18 Things to Watch for in Sunday's Colts-Giants Game
Sometimes, the older brother is just...better.
Last week the Colts got off to a rough start, but the season is still young. This week the Colts open the home slate with a prime time clash with the New York Baby Brothers, I mean Giants. Sorry, there's been so much hype about this matchup, that even I have gotten a little confused. This week you can enjoy a full day of the Redzone Channel and then sit back and watch for:
1. Watch the brothers. Look, we might as well get this out of the way early. They grew up together; they were both taken #1 overall; they both won Super Bowls; they both fired their agent after that moronic Oreo campaign. Blah, blah, blah. About the only thing the Manning boys really have in common on the field is their insane durability. They currently have the second and third longest consecutive start streaks by a quarterback (behind Favre).
2. Watch the wideouts on 3rd down. The Colts wide receivers had a miserable day last Sunday. All of the top five pass catchers including Dallas Clark had a major gaffe on third down. Wayne, Clark, and Garcon dropped passes. Gonzo stepped out of bounds. Collie fumbled. The result was the Colts' normally stellar third down conversion rate hovered down near 30%. Mistakes happen. Mistakes on third down cost ball games.
3. Watch for the second coming of Rob Morris. While I don't feel that Phil Wheeler was as responsible as some for the insanity that took place in Houston last week, I have to admit that I certainly didn't see him make any plays either. After Pat Angerer led the team in tackles in the preseason, the hue and cry is already going out for him to take Wheeler's job. If it happens, it wouldn't be the first time the Colts tried to fix the run defense through a change at linebacker. In 2006, Rob Morris replaced Gilbert Gardner in one of the most important moves of the season.
4. Watch the pounding. Everyone in the NFL saw what Houston did in the second half of last week's game. It stands to reason that a team like the Giants, who likes to run the ball anyway, will go after the Colts linebackers with the run. Ahmad Bradshaw has the makings of an outstanding running back. The Giants faced a Ron Meeks defense last week and ran the ball 32 times for 120 yards, but half of that came in two long carries. The Giants will go with the run and stay with the run, even if it isn't paying off early.
5. Watch the 35 yard line. Last week, Caldwell ordered a punt from the 34. If Adam Vinateri can't kick a field goal of 51 yards, the Colts need to find a new kicker. Any time Indy gets inside the 35, watch Caldwell. If he's scared to kick, it tells us something about his confidence in AV. And it tells us the Colts made a mistake not going after another kicker. We already lost a Super Bowl thanks to not having a kicker who could hit long field goals. That was the result of an injury. This would be the result of poor planning.
6. Watch the limp. Charlie Johnson and Jeff Saturday both struggled at times last week. Polian said it was because they were hurt, but expected them to get better. Frankly, playing NFL games isn't my recipe for 'healing up', but maybe it will work for them. CJ might just suck, but Saturday will hopefully return to his previous form.
7. Watch for a change of game plan. Last week, the Colts rushed only 10 times and never deviated from their 3 wide set up. If they truly want balance in the offense, they need to consider letting Brody Eldrige get some work at tight end. The problem is which wideout would come off the field. Garcon struggled in the first game, but is a physical blocker. Collie is the obvious choice as the odd man out if the Colts want to run the ball.
8. Watch the coverage. The Colts corners weren't tested often last week, but both Hayden and Tryon got beat deep for what should have been touchdowns had Matt Schaub been throwing the ball better. The Giants have a bevy of outstanding WRs in Nicks, Smith, and Manningham. Jacob Lacey should be back for the Colts, which will help, but Hayden especially needs to elevate his game. Watch who he's matched up with as Powers seems to have become the most reliable corner the Colts have.
9. Watch the Captain. Gary Brackett was invisible last week. He got some pressure on Schaub on a couple of blitz plays, but was virtually invisible the rest of the game. With receiving threat Kevin Boss out, Brackett shouldn't have a taxing day in coverage. As the Colts emotional leader and the man who makes the calls for the D, Brackett needs to come up large on Sunday night.
10. Watch for the sycophants. Look, I love the Mannings as much as the next guy, but unless you are related by blood to Peyton or Eli, there's really no reason for anyone to pull the split Colts/Giants jersey. Olivia Manning wouldn't even wear one of those. Anyone wearing a Manning/Manning half and half jersey is basically just trying to get on TV or suck up to someone. Either way, it's weird.
11. Watch the adjustments. The Colts and Giants both trailed at half time last Sunday. Indy was down 13-10, and New York was down 16-14. The difference is that the Giants dominated the second half, while Indy gave up 14 unanswered points as the Texans' coaches outfoxed their counterparts. It's reasonable to expect a tight game at half time, but in the past it was the Colts who dominated the end of games. Check what changes are made during the intermission to see which coaching staff gets the better of it.
12. Watch for more time in the can. The Colts and Giants feature two crappy special teams units. Expect lots of short, uninspired returns. You might as well take the extra time after third down and go to the bathroom because you won't be missing much. Last year, New York was 27th in FOs special teams rankings and Indy was 20th. This season the two teams started out horribly and are ranked 29th and 31st. Go ahead and take a crap. It's basically what they'll be doing on the field
13. Watch the slants. The Giants feature one of the best pairs of pass rushers in the league in Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. The Colts feature two of the worst tackles in the game in Ryan Diem and Charlie Johnson. The best way to beat the pass rush is to get rid of the ball quickly. Look for Peyton to look to throw a lot of short, quick slants. Expect a big day out of Austin Collie.
14. Watch the stupid story lines. Despite what should be an entertaining game, NBC won't be able to resist swamping us with crap that has nothing to do with play on the field. We'll see the home videos of the Manning's playing football as kids. We'll see shots of the family in the box. We might get a commercial montage. If the game is close, we might even be exposed to stupid "Greatest Game Ever Played" references as the Giants and Colts go to overtime. Collinsworth and Michaels are good at their craft, but they'll have to be on their game to keep the focus on the field
15. Watch for Spike and Reggie. Spike Lee will be there in the front row taunting Reggie Wayne. After grabbing his crotch at Spike, Reggie will turn and drop kick a bloodless three point field goal from 50 yards. The Indiana/New York rivalry will reach new heights. Sigh.
16. Watch the bright lights. The Colts simply own prime time in the Manning era. They've won their last 8 regular season night games. Further more, they haven't started a season 0-2 since 1998 (Manning's rookie year). Peyton plays his best in the biggest games, and they don't come much bigger than a desperation game on Sunday night. If the Colts can escape with a win on Sunday, they have a string of beatable teams leading up to the rematch with Houston November first.
17. Watch for the big mistake. Eli has six interceptions in his last three games dating back to last year. The Colts got good pressure on Schaub last week, picking up two sacks against just nine completed passes. Pressure can lead to hurried throws, and the Colts defense will be looking to force Eli into ill advised throws.
18. Watch for the bounce back. I can't see a team this talented starting 0-2. It's a night game at home where Indy hasn't lost a real game in almost two years. Colts answer the call with a 28-17 win.