The final game of NFL week 8 kicks off in a few hours in Charlotte, NC, as the Indianapolis Colts travel in to face the Carolina Panthers. Mother Nature would seem to have her own bet down on Carolina and doing about as much as she can to help tip the scales that way.
The rain has been coming down for days but come on...we all know there's a grounds crew and that the field has been covered in tarp for protection, right???
Well, yes, but that doesn't completely protect it. They have to play whether the weather (ha, a pun - imagine that!) cooperates or not.
Fact is that wet and humid conditions hamper the passing game and play right into the Panthers' wheelhouse: the power running game.
The Weather? Really?
It would seem that the clouds are aligning for a special season in general, although it got off to a very disappointing start when Kelvin Benjamin went down in the summer with an ACL tear that has kept him sidelined all season.
Remember the year Katrina hit New Orleans? The Saints went on to win the Super Bowl. This year, the Carolinas were hit with at LEAST as much destruction...it simply wasn't concentrated in one area: 11 trillion gallons of water fell in the area a month ago - enough to fill over 130,000 ROSE BOWL STADIUMS WITH WATER!
The Panthers are still undefeated at 6-0. They also happen to be the only team in the NFL that runs more than they pass. True, that.
Putting it all together likely means an Indy victory tonight - just as an aside - and that's simply because everything in the world points to a Panthers victory.
Neckbeard is having a horrible season although in part it's not his fault. The team simply thought protecting their "franchise quarterback" with silly items like, oh, decent offensive linemen was money better kept in the bank, and we're seeing the results of the neglect in 2015.
If Not For Bad Luck...
Monsieur Le Neckbeardier is having the worst season of his short career, and by far. His 11:9 TD:INT ratio is a far cry from last year's 40:16 ratio....basically he went from 2.5 to 1 last year to one-to-one this year. Furthermore, his sophomore season, he was "jinxed" (sure) with 9 picks the entire season. He has managed to equal that in only 7 games so far in 2015. For the mathematically challenged, that's more than a pick a game.
Throw onto the fire that is Indy's (3-4) team this season has wins over the Titans, Jags, and Texans with losses to the Deflatriots, Bills, Jets, and the team I've been saying could surprise people this season - the Aints - and the team has virtually nothing to rally around.
Luck's health is in question and the team is so desperate for help that there are murmurings of the Colts' falsifying their injury report last week AND the fact that the Head Coach, Chuck Pagano, is apparently already a lame duck. Word is he and ownership don't see things the same way. This is the same organization that let a terrific head coach (Bruce Arians) walk after the 2013 season when he pinch-hit for Pagano, who was fighting cancer at the time.
What About the Colts' Outstanding Receivers?
What about them? It's hard to complete a pass when you're running and dodging for your life. It takes its toll when any QB isn't confident in his OL's ability to keep the nasties from decking you from behind. Even the Bradys and Mannings get rattled when that happens, and its been happening to Luck all year.
The skill positions are as good as the line is bad, however, and if somehow Colts offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton, can come up with a way to score via scheme then they might have an outside chance to win. The problem isn't so much MLB Luke Kuechly, but in shooting star CB Josh Norman.
The idea is for Norman to "follow" T.Y. Hilton around the field since he's their #1 WR, but it's unclear if he'll cover Hilton when the latter is in the slot. If that's the case, the Colts may go that route instead of the 2-TE sets they've enjoyed in the past few years with Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen both being productive. Allen's the better of the two, but the point is that even if Norman completely takes Hilton out of the game - as he's done to pretty much everyone this year thus far - Luck still has options...covered by either Peanut Tillman, Bene Benwikere, and Thomas Davis on one of the tight ends if in man coverage. None are great match-ups for the Colts.
They picked up aging Andre Johnson after the Texans let him test free agency and he hasn't done much, but he does have size to play outside alongside Donte Moncrief, who is the only Colts WR to be having a good season, relatively speaking. He could be the guy Luck looks to the most this evening if Norman's on Hilton.
Lastly, forget the Colts running the ball. They're horrible at it for one thing (27th in the NFL at 93.6 ypg) and they simply do not have the line to dominate Carolina's front seven...and on wet turf, that's what they'd love to do in hopes of taking some pressure off of Luck.
Is There ANY Hope for Indy to Win?
Certainly. In the NFL, "Any Given Sunday...."
But it's not Sunday. It's Monday.
Panthers 34, Colts 24
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