The Indianapolis Colts face the Dallas Cowboys to wrap up their tour of the NFC East. Both teams have something to play for, but there’s more pressure on the home team this week.
The Colts, 10-4, have only playoff seeding left to play for and they can’t improve their spot without some help. The Cowboys likely need to win their last two just to make the playoffs.
Since the AFC South and NFC East have faced each other, these two teams have faced six common opponents. The Colts have totaled a 7-1 record in that stretch while the Cowboys are 6-2. Both teams have lost once to the Eagles and the Cowboys lost at home against Washington as well.
Neither team struggled much against the AFC South, but the Texans managed to take the Cowboys into overtime early in the year.
Here’s what fans should watch for:
- Bounce Back. Its no secret that Andrew Luck is having the best season of his young career. Its also not a secret that he’s taken a lot of heat over his play the past few weeks. He’s second in the NFL with 20 turnovers this season, but considering how often he makes a play with the ball, Luck is turning it over on just under 3-percent of his plays. He’s also dropping back to pass more often than any other quarterback in the league. More concerning are some of the missed throws over the past few weeks which when coupled with some bad drops (looking at you Reggie Wayne) leads to a sluggish offense. It will be interesting to see how the best bounce back QB in the league responds with some of his weapons likely out this week.
- Injuries. Every season, the Colts rank near the top of games missed due to injury and this season doesn’t look like an exception. T.Y. Hilton is unlikely to play with a sore hamstring and Vontae Davis is questionable with a groin injury. With little to play for, it wouldn’t be surprising if both players sat this game out. The Cowboys also have a number of injuries, most notably DeMarco Murray. I don’t know if you knew this, but he had hand surgery this week and still might play! The Cowboys also have injuries along their offensive line and Tony Romo‘s back is more toradol than anything else at this point in the season. Leaving Sunday’s game without any new injuries will be a win for the Colts this week.
- Secondary Concerns. Dez Bryant is arguably the best receiver that the Colts will face all season long (arguments can be made for Demaryius Thomas or Antonio Brown). Unfortunately, we might be denied the matchup of Davis on Bryant. If Toler or Butler is on him, I fully expect a completion and probably for a fairly large gain. We’ve seen great play from the secondary at times this season, but its usually come against an inferior quarterback. Romo, despite his history of critical errors, qualifies as one of the upper tier QBs the Colts will have faced this season. But if Murray is out, and the pressure is on Romo, all bets are off.
- Odd Man Out. With the likelihood that Hilton is out, and with Wayne’s nagging injuries, it means the Colts will test their wide receiver depth. This is a chance for Donte Moncrief to get extra snaps and for Hakeem Nicks to prove he was worth a roster spot. This will likely be valuable playing time for two players as the Colts get ready for the playoffs. I fully expect them to feature more two tight end sets and a heavier dose of the rushing attack.
- Jerry’s World. The Colts have yet to play in the $1.15 billion dollar monstrosity now known as AT&T Stadium. While it may be their home field, the Cowboys have just a 3-4 record there. Maybe if they’d actually built in Dallas instead of Arlington, it might feel like home. The Colts are 4-2 on the road with those losses coming against Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger‘s greatest QB performance of all time. The glitz and glamor of Jerry Jones‘ stadium might be a new experience for this team, but its hardly a safe haven for the Cowboys.