The Colts had a five-game winning streak going… and then they were embarrassed by the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 51-34 loss a week ago. They return to primetime this week as they take on the New York Giants on the road on Monday Night Football. The Colts are 8-4 on Monday night since 2004, though they're 0-1 this year and 0-2 under Chuck Pagano. Overall on primetime in the past three years (really only the last two, since they played zero primetime games in 2012) the Colts hold a 5-3 record. The Giants provide a tough test this week, however, and here's your preview of the game.
What Happened Last Week?
For the Giants, they had a bye week last week. They're 3-4 on the year and two weeks ago lost to the Dallas Cowboys on the road. This marks the first of three games in a row for the Colts in which they'll be facing teams coming off of their bye week. Luckily for Indy, however, they also get a bye week next week.
The Colts lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week 51-34 in a game in which Ben Roethlisberger completed 40 of 49 passes for 522 yards and 6 touchdowns without a pick. The Colts couldn't get any pass rush on Roethlisberger at all and he picked the Colts apart. The Colts' offense also put up some points, however, and Andrew Luck threw for 400 yards and 3 touchdowns despite getting hit constantly. Ultimately, it was a very rough game for the Colts. But as Chuck Pagano said this week, "we're on to the Giants."
Key of the Game for the Colts
Get pressure. If there was one thing we learned from last Sunday's game, it was this: the concerns about the pass rush are still there, and the Colts really need to get pressure to succeed defensively. During the five-game winning streak the Colts consistently got pressure on the opposing quarterback, and we could see even then that it was manufactured by the blitzes and creativity of Greg Manusky. Last week when that didn't work, however, the Colts were in trouble. The Colts can't really get pressure without blitzing, but when those blitzes don't get there (like last week) it is a perfect recipe for disaster. In short, the Colts will continue to be what they are this year: a team that blitzes a lot, and that's the best chance they have. This week, however, those blitzes need to create pressure - because facing another veteran quarterback in Eli Manning, if they don't get there he'll pick the defense apart.
Matchup to Watch: Colts Offense vs. Giants Defense
Watch the Colts wide receivers versus the Giants secondary. The Giants have been pretty weak defending the pass and their secondary is shaky at best. The Colts, meanwhile, have the league's leading passer in Andrew Luck (who has topped 300 yards in the last six games) and the league's leading receiver in T.Y. Hilton (who has gone over 100 yards receiving in four of the last five games). Hilton provides a tough test for any team, and against this Giants secondary he should have a good day. Reggie Wayne's return should also provide a boost to the passing attack, and then hopefully Donte Moncrief will continue to see playing time as well. The Colts' receiving talent matches up well against the Giants secondary, and with Luck leading the charge it could be a big day for the passing game.
Matchup to Watch: Colts Defense vs. Giants Offense
Like in several other games this year, the matchup to watch with the Colts defense involves the tight end. On the year, the Colts have allowed 41 receptions (on 51 targets) to opposing tight ends for 527 yards (12.85 yards per catch) and 5 touchdowns. In three games an opposing tight end has been the leading receiver against the Colts and in three other games the opposing tight end has been the second leading receiver against the Colts. The Colts have struggled to cover the tight end all season, and last week against the Steelers the Colts tried something different - just not cover the tight end at all, leaving Heath Miller wide open several times. The Colts' corners are a strength of the team, so they typically can cover wide receivers. But tight ends? The Colts haven't been able to do that all season. The only one stopping tight ends against the Colts are coaching staffs (two different teams have targeted their tight end only once all game against the Colts, which is stupid). For the Giants, they have a very good tight end in Larry Donnell. He's second on the team with 33 receptions (one catch away from the leader), second on the team with 332 yards (5 yards away from the leader), and tied for first on the team with 4 touchdown catches. If New York doesn't target him, that's a stupid game plan and totally on them, because the Colts haven't shown any ability to be able to stop tight ends yet this year and with the Giants having Donnell, that's clearly a matchup to watch.
Why the Colts Will Win
Last week was the 13th regular season loss for the Colts under Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck. Their record following a loss: 11-1. The only back-to-back losses they have had in this new era came in weeks one and two this year, but they're very good the week following a defeat. They came out on the losing side last week, so they'll likely be ready for this game and ready to continue their success the week following a loss. Add that with the fact that Andrew Luck is having an absolutely phenomenal season and that the Colts offense is doing terrific and there's plenty of reason to think the Colts will win this game.
Why the Colts Won't Win
Last week against the Steelers we saw the defense get embarrassed, and as we've already mentioned the lack of pressure on the quarterback was the biggest reason why. If the Giants look at the game plan Pittsburgh laid out and put a big emphasis on protecting Eli Manning, they too could defend the Colts' blitzes and with a veteran like Eli, he could have success. The Giants likely won't be able to stop the Colts' offense much, but if the Colts' can't land their blitzes the Giants could put up quite a few points (though likely not 51).
The week after a loss, with Andrew Luck at quarterback, and with the offensive success the Colts have had all year, I'm taking the Colts. There are still questions about the defense but we won't see a repeat performance of last week and I think they'll be able to stop the Giants' offense enough for the Colts to pull out the win heading into their bye week.
Colts 34, Giants 24
To buy tickets, visit the NFL Ticket Exchange.