to injury,  Darius Butler (CB 3 ankle), Jerrell Freeman (ILB) to free agency and Arthur Jones (DE) to suspension (4 games). DE Kendall Langford should play but is dealing with a knee injury. The Colts did force 25 turnovers last year and allowed only 88 QB rating with 17 interceptions but might have trouble if their top 3 cornerbacks don’t play.

However the losses along the Colts defense will be tough to overcome. The Colts added rookie safety TJ Green, rookie nose-tackle Hassan Ridgeway and Antonio Cromartie in August. Mike Adams had 5 interceptions at the safety spot and Stafford better beware of him. Detroit should be able to take advantage of the Colts injured secondary.

Lions Protection

The Colts have some savvy veteran pass rushers in Trent Cole (3 sacks) and Robert Mathis (7 sacks) in their 3-4 scheme. The Lions are starting a rookie first round left tackle in Taylor Decker and will be missing some tight end blocking with Pettigrew on PUP and Andrew Quarless suspended. We’ll see if Eric Ebron (ankle) plays Week 1 after getting hurt in training camp but he did practice on Monday and Wednesday which points to him playing. The Lions hope to have him because undrafted free agent Cole Wick or Orson Charles would have their hands full with Cole or Mathis. Khari Lee was added as a blocking tight end as well this week. The Lions may use a sixth offensive lineman (Cornelius Lucas) at times to help.

Right tackle Riley Reiff should handle his matchup at right tackle but Decker better limit the rookie mistakes early. The Lions interior catches a break with the Jones suspension but DQwell Jackson is a savvy blitzer from the ILB spot (3 sacks). Kendall Langford had 7 sacks last year as well from the DE spot. If the Lions protect Stafford, he’ll have a big day carving up the Colts secondary with his weapons.

Lions Run Game

The Lions didn’t run very well in the pre-season but Ameer Abdullah showed some flashes and Dwayne Washington excelled against second and third stringers. Zach Zenner can move piles but isn’t very shifty. Theo Riddick proved once again to be more of a receiver than runner. The Lions run blocking was poor in 2015 but could improve with the Cooter scheme (and did in 2015). The Colts allowed 4.3 YPC and were 25th in rush yards allowed. The Lions have a chance to run the ball in this game especially with ailing DEs for Indy and Freeman gone from the inside.

Is Luck Back?

Andrew Luck had a monster 2014 season and then struggled early in 2015 before his injury. Luck was hurt and missed 9 games and the Colts finished 8-8 and cleaned house on the coaching staff other than head coach Chuck Pagano. Which Andrew Luck will show up for the Colts this season? Luck got a huge contract and will most likely want to show his worth right away.

Luck should have a decent number of weapons at his disposal. TY Hilton is a legit number 1 WR and a deep threat (1,124 yards and 5 TDs). Donte Moncrief is turning into a good number 2 WR and will be in year 3 of his career. Phillip Dorsett was a first round pick that struggled his rookie year in 2015 but has talent. The Colts lack at tight end with only Dwayne Allen after losing Fleener in free agency (after a down year for him). Darius Slay against Hilton will be a key matchup to his game.

The Lions pass rush will be the key to disrupting Luck and avoiding a shoot-out. Ziggy Ansah (14.5 sacks) and Devin Taylor (7 sacks) can get to the QB. Veteran left tackle Anthony Costanzo will be a decent test for Ansah though. Devin Taylor will face the rookie 3rd round pick Le’Raven Clark due to the injury to Jack Mewhort.

Haloti Ngata excelled when healthy in 2015 and now knows the Austin scheme more this season. Tyrunn Walker is back from a broken leg in Week 4 and looks powerful with his bull rush with more pass rush moves. The Colts have two veteran guards (Joe Reitz and Hugh Thornton) and a rookie 1st round pick center in Ryan Kelly. Detroit can win this matchup and pressure Luck all day on the interior. Luck was pressured over 40% of his attempts in 2015. We’ll see if two rookie additions at center and right tackle will save Luck in this game.

Colts Run Game

The Colts were poor running the ball with 3.6 YPC (even with Luck at 5.9 YPC). Frank Gore had 3.7 YPC on 260 carries but finished 9th in yards for running backs. Robert Turbin was also added from Seattle. The Colts have some power backs but will need much better blocking. The Lions were really good in run defense in 10 games last season. The elite backs like Peterson and Gurley took the Lions apart but the Lions can stuff poor rushing teams like the Colts.

Prediction

The Lions are on the road which makes the game tougher and we don’t know which Andrew Luck will show up. Everyone is amped up for the first game as well. If the Lions being amped cause turnovers allowed, they could be in trouble in this game. Turnovers killed Detroit in the first 8 games last season.

However, the Lions pass rush is too much in the end but the Colts put up a fight offensively. Detroit will have early bumps at tackle and tight end blocking but have plenty of weapons and run game to score consistently in this one. Lions win this game 31-24 leaving the Luck lovers scratching their head.