Colts-Eagles: The 3 Matchups to Watch
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The big story in Philadelphia this weekend is the return of superstar quarterback Carson Wentz from a torn ACL and LCL after a ninth-month rehab.
The P1 in Indianapolis is similar, just a little farther down the news cycle as the Colts' own franchise signal caller, Andrew Luck, continues his comeback story after an even longer period on the shelf due to shoulder surgery.
Here are the three matchups that could turn the game between Wentz's Eagles and Luck's Colts on Sunday:
ANDREW LUCK vs. THE EAGLES' BACK SEVEN
Luck had not played in a regular-season game since Dec. of 2016 before taking the field for the season-opener against Cincinnati. Through two weeks, it's been a mixed bag under former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, as Luck has won a game, amassed an 87.3 passer rating and most notably, completed 71.4 percent of his passes, a spike well past his career-high of 63.5.
"I don't see much of a difference," veteran defensive lineman Michael Bennett told 973espn.com when discussing Luck on Friday. "He's the same guy. Big, strong physical. Keeping his eyes downfield. He is a really good player."
The one thing Luck hasn't done consistently is press things down the field. Through eight quarters of play, the Colts have managed just three pass plays of 20 yards-or-more and that kind of underneath offense will be a welcome respite for Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, who have been dealing with Julio Jones, DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans through two weeks.
COLTS' OFFENSIVE TACKLES vs. EAGLES' DEFENSIVE ENDS
Left tackle Anthony Costanzo has already been ruled out for Indianapolis and right tackle Joe Haeg, a former teammate of Wentz at North Dakota State, got the chuckle treatment when Brandon Graham was talking to reporters this week.
Expect Reich to draw up a host of quick passes to get the football out of Luck's hands quickly with the hope that players like T.Y. Hilton or Nyheim Hines can do something with the football in open space.
"I think across the league, you're seeing quarterbacks make good decisions," Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said this week. "Quarterbacks are well-trained, and they have a lot more options available to them: quicker, more receivers on the field, and to bridge it to the Colts, they've got a running back they drafted in the fourth round, No. 21, Nyheim (Hines), dude is super fast. Just dump the ball to a screen play for him and you're going to get high-percentage completions."
COLTS vs. EMOTION
It's difficult to play on the road in the NFL and it's even more difficult to play in Philadelphia where the fans' "emotion" is well-documented. The usual fervor will tick up a notch with the return of Wentz and while Reich understands what his team is in for, it's tough to duplicate things like that for them in practice.
"I know the environment is going to be electric, just how things are there, certainly with Carson coming back," Reich acknowledged. "So I'm looking forward to that, it'll be a good challenge for our team and then personally, obviously, it was a special experience there for two years. Really, this is the kind of situation where you've got to have the maturity to say this is unique and special in some ways. And then at the same time, it's just the next opponent, it's just the next game."
973espn.com Prediction: Eagles 24, Colts 14
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen