Colts' post-Andrew Luck era begins out west against the Chargers
It all begins for real on Sunday as the 2019 season for the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers kicks off Sunday afternoon on West Coast. These two teams last played back in 2016 with the Colts holding serve at home, winning 26-22. That game featured a quarterback out of Stanford named Andrew Luck who threw a 63-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton with 1:17 left in the contest to get the victory. Unfortunately, the QB duel between Luck and Philip Rivers will not occur this time.
The Colts were the story of the preseason (outside of Antonio Brown), as their all-world franchise quarterback retired out of the blue. Luck announced his intentions to step away from the game after the third preseason contest. Vegas went nuts as they raised the point spread for this game several points in response. After some time away, the line normalized a bit because people realized that Jacoby Brissett is not your ordinary backup quarterback. Brissett has 23 career games under his belt and has made 17 starts, 15 of those coming in 2017 when Luck was sidelined with a shoulder injury.
The Chargers have had their own issues this offseason as they continue to deal with the holdout of Melvin Gordon, who will most likely not see the field until at least Week 10. The team has said that they will not negotiate during the season, but Gordon has to report by Week 10 in order to accrue a year of service time in relation to his current contract. The Chargers will turn to Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson in the meantime, and I think they can put up some numbers in their own right.
Indianapolis at Los Angeles
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 8 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Chargers -6.5
Three Things to Watch
Even though it's Week 1, there are still intangibles to consider off the field. The common theme for the Chargers is the lack of a true home-field advantage as they continue to play in a soccer stadium that is now called Dignity Health Sports Park. I just don't know how much of a buzz there is surrounding this team entering the season especially with all the headlines surrounding the Raiders and how well the Rams are playing. Usually, we see a ton of road fans descend upon the place so it'll be interesting to see how much of the Colts fan base takes the trip west.
2. The young and the old
As mentioned above, Jacoby Brissett is not your ordinary backup quarterback. He threw for more than 3,000 yards and 13 touchdowns to just seven interceptions back in 2017. Brissett did that behind a mediocre offensive line and with a different system then he's playing in right now. I have a lot of respect for head coach Frank Reich, who did good things for Luck when he was healthy. Brissett only threw 15 passes in the preseason after sitting out the third and fourth games. I wonder if there will be some rust for him in this game.
Philip Rivers is 37 and entering his 16th season. He got nowhere near the field this preseason, but I don't think it matters as much to him. Rivers only threw 14 passes in the 2018 preseason and came out Week 1 slinging it to the tune of 424 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 38-28 loss at home to Kansas City. Rivers also is playing without tight end Antonio Gates as a security blanket, but No. 1 wide receiver Keenan Allen is back and he'll be someone that gets targeted early and often. Rivers also could get a boost if tight end Hunter Henry shows he is fully recovered from the torn ACL that caused him to miss all of last season other than a token appearance in the playoff game.
3. Defense, defense, defense
All the talk with these teams is about offense, but as we saw on Thursday night, defenses are usually ahead early on. The Colts are really excited to see what former Kansas City Chief Justin Houston has left in the tank and he could be the next Dwight Freeney when it comes to rushing the passer. Linebacker Darius Leonard was a revelation as a rookie and the tackling machine is back. My questions come in the secondary where the cornerbacks for Indy could be rookie Rock Ya-Sin out of Temple as well as veterans Pierre Desir, Kenny Moore II, and Quincy Wilson. The safeties are strong with Clayton Geathers and Malik Hooker.
It's not a Chargers preseason without a major injury and Derwin James is a big loss for their defense. James had a really good season last year and makes a difference considering you are now looking at Rayshawn Jenkins and Adrian Phillips at safety. Oft-injured cornerback Jason Verrett is gone so that puts a little more pressure on Casey Hayward to be a lockdown defender. Will Brissett have time though with the likes of Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Brandon Mebane, and Denzel Perryman coming after him? It's going to be really weird to see linebacker Thomas Davis in a Chargers jersey though after spending all that time in Carolina.
The people in Vegas love the Chargers and loved them even more after Andrew Luck's retirement. I think it was a drastic overreaction and think Indianapolis can be in this game for several reasons. I'm a Jacoby Brissett believer and I think that this offense can work with head coach Frank Reich calling plays and pushing the buttons. Los Angeles' defense is very good and I don't see a ton of points in this one, but how effective will their offense be? I can see this being a one-possession game for most of the night. The home team gets the win, but the Colts get the cover.
Prediction: Chargers 21, Colts 17
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.