The Indianapolis Colts (8-6) take on the Atlanta Falcons (6-8) tomorrow at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in a battle of playoff hopefuls. It’ll be the third consecutive week that the Colts play in a clash of backup quarterbacks, with Gardner Minshew taking on Taylor Heinicke.
With how each team is positioned in their conference’s playoff race, this is a must-win game. One more game back in the wild card standings would cause each team to bank on others to get them into the dance as neither team would be able to control their own destiny just by winning out.
Injury update: RB Zack Moss (forearm) has been downgraded to OUT
Starting offensive linemen Chris Lindstrom (ankle), Drew Dalman (ankle) and Jake Matthews (knee) were not given a game designation on Friday’s game report, meaning they will be available for the Falcons in this Sunday’s home game matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. All three were full participants in Friday’s practice for the first time this week, too; as were fellow offensive lineman Ryan Neuzil and defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who were listed as having illnesses this week.
Team Stats to Monitor
- 18th in passing offense
- 13th in rushing offense
- 8th in PPG
- 14th in passing defense
- 26th in rushing defense
- 10th in turnover differential
- 23rd in passing offense
- 7th in rushing offense
- 26th in PPG
- 8th in passing defense
- 15th in rushing defense
- 23rd in turnover differential
Falcons’ Big 3 on Offense.. but how will they be utilized?
Regardless if Falcons HC Arthur Smith continues to neglect his star offensive weapons, Colts DC Gus Bradley must remain vigilant in his preparation. Smith has prioritized the usage of veteran TE Jonnu Smith over the electric young player in Kyle Pitts, whom they selected 4th overall in the draft, though one could argue he’s due for more looks.
For Colts fans, it only makes sense that Arthur Smith’s refusal to get his playmakers involved would come to a halt against their horses. To prevent this hypothetical unfolding from finding success, to reiterate, Gus Bradley has to be overly prepared so that all stops are covered.
Colts Keys to Win
As always, this Colts team, and more specifically this Colts offense can only go as far as Gardner Minshew can take them and that begins with preventing turnovers.
After taking over full-time for the injured Anthony Richardson, Gardner Minshew’s turnovers have certainly been the Achilles heel to Indy’s overall success. After a 6-game stretch which saw 12 turnovers (7 INT, 5 Fumbles Lost), Minshew has since cleaned up his act committing just 3 turnovers in the Colts’ last 3 contests.
If Minshew can continue his clean streak of efficient offensive play, the Colts have a great chance of stacking one more in the playoff-necessary win column. The return of Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. should serve as a positive, especially after the majority of last week’s game was spent dishing the ball off to practice squad mainstays.
Defensively, as alluded to, the back end needs to be able to accommodate WR Drake London, TE Kyle Pitts, and RB Bijan Robinson. Even if they aren’t used like superstars, all three certainly possess the talent.
Taylor Heinicke is once against starting a game against the Indianapolis Colts. If you recall from a season ago, Heinicke’s then-Commanders walked into Lucas Oil Stadium and walked the game off with a hail mary to Indy native Terry McLaurin. Indy’s four-man front of Ebukam, Odeyingbo, Buckner, and Paye will need to continue their collective season of dominance to get this new-look Falcons offense to sputter out.
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