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Eye On the Colts: Scouting Report

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) prepares to throw during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) prepares to throw during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will play their final road game of the season when they face the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis is 8-6 and in contention for both the AFC South titles and a wild card playoff berth. The Colts lead the regular-season series, 9-6, including victories in the previous three games between the teams, in 2006, 2010 and 2014. In their most recent meeting, on Monday night, Nov. 3, 2014, Andrew Luck threw four touchdown passes in the Colts' 40-24 victory. Indianapolis won the only previous meeting in Lucas Oil Stadium, 38-14, on Sept. 10, 2006. The Giants last won in the series on Dec. 22, 2002, when they defeated the Colts, 44-27, in Indianapolis. This will be the Giants' first regular-season game in Lucas Oil Stadium since they won Super Bowl XLVI there seven years ago.

What is the Colts' biggest strength?

They are one of the hottest teams in football. The Colts started the year with Luck playing for a new coach, in a new offensive system, with a young line that was missing its left tackle, and with a surgically-repaired shoulder after missing the entire 2017 season and with his arm not yet back to full strength. The result was a 1-5 record. Indianapolis has since won seven of its last eight games, including a 23-0 rout of Dallas last week. During the streak, they are scoring an average of 27.5 points a game and allowing just 15 per contest. The offense, defense and special teams are playing productive, smart, complementary football. Against Dallas, for example, the Cowboys had a second-and-one on the Indianapolis 27-yard line on the game's first series. The Colts' defense threw up a roadblock, causing Dallas to lose three yards on two plays. Indianapolis then blocked a field goal attempt before the offense scored the game's first touchdown less than four minutes later. The Colts also scored on their first possession of the third quarter to increase their lead to 17-0.

Which player is key to the Colts' offense?

Luck, who is again one of the NFL's premier quarterbacks. His throwing arm has gotten stronger throughout the season. Earlier this year, he threw at least three touchdown passes in eight consecutive games. His passer rating has topped 100.0 in six of the last eight games. Luck can make all the throws, and he's second in the league with 34 touchdown passes – including 11 in the fourth quarter, which also places him second.

What is the strength of the Colts' offense?

The rebuilt line, which has stabilized the offense since coach Frank Reich and his assistant coaches found the right combination of players. The unit has allowed only 16 sacks, tied with New Orleans for the NFL's lowest total. That included a five-game stretch from Oct. 14 to Nov. 18 in which Luck was not sacked once; the Colts threw 239 passes between sacks. Left guard Quenton Nelson, the sixth overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, has delivered toughness and a nasty disposition to the front. Another rookie, second-round choice Braden Smith, is playing well at right tackle. Center Ryan Kelly, a former first-round selection, left tackle Anthony Castonzo and right guard Mark Glowinski complete the group.

The Colts have twice rushed for at least 220 yards in a game and last week gashed the Cowboys for 178 yards on the ground, including 139 yards and two touchdowns by leading rusher Marlon Mack.

Which player is key to the Colts' defense?

Weakside linebacker Darius Leonard, yet another rookie second-round choice who is a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. He leads the NFL with 146 tackles – 22 more than runner-up Luke Kuechly – including 99 solo stops and is second on the team with 7.0 sacks. Leonard is a smart, speedy, every-down backer who makes plays all over the field.

What is the strength of the Colts' defense?

It is an opportunistic unit. The Colts are one of three teams to force a turnover in every game this season. First-year coordinator Matt Eberflus was previously the Dallas Cowboys' linebackers coach for seven seasons, and his defense resembles those he was part of in Dallas – fast and relentless. Denico Autry has the versatility to play both tackle and end and leads the team with 9.0 sacks in just 10 games, including six in the last three games. Jabaal Sheard is Indianapolis' best outside pass rusher. Kenny Moore II is the best player in the secondary, where he has excelled at both corner and the nickel. He leads the team with nine pass breakups and two interceptions.

Here is a look at the projected lineup of the Giants' upcoming opponent.

What is the strength of the Colts' special teams?

Venerable Vinatieri – Adam, that is. The Colts' kicker has scored exactly 100 points, the 21st season in his 23-year career he has reached the century mark. Vinatieri, a mere 45 years old, has made 21 of 25 field goal attempts – including three of five from 50 or more yards – and 37 of 39 extra point tries. He has made 14 of 15 field goal attempts in six games against the Giants.

Based on the scouting report, what must the Giants do to win the game?

On offense, run the ball effectively and keep Indianapolis' high-scoring offense (26.6 points a game, eighth in the league) off the field. Defensively, force turnovers and make the Colts one-dimensional. Luck has become more effective as the rushing attack has improved. If Mack's ground game is curtailed, the Giants can go after Luck with more abandon.

Statistics you should know:

*Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton leads the Colts with 67 receptions and 1,071 yards, but tight end Eric Ebron has twice as many touchdown catches (12-6). Ebron's 12 receiving scores lead all tight ends and are tied with Green Bay's Davante Adams for second in the league, one behind Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown.

*Luck reached 24,000 passing yards in his 84th career game, joining Detroit's Matthew Stafford as the only quarterbacks in history to do that.

*Mack has rushed for more than 100 yards three times this season, the most such games by a Colts back since Joseph Addai had four 100-yard games in 2007.

*In his second career game, Week 2 in Washington, Leonard had 19 tackles (15 solo), including one for a loss, 1.0 sack, a pass defensed and a forced fumble, and was named AFC Defensive Player of the week.

*Vinatieri holds the NFL records for points (2,587), field goals (580), regular-season victories (213) and total victories (including postseason) with 233, one more than his former teammate, Tom Brady.

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