By Curt Macysyn
The New York Football Giants (3-4) have have one foot in the proverbial grave as their season nears its midway point. The G-men have been streaky, with a three game winning streak sandwiched by a couple two game losing streaks. All of which adds up to a must-win situation for Big Blue in this Monday Night Football Contest.
Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts come off of an unexpected thrashing at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers 51-34. The Steelers’ quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, had his way with a six touchdown performance against the AFC South frontrunners. Big Ben completed 40 of 49 passes for 522 yards on the afternoon, as Pittsburgh doubled-up Indy in time of possession. The outcome was unexpected, to say the least, as the previous week the same Colts shut out the Cincinnati Bengals 27-0.
Pity the Indianapolis Colts’ fans. The group had to suffer through the entire 2011 season without a franchise quarterback because Peyton Manning underwent neck surgery. That must have been tough to handle after fourteen seasons of stellar quarterback play, but the football gods smiled upon Indy, as the franchise ended up with Andrew Luck after 2012 NFL draft. Now Colts’ fans will get to enjoy another decade, at least, of high level signal calling.
Luck has led the Colts to the playoffs in both his season at the helm, and he figures to do that again this season. The Stanford product seems destined to break his personal records for passing yards and touchdowns in a season. In fact, Luck already has 22 touchdown passes in eight contests and needs only two touchdown passes over the final eight games to break his personal mark of 23 TDs (2012 & 2013). In addition, Luck already has 2,731 passing yards, and it is conceivable that he throws for more than 5,000 yards in 2014. Given the state of the Colts’ rushing attack, Indy will need good Luck down the stretch to solidify a playoff spot.
The Colts have two former New York Giants playing prominent roles in their offense, one liked by fans of Big Blue, and one who competes with Tiki Barber for the title of most hated ex-Giant. Ahmad Bradshaw leads the Colts in rushing with 371 yards on the ground. Bradshaw was supposed to play more of a complimentary role to Trent Richardson, but Richardson only averages 3.5 yards per carry, while Bradshaw has a healthy 4.9 yards per carry average. The former Giant also is a receiving threat from the backfield with six touchdown catches to go along with two rushing TDs.
Maybe Hakeem Nicks has lost his mojo. After a lackluster 2013 camapign, his final one in a Giants’ uniform, Nicks basically received a one-year make good contract with the Colts. The results have onec again mediocre as Nicks has just 18 catches in 8 games. He was able to reach the end zone this season and has two scores for Indy. Even though Nicks may have seen his days as a difference-maker come to an end; expect a maximum effort to prove his old team wrong.
The big threat in the receiving corps is T.Y. Hilton. Hilton operates under the radar in Indianapolis, but make no mistake, the third-year man from Florida International is productive. Last season, he caught 82 passes for over 1,000 yards, and this season, he already has 53 catches for 866 receiving yards. Old reliable, Reggie Wayne, comes in with 38 catches for 434 yards and one score. Wayne missed the contest against the Steelers with an elbow injury.
Luck’s former Stanford teammate, Colby Flenner, has 18 catches and three touchdowns from the tight end position, while the Colts’ other tight end, Dwayne Allen, has six touchdowns on the season. Allen has caught 22 passes for 326 yards on the year.
Add all the compenents together, and you get the top offense in passing and total yards in the NFL, as well as the second leading offense in points scored that averages 31.2 points per game.
The Colts lured D’Qwell Jackson away from the Cleveland Browns, and the veteran linebacker has made an immediate impact. Jackson leads Indy in tackles with 65 total tackles, and he has chipped in with three quarterback sacks. Bjoern Werners leads the Colts with four sacks on the campaign, as the second-year player from Florida State has started to fufill his promise.
Edge rusher Erik Walden has three sacks on the season, but he left Sunday’s game against the Steelers with a hip injury.
Overall, the Colts’ defense is strictly middle of the road, however, ranked 16th in points allowed per game (23.4 ppg), 352.1 total yards per game (15th), and 252.9 passing yards per game (21st).
A trio of defensive backs each have two interceptions a piece for Indianapolis, safety Mike Adams and former Dolphins’ cornerback Vontae Davis both have two interceptions, while Greg Toler has two interceptions as well, including a 47 yard touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 21.
Because of their offensive exploits, the Colts have dominated the time of possession by almost ten minutes over their opponents, so the G-men ought to try and play ball control against this potent offense. The Giants’ offensive line needs to provide adequate pass protection for Eli Manning against an Indianapolis defense that ranks ninth in the NFL with 21.0 sacks on the season.
Punter Pat McAfee ranks third in the NFL with a 47.9 average on 30 punts, but return specialists average only 4.5 yards per return. McAfee normally punts in the climate controlled Lucas Oil Stadium, so maybe he will have to get acclimated to the tricky winds of the Meadowlands.
Ageless wonder Adam Vinatieri has been perfect on kicks this year, going 16 for 16, with a long of 50 yards. Vinatieri has been in the league for 19 seasons, and 2014 is the ninth season that he has kicked for the Colts.
For more Giants news and updates, visit Giants Central.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.