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Key Areas to Watch in Colts vs. 49ers Showdown

With inclement weather expected Sunday night, this matchup is setting up to be a physical battle between two teams who desperately need a win to stay in the hunt for their respective divisions. (Video via Indianapolis Colts YouTube)

Sunday Night Football is synonymous with Carrie Underwood singing, the brilliance of Al Michaels and the slide of Cris Collinsworth, and fantastic battles on the gridiron.

The Indianapolis Colts are set to make their lone appearance on Sunday Night Football this year as they take on the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.

The Colts (2-4) head into the matchup after a convincing win over the Houston Texans and are looking to right the ship after a slow start to the season. The 49ers (2-3) are coming off of a Bye week and looking to get back into the playoff picture with a win.

This is a big game for both teams, and it is sure to go down to the wire. Let’s take a look at the key areas to watch as kickoff approaches.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

The forecast for Sunday night in Santa Clara does not look pretty. Rain is expected throughout the day and night, with winds between 20-30 mph. This is the first time all year where these teams will have to brave the elements.

Weather like this definitely affects the game. Constant rains and high winds make it difficult for teams to have success in the passing game. Quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Jimmy Garoppolo will need to make sure they protect the football and put plenty of zip behind their throws.

Games like this typically favor the running game and the defense. Look for Sunday’s matchup to be very physical, as the winner in the trenches will most likely be the winner of the game.

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Run The Damn Ball

The Colts want to be known as a physical team that imposes their will on the ground, breaking down opposing defenses. Sunday may be the perfect opportunity to display this.

As mentioned prior, the weather is going to make things quite difficult for both teams’ passing games. For the Colts, this means a heavy dose of Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, and Marlon Mack could be in store. Whether on the ground or in the quick passing game, the running backs will be heavily involved.

Speaking of Taylor, he has been on fire as of late. The second-year running back out of Wisconsin has tallied 301 yards and four touchdowns on the ground the last three games. He’s also been a threat catching the ball, racking up 140 yards receiving and a touchdown.

Turning to the offensive line, the unit could potentially receive a boost this week. All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson (ankle) was designated to return from injured reserve and began practicing on Wednesday. If the Colts get Nelson back this week, along with the continued improvement of Eric Fisher and the rest along the offensive line, they may be in for their best performance of the season.

“Run The Damn Ball” should be in full effect on Sunday. The 49ers rank 18th in the NFL against the run, giving up 113.2 yards per game. The Colts will need to use that to their advantage.

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DeForest Buckner Revenge Game

Sunday night marks the first time that DeForest Buckner will be facing off against his old team. The 49ers traded Buckner to the Colts during the 2020 offseason for a first-round pick. Buckner was drafted by the 49ers with the seventh overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft and spent the first four seasons of his career in San Francisco, leading them to a birth in Super Bowl LIV.

“It’s a little personal,” Buckner said with a smile on his face. “If you want to say it, I guess yeah.”

The 49ers traded Buckner because their defensive line became too expensive. The 49ers decided to give defensive end Arik Armstead an extension and let Buckner go on his way. Buckner signed a four-year, $84 million extension with the Colts after he was traded.

“It’s probably going to be a mix of emotions,” Buckner revealed this week. “That’s where I started my family, out there. That’s where I got the opportunity to play this game on the highest level possible, they drafted me. I poured my heart and soul out in that organization for four years that I was there. It’s going to be interesting.”

While at the time Buckner felt a little hurt the franchise that drafted him had decided to move on, he has embraced the Colts and now calls Indy his home. The Colts have had a fantastic return on their investment, as Buckner has produced 86 tackles, including 13 for loss, 11.5 sacks, and 32 quarterback hits in 21 games. He has also forced two fumbles and has been credited with four pass deflections.

When asked if he was thinking about proving the 49ers wrong, Buckner said he doesn’t want to think like that.

“I kind of shifted that mindset to I’m going to prove to the Indianapolis Colts why they paid me,” he said. “I’m going to do everything in my power, I’m going to pour my heart and soul into this organization and show them why they made the decision to pick me.”

A motivated DeForest Buckner is a scary sight to see. The 49ers better be prepared, otherwise, Buckner will make them regret letting him go.

Have thoughts on the key areas to the game for the Indianapolis Colts' matchup against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium? Drop a line in the comments section below letting us know how you feel!


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