Eyes in the Backfield: Bills

12 Things to Watch for In Sunday's Colts-Bills Game

Buffalo Bill! Oh no!

Last week, the Colts were drubbed by the Patriots. This week, they have a chance to get the dream season back on track against the Buffalo Bills. Here's what to watch for this week…

1. Watch for the lotion in the basket. This is going to be a high-scoring game featuring lots of big passing plays. The Colts have the worst defense in football, and the Bills aren't much better. If there was ever a week for Andrew Luck to light up the scoreboard, this is it. Expect monster games from both quarterbacks, and the team that has the ball last could well win it. The Colts' entire playoff run has been based on Luck and Reggie Wayne doing special things, and Luck will have to drop the ball right in his basket a few more times on Sunday.

2. Watch for it to get the hose again. The corner combination of Darius Butler and Cassius Vaughn were dowsed by Tom Brady last week. Though Vontae Davis may play, there's no telling how well he'll hold up or how long he can be effective if he does play. The Bills have an effective passing offense, but a really great rushing defense. The Colts haven't been good at stopping either, but the pass defense could end up being what sinks them against Buffalo.

3. Watch for the bomb. Davis or not the Bills intend to make Steve Johnson their primary target. Expect the Bills to put a great deal of pressure on the safeties by sending Johnson deep any time it looks like single-high coverage. It should be particularly dangerous in play action as Tom Zbikowski bites on nearly every bait tossed his way.

4. Watch the big run. C.J. Spiller of the Bills has had a ridiculous season in terms of yards per carry. He has 723 yards rushing on just 109 carries. To put that in context, Vick Ballard has 105 and 386. Spiller has a quick-strike ability to turn short gains into long runs. The Colts have to limit him to runs of under 10 yards if they hope to keep the Bills off the scoreboard. Fortunately, Indy is 9th in second-level yardage, meaning from 5-10 yards passed the line, they are effecitve. Of course, they are 27th after 10 yards, so maybe that's not a great sign.

5. Watch for freshman heroics. This game may become a slingfest but the real story must be Andrew Luck if the Colts are to win. It's a terrific matchup as the Colts have the 4th best passing offense in the league while the Bills sport the 27th passing defense. While the Colts haven't capitalized on all of those matchups this year they must win that battle if they are to remain in the playoff hunt. Another freshman may play a big part of that:  T.Y. Hilton would become the first Colts rookie with four 100-yard games if he can cross the century mark in this game.

6. Watch for the return. Coby Fleener had begun to turn his season around when he went down with an injury. The Colts need his presence, especially as the field compresses. The team has no trouble moving the ball until they get to about the 40 yard line. Fleener gives Luck a much-needed target in close. Fleener has had a bad rap because Dwayne Allen has outplayed him. That should hardly be a knock against Fleener, however, whose actual production has been in line with reasonable expectations for his draft position.

7. Watch for an old favorite. Former Colts coach Pete Metzelaars is now coaching the Bills tight ends. Metzelaars was a standout at Wabash College before becoming a favorite during his NFL career in Buffalo. During the Manning era Pete was key to Tom Moore's staff in Indianapolis. After this new era ushered in a new staff Metzelaars returned to Buffalo to resume his coaching career. While not necessarily a face fans will remember expect the old guard Colts to welcome Pete back with open arms.

8. Watch for a renewal of an old rivalry. Back in 1996, the Colts sat at 6-6 needing a win over Buffalo to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. I brought some girls from college to the game with me. A Bills fan sat a row in front of us and was obnoxious. He, um, flossed himself with his #1 foam Bills finger repeatedly. Then he started smoking. We were in the Dome. I asked him to put out the cigarette as it was bothering the ladies. He went and got security. He demanded I be thrown out of the game for telling him to (and I quote) "put out my f***ing ciagrette". I told the gentlemen that I went to Bible school and didn't even use the Lord's name in vain. They grabbed the Bills fan by the collar and literally drug him down the steps and out of the stadium. Indy won in OT and made the playoffs.  Ah, the good old AFC East days. Sigh.

9. Watch for the home crowd. Can you feel it? I can and it sure seems like 2011 is a long way behind us. The home crowd knows the importance this game has and should be fired up to cheer their Colts closer to the playoffs. Vegas is calling this one a toss-up with the Colts getting the customary 3 points for being at home. Something tells me the fans are higher on this team than the bettors.

10. Watch for the battle of disappointments. The Colts' offensive line and the Bills' defensive line are two units that brought in help in the offseason, but have disappointed thus far. The Bills, with the acquisition of Mario Williams, had much higher hopes than the Colts. Nevertheless, both units have disappointed  this season, and will be a key matchup this week. The most important matchup is between LT Anthony Castonzo and DE Mario Williams, both players who have had disappointing seasons thus far. 

11. Watch for flashbacks. The Colts' run defense is currently the worst in the league according to Football Outsider's DVOA. The Bills are second worst. Both teams are in the top half of the league in run offense. The amount of ineptitude on defense should rival that of the Colts' of the 2000's, creating physically painful flashbacks to the Jaguars' game in 2006.

12. Watch for the run renewed. If the Colts are going to make the postseason, they need at least eight wins, and probably nine. They need to win at least two, if not three of the following games: Buffalo, Tennessee, at Detroit, at Kansas City, or Houston to end the season. Given that they are at home, this week is as good a time as any to land one of those games.  Indy wins a thriller. Colts 35 Bills 30

Eyes is the collaborative product of Nate Dunlevy, Kyle Rodriguez and Todd Smith.

Eyes in the Backfield-Bills

7 Things to Watch for During Sunday’s Colts Bills Game

This guy doesn’t inspire confidence

Last week…well let’s talk about something else.  This week Indy travels to the frozen wasteland that is Buffalo, New York.  While Peyton Manning is expected to start the game, the Colts’ chances for victory will rest largely on Curtis Painter.  In his honor, we bring you seven things to watch for this Sunday.  Be on the look out for:

1.  Watch the pitch count. Weather permitting, I would love to see the starters play a half.  I realize that is unlikely, but surely any reasonable person would allow that it would be plenty of work for the starters to stay in sync.  More likely, we’ll see Manning for a drive.  If we even get a second, we’l all feel lucky.

2.  Watch the weather report. The reports are calling for 18 degrees with snow.  Caldwell has said he doesn’t expect the weather to affect his plans, but I have to think that if conditions are too bad, we won’t see Manning do much other than hand off into the line three times.

3.  Watch another top pass defense.  The unfortunate part of Curtis Painter having to play the Bills and Jets is that they are top two defenses in the NFL at opponents passer rating.  He doesn’t have a chance.  The Bills are going to force 3 sacks and two picks from Painter.  If he’s lucky.  Remember Painter has NEVER lead a touch down drive, not even in the preseason.

4.  Watch for milestones.  Several Colts have personal goals they’d love to attain, but it seems unlikely they will.  Manning will almost certainly lose the passing title (which isn’t bad considering no one has ever lead the NFL in passing yards and won the Super Bowl in the same year).  He only needs 152 yards to set a career high, however, and if the Colts decide to let the starters play a little more than we expect, he could get there.  Dallas Clark needs 7 catches for 100.  Reggie Wayne needs just five.  Austin Collie, who could see more action than the other starters needs 7 catches to set the Colts’ rookie record for receptions.  Fans will howl if the Colts go for them, but it would be the right play, within reason.

5. Watch the kicking game. Priority number one for the Colts offense needs to be getting in field goal range to let the team evaluate Vinatieri.  Granted, kicking outside in Buffalo will be a much tougher test than anything he’ll have to do this postseason, but the team needs to know what he can do.  They have a tough decison as to whether or not to keep Stover.  Getting AV some live attempts would be a major accomplishment for what is sure to be an anemic offensive day.

6.  Watch for a live chat.  The Colts are treating this like a preseason game, and so will we.  That means we’ll do a Cover It Live blog/chat during the game on Sunday instead of the normal game day blog.  Stop by at game time and we’ll hang out and shake our heads in dismay together.

7.  Watch for 14-2. The Bills are horrible.  Curtis Painter is worse.  Unless the Colts let the starters play more than a series, they aren’t going to win this game.  Buffalo takes it 17-10.  That may be optimistic.