X-Factors in Colts Vs. Rams Matchup

As the Colts attempt to rebound from their opening loss a week ago, these players will have the biggest impact in determining whether Indy starts 1-1 or 0-2. (Video via Indianapolis Colts YouTube).
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After a Week One loss to the Seattle Seahawks at home, the Indianapolis Colts are looking to get into the win column.

The Colts’ performance last week was not up to the team’s standards and they will be looking to rectify that this Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.

The Rams are coming off a dominating performance against the Chicago Bears where quarterback Matthew Stafford shined in his Rams debut.

This showdown will be a tough challenge for the Colts and one that will require them to be at the top of their game.

Saying that, let’s take a look at the groups that will have the biggest impact on whether or not the Colts come away with the victory.

The Offensive Line

The unit that had arguably their worst performance in years last week was the Colts’ offensive line.

The offensive line gave up three sacks, 10 QB hits, and numerous pressures to an aggressive Seahawks defense. This took the Colts out of what they wanted to do as an offense and at times left quarterback Carson Wentz scrambling for his life.

Their job doesn’t get any easier this week, as the unit will be tasked with containing Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year and arguably the best defender in the entire league.

Many of us want to see the clash of the titans in Quenton Nelson vs. Donald, but we probably will not see that too often. The Rams will likely line up Donald against Mark Glowinski to take advantage of Donald’s other-world abilities. It will be up to Nelson, Glowinski, and center Ryan Kelly to make sure that Donald stays in check and does not wreck the game.

Another aspect of this is the status of the two starting tackles. Left tackle Eric Fisher is trying to make his return from a torn Achilles this week while Braden Smith is nursing a foot injury he suffered against the Seahawks. Whether these two can suit up Sunday will greatly affect the Colts’ chances of winning.

It will be up to the offensive line to play as a more cohesive unit and rebound from their performance last week. Not only will they need to be stout in giving Wentz time to throw, but dominant in the run game to open holes for Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines. If the Colts want to beat the Rams, it starts upfront.

Wide Receivers

The Rams secondary is one with plenty of talent, highlighted by All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. With Ramsey, cornerback Darious Williams, safety Taylor Rapp, and safety Jordan Fuller, that’s a very solid starting four for Los Angeles.

Last week, the Colts’ wide receiver group seemed to struggle at times getting separation from their defenders which allotted many check downs to running backs from Wentz. That will need to change on Sunday.

Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal, and Parris Campbell will all need to step up to ensure Wentz has options down the field. Pascal helped out last week by catching a pair of touchdowns, but it will take a group effort to win their matchups against the Rams’ secondary.

It would also be beneficial to see the wide receivers become a more focal part of the game plan. The most targets that any receiver received was Pascal with five. If the Colts want to have a more explosive passing game, the wide receivers will need to be more involved.

Look for Pittman to receive some extra targets this week. The second-year player was a force throughout training camp, but only had three catches for 29 yards against the Seahawks. Pittman showed towards the end of 2020 that he can be a major weapon for this offense when given the opportunity. The Colts should make it a priority to get the ball in his hands.

Interior Pressure

One of the areas where the Colts struggled last Sunday was getting enough pressure on quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson was only sacked once, and the failure to get consistent pressure allowed him to carve up the Colts’ defense.

With Stafford coming to town, getting pressure on the quarterback will once again be a high priority. Stafford isn’t near as mobile as Wilson, so containing him inside the pocket should not be as difficult. However, Stafford has a cannon for an arm and will be looking to take deep shots if given the opportunity.

This is where defensive tackles DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart become very crucial. Buckner had a decent game last Sunday, registering a sack and six tackles. Stewart on the other hand was invisible for most of the game and failed to make an impact both against the run or pass.

Stafford is a quarterback that tends to make mistakes when facing pressure right up the middle. If Buckner and Stewart can get in Stafford’s face and force him to make ill-advised decisions with the football, the Colts will have a chance to force him into some turnovers. If Stafford does not face pressure and has all day to throw, it could turn into a long day for the Colts’ defense.

Have thoughts on the Colts' X-Factors going into Sunday's matchup with the Rams? Drop a line in the comments section below letting us know how you feel! 

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