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Cowboys vs Colts: ‘The Colts have built a terrible offensive line and it has ruined any chance to win games’

Information on the Cowboys next opponent, the Colts, from an expert observer of Indianapolis.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys are getting set to welcome the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night for a primetime game. Dallas is an overwhelming favorite in the game, with DraftKings Sportsbook pegging them as 11-point favorites. Before we get to the game, we asked five questions of the fine folks at Stampede Blue about the Colts. Check it out.

Blogging The Boys: Let’s start with the big story. How did you feel about the firing of Frank Reich, and how did you feel about the hiring of Jeff Saturday? And how has Saturday done so far?

Stampede Blue: If anyone can find me another NFL head coach who started seven different quarterbacks in five seasons and finished their fifth year with a winning percentage better than Reich’s (.547) I’ll take back everything positive I’ve ever said about him. Since no one can do that, I’ll stand behind saying Frank Reich is a good football coach. I don’t think he deserved to be fired. I’m not sure what it accomplished. Many Colts fans like to say that he had “lost the team” and that he “couldn’t motivate them”. And they say that like it means anything. Every player asked about Reich’s firing talked about how much they cared about Reich and about how guilty they felt because their play led to him being fired. He hadn’t lost the team. The team is bad and it’s bad in a way that can’t be out coached, it can’t be out schemed, it can’t be out game planned, the Colts have built a terrible offensive line and it has ruined any chance they otherwise might have had to win games this season. You could resurrect Tom Landry, hire him to coach the Colts and they would still suck.

How has Jeff Saturday been? Well under Jeff Saturday the Colts have turned over play calling to 30 year old Park Fraizer. And it’s not Fraizer’s fault but he wasn’t ready for this. The play calling has been objectively bad. Saturday’s clock management at the end of the Steelers game was terrible, too. But if you ask Colts fans, a lot of them are likely to tell you he really has the guys fired up to play... whatever that means.

BTB: Should the Colts still be starting Matt Ryan or should they already be looking at a future without him?

SB: If they’re actually trying to win games, he should be the starter. If they want to keep the locker room engaged, Matt Ryan’s the guy. If they’re trying to improve their draft stock and completely blow up the roster this off season, they need to start Sam Ehlinger- and I say that as a big fan of Ehlinger. Sam is a special person. But at this point in his career he has more intangibles than tangibles. In his two starts his footwork was a mess and his performance against the Patriots was amongst the worst the Colts have seen for quite some time at the position. Don’t get me wrong, Matt Ryan isn’t great at this point in his career but he easily gives the Colts the best chance to win.

As far as the future of the position is concerned for the Colts, who knows what they’ll do? They can’t keep kicking the can down the road forever on a quarterback but they’re not going to lose enough games to pick in the top two picks. You can’t keep putting it off but you hate to see the team you watch on Sunday draft a quarterback they’re not completely sold on just to do it, either. Recently Jim Irsay has been the one making decisions about the quarterback position, going over the heads of his general manager and now former head coach. At this point I have no reason to believe he won’t do it again next April.

BTB: Are struggles on the offensive line the problem for Jonathan Taylor, who is not dominating this year like he did last year?

SB: This offensive line is terrible and the story of the Colts 2022 offensive line starts with Matt Pryor. Pryor was given a $5.5 million contract in the offseason and was penciled in to start at left tackle. It sounds like hyperbole when I say this, I assure you it is not; Matt Pryor is the worst starting offensive lineman I have ever had the displeasure of watching. I- quite literally- could play at a level similar to Matt Pryor this season. Granted I would be hurt, very, very hurt, but for the series I was on the field the results would have been the same. The Colts eventually moved him to right tackle, displacing veteran Braden Smith (the Colts only consistent offensive lineman this season). After one terrible game at right tackle, future, former offensive line coach Chris Strausser decided that he should move his very good right tackle back to tackle and move Matt Pryor to right guard. After two bad games at right guard, the Colts finally realized that the only place left to move Matt Pryor was to the bench. So for those of you keeping track at home, the Colts paid a career backup to be their starting LT, only to have him suck at LT, RT and RG before ultimately benching him for a former seventh round pick named Will Fries. Fries has struggled but he’s young and athletic and is better than Pryor but a below average right guard would still be a massive upgrade over Will Fries.

Now, at left tackle the Colts are starting Bernhard Raimann, a third round rookie out of Central Michigan. Starting Raimann is the right thing to do considering the circumstances but this is only Raimann’s third season playing offensive line and he’s doing it against, you know, NFL edge rushers. Not to mention that lifetime good-but-not-great center Ryan Kelly seems to have aged 10 years in the last 10 months- things have not looked great up front. Even Quenton Nelson hasn’t been himself this season. Though I suspect Q was dealing with an undisclosed injury as he has progressively played better and better each week and looks to be getting back to the player he was before this season.

So yeah, the offensive line has fallen, almost completely, apart. With that said, right now, Jonathan Taylor looks as good as ever. His vision, his quickness and his uncanny ability to make defenders miss is on full display, it’s just that last season he was making the first defender miss four yards down the field. This season he’s beating unblocked defenders at or behind the line of scrimmage, often. Taylor has had a lot of amazing three yard runs this season.

BTB: Talk about the Colts defense and where they are strong, and where they are vulnerable.

SB: This might be the best Indianapolis Colts defense I’ve ever seen. That’s not hyperbole, I mean it. From top to bottom, every level of this defense is good. Fans of both the Chiefs and Eagles have had slight panics after watching their teams offense struggle against this Colts defense but most everyone has. You see the record, you see the Colts fire their coach and replace him with Jeff Saturday and your first thought is “oh this is an easy win” but the problem is general manager Chris Ballard is a really good scout, he’s proven to be bad at building a team, but he invested a lot of resources on the defensive side of the ball and the players he’s brought in have almost all been really good.

The weakest link so far has been CB Brandon Facyson, but even he was solid against the Eagles and Steelers the past couple of weeks. Outside of last week’s game against the Steelers, it seemed like most of the touchdowns that have been scored against this defense seem to have come when the Colts offense turns the ball over and the opponent has a short field and at the end of games when the Colts offense needs the defense to bail them out once again but the defense is absolutely exhausted from spending most of the day on the field.

I do wonder how long the defense is going to play at a high level. We may have started to see some cracks last week against the Steelers which was their worst outing of the season. I can’t imagine how it must feel to be a part of such a good unit only to have the offense let you down in such an obvious way. I won’t be surprised if some of those defenders start to check out mentally and begin thinking about being healthy for 2023. So anything could happen, with it being in Primetime, I do think the Colts defense will show up and play well.

BTB: At the time of writing this, the Cowboys are 11-point favorites. Is that an appropriate spread? Would you take the Colts to cover that or not on Sunday night?

SB: All things considered, that’s a fair spread. The Colts matchup so poorly with the Cowboys, I’m a little surprised it’s not more. On the other hand the Colts defense has kept a lot of good offenses from putting up big numbers and kept a terrible Colts offense in games they shouldn’t be in. The Indy defense is what makes predicting their games so hard to do. Going into week 11 against the Eagles if you had told me the Colts would have limited them to 17 points I would have called you crazy, but it happened. This Colts team is unpredictable. That said, if I had to make a prediction I am calling this one 24-13 for the Cowboys. If you can find a prop bet for the total number of times Matt Ryan is sacked, I don’t care what the number is- I’ll take the over.

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