Lions Opponent Breakdown: Week 1 At Indianapolis Colts


Each week here at Side Lion, we will give you a detailed breakdown of the opposing team before the game to help give an idea of what the Lions are up against. This week, they start things off on the road against Andrew Luck and the Colts.

Week 1: At Indianapolis Colts

Sunday, September 11th — 4:25 PM

Dec. 2, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) scrambles out of the pocket while being pressured by Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (90) and defensive tackle Nick Fairley (98) in the second quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports /


Andrew Luck is one of the most talented, young quarterbacks in the league. He couldn’t stay healthy last season and missed extended time for the first time in his career. Luck is a big, strong kid, however, and I don’t think he will be injury-prone. He still has enough promise that the team gave him $87-million in guaranteed money this offseason. Luck suffered from one of the worst offensive lines in football last year and struggles when he holds on to the ball too long. The Lions will have to get pressure on him early and often or he could be in for a nice day against a questionable Lions secondary.

Head Coach

Chuck Pagano is on the hot seat, despite having success in three of his four seasons. He is an intelligent defensive mind, coming from Baltimore and is getting a bad wrap in my opinion due to poor team management. Pagano simply hasn’t gotten the defensive help he deserves in recent years, which has caused the team to peak as a playoff team that gets routinely thrashed by the Patriots. The pressure is on to not only win an increasingly talented division with up-and-comers Houston and Jacksonville but to get farther in the Playoffs or Pagano may be out of the job.

Biggest Strengths

Luck, Luck and more Luck. The Colts haven’t done a great job of finding talent on the defensive side of the ball, but they are at their best when Luck is spreading the ball around and getting it out of his hands quickly. When he’s healthy and given time, his 40-touchdown passes in 2014 were a great example of how great he can be. Luck was considered to be with the elite passers before going down last year and throwing tons of interceptions when he was out there. They improved their offensive line with first round pick – Ryan Kelly – out of Alabama, adding an instant upgrade to an average group. They have some talented receivers in T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. Their bread and butter is having Luck attempt to throw them to victory. Although, it’s likely they try and develop the run game a bit more to take some pressure off of the former first-overall pick.

Biggest Weaknesses

The secondary is probably the weakest part of their defense. They have struggled to get better under Pagano, despite his background as a defensive guru. Colts G.M. Ryan Grigson has not meshed well with coach Pagano. The Colts don’t have a great run defense and they’re below average on special teams. The Lions will have to take advantage of their offensive weapons in this one, including Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Ameer Abdullah. If Stafford can keep the chains moving, and keep Luck off of the field, it will be their best bet at winning this game. The Colts offensive line should be another weakness the Lions’ strong defensive front can exploit. They must stop the run and hope Luck makes the big mistake.

How I see it playing out

The Lions and Colts have their share of similarities. Both have capable quarterbacks with an ability to be great, and also very questionable at times. As I wrote several weeks ago, Luck and Stafford have some major career similarities thus far, including the exact same number of touchdown passes (101) through their first 55 games. I have always felt good quarterbacks tend to win their home openers. The Lions will have DeAndre Levy back, who I feel is the difference between this being a Playoff team or not. The Lions should be able to harass Luck with Ziggy and company but, Nevin Lawson and Quandre Diggs will certainly be tested on the back end. Stafford could set the tone for the season with a strong showing and a road win. I think the Lions are a more talented team than the Colts overall, but Luck in a home opener is hard to pick against. Stay tuned for my prediction.

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Editor Matt Urben @MattUrben88