By Paul Dottino
NEW YORK – So how would you enjoy being asked the same repetitive questions about your brother day after day after day? Even worse, how much do you think you would enjoy listening to those questions AND hearing the same answers? Now you understand why I can’t wait for Sunday’s game to be over.
Maybe the best thing about the Giants-Colts battle at Lucas Oil Field is that the inquiries about the Manning family tree will end following the game – at least until the week leading into the next Eli vs. Peyton battle on the field. So let’s get back to football, shall we?
The Giants started pouring the foundation for their season in Week 1, putting forth a very strong second half (especially on defense) and suffocated the Carolina Panthers. The Colts, however, are coming off an upset loss to the Houston Texans, who shredded them for 257 yards on 42 carries.
Here are three important matchups to watch:
1. Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell vs. Colts QB Peyton Manning. Fewell’s already allowed us to see some of what he’s got in his bag of tricks, but that’s only enough to fill up four quarters of game film. Manning’s known to watch 40-50 hours of film on an opponent, so former Colts backup Jim Sorgi said Peyton’s likely to have broken down several reels of Buffalo Bills film since that’s the most plentiful sampling of how Fewell prefers to run his defense.
The bad news for Manning is that Professor Fewell did not have as many diverse and talented elements in Buffalo as he has to choose from in New York. Advantage Fewell, at least in the first half – until Peyton has a few minutes to regroup at halftime and figures out how he wants to attack in the second half. To this point, we’ve already seen Fewell use packages that include three safeties, four defensive ends, three defensive tackles and standup linemen acting as linebackers. However, he’s also got to be careful not to get caught in the wrong sub-package when the Colts go into their hurry-up offense.
This battle so excites Fewell that he says he’s looking forward to it whereas most defensive coordinators think of Peyton Manning as their worst nightmare. This cat-and-mouse battle is going to be a heck of a lot more fun than your typical chess match!
2. Giants TEs vs. Colts DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Starting TE Kevin Boss is out for at least a week because of the concussion he suffered against Carolina, so pass-receiving TE Travis Beckum becomes the starter. Blocking always has been the weakest part of Beckum’s game and he’s already admitted the Colts’ speed-rushing ends are a much bigger problem than anybody the Panthers threw at him.
Enter former practice squad TE Bear Pascoe, who’s more bulky and physical than Beckum. Pascoe’s likely to get a chunk of snaps, given that ball possession via a strong rushing attack is the preferred method of attacking the Colts, who want the ball in Peyton’s hands as much as possible. Pascoe also would be better at picking up the ends as they race toward the pocket off the edge.
Perhaps the Giants may try using a backup lineman such as Adam Koets as either a third tight end in short-yardage or even when they lineup in a double-tight end formation.
3. Giants kick coverage units vs. Colts PR Anthony Gonzalez and KOR Devin Moore. It doesn’t matter who returns kicks for the Colts if the coverage units don’t maintain their lanes or if rookie punter Matt Dodge hits another line drive. The Giants are hoping Dodge will start to get over some of his rookie jitters, now that he’s past opening day, and they’re expecting improvement because the game will be played inside.
The kickoff team showed energy and toughness against Carolina, but left their lanes and opened too many seams.
PREDICTION: Colts 23, Giants 20
PREDICTION RECORD: 1-0
AGAINST THE SPREAD: 0-1.