The Falcons (1-1) will begin the first of four matchups with AFC South foes on Sunday when they travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts (1-1).
Coming off an impressive 24-20 win against the Eagles in Week 2, the Falcons hope to keep the momentum going.
The Colts are coming off a successful first year under coach Frank Reich in 2018. Indianapolis earned a postseason berth after finishing 10-6 on the year. The majority of their roster has returned this year, except for star quarterback Andrew Luck, who abruptly announced his retirement following the Colts’ final preseason game.
Here are five things to know about Atlanta’s upcoming opponent:
A new era at quarterback
It’s Jacoby Brissett’s show in Indianapolis now. Following the news of Luck’s retirement, Brissett was named the starter. Brissett has been with the Colts since 2017 when he started 16 games filling in for an injured Luck.
In his first two games as the starter for the Colts, Brissett has completed 38 of 55 for 336 yards and five touchdowns.
Colts’ defense could be missing a star
Darius Leonard has entered the league’s concussion protocol following Indianapolis’ 19-17 win over the Titans.
If the Colts are without Leonard, a second-year All-Pro linebacker, it’s a significant loss. In their Week 2 road win over Tennessee, Leonard led the team with 10 tackles and a sack. In his first season, Leonard finished as the NFL’s leading tackler with 163 tackles on the year. He also recorded seven sacks, two interceptions and four forced fumbles.
His status will be monitored throughout the week.
Colts rushing attack blossoming
The Colts’ rushing attack has been one of the league’s best through two seasons. In the Week 1 loss to the Chargers, Indianapolis rushed for an NFL-best 174 yards. Against the Titans, the Colts rushed for 167 yards.
Perhaps what’s been most impressive about the success of the group is that it’s been by committee. Marlon Mack and Jordan Wilkins have shared a bulk of the of carries for Indianapolis. Mack is coming off a season where he rushed for 908 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018.
The Falcons significantly improved their run defense against the Eagles after a disappointing performance against Minnesota in Week 1. Atlanta held Philadelphia to 49 yards on the ground after allowing 172 against the Vikings.
T.Y. Hilton is still a factor
If Brissett has time, he and T.Y. Hilton have the ability to wreak havoc on a defense.
They showed their capabilities when they connected for the game-winning touchdown against the Titans last week.
Hilton has been of the league’s best receivers for a while now. In his seventh season with the Colts, Hilton has caught 519 passes for 8,227 receiving yards and 43 touchdowns.
He’s easily the best receiver the Falcons’ secondary has faced yet this season and limiting his production will be a factor for Atlanta.
Trouble brewing at kicker?
The Colts have one of the best kickers in the NFL in Adam Vinatieri.
His 24th NFL season has not gotten off to the start we’re used to seeing from such an established kicker. He’s missed five kicks so far in just two games (two field goals, three extra points). He missed two kicks all of the 2018 season.
Reich has expressed his confidence in Vinatieri moving forward, but it’s noteworthy to say the least.
“Whatever the struggles Adam has had the first two games, just to say it this way, we’re just very confident that those are going to get worked out; that it’s a fluke, and he’s going to do everything necessary to get out of that,” Reich said.
Atlanta’s defensive line will be tested
Coming off a dominant performance against the Eagles, the Falcons’ defensive line will be tested once again against one of the best offensive line’s in the NFL. The Colts offensive line was stellar in pass protection, only allowing 18 sacks in the 2018 season, the fewest sacks in the NFL.
They were also good in the run game, as well. Indianapolis rushed for over 100 yards in nine games last season. Quenton Nelson, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, has quickly become one of the best interior linemen in the league. Nelson earned first-team AP All-Pro honors in his first year and was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month.