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Giants vs. Colts: Week 17 storylines to follow


The Giants will take the field at MetLife Stadium for the final time during the regular season as they host the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday on New Year's Day.

Although there is no such thing as a morale victory in the NFL, there were some positives to take out of the Giants' 27-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas Eve. Brian Daboll's squad played the NFC's No. 2 seed tough for 60 minutes before eventually falling on a career-long 61-yard field goal by Greg Joseph on the final snap. However, the Giants' playoff hopes did not change much, thanks to losses by Washington, Seattle and Detroit.

Meanwhile, the Colts hosted the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday Night Football, handing the keys to the offense to veteran quarterback Nick Foles for the first time. However, the quarterback change did not help as Indy generated just 173 yards of total offense on their way to a 20-3 loss. The Colts have lost five straight heading into this weekend's matchup.

Here are five storylines to follow in Sunday's contest:

1. 'Try to go 1-0'

With two games remaining, the Giants are in full control of their playoff destiny. A win in either of their final two contests would clinch the No. 6 seed in the NFC. If they go 0-2, they will need some help in order to secure the franchise's first playoff berth since 2016. The Giants face the Colts at home this weekend before traveling to Philadelphia for the season finale against the Eagles. Here are all of the ways the Giants can clinch this week:

  1. NYG win OR
  2. NYG tie + SEA loss or tie + WAS loss or tie OR
  3. NYG tie + SEA loss or tie + DET loss or tie OR
  4. NYG tie + WAS loss or tie + DET loss or tie + GB loss or tie OR
  5. SEA loss + WAS loss OR
  6. SEA loss + DET loss + GB loss or tie OR
  7. WAS loss + DET loss + GB loss

The playoffs might be sitting right there for the Giants' taking, but that hasn't changed coach Brian Daboll's approach. His message to the team this week is the same as it has been every week – focus on the upcoming opponent and let everything else fall into place.

"I think we just try to control our own destiny each week by trying to win a game. The goal is always to try to go 1-0, and that'll be no different this week..." Daboll told the media Monday. "I think the best thing you can do is just control what you can control, which is the things you need to control this week. All the other things, there's no real sense. Everybody knows what the game is this week. I think what's the most important is, 'How do we improve our blocking, our decision making, getting off blocks, our tackling, our units?' Everything. All that stuff is really what matters, and that's where our focus needs to be."

Coincidentally, the last time the Giants secured a spot in the playoffs in front of the home crowd came exactly 11 years to the day from this Sunday's game. On January 1, 2012, the Giants defeated the Cowboys, 31-14, at MetLife Stadium in a winner-take-all showdown for the NFC East title.

"They've been outstanding," Daboll said about the fans. "I'm very thankful for all the support that our organization gets, the following. We work extremely hard each week to put a good product on the field, and one of the reasons is for our fanbase. So, to play at home in late December in an important game, it's important to us. I know it's important to them. And we'll do everything we can do to be ready to go."

2. DJ, Saquon stepping up

The Giants came up just short against the Vikings last weekend, but the offense put up one of its best performances of the season with 445 yard of total offense. Daniel Jones completed a career-high 30 passes and finished with a 71.4 completion percentage. He topped 250 passing yards in the air for just the second time this season as he finished with 334 to go with one touchdown and one interception. Jones has a 13-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the season, while his interception rate of 1.1 percent is the lowest in the league. The 25-year-old quarterback added 34 yards on four carries (8.5 avg.) against the Vikings.

Saquon Barkley also enjoyed his second consecutive strong outing. The star running back totaled 84 yards on just 14 carries, with his 6.0 yards per carry being his highest average per rush attempt since the season opener. Barkley caught a season-high eight passes, tied for the most on the team, for 49 yards.

Similar to the Sunday night win over the Commanders, Barkley saved his best for when the moment mattered most. With the offense facing a 4th-and-2 with just over two minutes remaining, the fifth-year back broke loose for a 27-yard touchdown to bring the Giants within two points.

"Saquon's done a good job for us all year," Daboll said on Monday. "He runs hard. I think he makes good decisions with the ball and where to run it, and he's a talented player. So, he's one of our better players. So, good players have to play well, particularly in the fourth quarter of close games."

The Colts' defense has had an up-and-down season. They enter the final two games ranking 25th in points and 11th in yards allowed. Their pass defense has shined at times, with the unit coming in at No. 11 in both passing yards and touchdowns allowed. However, their run defense has given up 122.2 yards per game (No. 20) and 18 touchdowns (No. 27).

3. Generating pressure on Foles

Nick Foles' first start under center for the Colts was not a successful one. The veteran completed 17 of 29 passes (58.6 percent) for 143 yards with three interceptions against a Chargers defense that entered the game with just 10 picks in their first 14 games. Los Angeles also racked up seven sacks of Foles (after notching only 28 sacks going into Monday night), bringing the Colts' total to 56 allowed on the season. Only the Denver Broncos have surrendered more sacks (57).

The Chargers presented Wink Martindale with the blueprint to containing the Foles-led Indy offense – pressure the veteran signal-caller early and often. Blitzing the quarterback is nothing new to Martindale, who has garnered the reputation as being one of the most blitz-happy defensive coordinators in the NFL. The Giants were able to get to the Vikings' Kirk Cousins throughout the game on Saturday, recording four sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Heading into Week 17, Martindale's unit is tied for third in the league with 140 total pressures on a league-high 227 blitzes, according to Pro Football Reference.

The team's four sacks in Minnesota came from four different players – Jaylon Smith, Landon Collins, Leonard Williams and Azeez Ojulari. Although he didn't register a sack, outside linebacker Jihad Ward led the team with three quarterback hits. The Giants will need everyone in the pass rush to step up against Indianapolis' struggling offensive line, as the more pressure they can generate on Sunday, the better.

View rare photos of the all-time history between the New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts.

4. Hodgins 'works extremely hard'

The Giants have seen several of the team's in-season roster additions make key contributions. Perhaps the most impactful player added on the offensive side of the ball has been Isaiah Hodgins. The second-year wide receiver made his Giants debut in the Week 10 win over the Houston Texans. He caught both of his targets for 41 yards in that game and has not looked back.

Hodgins has a touchdown reception in three of the last four games with at least four catches in every contest. In fact, the 24-year-old is coming off the best game of his young professional career. Hodgins reeled in eight passes for 89 yards against the Vikings, both of which set new career-highs, along with his third touchdown of the season. He is up to 29 receptions for 309 yards and the three scores in seven games with the Giants. Considering the injuries the Giants have had at the wide receiver position since training camp, Hodgins has developed into one of the team's most reliable pass-catchers.

"I think he's smart, tough, dependable," Daboll said about Hodgins. "He works extremely hard. In between periods, he's usually throwing there with Daniel on a variety of routes, or they're talking about things that we've installed and make sure that he sees it through the eyes of a quarterback. So, he's done a good job for us since he's been here."

Leading the way in the Colts' secondary is Stephon Gilmore. The 11-year veteran is still one of the top shutdown corners in the NFL, with two interceptions, 11 passes defensed and a career-high 63 total tackles through 15 games. Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams, who typically lines up outside where Gilmore plays, caught four passes for 76 yards Monday night.

5. Injury updates; Azeez, Adoree' limited

Daboll announced to the media that both outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari (ankle) and cornerback Adoree' Jackson (knee) would be limited in practice to start the week.

Ojulari hurt his ankle in Saturday's loss against the Vikings, a play in which he sacked Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. It marked his fifth consecutive game with at least a half-sack, with 5.5 total during that span. As for Jackson, the veteran cornerback suffered a knee injury returning a punt in the Week 11 loss to the Lions and had been unable to practice prior to today.

While Daboll did say Xavier McKinney is "getting there" after suffering a hand injury during the bye week, the safety will not be on the practice field Wednesday. If McKinney is able to return to the field this season, Daboll said the safety will likely have to wear a club to protect his hand.

Daboll also announced that offensive lineman Shane Lemieux will be placed on injured reserve. Lemieux suffered a toe injury during training camp that forced him to miss the first nine games of the season. He made his debut in Week 11, but that would be the only game he played in. Lemieux was also limited to just one game last season due to a knee injury.

Defensive lineman Leonard Williams (neck) was also limited in practice Wednesday, while DL Dexter Lawrence was given a veteran rest day.


Limited tickets available for Giants vs. Colts

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