Win and in. If you told the team, media, and fans the New York Giants would be in this position in Week 16 back in August, everyone would have signed up for that scenario. And here we are. It’s all in front of the Giants, who play their final home game against a disappointing 4-10-1 Indianapolis Colts team. But the Giants still have to do it. No game has been easy for them all year, and Sunday’s game is likely to be yet another nail-biter. We’ll learn a lot about the character of this team by the way they perform in this particular contest. The pressure is on.
THE INJURY REPORT:
- DL Leonard Williams (neck – probable)
- OLB Azeez Ojulari (ankle – questionable)
- CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee – doubtful)
- S Xavier McKinney (hand – still on Non-Football Injury List)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Giants should not take the Indianapolis Colts lightly, despite their record. Aside from a few games, Indianapolis has been in every contest, and the main reason has been their defense. Despite being handicapped by an offense that has repeatedly put them in a tough position, the Indianapolis defense is 11th in the NFL in yards allowed (11th against the pass, 20th against the run). For comparison’s sake, the Giants are 27th in defense. A team that plays good defense and special teams will be in most games, and the Colts have both.
Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley does not use a lot of exotic looks. He plays a more conservative style in order to prevent giving up the big play in the passing game. It works because the Colts have talent up front in their 4-3 defense. The headliner is DeForest Buckner, the 6’7”, 295-pound defensive tackle with tree trunks for arms. Buckner is a disruptive force both against the run and pass (8 sacks). Fellow tackle Grover Stewart is no slouch (42 tackles, 4 sacks). Both will present problems for Jon Feliciano, Mark Glowinski, Ben Bredeson, and Nick Gates. The ends are talented too. RDE Yannick Ngakoue has 9.5 sacks on the year and will battle Andrew Thomas. Despite missing five games, LDE Kwity Paye has 42 tackles, six sacks, and 10 tackles for losses and will face Evan Neal, who has struggled in pass protection.
The linebackers are solid with Bobby Okereke and Zaire Franklin leading the way with an incredible 279 combined tackles. Ex-Bill and Patriot Stephon Gilmore is the familiar name in the secondary. While on the wrong side of 30, he’s still playing well.
The problem for the Giants remains the same: the inability to score enough points. The Giants had a mini-offensive explosion in last week’s loss to the Vikings, scoring 24 for just the fourth time this season. Ironically, the Giants have one of the better red-zone offenses in the league this year while the Colts have one of the worst red-zone defenses. But the offensive line has to hold up well enough for Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley to do their things. In my mind, offensive success in this game will come down to Thomas, Gates/Bredeson, Feliciano, Glowinski, and Neal up front against that talented front. Indianapolis won’t blitz much. But they will play games and stunt up front.
You don’t have to look far to see the warning signs. Despite the Colts’ offense turning the ball over three times, the quarterback being sacked seven times, and being held to 173 total yards last Monday against the Chargers, the Indianapolis defense still held San Diego to just 20 points. The Giants had better take this opponent seriously or they will get burned.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The head-scratcher with the downfall of the Colts this year has been the unexpected demise of an offensive line that was considered the strength of the team. To be blunt, their line has played like crap this year, allowing 56 sacks (2nd most in the NFL). The Colts are now on their third quarterback this season with Nick Foles, who has not played much since 2020 and is coming off of a 3-interception game. How bad have the Colts been on offense? They are 29th overall in yards gained per game (310 yards) and 31st in points scored (16.5). They average 207 yards passing and 103 yards rushing. They don’t make many big plays and they don’t score many points. Worse, they are bad at converting on 3rd down and turn the ball over (30 turnovers and a -13 turnover differential). And on top of all of this, their #1 stud running back, Jonathan Taylor, is out.
Should be a cakewalk, right? Well, yes and no. Aside from the old adage of “on any given Sunday,” the Colts have just enough offensive weapons to create problems for the Giants. Indianapolis has two good tight ends in Kylen Granson and Jelani Woods (late note: Granson has been ruled out). Wideouts Michael Pittman, Parris Campbell, and Alec Pierce are more than solid. The 6’4”, 223-pound Pittman has 90 catches on the year and will present a significant size match-up problem for Fabian Moreau. (It unfortunately appears that Adoree’ Jackson will miss another game). Pierce is the deep threat, averaging over 15 yards per completion. In a game that is likely to be low scoring, the Giants simply can’t allow the Colts’ offense to get untracked or they will be in trouble.
The other issue is that New York’s defense isn’t playing as well as most fans think it is. The Giants are not only 27th overall, but they remain 29th in rushing defense and are dead last in yards per rush defense (5.4). At some point, some opponent is simply going to try to nullify all of Wink Martindale’s blitzing by just running the ball over and over again. If I’m Head Coach Jeff Saturday of the Colts, and I have a struggling Nick Foles at quarterback, I just may attempt this strategy on Sunday. The Colts could attempt to stick with RB Zack Moss and just try handing off to him 30 times.
The problem for the Colts is their offensive line versus the Giants’ defensive front of Kayvon Thibodeaux, Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, and Azeez Ojulari. But everyone needs to stay healthy and play a full game, which has been a problem for Williams and Ojulari as of late. Thibodeaux could be due for another big week as he is facing fellow rookie LT Bernhard Raimann. The Colts had all kinds of issues protecting the relatively immobile Nick Foles last Monday night and that should continue on Sunday. The key is to get Foles and the offensive line in 2nd- and 3rd-and-long situations. Stop the run so you earn the right to rush the passer.
Finally, while the Giants have 13 fumble recoveries this year, they have an embarrassingly-low number of interceptions with four. Foles threw three picks in the last game. Get the football. Make life easier for your own offense.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
With a blocked punt now added to their growing list of screw ups, the New York Giants special teams unit is officially hurting more than they are helping this year. Colts are #1 in kickoff returns, averaging over 28 yards per return.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale on QB Nick Foles: “(Monday was) the first game he’s played in a while. So, it’s going to do nothing but get better for him, seeing things, going at a faster pace of it. But there’s definitely blood in the water.”
THE FINAL WORD:
I get the sense that many fans think this will be cakewalk. I don’t think so. Nothing has been easy for this still undermanned New York Giants team. Expect another close game in the 4th quarter. And as I’ve been preaching for weeks, turnovers will likely decide the game. Giants won the turnover battle against the Commanders and won. They lost the turnover battle against the Vikings and lost. Win the turnover battle and you probably win this game.
Nevertheless, it’s all in front of this New York Giants team. Win and in. It would be a shame if they let this opportunity slip away. Just get that win!