ARIZONA CARDINALS (0-1) AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (0-1)
SERIES HISTORY: 16th regular-season meeting. Colts lead series, 8-7. The Cardinals routed the Colts in the most recent meeting, 40-11, in 2013. That was Cardinals coach Bruce Arians‘ first season in the desert and it came a year after he won NFL Coach of the Year as the Colts’ interim head coach.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cardinals’ offense might go into this game with wide eyes after watching the Los Angeles Rams batter the Colts for 46 points in Week 1. Given Carson Palmer‘s issues in Detroit, especially with spotting the open man and throwing a handful of passes in the dirt, it probably would behoove the Cardinals to shift to a quicker passing attack with shorter, underneath throws and a variety of screen plays to receivers, running backs and tight ends.
The running game, meanwhile, remains anyone’s guess now that the team has lost its most valuable weapon in running back David Johnson, who might not be back until Christmas because of a dislocated wrist. Kerwynn Williams and Andre Ellington probably can’t be counted on to elicit too many fears even against the Colts’ porous defense.
Defensively, it’s clear the Cardinals will want to mount a consistent pass rush against whichever quarterback the Colts start. Andrew Luck is still sidelined following shoulder surgery. It may not matter if the starter is Scott Tolzien or newcomer Jacoby Brissett, although the latter presents more of a challenge in terms of mobility. The Cardinals played more zone coverage with their defensive backs in Week 1. Look for them to revert back to their bread and butter — press-man coverage — this time. The Colts could counter by focusing on running back Frank Gore, who rushed for 144 yards in his last game against the Cardinals.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Cardinals LT John Wetzel vs. Colts DE Henry Anderson and OLB John Simon. Indianapolis managed only one sack against the Rams and QB Jared Goff in Week 1, but look for the Colts to try to exploit Wetzel, who will be filling in for D.J. Humphries (sprained right MCL). Wetzel can assume he will get the treatment from Anderson and Simon.
–Colts TE Jack Doyle vs. Cardinals LB Chandler Jones and LB Markus Golden. Doyle is one of six tight ends in the NFL with at 60-plus receptions and five-plus touchdowns since 2016. Doyle could be a friendly target for the Colts, and it will be incumbent upon the Cardinals’ linebackers to make sure Doyle does not break free.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Colts WR T.Y. Hilton. Hilton has a tough challenge ahead of him, but he might be up for it. The 27-year-old, three-time Pro Bowl wideout needs to resuscitate the Colts’ passing game even though he is not the one throwing passes. Hilton has topped 1,000 receiving yards in each of the past four seasons. This year, he is off to a relatively quiet start, with three catches for 57 yards in the season opener. Tolzien failed to connect with him on several plays, including an interception on a throw that missed its mark. Arizona allowed 285 passing yards in Week 1 and will try to bounce back on the road. Cardinals CB Justin Bethel will try to stay hot after returning an interception 82 yards for a touchdown.
FAST FACTS: Cardinals RB Kerwynn Williams is aiming for his fourth game in the past five contests with a rushing touchdown. Williams carried the ball five times for 10 yards in the season opener but managed to find the end zone. … Colts WR Donte Moncrief has a touchdown reception in two of his past three games against NFC opponents. … Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson has picked off 20 passes since 2011, which is the third-most in the NFL. … Colts K Adam Vinatieri has 531 field goals in his career, which is No. 3 on the NFL’s all-time list. Vinatieri trails only Morten Andersen (565) and Gary Anderson (538).
PREDICTION: After losing their best playmaker on offense, the Cardinals could use a matchup like this. The Colts are a mess without their star quarterback, which should spell good medicine for Arizona.
OUR PICK: Cardinals, 28-13.