The Indianapolis Colts head to the east coast to face the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. The Colts sit at 5-3, and firmly in control of their division, while the Giants are 3-4 and third in the NFC East.
The Colts desperately need to rebound after the thrashing at the hands of Ben Roethlisberger last week. The Giants are coming off a Bye Week and still trying to figure out how to adapt without Victor Cruz.
New York suffered two divisional losses before its break. They were outscored 58-21 by Dallas and Philadelphia.
The Giants on Offense
Last season, Eli Manning led the NFL with 27 interceptions. Through seven games, Manning has just five interceptions but had thrown four of them in losses. While the new offensive scheme has cut down on turnovers, it hasn’t produced much in terms of points. They average 22 points per game, in the bottom third of the league.
The Giants are 24th in the NFL in passing and 15th in rushing. Football Outsiders has their offense at 19th overall, 17th in passing and 21st on the ground.
However, the team’s leading rusher, Rashad Jennings, is out this week with a knee injury. Jennings is a top five running back according to Football Outsiders. Andre Williams, his back up, ranks 32nd and has a -1.7 grade for the season.
The Giants are thin at receiver, but have two viable options: Odell Beckham, Jr. and tight end Larry Donnell. Beckham has only played in the past three games, but the rookie has 10 receptions for 106 yards and three touchdowns in those starts.
Donnell, for all the attention he’s received lately, is roughly the 20th ranked tight end per Football Outsiders and 11th by PFF. He’s the team’s leading receiver with 33 catches for 332 yards and four touchdowns.
The Giants do a decent job protecting Manning, but they’re just 19th in that category. That said, the Steelers were worse and the Colts couldn’t land a decent hit on Roethlisberger.
What it Means for the Colts on Defense
The Colts HAVE to get a bounceback performance. If they don’t, they’ll have a week to stew before hosting the Patriots
Manning is susceptible to pressure and can be taken out of his game early. With limited receiving options, it will be easier to lockdown his wide receivers than the Steelers’. Manning also has a history of being inaccurate and spraying his passes a bit.
Despite what some would have you believe, Manning and Roethlisberger are not equal. Its not even close either. Roethlisberger is a far superior quarterback and he has better weapons.
The biggest issue will be covering Donnell, as the Colts rank 30th against tight ends.
The Giants on Defense
The Giants are 16th in the league in yards allowed and give up 24 points per game. DVOA has them at 18th against the pass and 17th taking on the rush.
They don’t rush the passer like they used to as the Giants have just 13 sacks this season. That said, all of the highest rated players per PFF are across the defensive line. Jason Pierre-Paul has the highest rating on the team with a +19.2.
The Giants are about average in coverage and cornerback Prince Amukamara has had a very good year. The problem for New York is that it looks like his counterpart, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, will likely miss Monday’s game.
They have excelled in one area: interceptions. The Giants are second in the NFL with 11.
The issue with the Giants is that they haven’t exactly shutdown any good teams this season. Houston, Washington, and Atlanta (New York’s three wins) have all struggled mightily on offense this season. None of those teams scored more than 20 points.
In losses, the Giants opponents have all scored 25 or more.
The Colts may struggle against tight ends, but the Giants are worse. They rank dead last, but have played other receivers well. The Giants do a particularly good job against the number two and three wide receiving options and are above average against team’s primary threats.
Basically, the defense is fairly middle of the road and they no longer have a clear cut identity like they used to (rushing the passer).
What it Means for the Colts Offense
The Giants haven’t quite faced an offense like the Colts this season and when they have, its ended poorly for New York. While the coverage might be tight, expect Andrew Luck to have time to find the open man.
Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener should feast on this defense that can’t cover tight ends to save their life. Allen has shown steady improvement and is due for a big game (it should have been last week, but the score dictated the game plan).
Two Colts are also facing their former team: Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks. It could be extra motivation for them going against the team that didn’t offer up a new contract. We know what to expect from Bradshaw already (solid running, probably around 80 yards, a few receptions for first downs, and a red zone touchdown or two).
Nicks is more interesting. When he’s focused and dialed in, he can be a great receiver. But he has a tendency to get lazy (see the pick-six last week). He had a great preseason performance vs the Giants, but its hard to predict anything from that game.