Since we can all actually see the Chargers play the Colts on Monday Night Football, it makes sense to talk about three players to keep an eye on.
Indianapolis is the flavor of the moment in the NFL, coming off back-to-back wins against the 49ers and Seahawks, two of the best teams in the league.
They have a second-year quarterback who plays like a five-year veteran, but Indy is really winning games with the 11th-ranked defense in the NFL. The Colts are also plus-6 in the all-important turnover ratio (meaning they've forced six more turnovers than they've committed), while the Chargers are minus-8 (meaning that's really bad).
So, here's the list of players who have a direct impact on how this one is going to go down:
Shareece Wright, CB
He's back from a hamstring injury and likely in the starting lineup. He'll spend a lot of time on either T.Y. Hilton, the big-play threat, or Reggie Wayne, the veteran who can run every route ever conceived by the offensive mind. Andrew Luck has only thrown two interceptions. As good and accurate as he is throwing the ball, two things people often forget about Luck are his size and strength. The kid is 6'4" and 240 pounds. He's a lot like Ben Roethlisberger, showing an ability to keep plays alive by moving around in the pocket and shedding would-be tacklers. Wright is going to have to keep his coverage longer than normal, and if he has a chance to make a play on the ball, he needs to make it. NFL Network analyst Marshall Faulk told me Luck, "Does not make the same mistake twice." Much like a hitter facing Justin Verlander, if you get a pitch to hit, you'd better do it, because if not you'll go down as a K in the score book. Against Luck, you need to make the pick when you have a chance, because you won't see another one.
Vincent Brown, WR
Coming off his first 100-yard game (117 yards against the Raiders), Brown finally made plays down the field. After averaging just over six yards per catch over the first four games, Brown averaged more than 16 yards a grab in Oakland. Vincent's only touchdown of the year came in the season-opener against the Texans. So, why is he a good bet to score again against Indy, even thought the Colts have allowed just four passing touchdowns all season? Simple. Vincent Brown loves prime-time games not played on Sundays. His three career touchdown catches have come on a Thursday night game, and a pair of Monday Night games. In fact, those are the only times he's played an NFL game on a Monday or Thursday in prime time, so he's 3-for-3 when the national spotlight is on him.
Ronnie Brown, RB
Ryan Mathews is probable after suffering a concussion in Oakland, but Danny Woodhead and Brown will likely get a bulk of the snaps. Ronnie owns the Chargers' only rushing touchdown in 2013. But, he's been extremely reliable in the passing game, both as a receiver and a blocker. In 2012 Brown tied Antonio Gates for the second-most catches on the roster. On Monday night, Ronnie will be asked to put himself in front of NFL sacks leader Robert Mathis, who has gotten far too comfortable in opponents' backfields.
The Colts are one of the most complete teams in the NFL. They have seven passing touchdowns and seven rushing touchdowns on offense, and have allowed four passing touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns on defense (how's that for balance?). They can beat you with big plays through the air, or grind it out on the ground.
The Chargers have Philip Rivers and a cloud of dust. But, don't ever count him out at home in prime time. Rivers, Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt will have a much better game plan than they did last week against the Raiders, and defensive coordinator John Pagano has a good enough idea of what his big brother wants to do to devise something to slow Indy down just enough to pull the upset.
It goes against conventional wisdom and basic logic, but I'm going Chargers 27, Colts 23.