INDIANAPOLIS – Areas on interest in the Indianapolis Colts’ meeting with the New York Giants Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
- Kickoff: 1 p.m.
- Broadcast: CBS4.
- Spread: Giants by 6.
History, Part I: It’s hardly one of the busiest series in franchise history. The Colts lead the New York Giants 12-6 in a series that stretches back to 1954. And they’ve won four straight.
It’s been quality over quantity.
They met in the 1958 NFL Championship game that’s been dubbed “The Greatest Game Ever Played.’’ It was Dec. 28, 1958 at Yankee Stadium and Johnny Unitas engineered a 23-17 victory over the Giants in sudden-death overtime that Alan Ameche capped with a 1-yard touchdown run.
How about two other noteworthy games: Manning Bowls I and II. Peyton and younger brother Eli met for the first time in the 2006 season opener at Giants Stadium, and the Peyton-led Colts prevailed 26-21. In Week 2 of 2010, Peyton and his Colts again got the best of Eli and the Giants, 38-14 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
History, Part II: We’re reaching for a second segment, but here goes. The Giants clinch their first playoff berth and first winning season since 2016 with a win over the Colts. Brian Daboll has had that much impact in his first season as head coach even though New York is 1-4-1 in its last six games after a 7-2 start. From 2017-21, the Giants were 22-59 (.272).
On the other sideline, the 4-10-1 Colts are looking to avoid their first six-game losing streak since a six-game skid in 2017. They finished 4-12 that season.
A better Foles: This goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. Nick Foles must play better in his second start as a Colt. A ton better. A ton more efficient. In his Indy starting debut in Monday night’s loss to the Chargers, Foles finished with the worst passer rating by a starter – 31.9; 17-of-29, 143 yards, no touchdowns, three interceptions – since Jim Harbaugh in 1997. In that season’s opening 16-10 loss at Miami, Captain Comeback finished with a 29.2 rating – 14-of-29, 109 yards, no TDs, two interceptions.
The Colts face an uphill challenge considering they’ll be without their top running back (Jonathan Taylor), leading sack man (Yannick Ngakoue), All-Pro linebacker (Shaq Leonard) and cornerbacks Kenny Moore II and Isaiah Rodgers. They’ll have zero chance if Foles has another error-filled game against a Giants’ defense that ranks 27th overall and sits in the middle of the pack with a pedestrian 17 takeaways. Indecision in the pocket also contributed to Foles suffering a career-high seven sacks.
“I’m excited to see his next shot at it,’’ interim head coach Jeff Saturday said. “Obviously, the other night was not what he wanted, none of us.
“He’s a tough-minded guy who has been through the ups and downs. So, I have no doubt that he will respond well.’’
The Colts did Foles no favors by rolling him out there against the Chargers after benching Matt Ryan. His first work with the starting offense was at practice six days prior to the game. It takes time to develop workable timing with the receivers and the offensive line. And it showed.
Continue to pound with the RBs: Again, this has been a season-long issue. The Colts’ ground game hasn’t come close to matching last season’s level of excellence, but has been moderately successful of late. It’s averaged 111 yards per game and 4.0 yards per attempt during the five-game losing streak. It averaged 4.9 yards against the Chargers, but the issue was the 14 attempts. Zack Moss averaged 5.4 yards, but had only 12 carries.
The Giants can be run on. They rank tied-28th in yards per game allowed (145.9) and dead last in yards per attempt (5.4).
If the game allows, lean more on Moss, Deon Jackson and Jordan Wilkins and not so much on Foles.
Limit Jones and Barkley: Saquon Barkley is healthy and in serious bounce-back mode. He missed the final 14 games of 2020 with a torn ACL and dealt with an ankle injury throughout much of ’21. This year? Healthy and productive. The second-overall pick in the 2018 draft ranks 4th in rushing with 1,254 yards and 6th in yards from scrimmage with 1,597.
Barkley leads the Giants in rushing and receiving (55 receptions, 343 yards) and total TDs (10). He’s accounted for 31.9% of their offense.
But ignore quarterback Daniel Jones at your own risk. His 617 rushing yards rank 5th among QBs behind Justin Fields, Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen. He’s rushed for five TDs.
Mobile QBs have given the Colts trouble. Jalen Hurts (16 for 86 and a TD), Kenny Pickett (six for 32) and Taylor Heinicke (six for 29 and a TD) come to mind.
As much as the Colts’ pass rush needs to keep the pressure on Jones – and it must do so without Ngakoue – it’s imperative to keep him from either escaping the pocket and doing damage, or getting loose on an RPO with Barkley.
And the winner is: Giants 23, Colts 13. We’re not going to spend much time ‘splainin’. The Giants are gunning for a playoff spot in front of their fans and the Colts can’t score. That’s a bad combination.