The fate of the Indianapolis Colts rests on the surgically-repaired shoulder of Andrew Luck, who returns to the field in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals after missing all of last season. And the Colts felt the brunt of his absence by sinking to 4-12, costing Chuck Pagano his job. Luck hasn’t played a regular season game since leading Indy to a victory in the 2016 finale and the roster has been overhauled since then with just a handful of players still on the team from that contest.
Kickoff for this regular season Week 1 game is set for Sunday, September 9, 2018, at 1 p.m. ET at Lucas Oil Stadium.
NFL Opening Odds at BookMaker.eu
Cincinnati Bengals +3
Indianapolis Colts -3
The teams have split the last six meetings with each going 3-3 ATS, they’re both coming off subpar seasons and neither is getting much respect, so it isn’t a complete surprise that the Colts are favored by the value of home field advantage. The return of Luck should inspire Indy’s offense and the total is one of the higher on the board at 47.
Marlon Mack – As part of their youth movement the Colts let last year’s leading rusher Frank Gore walk, turning to Mack to handle the duties. Unfortunately, Mack has been slowed by a hamstring injury this preseason and the projected starter missed the last three tune-up games. Mack’s status for the opener is unknown and with Robert Turbin suspended, the Colts will lean on several inexperienced players at the position. Jordan Wilkins is likely to get the start if Mack can’t go. A fifth-round pick out of Ole Miss, Wilkins rushed for 75 yards in three preseason games.
Player to Watch
Luck is the obvious pick after missing last season and playing a handful of snaps during the exhibition games. The good news is that Luck proclaimed himself ready to go after completing 62.5 percent of his throws for 204 yards during the preseason. He made some strong throws, scrambled in the pocket and took a few sacks in order to get the jitters out of his system. He sustained what Reich called a “minor” foot injury in the third preseason game and sat out practice until this week.
There will be a different team surrounding him and outside of T.Y. Hilton, the receiving corps is largely untested. The Colts absolutely have to do a better job of protecting Luck or he could end up on the shelf again. The line surrendered a league-high 56 sacks last season and Luck has been taken down 156 times in his career, an average of over two sacks per game.
Matchup to Watch
The battle in the trenches will be fierce and the Colts are counting on an upgraded line to better protect their quarterback. The Colts allowed 44 sacks in 2016 and surrendered a NFL-high 56 sacks last season, and they finally invested in the line by drafting Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith in the first two rounds. They also added Matt Slauson through free agency. The group will be tested from the get go against a Bengals defensive front that is one of the most underrated in the game.
The Bengals locked up two cornerstones of their defense by inking Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap to new deals. Atkins had nine sacks last year and Dunlap added 7.5 to account for over 40 percent of the team’s total. Over the past three seasons they each have 29 sacks and their total is the most by any duo in that span. Carl Lawson added 8.5 sacks in his 2017 rookie season and is just getting started in his career. The odds of Cincinnati winning increase if the line can collapse the pocket and make Luck anxious on his dropbacks.
Free ATS Pick
A rebuild takes time and the Colts are in the middle of one right now. The roster has undergone a dramatic overhaul since the last time Luck was on the field for a regular season game, and while the team is much younger, it’s hard to say if they are any better. Luck will give them a chance, but he lacks play makers at the skill positions and the defense remains a big question mark. I just don’t think management did enough to improve a group that ranked third from the bottom in points and yards allowed per game in 2017.
On the other side, Marvin Lewis is playing with house money. He wasn’t expected back after two losing campaigns and I expect this team to be more creative in everything it does. John Ross is ready to show why he was selected in the first round in 2017 and Andy Dalton will put a poor season behind him. The Bengals have the talent to be a sleeper in the AFC and they will take the opener outright.
NFL Betting Odds: Bengals 26, Colts 21
BookMaker offers play-by-play betting odds for live sporting events every day! The user-friendly wagering interface on your smartphone provides an easy way to place bets on the go. Mobile betting lines are updated by the minute, so click here to start gambling on thrilling live action at BookMaker Sportsbook!