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INDIANAPOLISReal football is here.

It’s time to rejoice, as the 2020 Indianapolis Colts are off to Jacksonville for their Week 1 matchup coming this Sunday afternoon at 1:00 PM.

Here are 7 things to watch for as the Colts (0-0) begin their 2020 season on Sunday against the Jaguars (0-0):

1. Using Your Strength

On paper, the Colts greatest strength (their run game behind a stout offensive line) is facing the Jaguars biggest concern (a depleted defensive line group when it comes to run defense).

The Jaguars still have a couple edge rushers with some pop, but stopping the run is a major question mark for Jacksonville entering 2020. They finished last year 31st in the NFL in allowing more than 5 yards per carry.

Considering we are looking at temps nearing 90 degrees on Sunday, the Colts need to pound it and see if the Jaguars can hold up in the second half. For all NFL teams, conditioning is a definite question in Week 1.

2. Tackling

Both Frank Reich and Matt Eberflus have expressed concern this week in regards to tackling during the season opener.

It was a major issue for the Colts in last season’s Week 1 loss to the Chargers, and that was with an offseason full of preseason games and joint practices.

Of course, this is a worry for all teams. Offensively, the Colts would be wise to try and script some plays in space, to test where Jacksonville is at from an open field tackling standpoint.

3. Hot Rod Debut

Just because the Colts have gotten 24 years younger at the placekicking spot doesn’t mean that 4th down will have any less attention on it this season.

Rodrigo Blankenship will make his NFL debut this Sunday.

Now, Blankenship has kicked in TIAA Bank Stadium before (in 4 Georgia/Florida matchups), going a perfect 7-of-7 on field goals, with makes from 18, 21, 22, 25, 27, 31, 37. Those kicks have been pretty short—an NFL extra point is 33 yards—but he still should be familiar with the grass/stadium.

4. What Type Of Philip Rivers?

While the Colts have struggled to find consistent success against the Jaguars, Philip Rivers has really owned them.

He’s 7-2 all-time against the Jags, throwing 24 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions.

But it will be interesting to see what type of Rivers we see on Sunday. Do we continue to see that quick, decisive, in-rhythm quarterback? How many deep shots will be taken? Is this offensive line the difference for Rivers?

5. Ball Security, Pre-Snap Penalties

Earlier we talked about the tackling concern for Week 1.

Philip Rivers spoke earlier this week that ball security and pre-snap penalties are always something to watch in season openers.

I can’t recall more than a time or two that a main skill guy for the Colts actually was tackled, and taken to the ground, this camp.

Now, pre-snap penalties shouldn’t be much of an issue with less than 10,000 Jaguars fans in the building.

6. Rookie Impact

We mentioned Hot Rod earlier, but let’s not forget about Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman.

Both are likelier to be in rotational roles, but will still play a good amount on Sunday.

Is Taylor going to be on par with the same playing time/touches for Marlon Mack?

Does Pittman play more than Parris Campbell and/or Zach Pascal?

7. Two New Defenders

When you talk about the top 12 or 13 defenders for the Colts, only two guys are newcomers.

Of course, DeForest Buckner and Xavier Rhodes bring some big-time resumes with them.

We know Buckner is the more heralded for his potential this season, and moving forward, whereas Rhodes is in prove-it mode at the age of 30.

Both guys are critical to the Colts becoming a better pass defense unit in 2020.


Bowen’s Prediction: Colts 31-20. It’s time for this painful streak to be buried. Of course, you might be asking, ‘Which streak?’ The Colts haven’t won a season opener since 2013 (haven’t won a road season opener since 2006) and haven’t won in Jacksonville since 2014. If the Colts are going to be a different team in 2020, this should be a game they control as the road team. I see Frank Reich committed to the ground, testing the depth of the Jacksonville D-line on this steamy summer day. A few chunk runs from Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor in the second half will ice this game and give the Colts a divisional win to start the season.

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