Indianapolis Colts vs. Los Angeles Chargers Week 1 Pick
Indianapolis Colts (11-7 SU, 9-8-1 ATS vs. Los Angeles Chargers (13-5 SU, 10-8 ATS)
Date/Time: Sunday, September 8, 4:05 PM EST
Where: StubHub Center, Los Angeles
Point Spread: Ind +7 (-120) / LAC -7 (+100)
Over/Under Total: 44 (BetNow)
This game was setting up as one of the marquis games on the week 1 slate before Andrew Luck decided to hang up his cleats, now the sportsbooks have made the Chargers touchdown favorites. The play here is to take the Colts and the 7 points. Here are three reasons.
Jacoby Brissett can lead Indy
Brissett started 15 games in 2017 while Luck was rehabbing his shoulder. Brissett came to Indy at the end of the pre-season in a trade with the Pats and was thrown into the fire after week 1. Though Brissett only won 4 games that year, Indy was leading in 9 of those games in the 4th quarter. The primary culprit for those losses was poor play calling and defense. Brissett filled in admirably for Luck and put up respectable numbers during his time leading the Indy attack. He threw for 13 touchdowns against only seven interceptions and averaged 6.6 yards per attempt. Brissett now moves from being the best back up in the league to a deserving starter. He can make all of the throws and brings 17 games as a starter (including two starts in New England), plus a year in Frank Reich’s offense under his belt into this contest.
Brissett will be playing behind one of the best O-lines in the business with a competent group of skill players. Marlon Mack has emerged as a quality lead back with Nyheim Hines filling the third-down role. Mack averaged 75 yards per game while Hines caught 63 passes over the year. T.Y. Hilton returns as the number 1 wide receiver, and will keep the LA defense from crowding the box. The tight end combination of Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle may be the best duo in the league. Ebron scored 13 touchdowns last year while Doyle spent the majority of the season hurt. With both back and healthy and Devin Funchess brought in to work opposite of Hilton, Brissett will have multiple playmaking options to work with. He will not be the polished player Luck was, but he is capable and will put up points against the Chargers.
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Frank Reich Is Ready for the Challenge
There is a strong case the Reich was the best coach in the league last year, or maybe that he and GM Chris Ballard were the best coach and GM combo. Reich took a team that won 4 games in 2017 with a QB that was nursing a bad shoulder and led them to 10 wins in their final 11 games to reach the playoffs where they beat division rival Houston on the road before losing to the Chiefs. The Colts started slowly, but Reich built an offense around a running, and short passing attack that kept the ball moving downfield, and most importantly had Luck getting the ball out quick and staying healthy. Ballard built one of the best offensive lines in the league and constructed a young, fast defense that overachieved to allow the 13the fewest points in the league. That line returns this year and should be able to hold their own against the Chargers strong front 7, and the defense has been further improved this off-season.
While the Colts were winning four games in 2017, Reich was coaching in Philly, where stud QB Carson Wentz went down and back up Nick Foles was tapped to bring the Eagles’ Super Bowl dream to fruition. Reich and head coach Doug Pederson manufactured game plans that highlighted Foles’ strengths rather than what worked for Wentz. In the Indy case, the offense that Luck was running should work for Brissett, but Reich will adapt as needed. Reich’s 2019 attack was based on being efficient on first down to keep the chains moving, with an occasional deep pass to keep the defense honest. Reich will add some unique twists this week that will make Brissett comfortable, put points on the board, and keep the game close.
The Chargers Don’t Start Strong
Anthony Lynn led LA to a 2-2 start last year and 1-3 ATS before getting it together to tie for the best record in the AFC with 12 wins. The Chargers are one of the favorites this year to represent the AFC at the Super Bowl, with one of the strongest rosters going. But this is when the Chargers always seem to shoot themselves in the foot. They have had some bad breaks already with Safety Derwin James out with a foot injury, running back Melvin Gordon holding out for a pay increase and left tackle Russell Okung out with a blood clot issue. The O line was already a week point for LA, and this makes it exponentially worse. This game has gone from one that LAC was expecting to line up against a team that would be in their way to get to the Super Bowl, to a game against a team that has just lost its best player and is now projected last in their division.
I can see the Chargers coming out flat for this contest and losing the battle at both lines of scrimmage. Without Gordon, they may not be able to control the game flow, and the Colts should be able to keep the chains moving when they have the ball. Rivers is the best QB in the game and should be able to keep the Bolts in the lead or close, but I don’t see LA blowing out Indy.
Play the Colts +7
The Colts will keep this game close, and the team with the ball at the end of the game should have a chance to win. A small play on the money line at +260 is also worth a small play.
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