Jonathan Taylor vs. Fred Warner
Right now, Jonathan Taylor is the best NFL running back not named Derrick Henry. Over the past 3 games, Taylor has had 45 carries for 301 yards (6.7YPA) and four touchdowns, to go along with 7 receptions for 140 yards and one touchdown. It is not an understatement to say that Jonathan Taylor might very well be turning into what Saquon Barkley was supposed to be out of college.
In front of him, he will have one of the most talented fronts in the NFL, led by All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner. While he was among the best linebackers in the league last season, Warner has not been as explosive this year, either in coverage or in run defense. If the Colts are to have a shot against the Niners on Sunday night then Taylor needs to continue his hot streak, as he is right now the most important player for the offense.
Colts’ pass rush vs. A hobbled Jimmy G
The Colts’ pass-rush has been abhorrent this season, to say the least. DeForest Buckner is double-teamed on almost every play, Grover Stewart has been okay, but the edges are where the problem lies. The Colts’ best edge rusher right now is first-round pick Kwity Paye, but he sometimes goes through typical rookie struggles. Al-Quadin Muhammad, who is getting most of the snaps on the right side of the line, has mostly been a non-factor, even though he has been playing better lately. Former 2nd round picks Kemoko Turay and Ben Banogu have been mediocre on limited.
In front of them, they will once again have a solid chance against an offensive line that has not been playing well this year. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Daniel Brunskill have allowed 11 pressures each, while franchise left tackle Trent Williams has missed every practice this week. Also worth noting, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is not nearly at 100% because of a calf issue that cost him a couple of games.
Eric Fisher vs. Nick Bosa/Arik Armstead
Fisher is clearly not at full health right now, as he is still working back from an Achilles’ injury. Hopefully having Nelson next to him will help but for the Colts’ pass game to flourish Wentz clearly needs some time to throw the ball. Fisher will not have an easy matchup against the ultra-talented Nick Bosa and the red-hot Arik Armstead.
Matt Eberflus vs. Kyle Shanahan
My main issue with Matt Eberflus’ defense is how it tends to allow easy completions because it is focused on limiting big play. This trade-off works against inexperienced quarterbacks, who have a tendency to make mistakes. Against surgical, more experienced quarterbacks, the approach fails miserably, and it usually ends with the Colts’ defense allowing >80% completion rate.
Garoppolo loves to throw short passes, with a high completion rate, so the Colts scheme on defense falls right into his lap. Another problem the Colts will have with that is that both Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk tend to be a problem once the ball is in their hands (luckily tight end George Kittle will not be available). Either the Colts’ pass rush manages to put together a decent game for once, or Eberflus will be forced to adjust his defense and take the short routes away from Garoppolo.
Michael Badgley vs. The weather/Inconsistency
With Rodrigo Blankenship still out, the Colts will once again go with Badgley as the kicker. While the former Chargers and Titans player had a perfect debut, kicking in the dome at Lucas Oil Stadium is not the same as what he will face on Sunday. Heavy rains and winds are expected for game time against the Niners, and that will certainly make things more complicated for the new kicker.