After looking at how the Bills’ offense will match up against the Colts’ defense, it’s time to flip sides and look at the defensive side of the ball. The up-and-coming Buffalo defense is humming right now after a slow start and is currently ranked third overall. They are matched up this week against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. Who has the advantage?
The Colts field the 16th-ranked offense in the league, but it’s 29th in the rushing department. One of the reasons for the poor production on the ground has been the absence of Marlon Mack. Mack returned last week versus the Jets and produced well, rushing for 89 yards on 12 carries. It was a game where 30% of all Colts carries resulted in a first down. He will be sharing reps with rookie Jordan Wilkins, who has 175 rushing yards on the season, and rookie Nyheim Hines, a dangerous player anytime he touches the rock.
The #Colts rushing attack has been abysmal & is ranked 29th for a reason. Before today, they had one run for 20+yards and it was a 33-yarder from Andrew Luck. Marlon Mack ran for a season high of 89 yards today & his burst was on display. Here's his 25 yard run from today: pic.twitter.com/lQa24nyxPO— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) October 15, 2018
Pro Football Focus has the Colts’ offensive line as the 10th-best unit in the league so far. They have a strong core with former first-round picks Anthony Castonzo, Ryan Kelly, and Quenton Nelson in the lineup. That’s a capable offensive line, and a very strong Bills front will test them this Sunday.
Buffalo’s defense is ranked 8th in the league in rushing yards per game and 7th in rushing yards per play. While defensive tackle Star Lotulelei‘s impact is not particularly showing in the stat box, all one needs to do is look at how his teammates are faring.
Through six weeks the Colts have turned the ball over 13 times. That’s fourth-most in the league, which bodes well for the Bills’ defense. They currently sit sixth overall in takeaways with 12, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that trend continues.
This should be the most exciting duel in this game. Andrew Luck will lead the 10th-ranked passing offense against a Bills defense which is ranked 3rd in passing yards per play and 6th in passing yards per game. Despite coming back from a significant injury, Luck has thrown for 1,792 yards, 16 TDs, and 8 INTs. He’s on pace to break his career highs of 4,761 yards and 40 TDs in 2014. His offensive line is doing a solid job protecting him, but the WRs are a big concern.
Tight end Eric Ebron leads the team with 326 yards on 30 receptions. He has the skillset to be a problem for the Bills’ linebackers and safeties in coverage, especially in the red zone. Fortunately for the Colts, wide receiver TY Hilton should be back after missing the last two weeks with a hamstring issue. But those types of injuries are tricky, and I doubt Hilton will be at full strength versus Buffalo. Behind those two, the Colts lack quality receivers.
The Bills’ pass rush continues to impress after having an awful year in 2017. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Jerry Hughes leads the league in QB pressures with 34. This week you can bet he will have a chip on his shoulder getting to face his former team in Indianapolis for the first time since being traded to Buffalo.
Kyle Williams is coming off his best game this year with a 2.5 sack performance versus the Texans. Trent Murphy is looking like a free agent steal by GM Brandon Beane, while Lorenzo Alexander is playing the best football of his life. Alexander, at age 35, is PFF’s highest-graded edge defender in the league. The Colts are remarkably pass-happy, passing on 71% of their snaps, so this could set up well for the Bills’ pass rushers. Will we see another pair of double-digit pressures from Hughes and Alexander?
Lorenzo Alexander is having a career year so far in 2018. pic.twitter.com/ssomZlC6S8— PFF (@PFF) October 17, 2018
The secondary has been solid all season regardless of who has been in the lineup, but it’ll be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has Tre’Davious White shadow a banged up TY Hilton.
Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are a top safety duo in the league, and rookie Taron Johnson has been able to set the tone against the run. Luck will need to be at his best from the shoulders up if he is going to have any shot against the Bills’ defense.
With Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano becoming one of the most exciting linebacker duos in the NFL, the red-hot defensive line pressuring Luck, and the steady play of the secondary, it’s tough not to give the Bills the advantage in this matchup. The Colts’ QB surely may slice and dice the Bills’ defense, but with the lack of quality talent around him, the chances of that occurring are slim. If the Bills’ defense continues to play at a high level, the Bills will be well positioned to win this game away from home.