NFL Preview - Indianapolis (5-3) at NY Giants (3-4)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - Andrew Luck has been football's most prolific passer in 2014 and the star signal calling will be aiming for his seventh consecutive game with 300-or-more passing yards when he leads his Indianapolis Colts into MetLife Stadium for a Monday night matchup with the New York Giants.
Luck passed for 400 yards and three touchdowns during a 51-34 losing effort to Pittsburgh in Week 8 but the Stanford product has the Colts on top of the AFC South with a 5-3 record, leads the NFL with 2,731 passing yards, and was tied with Peyton Manning entering the week with 22 TD tosses.
Luck's effort in Pittsburgh was his second career 400-yard passing game as he completed 26-of-45 attempts. T.Y. Hilton made six catches for 155 yards and a touchdown in the setback as the Colts saw their five-game win streak halted thanks in large part to their defense.
"Who you are is your last game and this was our last game," Luck said
The Indianapolis stop unit was sliced and diced by Ben Roethlisberger, who set franchise records with 522 passing yards and six touchdowns.
"It's bad football," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "It's not intentional, but it's bad football and you're not going to win games playing like that."
Luck and Co. will be facing a Giants team that is well-rested, having last played on Oct. 19 in Dallas, a game that marked the team's second straight divisional loss (a 31-21 setback to the Cowboys), and put New York behind the 8-ball in the NFC East at 3-4.
Eli Manning completed 21-of-33 for 248 yards in North Texas, with rookie Odell Beckham Jr. hauling in two of his three touchdown passes. Beckham started for the injured Victor Cruz, who tore his right patellar tendon in a loss to Philadelphia the prior week.
"We played better than we did last week, but it's tough losing two division games in a row," Manning said.
The Colts lead their all-time series with the Giants by a slim 8-6 margin and are 21-13 all-time on "Monday Night Football." Conversely, New York is underwater on the national showcase with a 22-33-1 mark and the Giants' head coach, Tom Coughlin, has never beaten Indy in his career (0-6).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Giants are hoping a return home will get them back on a winning track. New York hasn't played at MetLife since a victory over Atlanta on Oct. 5.
"It's back home," Coughlin said, "back with the home fans, back in an environment that is a positive thing for our football team to be able to play in front of our fans, to be able to count on our fans to help us as we play some of these outstanding teams down through the stretch."
Despite coming out of the bye, however, the Giants don't look all that healthy. The Cruz injury obviously hurts and Coughlin has already said running back Rashad Jennings will not play as he continues to convalesce from the sprained knee he suffered against the Falcons.
"I'm close," Jennings said. "I'm optimistic as always but listen, you're asking me. I thought I could play last week. That's just me. That's my mentality of it. You've got to kind of talk to the doctors as to where it's really at. I'm not going to change my attitude.
"I'm working hard. When I'm out there on the field, I'll be out there. That's all I can say."
New York's down tick since Jennings has been out of the lineup is not happenstance. A consistent running game with the free-agent signee starting to heat up opened up play action and made things a lot easier for Manning.
New York general manager Jerry Reese said earlier this week that the Giants "have to be more aggressive offensively," something easier said than done with Jennings out of the lineup.
"We'd like to see that, too," Coughlin said, alluding to Reese's remarks. "We'd like to see the ball in the end zone more, however it gets there. We do realize that when you're playing some of the people we're playing you've got to give yourself more chances to be able to do that. We've gotten good numbers out of the quarterback position. We need even better and we need more production out of the people that are involved in handling the ball -- the runners, the catchers, etcetera."
Overall New York's offense is 23rd in football with 332.7 ypg while Indy's defense is now middle of the pack after getting destroyed by Roethlisberger and the Steelers, a stunning development because the unit looked dominating in the prior week against Cincinnati.
The main issue was the secondary as cornerback Vontae Davis, an All-Pro candidate went down with a knee injury in the first quarter. Davis was a full participant in practice on Thursday and is expected to play Monday night.
The Indianapolis defense may also get a lift from the potential return of safety LaRon Landry from a four-game suspension for using performance- enhancing drugs.
On the other side of the ball for the Colts, Luck's current run of 300-yard passing games is already a franchise record, surpassing Manning's five-game streak in 2009.
Luck is piloting the top offense in all of football (452.3 yards per game) and will be facing a defense that is just 27th in a 32-team league, surrendering 384.4 ypg. His only real downfall at times is ball security.
Veteran receiver Reggie Wayne, who was unable to play in Pittsburgh due to an elbow injury, remains iffy for this game, while running back Trent Richardson is expected to play through a pesky hamstring injury.
"We want to be smart with all our players, monitor the reps," Pagano said. "Guy gets hot, obviously we'll try to feed a guy that's hot, but not go overboard with it and put somebody in harm's way, if you will."
The Giants learned they will be without middle linebacker Jon Beason, who will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a foot/toe injury. Beason, the leader of the team's defense, had been inactive in four of the last five games and aggravated the injury in Philadelphia.
"You do everything you can to play. That is the mentality of a football player, more so a linebacker. It's a blue-chip, blue-collar position. I did everything I could," Beason said Tuesday during his weekly radio segment with WFAN. "Obviously I want to be out there, I want to be contributing, I want to make things right; right now obviously things aren't going well and you have to listen to the doctors."
"(I'm) looking forward to Monday night and really looking forward to being at home and sharing the experience with our fans, looking for our fans," Coughlin said. "The 12th man, I think, will make a big difference here in the remaining nine games of our schedule, and it starts Monday night right here at home."
Not so fast.
Indianapolis has averaged 31.3 points per game this season, which ranks second in the NFL behind Denver. Without Cruz and Jennings, the Giants simply don't have the horses to keep up with Colts.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Colts 31, Giants 21
10/31 11:32:31 ET