Indianapolis Colts vs. Seattle Seahawks Week 1 Predictions: Against the Spread, Total, and Props
Seahawks -2.5 (-115)
Frank Reich is a fantastic coach and remains one of the NFL’s sharpest offensive minds. General manager Chris Ballard has built as well-rounded a roster as any in the NFL. That being said, until this team’s quarterback woes are solved for certain, the Colts are an unserious contender.
Swinging on Carson Wentz as a reclamation project was not the worst thing the Colts could have done this offseason, but the oft-injured quarterback is hobbled again. Wentz missed the entire preseason with a foot/ankle injury that had a projected recovery timeline well into the regular season. Wentz started practicing as a full participant on Wednesday, though, and now appears healthy enough to give it a go in Week 1. Still, between a seemingly rushed recovery, no preseason action, and a recent stint on the COVID list, it is hard to imagine Wentz is going to be in top form to open the season. In the event that Wentz gets shelved this week as a precaution, Jacob Eason does not inspire much confidence to make this a close game.
On the flip side, the Seahawks have a top-five quarterback and a wide receiver corps geared for generating explosive plays. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett can make those explosive plays happen against anyone, but they may have a particularly favorable matchup this week. The Colts have gotten progressively worse at defending explosive passing plays since Matt Eberflus took over, starting at a stellar 6% in 2018 before rising to 8% in 2019 and 9% in 2020. Those 2019 and 2020 figures are still only about average or slightly worse, but that is still good news for the Seahawks.
While this should not look like the Ravens versus Dolphins game from a couple years ago, Seattle could get some shots in early and control the game from there.
Under 49.5 (-105)
Backpacking off of that, the Seahawks’ offense has a good chance to at least put up an average performance in this game. The 24-27 point range is totally reasonable. How the Colts get to that range is a much bigger question mark to me, in large part because of the aforementioned quarterback concerns.
Normally, the Colts’ path to points in this scenario may be to lean on the ground game. And they will likely have to. A lingering injury to Quenton Nelson brings about some questions for how high the run game’s ceiling is this week, however. Nelson, like Wentz, suffered a foot injury that required surgery. The All-Pro guard also missed Wednesday’s practice with back issues. Nelson will likely not be at full speed if he is cleared to play, and the Colts would be in a real bad spot if he isn’t cleared to play. New left tackle Eric Fisher, who is questionable to start on Sunday, is also a downgrade from the recently retired Anthony Castonzo, while right guard Mark Glowinski took a step back in 2020 after a bit of a breakout 2019 campaign.
Additionally, the Seahawks boasted the seventh-best run defense DVOA in the league last season. They did lose some talent up front in defensive tackle Jarran Reed and linebacker KJ Wright, but the unit should not be one that gets gashed regularly. The Colts’ run game will not get completely shut out, make no mistake, but this is not an easy matchup for them to take over the game.
Tyler Lockett, First Scorer (+800) (DraftKings)
Choosing between Seattle’s top two receivers is tough here. The odds are nearly identical, with DK Metcalf’s being at +750 to be the game’s first scorer. Either one of them would be my top two picks given that I expect Seattle to kick off the scoring as a team and know there’s a chance it could come on a play-action shot, perhaps on a well-constructed opening script.
Lockett barely gets the nod for me here based on their recent scoring splits. Since 2019, when Metcalf entered the league, Lockett has six first-quarter touchdowns to Metcalf’s three. Metcalf generally eats more targets as the offense’s X receiver, but Lockett is one of the league’s most explosive receivers down the field and Wilson is as good a deep thrower as any.
I’ll take the swing on Shane Walden getting this offense right and giving Wilson an opportunity to find his guy down the field sooner rather than later.
Jack Doyle, Anytime Scorer (+240) (DraftKings)
It does not matter which quarterback plays in order for me to feel good about this pick. Both Wentz and the assumed emergency starter, Jacob Eason, like to target tight ends.
In each of the past three seasons, the Eagles ranked top-two in target share for tight ends. Some of those games were not quarterbacked by Wentz due to injury, but he still started the majority of games over that span. The Eagles also ranked sixth in tight end target share during Wentz’s near-MVP campaign back in 2017. Wentz, a naturally aggressive passer, prefers the bigger targets and reliable hands that tight ends can bring.
Jack Doyle is not an explosive pass-catcher between the 20s, but he is the kind of strong, reliable short-yardage and red zone threat that Wentz is going to target a ton.
In the event that Eason starts, we should still see a similar dynamic. Eason was one of nine quarterback prospects I charted during the 2020 NFL Draft process. Among those nine players, Eason’s 14.07% target share for in-line tight ends was the highest mark, roughly doubling the class-average. Eason, similar to Wentz, is an aggressive passer who loves the middle of the field, and that is exactly where Doyle will earn the bulk of his targets.
The Colts still probably won’t be big scorers in this match, but if they do find the end zone, Doyle is the guy I’m looking at.