The Chargers and Colts meet Monday night as franchises trending in opposite directions.
Los Angeles has won three of its last four and is on the verge of clinching its first postseason berth since 2018.
Indianapolis has gone 1-4 since pulling Jeff out of an ESPN studio on Saturday and installing him as interim head coach, and the club was officially eliminated from playoff contention with Jacksonville’s win over the Jets on Saturday. Thursday night.
That doesn’t mean the Colts have nothing to play for, especially since Saturday uses the remaining three games as a rolling audition for next season’s full-time gig.
Plus, the Chargers still need to prove they’re capable of solidly handling the teams they’re expected to beat. That thorn in the side of Justin Herbert-led teams in the past is part of the reason he’s 23-23 as a starter without a playoff trip to his name.
Will the Colts surprise by hitting above their weight, or can the Chargers take care of business?
Here are four things to keep in mind when the Colts host the Chargers in Monday night football:
- Justin Herbert has guns, he needs protection. The young quarterback looked unusually out of sorts and threw two interceptions against the Titans last week, but he’s still a different beast when both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are on the field. Look no further than his 44-second, 57-yard drive to set up the game-winning field goal over Tennessee, or his out-drafting classmate, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, one week before. Allen has 36 receptions for 409 yards and two touchdowns since his Week 11 return from a hamstring injury, while Williams has had 183 yards and a touchdown on 10 receptions in the past two games following his own absence. two weeks. The offense buzzes with all three in tandem, creating space for running back Austin Ekeler to shred defenses in the screen game. That will be the Chargers’ bread and butter on Monday night. Herbert just needs enough protection to get the ball where it needs to go. He has been pressured 201 times in 2022, second only to Kirk Cousins (208), according to Next Gen Stats. With the Colts tied for the seventh most sacks of the year, the battle in the trenches and along the rim is worth watching.
- How do the Colts respond? In something of a torturous karmic calculation, the Colts blew a 33-0 lead against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 15. Minnesota’s record win supplanted a 32-point comeback in the 1992 wild card round by the Buffalo Bills and Frank Reich. the Indy head coach parted ways mid-season. And Matt Ryan, benched Wednesday for the second time this season, now finds himself on the wrong end of the biggest comeback in NFL history and the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. It’s hard enough to bounce back from a nail-biter, but bounce back from a loss after leading by five possessions? He has a lot of work ahead of him on Saturday. Defensive leaders Zaire Franklin and DeForest Buckner will be integral, and the offense has to find new ways to move the chains now that Jonathan Taylor has been lost this year. Expect to see plenty of running backs Zack Moss and Deon Jackson, who combined for 136 yards on 37 carries last weekend, plus magnet Michael Pittman as the Colts got the ball airborne.
- The Chargers’ defense is getting in shape. Although the Chargers’ defense still ranks 25th in scoring and 21st overall, it has been far from a problem in two straight season-altering wins. After allowing 25.8 points per game and 371.7 yards per game in their first 12 games, the Chargers allowed an average of just 15.5 points and 251.5 total yards in wins over the Dolphins and Titans. They have the potential to extend that success against an opposing offense that is seemingly throwing things against the wall now with its third starting quarterback. Offseason addition Khalil Mack leads the team with seven sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 10 hits to quarterback, but lately it’s been linebackers Drue Tranquill and Kyle Van Noy. Tranquil, the team leader in tackles with 118, has one sack, two QB hits, two passes defensed and one forced fumble since Week 14. Van Noy is working off a two-game sack streak. If the defense continues to turn the corner, Los Angeles poses a huge threat to the Colts — and beyond.
- Death, taxes and Nick Foles. Saturday brought Ryan back to the bench this week after the “Minneapolis Meltdown” and named Foles the Colts’ third starting quarterback of the year. The former Super Bowl MVP is now in his 11th season, and has never gone a year without making at least one start. His most famous excursions off the bench came in Philadelphia, first in 2013 when he threw 27 TDs and two interceptions in 13 games, and again in 2017 when he captured the Eagles’ first Super Bowl and won a statue outside Lincoln Financial Field. Recent history has been less kind to Foles. In 12 starts spread over three seasons with the Jaguars and Bears before joining Indianapolis, he went 3-9 with 2,838 yards, 14 TDs and 10 INTs. It’s far from certain that he’ll bring the magic back to Philly, and he’d be of little use to a 4-9-1 Colts team anyway. The apparent goal Saturday, considering he bypassed more in-game evaluation for young Sam Ehlinger, is to get a few wins and bolster his resume for the full-time head coaching job.