In week 17 our Indianapolis Colts will travel to take on the New York Giants. Knowing the party was coming I sat down with Ed Valentine of Big Blue View. You can find him on Twitter here. We swapped questions and answers about this weekend’s Colts vs. Giants matchup and everything that follows is what I learned about this week’s game.
CS: The Giants have had more success this year than anyone could have expected. How has first year head coach Brian Daboll been able to have that success and how did Giants fans feel about him during the hiring process?
EV: Daboll has done a lot of terrific things. First and foremost, he hired an excellent, veteran, NFL coaching staff with a lot of men (and women) who have had success in other places. He has gotten out of the way and let them do their jobs. Second, he has shown faith in his players, played to win and been consistent all year. The Giants have done something many coaches talk about but don’t really do — actually figure out what their players do well and lean into that rather than try to fit square pegs into round holes.
As for how people felt about Daboll during the hiring process I think there was optimism he would be able to help Daniel Jones and the offense because of his work with Josh Allen in Buffalo. Still, so many coaches have come and gone in recent years there had to be some trepidation.
CS: If you were designing a game plan to beat the Giants defense, what would it look like? What weaknesses would you try to exploit?
EV: First and foremost, run the football. And stick with the run as much as you can. The Giants are 28th in the league in Football Outsiders DVOA vs. the run. They are last in the league in rushing yards allowed per attempt (5.4). You can run the ball against the Giants. In the pass game, you will get a lot of blitzes and pressure packages. You have to identify them, get the ball out and win 1-on-1 matchups in the secondary.
CS: Despite their record the Colts rush defense has been good for most of the season. The Giants offense lives and dies on the ground. How will Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones go about finding running room this weekend? How have they fared against other stout defensive fronts?
EV: Nick Falato of BBV did a great job breaking down how the Giants’ run game has been evolving in this piece. If you and your readers are really interested, check it out. Barkley’s pace has slowed in recent weeks, but the Giants have found enough success the last couple of weeks. Zone reads, double-team blocks, the quarterback run game and Jones uses his legs to scramble have all been part of it. Against the Vikings last week the Giants did show more ability than they had previously to rely on moving the ball through the air and generating explosive plays. They will also use a short passing attack at times to try and get defenses off Barkley.
CS: Can you give me a player who has surprised you this season in a positive way? Can you name a player who has surprised in a negative way?
EV: Positive: I will give you three — wide receivers Isaiah Hodgins, Darius Slayton and Richie James. Hodgins was a mid-season waiver claim from the Bills and he has been terrific with 29 catches and three TDs in seven games. Slayton barely made the team, was inactive Week 1, had just one receptions the first three weeks and now has 44 catches for a team-best 710 yards (16.1 yards per catch). James leads all receivers for the Giants with a career-best 50 catches.
Negative: This one is tougher, because there are not a lot of under-achievers on this team. I think the biggest under-achiever is Kenny Golladay, in Year 2 of a four-year, $72 million contract. He had four catches on just 10 targets all season. He has played just three combined snaps the past two weeks, and has not been targeted since Week 11.
CS: DraftKings Sportsbook has the Giants as 5.5 point favorites at home. Is this spread fair? How do you see this game going and what will the final score be?
EV: I think the Giants will win. They had better, or I will probably have to shut down comments at BBV Sunday night and Monday. This is a win and get in the playoffs game for the Giants, the biggest at MetLife Stadium in more than a decade. Everyone is primed to celebrate.
I do not, though, think this will be easy. The Giants never make anything easy, and they have not scored 30 points in a game this season. So, unless they have an unexpected offensive explosion this game might be uncomfortably close for the Giants and their fans.
Three months ago we all had this game penciled in as a win. Instead, the Colts are two games away from a top five pick in the NFL draft. This isn’t a game they should win and based on reports coming out of last weeks loss to the Chargers, it seems like many of the players are checked out and ready for this season to end, too. Either way we have two Colts games left this season, they might be tough to watch but you’ll miss this bad football come June. So enjoy it as much as you can.