The Indianapolis Colts have enjoyed a strong first half to the 2014 season, leading the AFC South with a 5-3 record behind the best yardage differential in the NFL. When they meet the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on "Monday Night Football," head coach Chuck Pagano may pay particularly close attention to his defensive unit.
The Colts have been dominant in their five victories, winning by an average of 18 points and scoring 33 points per contest. In the team’s three losses, though, their defense played poorly, especially against the pass.
"We weren't able to generate from a defensive standpoint any pressure on the quarterback," Pagano told reporters after the Colts' 51-34 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 26.
The Colts have allowed at least 24 points in all their defeats, but surrendered 17 points or fewer in four of their five victories. The Giants have scored at least 30 points in each of their three wins, but failed to score more than 21 points in their four losses.
Opposing quarterback performance has been directly linked to the outcome of Colts games. Peyton Manning, Nick Foles and Ben Roethlisberger combined to throw for 1,122 yards, 10 scores, one interception and a 68 percent completion rate to beat the Colts. In five Indianapolis wins, no quarterback has thrown for more than 256 yards, and opposing signal callers have combined for four touchdowns, five interceptions and a 54.1 completing percentage.
Eli Manning won’t have an easy time joining the quarterbacks that have played well against the Colts. The two-time Super Bowl MVP has bounced-back from a season that saw him lead the league with 27 interceptions, but his limited big-play threats could hamper him on Monday. New York’s top wide receiver, Victor Cruz, and No.1 running back, Rashad Jennings, are both out due to injuries.
Manning will be forced to rely on an inexperienced receiving corps who have totaled just two career 100-yard receiving games in their career. Rueben Randle broke the century mark in last year’s season opener, but has failed to duplicate that success in 22 consecutive games. Kevin Ogletree's only 100-yard receiving game came against the Giants in 2012, when he was a member of the Dallas Cowboys. The 27-year-old, who was signed by the Giants on Oct. 14, has started just four games in his career.
However, Manning will still have plenty of targets. Preston Parker has 13 receptions this season, while promising rookie Odell Beckham Jr. has 10, in just there games. Meanwhile, tight ends Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells have exceeded expectations in 2014. They each have four touchdown receptions, and Donnell already has 332 receiving yards.
Indianapolis allowed Roethlisberger to have a career game last week, though he did so against a somewhat weakened secondary. Vontae Davis, who leads the team with two interceptions and 12 pass deflections, missed the majority of the contest with Pittsburgh because of a knee injury.
While the Giants have struggled against winning teams, the Colts have been terrific against inferior opponents. Since Andrew Luck was drafted in 2012, the Colts have gone 17-4 against teams that don’t have a winning record.
Start Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Online Stream Info: WatchESPN
Point Spread: Colts by 3 points
Over/Under: 50.5 points
Prediction: Indianapolis over New York, 31-24