Five storylines to follow heading into the Giants’ Week 16 game in Indianapolis:
1. Three Giants get Pro Bowl nod. Running back Saquon Barkley, safety Landon Collins and kicker Aldrick Rosas were all named to the NFC Pro Bowl team. Safety Michael Thomas and outside linebacker Olivier Vernon were named first alternates, and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was named a second alternate. Collins will have to miss the game for the second straight year after undergoing shoulder surgery earlier in the month.
“It’s an amazing feeling, especially your first year to be selected into the Pro Bowl,” Barkley said. “Got to say thank you to all the fans, players, and coaches and just something that you dream about as a little kid. I actually trained in Orlando for the combine, so I got to see those guys there last year, and I remember saying in the back of your head that you want to be here one day and to be able to accomplish that as a rookie definitely means a lot, but you couldn’t do that by yourself. You got to give credit to your teammates and the coaches in this building, also.”
Barkley has rushed for 1,155 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground while also adding 82 receptions for 654 yards and four touchdowns, all while never fumbling the football. After struggling his rookie year, Rosas has gone 28 of 29 on field goal attempts and 25 of 26 on extra points. Rosas also owns the Giants’ record for longest field goal with a 57-yarder he hit against Chicago in Week 13. Despite missing two games, Collins still leads the team in tackles with 96 (67 solo), in addition to one forced fumble and four passes defensed.
2. Odell still out; injury report. At his press conference Wednesday afternoon, coach Pat Shurmur said that Beckham, along with center Spencer Pulley (calf) and wide receiver Russell Shepard (ankle), “won’t be doing much” at practice. If Beckham is to miss the upcoming matchup against the Colts, it will be the third consecutive game he has been ruled out with a quad injury. Because of the injuries to Beckham and Shepard, the Giants activated Cody Latimer off injured reserve and placed defensive back Antonio Hamilton on I.R. with a quad injury. Latimer had six catches for 108 yards in four games before being placed on injured reserve. Linebacker Alec Ogletree (concussion) and safety Michael Thomas (not injury related) also did not practice on Wednesday. Defensive lineman Kerry Wynn practiced on a limited basis with a thumb injury.
3. Scouting the Indianapolis Colts. After starting the season 1-5, the Colts have won seven of their last eight games, including a shutout (23-0) of the Cowboys last week. Both the Giants and Colts had similar starts with early struggles. Now, the Colts are in the wild card hunt at 8-6.
“They’re a little bit like we are, a game or two better right now,” Shurmur said. “They won a couple close games that we didn’t. They started out slow in terms of wins and losses, they’ve been consistent, I think they found a little groove with Andrew Luck (who) is back healthy. We all understand he’s a terrific quarterback and he’s had a lot to do with their success on offense certainly. They’re just like any new team, trying to put it together and move forward.”
Luck has been on fire, throwing 3,951 yards and 34 touchdowns, while Pro Bowl tight end Eric Ebron is having a career year with 59 catches for 662 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Colts also have their own rookie stud in linebacker Darius Leonard, who leads the team with 146 tackles (99 solo), 33 more than the next player on his team. Leonard also has 7.0 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception.
4. Saquon looking to bounce back. For the first time in his career, Barkley had under 90 scrimmage yards last week against the Titans when he was held to 56 total yards (31 rushing, 25 receiving). It was his lowest rushing yardage since Week 2 against the Cowboys when he had 28 yards. It was his lowest receiving total since Week 13 against the Bears when he had 21 yards.
The offense as a whole struggled and was shut out against the Titans. While the Colts shut out the Cowboys last week, Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliot had 87 yards on the ground and seven receptions for 41 yards. With the season Barkley has been having, it’s hard to believe that he’ll have similar numbers in back-to-back games as he’s averaging 129.2 scrimmage yards per game.
5. Finishing out the season strong. The Giants were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs as a result of last week’s loss to Tennessee. Even at 5-9 and with playoffs out of reach, the mindset of the Giants for the last two games of the season is to play hard and win.
“I want to see good football and I want to win the game, and I think that’s what we’re trying to get done,” Shurmur said. “Then anybody that’s on the field is always being evaluated. Again, we’ve got a bunch of different players that have been forced into action that we’re getting a chance to evaluate on a constant basis. I’ve said it before, you can’t fake football, and I think it’s important that we go out and everybody plays good football and is helping us win games.”