The Indianapolis Colts will be without their star quarterback when they open their season Sunday against the host Los Angeles Rams, who won’t have their top defensive player on the field. Andrew Luck is on the shelf for the Colts with a sore right shoulder, while Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is expected to miss Week 1 as he continues to hold out for a new contract.
Scott Tolzien will make his fourth career start in place of Luck, who threw for 4,240 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. Indianapolis also will be missing center Ryan Kelly and cornerback Vontae Davis, who respectively are dealing with foot and groin ailments. Donald, who recorded a team-high eight sacks in 2016, has been named to three straight Pro Bowls and is scheduled to make $1.8 million this season and $6.9 million in 2018 but is seeking in the neighborhood of $19 million per year. New coach Sean McVay is hoping to lead the Rams to their first winning season in 14 years as he relies on quarterback Jared Goff, who was the first overall pick of the 2016 draft but went 0-7 as a starter. Goff, who threw five touchdowns and seven interceptions last season, has a nice pair of receivers at his disposal in Tavon Austin and newcomer Sammy Watkins.
TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Rams -4. O/U: 41.5
ABOUT THE COLTS (2016: 8-8, 3rd in AFC South): Tolzien’s main target undoubtedly will be T.Y. Hilton, who led the NFL last year with 1,448 receiving yards and is one of four players in league history with at least 850 yards and five touchdown catches in each of his first five seasons. Frank Gore rushed for 1,025 yards last season, becoming the first Indianapolis running back to reach the 1,000-yard plateau since Joseph Addai accomplished the feat in 2007. Gore is looking to become the fifth player in NFL history to hit the mark in 10 different campaigns.
ABOUT THE RAMS (2016: 4-12, 3rd in NFC West): Los Angeles’ defense ranked ninth in the league last season but figures to struggle without Donald - something new coordinator Wade Phillips will attempt to avoid. Austin is a triple threat for the Rams, as he made 52 catches for 509 yards and three touchdowns last season, gained 364 yards on 44 punt returns and added 159 yards and a score on 28 rushes. Todd Gurley registered 1,212 yards from scrimmage in 2016, marking the second straight season he has registered at least 1,200.
1. Colts K Adam Vinatieri has made 530 field goals in his career and needs 36 to overtake Hall-of-Famer Morten Andersen for the most in NFL history. Gary Anderson ranks second with 538.
2. Rams P Johnny Hekker topped the league last season with a net punt average of 46 yards and dropped an NFL-record 46 punts inside the 20-yard line.
3. Indianapolis’ Deyshawn Bond could become just the fifth undrafted center since 2001 to start in Week 1 of his rookie season.
PREDICTION: Colts 27, Rams 10