The Indianapolis Colts (0-0) visit the Los Angeles Chargers (0-0) in Week 1. Kickoff is Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET.
When seeing this on the schedule in spring, many might’ve predicted this to be a possible AFC Championship preview. However, we can safely say both teams are undergoing an identity crisis.
Andrew Luck abruptly retired from football during the third preseason game, leaving the Colts to start Jacoby Brissett at quarterback to open the year.
Meanwhile, the Chargers are still dealing with a holdout and trade request from RB Melvin Gordon and just lost their premier defensive player to injury to start the year (more on that later).
Still, the replacements for those departing offensive names are capable, which will prevent the quality of play from slipping too much. Either way, the bad news throws a wrench into what we thought would be a marquee matchup.
Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Chargers: Week 1 preview, betting trends and notes
- It’s fair to all but write off the team’s 2018 trends, considering those were manned by Luck playing all 16 contests. Curious anyway? They ranked 19th with just 44.4% Over coverage and tied for 14th against the spread (52.9%), per TeamRankings.com.
- The Colts were also 5-5 straight-up and 6-4 ATS on the road (including playoffs).
- Brissett is not a scrub, to be fair, having performed admirably in 2017 when Luck was sidelined. His mobility gives the Colts similar flexibility with its offense – which remains a pretty darn good scheme from the mind of Frank Reich.
- T.Y. Hilton will miss Luck’s ability to throw the deep ball but still has the ability to break big plays, having averaged 16 yards per catch in his career. The TE duo of Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle will probably be quite busy, as well, as Brissett works early in the year.
- Reading the Chargers trends from the 2018 season is more appropriate. Filling in for a RB isn’t as drastic and results-changing as replacing a franchise QB.
- Per TeamRankings.com, the Bolts were tied for ninth with a 55.6% cover rate on the spread in 2018, while tying for eighth with an average cover margin of +1.2. They were also 8-6 ATS in conference play, which put them in the top 10.
- They were tied for ninth, however, with several teams, splitting their Over/Under bets down the middle, and they were just 2-5 ATS as a home favorite last season.
- Austin Ekeler (career 5.3 yards per carry) and Justin Jackson (4.1 in his rookie year) will form a solid tandem to replace Gordon.
- One piece of good news: Los Angeles welcomes back TE Hunter Henry, who missed all of last regular season due to an ACL tear but already has 12 career touchdowns across two seasons.
- Fun stat: The Chargers ranked fourth in points per play (0.446) last year.
Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Chargers: Key injuries
- Chargers 2018 breakout rookie S Derwin James (foot) will start the season on IR, which eliminates a significant playmaker from a talented defense.
- The Chargers will also be without LT Russell Okung, who’s recovering from a pulmonary embolism. Not a great position to be missing to start off a campaign.
Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Chargers:Odds, betting lines and prediction
Odds via playMGM. Access USA TODAY Sports’ betting odds for a full list. Lines last updated Sept. 4 at noon ET.
Los Angeles Chargers 24, Indianapolis Colts 20
Moneyline ( ?)
While the Colts’ +240 moneyline is the profit play with plenty of credit, I’d probably avoid this for either squad. The Chargers’ -300 doesn’t appeal much to me, considering how close I expect this one to be.
Itching to pick one? Go with the Colts.
Against the Spread ( ?)
Take the points: Colts +6.5 (-110). This line is an extreme reaction to Luck’s retirement, and I’d rather be on the rebound swing from the overcorrection. Indy’s cross-country travel is only a mild concern, and Reich’s system should start off a transitional year by maximizing Brissett’s potential. That’ll be enough to keep this one close.
Over/Under ( ?)
I’m also not enthused with the 45 Over/Under (-110 for both), but in these clubs’ first games without Luck and Gordon, I’ll side with the UNDER 45.
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