The Chargers are back in primetime in Week 16.
The Bolts and Colts will meet Monday night in Indianapolis. Kickoff is at 5:15 p.m. (PT).
The Colts are coming off a wild Week 15 game against the Vikings. What's the vibe within the team heading into Monday night?
JS: Talking with a few players this week, it's about what you'd expect from any team that's underperforming expectations this late in the season – let's stick to our routine and do what we can to still try to win these last three games. I don't get the sense players have quit on this season, even after blowing the largest lead in NFL history (33 points). And guys have quite a bit of pride they don't want bruised in primetime. I think they'll be competitive on Monday.
Indianapolis announced that Nick Foles will start against the Bolts. Why was that move made and what does Foles bring to the offense?
JS: Interim head coach Jeff Saturday is looking for two big things: Better execution in the red zone (the Colts are 31st in red zone touchdown percentage) and more downfield shots (the Colts are 32nd in average depth of target). Whether Matt Ryan or Sam Ehlinger has been the starter, the Colts have struggled mightily in those two areas this season. Foles still possesses above-average arm strength and, for what it's worth, won his only start with the Chicago Bears in 2021 (a 25-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks, also in Week 16). We'll see if Foles can provide an early spark, then help better execute an offense that's averaging just 17.5 points per game.
Conversely, the Colts will be without star running back Jonathan Taylor. Who steps up in his place?
JS: The Colts last week leaned on Zack Moss – who was acquired from the Buffalo Bills along with a conditional sixth-round pick in exchange for running back Nyheim Hines in November – and Deon Jackson to fill in after Taylor sustained an ankle injury early in Saturday's game. Jordan Wilkins was signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad, too that looks like your trio heading into Monday. The Colts liked some of the thing Moss did as a physical, downhill runner, while Jackson has had some solid production in place of Taylor earlier this season. Ideally, the Colts are a run-first offense – but for a few reasons, including their issues pushing the ball downfield, they haven't consistently established their ground game this season.
Let's go to the defensive side of the ball. Who's a player for Chargers fans to keep an eye on in primetime?
JS: Can I give you three? On the defensive line, Yannick Ngakoue became the fifth player in NFL history to have eight or more sacks in each of his first seven seasons in the NFL earlier this year, and he's a half-sack away from hitting double digits on the season. At linebacker, Zaire Franklin has been a revelation this year in place of Shaquille Leonard, and his 140 tackles rank fourth in the NFL. And at cornerback, Stephon Gilmore has been as good as you remember – he's been targeted 80 times, ninth-most in the NFL, but has allowed just a 79.2 passer rating when quarterbacks have thrown his way.
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Finally, what's a word you would use to describe the Colts as they look ahead to the offseason?
JS: Transitional. The Colts will conduct a coaching search after the season ends, and right now own the No. 6 overall pick, which could be used to draft a young quarterback. You guys would know something about getting a pretty good quarterback sixth overall, right?
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