Ahh, finally. Regular season football is upon us. How I have longed for the days where I wake up at 10 AM to stream the Colts game. It is not just the regular season; it is game preview season. This game marks Andrew Luck’s first regular-season action since January 1st, 2017. In that matchup with the Jaguars, Luck threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns. Let’s hope he can continue this form. For the second straight week, the Colts face off against the Bengals and look for their second straight victory. The Bengals, like the Colts, are a team that many have low expectations for. One of these teams will start their season off strong. That momentum may be what they will need to surprise some people. Alright, enough rambling. Let’s break this thing down.

Injury Report

Colts

Out

OT/G Denzelle Good (Knee/Wrist)

Questionable

OT Anthony Castonzo (Hamstring)

RB Marlon Mack (Hamstring)

Also Listed

CB Nate Hairston (Hamstring)

LB Darius Leonard (Ankle/Chest)

WR Zach Pascal (Calf)

LB Anthony Walker (Groin)

Bengals

Doubtful

WR Cody Core (Back)

Also listed

TE Tyler Eifert (Back)

S Clayton Fejedelem (Calf)

OT Cordy Glenn (Shoulder), CB Tony McRae (Shoulder)

LB Vincent Rey (Ankle)

TE Mason Schreck (Toe)

Key Matchups

Joe Mixon vs Colts’ Run Defense

Joe Mixon is one of the many young, high-potential running backs in the NFL. He had a solid rookie season stat-wise, posting 626 yards on 178 carries and four touchdowns but flashed quite a bit of potential. Mixon’s great athleticism, vision, quickness, and patience make many believe that he is a future Pro-Bowl running back. His offensive line isn’t the most spectacular but we’ve seen highly talented backs such as David Johnson thrive behind sub-par offensive lines.

The Colts’ run defense, specifically their defensive line, is one of the most talent deficient in the NFL. This title is exacerbated by the surprising cut of John Simon, whose ability defending the run was huge for the Colts last season and showed in this preseason. Jabaal Sheard will not only need to generate pass-rush for the Colts but play well in run defense as well. Preseason standout Hassan Ridgeway will likely see heavy minutes after his performance and will be expected to help clog up the middle against the Bengals. Darius Leonard and Skai Moore are coverage specialist but will need to be diligent in containing Mixon. Controlling the line of scrimmage and holding Mixon in check will be key for an Indianapolis victory.

Quincy Wilson vs A.J. Green

The Colts have one of the thinnest cornerback rooms in the NFL. That room is led by second-year cornerback Quincy Wilson. The 2017 draft class was historically loaded with cornerbacks, including Marshon Lattimore, Tre’Davious White, and Shaquill Griffin. Wilson looks to enter this tier with a strong sophomore campaign. He spent much of his rookie season on the bench for an unclear reason and has a lot to prove in 2018.

His first test in 2018 is a daunting one, coming against one of the NFL’s top wide receivers in A.J. Green. The 6’4″ green is a monster of a man and is one of the most unguardable players in the NFL. His 1,078 yard and eight touchdowns 2017 campaign was pedestrian by his standards. With a solid quarterback in Andy Dalton, Green looks to have another dominant season. Colts’ defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus will likely employ multiple complex coverages to try and stop Green but Wilson will inevitably have his chance to go mono e mono with a much bigger fish. Holding Green in check would be a huge confidence boost and a boon for Wilson to start the season.

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Quenton Nelson vs Geno Atkins

There aren’t many players in the NFL who can block Geno Atkins. The 6’1″, 300 pound is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. Not only is he physically imposing but has great technical prowess. He eats up gaps in the run game and flattens mere mortal linemen on his way to the quarterback. Atkins certainly gives most opposing interior offensive linemen nightmares the night before they square off.

Luckily for the Colts, they have a guard on their side by the name of Quenton Nelson, one who it might not be just to call him mortal. Nelson is a gargantuan specimen; he is as Vitruvian as a guard prospect can be. Light feet, great hands, hip flexibility, and unlimited stores of raw, fiery power. Nelson becoming an All-Pro will be a major plus for Andrew Luck’s health and longevity. If there is any player in the NFL who can hold Geno Atkins, it may be Nelson. Don’t expect a perfect outing from the rookie; though. He will slip up against one of the best in the game. Holding his own will be a great step forward in ensuring the success of his football team in the future, though.

Top Story: Andrew Luck’s Return

Like I previously alluded to, Andrew Luck will take a regular season snap for the first time in 615 days. That amount of time seems daunting. A player sitting for this long surely will not return to his form, let alone his MVP level form. Many NFL fans have already counted out Luck ever performing at a level close to what he did pre-injury.

However, modern medicine is a powerful entity. We have seen NFL players come back from worse injuries and play just as well, if not better. Luck has been patiently and tirelessly rehabbing with the hope of one day returning to the football field and firing his majestic cannon once again. Well, that day has come. His preseason was up and down but one thing is certain: Andrew Luck is healthy. Against a solid Cincinnati defense, Luck will have a chance to remind the rest of the league who he is. Hey, maybe he can make some magic happen again.

Prediction

Backed by his home crowd, Andrew Luck gets the Colts off on the right foot this season, securing the Colts’ first week 1 victory since 2013.

27-21 Colts

Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts.

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