Real football draws closer and closer.
Less than a week from today, we'll already be talking about the Colts' dominating win over the Oakland Raiders. Andrew Luck will have thrown for over 600 yards, four touchdowns and a two-point conversion and Reggie Wayne will have slowly emasculated each of the Raiders' secondary members.
Lofty predictions aside, it's time to start getting excited about the regular season, specifically the Colts' season opener.
So if the Colts are to defeat the seemingly toothless Raiders, how will it happen? Which battles are crucial for the Colts to start the season 1-0?
Colts Defensive Line Vs. Raiders Offensive Line
The Raiders are reportedly starting Terrelle Pryor at quarterback, and the third-year veteran doesn't scare the Colts, especially with Oakland's lack of weapons to throw to. So, to win this one, the Raiders would need to
A. Protect Pryor and make things as easy as possible.
B. Create running lanes for Darren McFadden
That seems like it should be a difficult task for a struggling Raider line, but we're not quite sure how good the Colts' defensive line is. It seems deep, but the overall talent is questionable. You'd like to see them play well in this one, considering the talent. All of the focus this offseason has been stopping the run. If they can do that against Oakland, they'll coast to a victory.
Josh Cribbs Vs. the Colts' Special Teams
hahahahahahaha- Just kidding.
Josh Cribbs was cut due to lingering knee issues after signing a one-year deal in Oakland this offseason. The Colts will instead be dealing with Jacoby Ford on kick returns. Ford spent the entire 2012 season on IR with a Lisfranc injury, but averaged over 31 yards per return in 2011.
A win for Oakland likely would include some special teams, momentum-killing plays, so this actually is important.
Decaying Reggie Wayne vs. the corpse of Charles Woodson
In the 2013 Battle of the Zombies, two of the NFL's oldest players will slowly battle to the death (which is a short road for them). Woodson signed with the Raiders on a one-year deal this offseason, and hasn't made much of an impact in the preseason, but is as experienced as they come.
Reggie Wayne, on the other hand, stayed in Indianapolis (and we love him for it) and had one of the greatest "old wide recevier" years ever. He hasn't quite declined to Woodson's level yet, and may have a chance to take advantage of Woodson (or a youngster like 2013 first-round pick D.J. Hayden). If Wayne, and the other wide receivers do their jobs, the Colts will be fine. The Raiders' defensive line is NOT good, and so the offensive line should be able to handle them fairly well.
Reggie McKenzie/Ryan Grigson comparisons vs. Sanity
Ryan Grigson has been much more successful than Reggie McKenzie so far in their one-year general manager career.
If you try and say anything more about the two, I will go on strike. I will. Don't tempt me. I'll just write at Bleacher Report and pump out 50-slide slideshows. Don't make me do it.
McKenzie took over the WORST situation in the NFL in Oakland and has had one year on the job. Ryan Grigson took over a team with a stable, good ownership and Andrew Luck sitting in his lap. The Raiders are going to be awful again this year, and the Colts are going to be good. But comparing the two GMs because of it is nonsensical.
Where would the Colts be right now if they didn't have a pick until 95th overall in the 2012 draft, like McKenzie did? No Andrew Luck, no Dwayne Allen and no Coby Fleener.
They wouldn't have won 11 games last year, that's for sure. I'd say another 2-win year would have been about 100x more likely than 11 wins. And had the Raiders had Andrew Luck, they probably wouldn't be last in power rankings this year.
Grigson has done a very good job in his own right. I'm not taking anything away from him. But the two men are in completely different and incomparable situations. Don't try to compare them after a year on the job.
In the end, this one should be a Colts victory. If it's not, things are very bad. Have they earned a 10-point spread? Probably not. But if they can't pull a win out against the Raiders, the season is going to get not-so-fun really quick. I don't see that happening. Even if some of the question marks for the Colts don't play well, the studs should be enough to get this one done.