Each week, the PFF analysis team will bring you break downs of the most important matchups for each game of the NFL season.
Coverage by: Mike Alessandrini
Matchup: Indianapolis Colts offense vs. Los Angeles Rams defense
- T Anthony Castonzo vs Edge Robert Quinn – Keeping Week 1 starting quarterback Scott Tolzien clean will be imperative for the Colts’ success against the Rams. It starts at left tackle with Castonzo. The veteran allowed 51 total pressures in 66 pass block snaps. His 94.0 pass blocking efficiency grade ranked 44th out of 74 qualifying offensive tackles. Castonzo will matchup against Quinn on a number of plays. The former first-round pick battled injuries and inconsistency last year, accumulated 22 pressures in 246 rush snaps. His 7.1 pass rush productivity ranked 37th among 4-3 defensive ends.
- WR T.Y. Hilton vs Rams defensive backs – the sixth year receiver flourished last season, posting career numbers in catches (91) and yards (a league-high 1,448). Hilton averaged 2.35 yards per route run, fourth best among receivers. His 143 targets paced his team and were eighth most in the NFL. Due to Hilton’s versatility while lining up at different spots, he will see coverage from a number of different Ram defenders. Los Angeles’ top two cornerbacks are Trumaine Johnson and Kayvon Webster. Johnson was the team’s top coverage defender in 2016, leading the team with 0.93 yards per coverage snap and 11.0 coverage snaps per reception. Webster was targeted just six times in coverage with the Broncos last year, allowing three catches for 46 yards.
- TE Jack Doyle vs Rams linebackers – the Colts tight end emerged as a dependable target in 2016. Doyle’s 84 drop rate was 11th best at his position (3 drops on 62 catchable passes), while his 1.57 yards per route run ranked 18th. He could see his fair share of looks this week as Tolzien will look for reliable, underneath targets. Rams linebackers Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron will seemingly be up to the task. The duo’s coverage snaps per reception (14.1 for Ogletree, 9.3 for Barron) both ranked inside the top ten at their positions last season.
Coverage by: Mike Cahill
Matchup: Los Angeles Rams offense vs. Indianapolis Colts defense
- WR Sammy Watkins vs. Colts secondary – With the Colts’ No. 1 cornerback Vontae Davis out for Week 1 of the season, newly acquired Sammy Watkins will face an assortment of rookies and corners that combined to give up 50 receptions on 89 targets for 571 yards and three touchdowns and one pass defended. Since entering the league in 2014, Watkins has combined to catch 29 of his 76 targets on passes of 20 or more yards for 1,089 yards, 11 touchdowns, and one drop. Across his three seasons in the league, Watkins has finished with overall grades of 72.3, 87.5, and 76.8, respectively.
- RB Todd Gurley vs Colts defense – Gurley’s first game in 2017 will see him face PFF’s 32nd ranked team defense in 2016 and 31st ranked run defense. The Colts defense combined to miss 124 tackles in 2016, while Gurley is looking to get back to his rookie-year form where he had 42 forced missed tackles (tied for fifth) on 229 attempts. His 2016 season only saw 28 forced missed tackles (tied for 16th) on 278 attempts. In the 2017 preseason, Gurley was able to force three missed tackles on 12 attempts and averaged 2.50 yards after contact per attempt.
- Rams offensive line vs Colts defensive line – While the Colts’ team pass rush grade ranked 13th in the preseason, The Rams’ offensive line ranked 11th in total pass-blocking efficiency with an 83.5 by way of giving up 32 quarterback pressures (10th fewest) on 150 pass-blocking snaps. The starting line combined to give up seven quarterback pressures over the course of the 2017 preseason on 152 pass blocking snaps, half of what the starters gave up on the same amount of pass blocking snaps in the 2016 preseason. A lot will hinge on the protection of the offensive line as the 2016 version ranked 24th in pass-blocking efficiency with a 75.1 and 187 quarterback pressures allowed.