Sunday starts a stretch in which the Redskins will face four consecutive quarterbacks who fit the definition of “elite.” Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck is healthy again after spending a year away rehabilitating a shoulder injury. Last week, he threw for 319 yards and a touchdown. If nothing else, the old Luck appears to have returned.
His presence is a good test for a young Washington defense, but the Redskins should have advantages on both lines that might allow them to control play they way they did in their 24-6 victory at Arizona last Sunday.
Colts defensive line vs. Redskins rushing game
Indianapolis considers its defensive front to be one of the team’s great strengths. Last week, the Colts gave up just 100 rushing yards in their 34-23 loss to Cincinnati. And while the Bengals mostly beat Indianapolis through the air, Joe Mixon did pile up 95 yards on 17 carries.
If Washington gets the kind of offensive line play it had last Sunday and expects to have this season, this could be another afternoon in which the Redskins methodically move downfield, chewing up huge chunks of clock. Last week, the Cardinals were worn down by long Washington drives, filled with runs and passes to Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson. The Redskins eventually will have to take shots downfield but the key to stopping them is first controlling their run.
Andrew Luck vs. Redskins defense
Luck threw five touchdown passes in his only meeting against the Redskins, back in 2014. While this Washington defense is different from that one, he still represents a huge threat. Luck is the first of a string of top quarterbacks the Redskins face, and they must see this game as a test of a defense that was dominant last week against Sam Bradford.
Luck completed a career-high 75 percent of his passes last week and is playing for a pass-first head coach in Frank Reich. Washington’s secondary was rarely challenged by Bradford. That will not be the case this week.
Colts offensive front vs. Redskins pass rush
Redskins Coach Jay Gruden expects Luck to be more comfortable behind his offensive line, and that line has improved over the past couple years, though Luck was often hurried in the Cincinnati game. Indianapolis left tackle Anthony Castonzo missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury and has been ruled out Sunday. The line will reshuffle, forcing several players out of position.
Washington would like to put pressure on Luck, but unlike Bradford last week, Luck is a hard quarterback to rush because he is big and able to elude tacklers. Redskins coaches have expressed fear of his elusiveness and his ability to find targets on the move. The decision to pursue against pursuing him too much is a tricky one.
Redskins secondary vs. Colts receivers
Luck has a lot of targets, and he can find them all. Receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Eric Ebron both caught touchdown passes last week. Tight end Jack Doyle has been a constant threat for years and receiver Ryan Grant caught eight passes against the Bengals.
One of Luck’s great strengths is being able to find open pass catchers, even under duress. His arm is strong enough for him to wait until the last moment before throwing. Washington’s young secondary held up well last week in Phoenix, but this week will be more of a challenge.
Adam Vinatieri vs. Redskins special teams
At 45, the Colts kicker continues to steadily make big kicks and excel at kickoffs. Last week, he made his 40th career field goal of longer than 50 yards. FedEx Field’s sandy grass does not make for the best kicking surface but Vinatieri could be a big factor in a close game – as he has been for years.