The Indianapolis Colts are riding a five-game losing streak into their matchup with the New York Giants.
For the first time in weeks, their inadequacies won’t be on display for a national audience to see. This will be the fourth time the Colts and Giants have faced each other since 2010. The last time they were on the field during the regular season was back in 2018.
Despite the disaster in Nick Foles’ first start as a Colt, Jeff Saturday confirmed earlier in the week that he will remain as the starter for this game. This offense was never going to get fixed during the season but I still don’t understand not playing Sam Ehlinger to give him a shot to show he has a future in the league.
Just two more games for the fans of this franchise before the reset, so here are five things to watch for on Sunday:
Can defense win this game?
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The Colts’ defense has been playing their butts off this season with no repayment from the offense. If there was a team with a winning record that I could see the Indianapolis beating at this point of the season it would be the Giants. Unfortunately for New York, their receiving corps has been decimated by injuries so they are leaning into players that were supposed to be backups heading into the season.
Even with the injuries to Kenny Moore II and Isaiah Rodgers Sr., they should be able to keep the Giants receivers from making much of an impact on this game. New York is only averaging 188.3 passing YPG, which is the sixth-lowest in the NFL.
Which would mean the defense would need to make sure that Saquon Barkley and even Daniel Jones don’t give them much of a problem in the rushing attack. The ground game is the strength of the Giants’ offense. They are averaging 144.9 rushing YPG, which is the sixth-most in the league.
If the Colts’ defense wins on the first two downs and forces New York to deal with third-and-long situations then I can see this being a long afternoon for the G-Men. I know fans may not want the win for the draft position but this might be a game where the defense doesn’t need the offense to pull off the upset.
Can the ground game find much success?
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One of the more baffling things from the loss to the Los Angeles Chargers was the lack of use of the rushing attack despite having some success when they did take it to the ground. If there is one way that the Colts can attack this Giants’ defense it will be with the hog mollies up front and in the backfield. Despite having studs in their defensive front with Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams, New York is allowing 145.9 rushing YPG, which is tied for the fourth-most allowed in the NFL.
Zack Moss got the start last week so he’s expected to be the starter for the last couple of weeks. Can he take advantage of this matchup? He averaged 5.4 YPC against the Chargers. These last two games are a great opportunity for him to show he should be on the roster for 2023.
Then the question is, will Deon Jackson be used? It was expected that he was going to split the work with Moss but he didn’t get a carry against LA. He’s shown he can be effective in the passing attack so I would like to see at least more involvement in that aspect of the game.
Coming off a game where Nick Foles threw three interceptions, I hope that Jeff Saturday has his offense leaning more into the run when they have the right matchup for it. Let’s see if they learned their lesson from the loss to the Chargers.
3. Bottling up Saquon Barkley
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As I alluded to earlier, the key to hindering this Giants’ offense is limiting the impact of their rushing attack. Which starts with keeping Saquon Barkley in check and not allowing him to take over the game. As a football fan, it has been great to see him put together a healthy season and remind people how good he can be when he’s not dealing with injuries.
He’s averaging 83.6 rushing YPG, which will be a career-high if it doesn’t drop over the next two weeks. He has 10 rushing touchdowns and two more would be a career-high for him as well. He hasn’t been asked to do much in the passing attack as he has in the past.
His 22.9 receiving YPG will be the second-lowest mark of his career and he has zero receiving touchdowns. The only year he had no receiving touchdowns was in 2020 when he only played in two games that season due to an injury.
With that being said, the Colts’ defense can’t underestimate that Barkley is more than capable of taking a screen or a catch out of the backfield to the house for a game-changing play. If Indianapolis can keep him bottled up then it will force Daniel Jones and the passing attack to win this game.
The one disappointing thing with Jonathan Taylor on the injured reserve list is we don’t get to see two uber-talented running backs on the same field on Sunday.
Anything positive with the passing attack
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Matt Ryan, Sam Ehlinger, and Nick Foles, all have had an opportunity to elevate the Colts’ offense but it hasn’t worked at all this season. For whatever reason, Indy entered the matchup against the Chargers with the thought that Foles can help push the ball down the field and start creating explosive plays through the air.
We all saw how that turned out. It blew up right in front of their faces and only led to three points. At this point, I think the coaching staff should understand that that part of the offense is completely dead and they just need to get the rushing attack going to set the offense up in favorable third-down situations.
Just being more effective in the short to the intermediate range can help this offense move the sticks and keep drives alive. It would also help if they don’t throw short of the sticks on third downs. A mixture of that with the running game can help set up the deep shots down the field instead of forcing the issue as they did against LA.
With how the season has gone, I don’t expect anything from Foles and this passing attack but small positives would be a nice thing to see as the Colts close out this disappointing season.
Defending Daniel Jones
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What Brian Daboll has done for Daniel Jones has been wonderful for the young quarterback’s career. Whether it is in New York or elsewhere, he has shown this season that he should have a shot to prove he can be a starting quarterback for the 2023 season and beyond. Despite losing a number of his receivers, Jones is having the best season of his career.
His 66.5% completion percentage would be a career-high and his 3,028 passing yards are the most he’s had in a season. Some other stats of his that would be career-bests if the season ended today would be his 1.1 interception percentage, 6.8 YPA, 90.7 Quarterback Rating, and 56.8 QBR.
He also has four fourth-quarter comebacks and five game-winning drives. Both are the most he’s had in a season. But, one of the things I mentioned earlier, he can make an impact in the rushing attack and he’s been killing it for the Giants in that department this season.
Jones is averaging 41.1 rushing YPG, which will be a career-high for him. His five rushing touchdowns match the amount of rushing touchdowns that he had in the previous three seasons combined. Gus Bradley will have to have a spy on him and account for him when the Giants get into the red zone.
A win clinches the payoffs for the G-Men so this game is an opportunity for the Colts to be a spoiler team at this point of the year. Even though the fans and likely secretly the front office wouldn’t mind a sixth straight loss to climb up further in the top five of the upcoming NFL draft.