Week 2 of the 2014 NFL season concludes with what could be an entertaining matchup between Philadelphia and Indianapolis on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” Andrew Luck and the Colts are hoping to bounce back at home after their second-half comeback in Denver last week came up short. On the other side, Chip Kelly’s Eagles are aiming to start their season 2-0 by defeating the defending AFC South champions in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Philadelphia Eagles at Indianapolis Colts
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Indianapolis -3
Three Things to Watch
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1. The Eagles’ Takeoff
After the first 30 minutes of Philadelphia’s season-opener last week against Jacksonville the home team and defending NFC East champions trailed the lowly Jaguars 17-0. Quarterback Nick Foles had committed nearly as many turnovers in just 20 minutes (3) as he had all of last season (4). Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense generated just 129 yards in the first half. Fortunately for the Eagles and the home crowd, things turned around in a big way in the second half, as Philadelphia outscored Jacksonville 34-0. Foles finished the game with 322 yards passing and two touchdowns, one of them a 68-yard scoring strike to Jeremy Maclin. New Eagle Darren Sproles got the rally started by taking a handoff on fourth-and-1 and busting up the middle 49 yards for the first touchdown. The scoring ended when Fletcher Cox recovered a fumble and returned it for a score with less than two minutes remaining. After a sluggish first half, Philadelphia found its footing and made enough plays on both sides of the ball to beat a Jacksonville team that everyone expected it to beat. The Eagles can’t afford another slow start tonight, not on the road against the Colts, the defending AFC South champions who went 6-2 in Lucas Oil Stadium last season.
2. Offensive Line Attrition
One week into the season and neither team is at full strength up front for different reasons. Philadelphia’s offensive line, one of the best units in the NFL in 2013, was already having to deal with starting right tackle Lane Johnson’s four-game suspension before things got worse against Jacksonville. All-Pro left guard Evan Mathis and Allen Barbre, who was filling in for Johnson at right tackle, both got hurt before halftime. Mathis has a MCL sprain, which is severe enough that the Eagles placed him on injured reserve with a designation to return. The earliest Mathis will be eligible to play is Week 10. Barbe meanwhile is done for the season after injuring his ankle against the Jaguars. The team signed former Houston Texan guard Wade Smith, a 11-year veteran who made the Pro Bowl in 2012, and elevated tackle Kevin Graf from its practice squad, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty regarding how Chip Kelly will put all of these pieces together. For Indianapolis, its offensive line issues arose before the season started, as left guard Donald Thomas suffered a season-ending quadriceps injury and center Khaled Holmes sustained an ankle injury that limited him during the majority of training camp and the preseason. The Colts’ reshuffled line held up pretty well against Denver last week but will be tested tonight by an Eagles pass rush that generated three sacks in Week 1. The battle in the trenches is always important in the NFL and tonight’s game could likely be determined by which depleted offensive line rises to the occasion.
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3. Balanced Offense Produces Winning Results?
Both Philadelphia and Indianapolis racked up more than 400 yards of total offense in their season openers, but the teams got there in different ways. The Eagles put together a more balanced attack, gaining 145 yards on the ground and 275 through the air. The Colts on the other hand were much more one-dimensional, throwing for 370 and rushing for just 54. Nick Foles played a big part in his team’s second-half comeback against Jacksonville, while Andrew Luck was practically his team’s entire offense in its similar attempt in Denver. Besides the passing, Luck was Indianapolis’ second-leading rusher with 19 yards and a touchdown, meaning Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for just 35 yards. Compare that to the 70-plus rushing yards LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles each produced. Foles and Luck are Pro Bowl quarterbacks who are capable of making plays with their arm and their legs. However, as last week showed with these two teams, asking your signal-caller to do it all is not necessarily the best formula for winning. Will this trend and the subsequent results continue tonight?
Offensively speaking, Philadelphia is a more balanced team with LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles in its backfield. However, Indianapolis has enjoyed quite a bit of success with Andrew Luck pretty much doing it all by himself. After falling behind in Denver big last week, Luck almost brought the Colts alll the way back with his arm and legs. Indianapolis, just like Philadelphia, is a defending division champion who is usually tough to beat at home. Even though the Eagles enter this one with the momentum of being 1-0, this is not a team without its own flaws. Tonight, I think Indianapolis is able to expose a depleted offensive line and take advantage of some holes in the Eagles' defense. And while McCoy and Sproles will do their part, I'm looking for either Trent Richardson or Ahmad Bradshaw to give Luck some support and help the Colts take care of business on their own home turf.