Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts: Caldwell Returns To Indy

Aug 27, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell stands on the sidelines during the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 27, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell stands on the sidelines during the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Lions open their 2016 regular season on the road against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell will return to Indianapolis on Sunday, when he and the Lions take on the Indianapolis Colts in the 2016 season opener.

The Rundown

The Colts managed an 8-8 record despite being outscored by 75 points a season ago, so a regression to the mean would not be unexpected. Their strength last season offensively was the passing game, although Andrew Luck still threw 19 interceptions. Frank Gore will get a lot of carries, but came up short of 1,000 yards in 2015 as the Colts averaged only 3.7 yards per carry as a team.

The defense finished in the bottom third in run defense, pass defense and points allowed and lost starting safety Dwight Lowery and linebacker Jerrell Freeman during the offseason. The team also lost starting tight end Coby Fleener during the offseason, but added new starting center Ryan Kelly with their first-round pick.

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For the Lions, it is their first game without Calvin Johnson. The Lions went out of their way to replace him, adding Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin to the receiving corps this offseason. The Lions’ ground game was anemic in 2015, finishing last in the NFL, but they hope that a young offensive line, including first-round rookie left tackle Taylor Decker, will help boost the rushing attack while Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick share the carries.

The defense was pretty average in 2015, and the Lions hope that safety Glover Quin, now-healthy linebacker DeAndre Levy and a couple of emerging stars in cornerback Darius Slay and defensive end Ezekial Ansah will help bolster this otherwise only adequate unit. The biggest question mark is at cornerback, where the Lions did not replace starter Rashean Mathis and are calling on young inexperienced reserves Nevin Lawson and Quandre Diggs to step up.

Jim Caldwell returns to Indianapolis

Caldwell was the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts from 2009-2011 after working under Tony Dungy as the Colts’ quarterbacks coach and assistant head coach from 2002-2008. He led the Colts to a 14-2 record and a Super Bowl appearance in his first season but was fired after posting a 2-14 record in 2011 after Peyton Manning missed the whole season. Current Lions backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky was a part of the 2011 Colts team and was starting at quarterback when the Colts got their two wins.

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Caldwell does not seem to have any hesitancy about going back to Indianapolis. He also made no bones about his firing after the 2011 season. “You don’t win football games, you’re subject to be fired,” he said, “I’ve always believed that and not only that, you have a right to be.” Caldwell said this week his time with the Colts was “enjoyable,” and referenced the fact that he goes back to Indianapolis for the scouting combine every spring.

Injury Report: Lions healthy, Colts defensive backs, offensive line banged up

Everyone is healthy. No, really.

Since the Lions placed linebacker Jon Bostic on injured reserve on Tuesday, each player on the Lions’ active roster has been in practice, including tight end Eric Ebron (ankle), who did not play a snap in the preseason. Wide receiver Golden Tate (ankle) was the only player limited in practice on Wednesday, and he was upgraded to a full participant on Thursday.

The Colts, on the other hand, are missing several players, especially on defense. Two of their starting cornerbacks, Darius Butler (ankle) and Vontae Davis (ankle), missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday, as did free safety Clayton Geathers (foot). With three of their starting defensive backs out, the Colts will lean heavily on journeyman veteran corners Patrick Robinson and Antonio Cromartie, as well as rookie safety T.J. Green.

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  • Several players were listed as limited as well for the Colts this week, including quarterback Andrew Luck, who was reported on Thursday to have some labrum fraying, although Colts general manager Ryan Grigson denied the report. The issue was originally reported as “not a major concern,” and Luck is fully expected to start.

    Defensive linemen Henry Anderson (knee) and Kendall Langford (knee) were both limited on Thursday. Anderson has already been ruled out for Sunday, although Langford is expected to play. Linebacker Sio Moore‘s (hamstring) status is a question mark, while two starting offensive linemen, tackle Joe Haeg (ankle) and guard Jack Mewhort (knee), are both expected to miss as well.

    Tavon Wilson will start at strong safety

    Former New England Patriots second-round pick Tavon Wilson was announced on Thursday as the starter for the Lions at strong safety. Wilson beat out veteran and former New Orleans Saints safety Rafael Bush for the position in the preseason. “He (Wilson) can do a lot of different things,” said Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, “He tackled well, he tackled physically, he was real solid down in the box.”

    Wilson started four games for the Patriots during his rookie season in 2012 before slipping down the depth chart, appearing in only nine games in 2015. He signed with the Lions as an unrestricted free agent on March 10, signing a two-year, $2.2 million contract with $500,000 guaranteed.

    Fantasy football player to watch: Matthew Stafford

    If you’re a homer and picked up Matthew Stafford late in your draft, you might look like a genius on Sunday. The Lions and Colts both have high-potential passing offenses that could turn this one into a shootout. Against a hampered Colts secondary, expect Stafford to have a great outing.

    Series History:

    Indianapolis leads the series 21-19-2 (2-5 since the Colts moved from Baltimore). The Lions lost 35-33 in the teams’ last meeting (in 2012) and have lost their last four games against the Colts.


    Current forecast is a pleasant 75 degrees and sunny, perfect for the walk to the dome – or for an open roof.

    Betting Line:

    The Colts are currently 3.5-point favorites, with the over/under set at 51. ESPN gives the Colts a 70.7% chance of winning.

    Next: Lions 2016 Game-by-Game Predictions

    Broadcast Information:

    The game kicks off at 4:25 on Sunday on FOX and will be called by Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston. I know, I’m sorry. The game will be locally broadcast all over Michigan and Indiana, as well as in parts of Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Here’s the broadcast map.

    Dan Miller and Jim Brandstatter will have the call on the Lions Radio Network over-the-air throughout the state, or you can catch the game on NFL GamePass if you live out-of-market and can get it to work.