Can the New York Giants, a heavy underdog Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, come up with an upset? Can they even compete? Let’s check some of the things to watch on Sunday.
Clocking in or already checked out?
This is a dangerous game for the Giants. They were officially eliminated last week from a playoff race they were barely in. They are on the road Sunday. They are facing a team that has won seven of eight and is making a legitimate playoff push. There are many things about this matchup from a personnel standpoint that don’t look promising for the Giants.
Perhaps the biggest question, though, is will the Giants really show up in Indianapolis? Coach Pat Shurmur has continued to stress the importance of these games despite the lack of playoff implications, stressing the importance of building a winning culture and learning how to win various types of games. His message to players all season has been “play for each other.”
With their fate already decided for this season, can the Giants summon the will to put forth their best effort on Sunday? Asked about it this week, players have — of course — said they would continue to do just that.
We will see on Sunday if they mean it, or if those were just hollow words.
Colts’ rookie linebacker Darius Leonard, unhappy about being snubbed for the Pro Bowl despite having seven sacks, leading the league in tackles and being a top candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year, said this week he wanted 40 tackles against the Giants.
Leonard can’t get 40 tackles — at least, I don’t think he can. The Colts’ second-round pick has been in double digits seven times this season, including a season-high of 19 tackles in a game.
Memo to the Giants: Leonard wears No. 53 — and he’s coming for Eli Manning and Saquon Barkley.
The Giants were absolutely manhandled on both sides of the line of scrimmage last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. The defense allowed 215 yards rushing, 170 of it by Derrick Henry. The pass rush barely laid a glove on Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota. The offensive line couldn’t open any holes for Barkley (14 carries, 31 yards) or keep Manning comfortable in the pocket.
Things aren’t getting any easier this Sunday.
The Colts feature one of the league’s best offensive lines, ranked sixth in the league in run-blocking and third in pass protection by Football Outsiders. Quarterback Andrew Luck has been sacked a league-low 16 times and hit 68 times. Manning has been sacked 46 times and hit 89.
Football Outsiders ranks the Indianapolis defensive line No. 8 vs. the run and No. 9 in pass rush.
Can the Giants tackle?
The Giants missed 12 tackles last week against Tennessee and defensive coordinator James Bettcher admitted that more than 100 of the rushing yards the Giants surrendered were because of that failure.
The Giants have missed 118 tackles this season (8.4 per game) and are ranked 27th in tackling by Pro Football Focus.
Marlon Mack is 40 pounds lighter than Tennessee’s Derrick Henry, but he is coming off a season-best 27-carry, 139-yard game against the Dallas Cowboys. Tackling him when they have a chance would be a good idea for Giants’ defenders.
Offense without Odell
Two weeks ago, the Giants scored 40 points against the Washington Redskins with Odell Beckham Jr. sitting at home watching the game. Last week, again without Beckham, the Giants were shut out.
Can they find a happy medium with Beckham again almost certainly sidelined by his quad injury? The Giants still have Saquon Barkley, whom the Titans keyed heavily on last week. They still have Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram.
Can they open some running lanes for Barkley, which they couldn’t do last week? Can they protect Manning, which they really didn’t do consistently vs. Tennessee? Can they catch the ball, after dropping six passes last week vs. the Titans? Can Manning deliver the ball on target when there are plays to be made, which he failed to do on a couple of occasions last week?
If the Giants can do those things against a good Indianapolis defense they can have some success. If not? Well, let’s not think about that.