BERGEN COUNTY, N.J.- After a week 15 loss to the Tennessee Titans, the New York Giants are mathematically guaranteed to miss the playoffs for the sixth time in the past seven seasons. Subsequently, the Giants have opened week 16, at the Indianapolis Colts, as nine-point underdogs. The Colts are surging: they have won seven of their last eight games and are on the cusp of a playoff birth (final AFC wild card).
“Listen, this is a dangerous game at times, but guys are very competitive and they want to go out and play, and I think it’s important that guys that are healthy enough to play, play” said New York Giants’ head coach Pat Shurmur. Could those possibly be Shurmur’s famous last words? I have never been a proponent to “tank” a season, ever. Competitors do not tank. However, at some point, especially with an elite draft slot on deck for the 2019 Draft, the Giants need to be able to take a look at their young players in a real-game, real-action setting. What a perfect opportunity these next two weeks have afforded them.
“Moving forward, we’re going to do what we have to do to win this game,” Shurmur double-downed. My week 16 game preview will reflect a “regular” matchup between the starters of both teams.
NEW YORK GIANTS KEYS TO VICTORY
- Eli Manning: In the Giants most recent sting of wins, Manning has thrown at least one touchdown pass and has completed at least 54% of his passes. In the Giants’ loss to the Tennessee Titans this past Sunday, Manning threw zero touchdowns and completed only 47.7% of his passes. In a team ___, the line is thin.
- Offensive line: The story of the 2018 Giants is contingent upon how the offensive line plays. Last week, Manning was under siege (a situation with which he was familiar throughout the entire first half of the season). The Titans defense hurried him often, sacked him three times, forced him to throw one interception (and zero touchdown passes), and recovered his fumbled football. Pro Football Focus ranks teams’ offensive line play intermittently throughout the season. In the most recent rankings, the Giants’ unit had improved three spots including this past Sunday’s disaster. New York is hoping that they will not have, in week 16, a repeat of week 15’s offensive line play. The team will have no chance of winning if it does not improve from last week.
- Defensive stops: Where was New York’s defense last Sunday afternoon? The Giants’ defense allowed, to the Titans, a 40% third and fourth down conversion rare (6-for-15). Tennessee’s running back, Derrick Henry, seemed to have doused his uniform in Crisco before the game: the Giants could not bring him-and many other Titans-to the ground! Henry was a difference-maker in the game, posting 170 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS KEYS TO VICTORY
- Andrew Luck: Fact: If Luck completes over 65% of his passes, the Colts win. Fact: The Giants have surrendered a 65% completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks. Furthermore, Luck has currently ranked second in the NFL with 34 touchdown passes (trailing only Patrick Mahomes- 45 TDs), and has thrown for 3,951 yards (tied with Philip Rivers for seventh-highest in the league). To me, Luck is the 2018 National Football League’s comeback player of the year.
- Tight End: The Giants have struggled to contain the opposing team’s tight end. That has been evident over the past couple of seasons. The Colts have a premier tight end in Eric Ebron, who has just been named to the 2019 Pro Bowl roster.
Your #Colts 2019 Pro Bowlers!
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) December 19, 2018
The other Pro Bowl tight ends that the Giants faced this year have had great success against their defense:
- The San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle caught 90% of the passes thrown his way for 83 yards (9.2 yards/catch).
- The Philadelphia Eagles’ Zach Ertz: (his two contests against the Giants this season) caught 83% of passes thrown his way for 134 yards (9.6 yards/catch). His stat line includes a touchdown in each game.
If Ebron has as big game, the Giants will have a difficult time overcoming that deficit.
3. Marlon Mack: The Giants rushing defense ranks among the worst in the league: 1798 total yards (28th) and 128.4 yards per game (28th). The Indianapolis Colts have running back Marlon Mack. Who? A second-year player that sliced and diced the Dallas Cowboys’ defense last week. Entering play, Dallas was ranked third in the NFL against the run and it hadn’t given up more than 100 rushing yards to a single back this entire 2018 season. Mack finished the day with 139 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. Contrast that with the Giants’ poor performance in wrangling Tennessee’s Henry last week,
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Colts are playing for a playoff birth and the Giants are playing for pride- that says it all.
Final score prediction: Colts 24, Giants 17