The San Francisco 49ers will get to see just how their investment in Jimmy Garoppolo will pay off. Sure, the guy hasn’t lost a game as a starting NFL quarterback and he led the Niners to five straight wins to end last season. But they were 1-10 when he took over and it’s much easier to play with no pressure. Jimmy G played sparingly in the first two preseason games, but he will get his most extended playing time against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3 of the preseason, in a setting that closely resembles a regular season game. And right now the Niners are 0-0.
This duel in Week 3 of the preseason will go down Saturday, August 25, 2018, at 4:30 p.m. ET at Lucas Oil Stadium.
NFL Opening Odds at BookMaker.eu
San Francisco 49ers +1
Indianapolis Colts -1
The Colts snuck in the backdoor for a cover win last week, using a late blocked punt and touchdown. However a missed 2-point conversion cost them a victory. Oddsmakers have this one evenly matched with the Colts favored by 1-point with the total hitting the board at 43.5.
Taking advantage of not having to play against J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and Johnathan Joseph, Garoppolo moved the Niners’ offense effortlessly in his two drives. He capped a 78-yard opening drive with a touchdown pass and moved the team to the Texans 12 on the second, only to have penalties set them back before an interception ended it. Garoppolo ended the day 10 of 12 for 136 yards.
Garoppolo and the first-team offense will play most if not all of the first half against the Colts. Backup C.J. Beathard has been pressured by Nick Mullens this preseason, but Bobby’s grandkid held his own last week, completing 10 of 17 for 82 yards. However, his seven drives produced one field goal and six punts. Mullens misfired on only one pass, but it resulted in an interception to thwart a drive late in the fourth quarter.
Now that Andrew Luck has his first game and home game in nearly two years out of the way, he can concentrate on perfecting his game. Last week’s numbers weren’t as good as the opener, but Luck and the Colts were encouraged by the QB’s play. And besides, after missing 20 games you didn’t expect him to be perfect. After his first three attempts Luck had more interceptions than completions.
It was hard to get an accurate assessment of Luck’s performance considering what was missing. There was no T.Y. Hilton to throw to, Anthony Castonzo wasn’t protecting his blindside, and the top two backs were out injured. The game wasn’t about Luck’s numbers, though, it was about getting him over another hurdle. He was sacked twice, hit hard on two other occasions, and came out pain-free. And that’s a victory right there. If all goes according to plan, Luck will play the first half with Jacoby Brissett taking over after halftime.
Player to Watch
Frank Reich plans on using plenty of three-receiver sets as part of his offense. The only problem is, outside of T.Y. Hilton, who’s going to be on the field? The Colts have used a number of players through their first two preseason games and have several candidates to take over a starting role. Rookie sixth-round pick Deon Cain is out of the equation after sustaining a season-ending injury, giving an opportunity to someone else.
A pleasant surprise in camp has been second-year player Kasen Williams, who led the team with three receptions in the preseason opener. Williams started last week and was targeted once, but he impressed Reich during the joint practices leading up to the game to take the inside track at holding down the starting job. He will get first-team reps on Saturday to showcase his skills.
Free ATS Pick
Getting that first game out of the way and overcoming the jitters of playing in front of the home fans, it’s time to see just how far Luck has progressed in his recovery. He should feel comfortable in the pocket behind a line that has protected him well and going against Niners defense that hasn’t been able pressure opposing QBs.
With both teams shorthanded in the backfield, this will be a showdown between Luck and Garoppolo and the total is well within reach. There doesn’t appear to be much separation between the teams and that makes for a close contest. The line is where it’s going to be and I can see the Colts coming out ahead behind a more poised and confident Luck.
NFL Betting Odds: Colts 30, 49ers 23
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