Posted on May 29, 2016 by Brian Neal

 

One of the afternoon games on the Sunday slate of Week 1 pits the Detroit Lions against the Indianapolis Colts. While it’s still May, it’s never too early to get ready for the upcoming 2016 NFL season. Who has the best odds of coming away with a 1-0 record from this matchup? A preview and prediction are below.

Game Day: Sunday, Sept. 11

Game Time: 4:25 p.m. ET

Location: Indianapolis, Ind.

Betting Line: -5.5 IND; 49.5 O/U (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)

Lions Key Losses:

  • WR Calvin Johnson (retired)
  • RB Joique Bell (released)
  • CB Rashean Mathis (retired)
  • S Isa Abdul-Quddus (free agent)
  • S James Ihedigbo (free agent)
  • WR Lance Moore (free agent)

Lions Key Additions:

  • WR Marvin Jones (free agent)
  • RB Stevan Ridley (free agent)
  • WR Jeremy Kerley (free agent)
  • OT Geoff Schwartz (free agent)
  • OT Taylor Decker (drafted)
  • DT A’Shawn Robinson (drafted)
  • C Graham Glasgow (drafted)
  • S Miles Killebrew (drafted)
  • G Joe Dahl (drafted)

Colts Key Losses:

  • TE Coby Fleener (free agent)
  • LB Jerrell Freeman (free agent)
  • S Dwight Lowery (free agent)
  • WR Andre Johnson (free agent)

Colts Key Additions:

  • CB Patrick Robinson (free agent)
  • C Ryan Kelly (drafted)
  • S T.J. Green (drafted)
  • OT Le’Raven Clark (drafted)
  • OT Joe Haeg (drafted)

The Lions definitely did not have the offseason they were hoping for, losing Megatron to a seemingly early retirement, and that’s one of the many changes this team has undergone. The Colts, on the other hand, had one mission in mind and may have completed it; more on that in a bit.

Detroit has had two busy, and rather depleting offseasons in a row. While they may have signed and drafted some solid pieces, it really hasn’t reflected what they lost in any way. In 2015, it was Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the corps of their defensive line, which is what made their defense so good — especially against the run. In 2016, it’s Calvin Johnson, who’s perhaps the second greatest Lion ever after Barry Sanders. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it feels like more dark days could be coming to the franchise.

That said, this team still has some pieces. Obviously, Matthew Stafford is going to have to prove this year that he’s grown as a quarterback and can function at a high level without his 6-foot-5 safety net. Instead, he’s going to depend on guys like the newly signed Jones, who will likely be the starter opposite Golden Tate. They also swapped slot receivers in Moore for Kerley; Andre Caldwell and Corey Fuller will also be in the mix at receiver. Ultimately, this team will be depending greatly upon their young tight end. How good is Eric Ebron? We’re about to find out.

The running game was absolutely pathetic in 2015, and a lot of that had to do with the offensive line. With questions in the passing game arising, two rookies in Decker and Glasgow will be heavily relied on, as well as Schwartz, who was brought in on a prove-it deal.

If the front five can get things going, then guys like Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and maybe even Ridley will have an opportunity to take some pressure off of Stafford.

Defensively, this team was a mess for most of last season without Suh and Fairley. The depth on the defensive line wasn’t there, nor anywhere else on the defense. Their safeties are a huge unknown, the corners haven’t proven too much either. At linebacker, they’re hoping guys like DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch will return to form, and the same could be said about Haloti Gnata on the line.

The only true difference-makers could be Ziggy Ansah and Robinson this year, if he’s as good as advertised, being their second-round pick.

Either way, expect this team to struggle once again this year.

Now the Colts didn’t change things up too much. Their main goal was to get Andrew Luck back healthy, and then keep him healthy in the future.

They stuck to that goal pretty hard, drafting three offensive linemen in the first five rounds of the draft. They took Kelly, the best center available, in the first, and followed it up with Clark in the third and Haeg in the fifth. The latter may be a steal, as he was the top offensive lineman from the FCS, protecting No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz at North Dakota State. He projects well to the NFL, with the ideal size and athleticism, so all eyes will be on him this preseason.

If Luck can stay healthy, then perhaps this team can get back to the playoffs. But it’ll be harder for Luck this year, as he lost two weapons in Johnson and Fleener, so Donte Moncrief, T.Y. Hilton and Dewayne Allen will be counted on even more so. If any of them get hurt, the Colts are rather thin at those positions.

Defensively, the Colts really need to improve, but lost a couple of pieces this offseason in Freeman and Lowery. The latter was replaced by Green, the rookie, who looks like an exciting prospect with good size and is a converted receiver. He’s only played defense in college for two seasons, but has 4.3 40 speed and had 95 tackles and a sack last year for Clemson. Green only had one interception in college, but will have more opportunities in the NFL, and as he gets more experience and coaching.

That said, not much else has changed on that side of the ball other than the addition of Robinson at corner. Will those couple of signings in the back end make that big of a difference in 2016? That’s not a certainty at all, and Indy fans best hope that the offense is on the field more often this year.

Prediction: When Luck is healthy, the Colts project as a better team than the Lions, and they’re at home. The only way this will be a close game is if the Lions’ offensive line can control the pace of the game with a ground attack. Given that it’ll be the first regular season game for two or three starters on the line, that’s easier said than done, even against this Colts defense. Take the over, as the Lions will score some garbage time points, but the Colts will start 1-0.

Final Score: Colts 32, Lions 26

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