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2018 Colts Preview: Colts/Cowboys, Week 15

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INDIANAPOLIS — This week, the Indianapolis Colts (7-6) host the Dallas Cowboys (8-5) at Lucas Oil Stadium as the home team battles for its playoff life. The Cowboys are winners of five straight and are one of the league's hottest teams, but the Colts took care of the Houston Texans and their nine-game win streak last week. Can the Colts stop another win streak?

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Sunday, Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. ET
  • Indianapolis; Lucas Oil Stadium
  • TV: FOX — Kevin Burkhardt (play-by-play), Charles Davis (color) and Pam Oliver (sideline)
  • To find out what games will be on in your area, check here
  • Radio: WFNI “1070 The Fan” and WLHK “HANK FM” — Matt Taylor (play-by-play), Jim Sorgi (color) and Barry Krauss (sideline)

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • Cowboys lead, 10-5 (Colts are 1-0 in the playoffs), and are 1-0 against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Cowboys have won the last three meetings dating back to 2006.
  • Last game — Week 16 of 2014. The Cowboys won, 42-7.

COACHING STAFF

Colts:

  • HC Frank Reich
  • OC Nick Sirianni
  • DC Matt Eberflus
  • STC Bubba Ventrone

Cowboys:

  • HC Jason Garrett
  • OC Scott Linehan
  • DC Rod Marinelli
  • STC Keith O'Quinn

LAST WEEK

Colts:

  • Won vs. Houston Texans (9-4), 24-21

Cowboys:

  • Won vs. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7), 29-23

INJURY UPDATE

Colts:

  • S Clayton Geathers (knee): QUESTIONABLE — Did not practice Wednesday, limited participant Thursday, did not practice Friday
  • OG Mark Glowinski (ankle): OUT — Did not practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
  • WR T.Y. Hilton (ankle): QUESTIONABLE — Did not practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
  • S Mike Mitchell (calf): OUT — Did not practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
  • LB Skai Moore (neck): OUT — Limited participant Thursday, did not practice Friday

*On T.Y. Hilton's availability, Colts head coach Frank Reich said on Friday: “We are going to have to hold off on that decision and see how he responds in the next 24 hours and then make that decision here coming up soon.”

Cowboys:

  • WR Tavon Austin (groin): QUESTIONABLE — Limited participant Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
  • Randy Gregory (not injury related): QUESTIONABLE — Did not practice Thursday and Friday
  • DL David Irving (ankle): OUT — Did not practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring): QUESTIONABLE — Limited participant Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
  • WR Lance Lenoir (illness): QUESTIONABLE — Did not practice Friday
  • OG Zack Martin (knee): OUT — Did not practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
  • OT Tyron Smith (neck): QUESTIONABLE — Limited participant Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
  • TE Geoff Swaim (wrist): OUT — Did not practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH

  • Can The Colts Establish The Run? — The Colts have only reached 100 yards rushing as a team twice in the last five games, and the Cowboys are one of the top run defenses in the league, ranking third at 86.8 yards per game allowed. Not accumulating much on the ground hasn't hurt the Colts much in the playaction department, but it certainly helps out quite a bit if they can get it going.
  • 'Prove It' Game For The Colts' Defense? — The Cowboys has been playing complete team football during their five-game win streak, but their offense has been outstanding. Quarterback Dak Prescott has a passer rating better than 100 in four of the last five games, running back Ezekiel Elliott leads the NFL in rushing and wide receiver Amari Cooper leads the NFL in receiving yards since joining the team in Week 9. The Colts' defense has been solid recently as well, allowing just 17.2 points per game over the last seven games. This will be a nice measuring stick for the Colts' up-and-coming defense.
  • Can The Colts' Defensive Line Take Advantage Of Banged-Up Cowboys Front? — The Cowboys have already been without center Travis Frederick all season, left tackle Tyron Smith has been banged-up as well, and right guard Zack Martin has not practiced this week. What was once considered the league's best offensive line doesn't have its All-Pro trio at full strength. With a Colts defensive line that tends to feast on offensive lines that don't protect well, can the Colts' front win this matchup? Dallas ranks dead last in the league in sacks allowed (48), and the Colts average 3.1 sacks in 10 games against teams like Dallas who rank near the bottom in sacks.
  • Linebacker Battle — The Colts and Cowboys have similar fortune in the middle of their defense, as they both have a pair of young, stud linebackers — one outstanding rookie to go with a young, veteran standout. The Colts' Darius Leonard and Cowboys' Leighton Vander Esch are at the top of the 2018 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year discussion, while Indy's Anthony Walker and Dallas' Jaylon Smith continue to blossom the more they see the field. This should be an exciting display of defensive playmakers.

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

  • Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie — Although Byron Jones is Dallas' top corner, Hilton spends a bit more time on the right side when playing out wide, whereas Jones typically plays the offense's left side. Awuzie is a talented young corner, however, who will be tasked with containing one of the hottest receivers in the league in Hilton. This is all of course with Hilton's playing status in question.
  • Colts RT Braden Smith vs. Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence — Lawrence has been one of the league's dominant edge rushers since last season, and the rookie Smith will have the assignment of preventing "Tank" from wrecking the Colts' offensive gameplan. Smith has done a respectable job keeping some of the league's top pass rushers at bay this season.
  • Colts DE Jabaal Sheard vs. Cowboys RT La'El Collins — While he may not be racking up the sack numbers, Sheard has proven to be a crafty veteran off the edge for the Colts, both as a pass rusher and run-stopper. Collins, although a bright, young prospect, has lapses in which he struggles. Can Sheard continue to take advantage of right tackle this week against Collins?
  • Colts CB Kenny Moore II vs. Cowboys WR Amari Cooper/Cole Beasley — Moore II has a tough challenge ahead against a very hot outside receiver in Cooper as well as one of the league's most effective slots in Beasley. With the type of attention the Cowboys attract, this could be a game that shines a light on Moore's abilities if he excels.

REFEREE ASSIGNMENT

BETTING LINE

LEADERS

Colts:

  • Passing — QB Andrew Luck (3,759 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Marlon Mack (616 yards)
  • Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (986 yards)
  • Touchdowns — TE Eric Ebron (13)
  • Tackles — LB Darius Leonard (135)
  • Sacks — DL Denico Autry (8.0)
  • Interceptions — CB Kenny Moore II (2)

Cowboys:

  • Passing — QB Dak Prescott (3,131 yards))
  • Rushing — RB Ezekiel Elliott (1,262 yards)
  • Receiving — WR Amari Cooper (642 yards)
  • Touchdowns — RB Ezekiel Elliott (9)
  • Tackles — LB Leighton Vander Esch (108)
  • Sacks — DE DeMarcus Lawrence (8.5)
  • Interceptions — LB Leighton Vander Esch, S Xavier Woods (2)

COMPARING 2018 STATS

Colts:

  • Total offense — 8th (382.4 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 8th (26.8 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 6th (279.8 YPG)
  • Running offense — 24th (102.5 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 2nd (47%)
  • Red zone offense — 7th (68.0%)
  • Total defense — 11th (345.3 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 15th (23.1 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 15th (242.4 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied for 12th (35)
  • Running defense — 8th (102.9 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 27th (42%)
  • Red zone defense — 11th (54.1%)
  • Time of possession — 26th (29:18)
  • Turnover differential — 17th (+1)

Cowboys:

  • Total offense — 20th (350.6 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 23rd (21.2 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 25th (218.3 YPG)
  • Running offense — 6th (132.3 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 12th (40%)
  • Red zone offense — 30th (46.3%)
  • Total defense — 4th (313.4 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 2nd (18.9 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 9th (226.5 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied for 12th (35)
  • Running defense — 3rd (86.8 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 26th (41%)
  • Red zone defense — 4th (48.7%)
  • Time of possession — 1st (32:22)
  • Turnover differential — 18th (0)

NOTES AND QUOTES

  • This week, the Colts made the following moves: elevated LB Ahmad Thomas to the active roster from the practice squad, waived TE Erik Swoope, signed DT DeShawn Williams to the practice squad and released defensive end Anthony Winbush from the practice squad.
  • "My Cause, My Cleats," will be on full display for the Colts on Sunday, a program which gives players the opportunity to wear customized cleats to provide awareness and support for the charitable organization of their choice.
  • Sheard was voted as the team's Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee last week. Along with the other 31 nominees across the league, Sheard will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field.
  • Luck needs two touchdown passes to overtake Andy Dalton (167) for the sixth-most by a player in their first seven seasons in NFL history. Luck also needs one rushing touchdown to pass Bert Jones (14) for the second-most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in franchise history.
  • Hilton needs two receptions to pass Reggie Wayne (494) for the second-most receptions by a player in their first seven seasons in franchise history. With seven receptions, Hilton would reach 500 career receptions within his first seven seasons with the Colts, joining Marvin Harrison (665) as the only other player to do so. Hilton also needs one touchdown reception to pass Jim Mutscheller (40) for the seventh-most touchdown receptions in franchise history. One touchdown will also tie Hilton with Raymond Berry and Dallas Clark (41) for the third-most touchdown receptions by a player in their first seven seasons in franchise history.
  • Ebron needs one receiving touchdown to tie Tyler Eifert (2015), Billy Howton (1952), Vernon Davis (2009, 2013), Antonio Gates (2004) and Ken Kavanaugh (1947) for the ninth-most (13) by a tight end in a single season in NFL history. One touchdown reception by Ebron will also pass Marvin Harrison (1999, 2005, 2006) and Reggie Wayne (2004) for the fifth-most in a single single in franchise history. Ebron will also pass Vernon Davis (2009, 2013), Tyler Eifert (2015) and Antonio Gates (2004) for the third-most touchdowns from scrimmage (13) by a tight end in a single season with one touchdown from scrimmage.
  • Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri needs two made field goals from 40-49 yards to pass Gary Anderson (161) for the most from that distance in NFL history. With one made field goal from 50-plus yards, he will pass Phil Dawson and John Kasay (42) for the fourth-most from that distance in NFL history. Vinatieri needs one game played to pass Harrison (190) for the ninth-most games played in franchise history. With 11 points, Vinatieri would reach 100 on the season, extending his NFL-record 21 seasons with at least 100 points.
  • Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, who spent seven seasons with the Cowboys as linebackers coach, on if this week is any different for him: “No, it’s not any different. You go through your first and second down defenses, which we went through the last couple days. We will work on third down today (Tuesday) and tomorrow (Wednesday). Then two-minute and we will go on to red zone, goal line and short yardage on the next day (Thursday). You look at everybody’s got good backs and good receivers. Everybody creates their own defensive problems for you every single week. So, am I familiar with the team? Yes, I am familiar with the team. Am I familiar with the coaches? Yup, a lot of them are my good friends. I was with them seven years and a lot of them are great guys. I can’t say enough about Jason (Garrett), Rod (Marinelli), his staff and the Jones family for giving me that opportunity. So it’s a little bit different in that regard because I was with them so long, but in terms of preparation for the opponent, it’s really not that much different.”

PLAYOFF PICTURE

  1. *Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) (L [Thursday], Los Angeles Chargers [11-3])
  2. New England Patriots (9-4) (@ Pittsburgh Steelers [7-5-1])
  3. Houston Texans (9-4) (@ New York Jets [4-9])
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1) (New England Patriots [9-4])
  5. *Los Angeles Chargers (11-3) (W [Thursday], @ Kansas City Chiefs [11-3])
  6. Baltimore Ravens (7-6) (Tampa Bay Buccaneers [5-8])
  7. Indianapolis Colts (7-6) (Dallas Cowboys [8-5])
  8. Miami Dolphins (7-6) (@ Minnesota Vikings [6-6-1])
  9. Tennessee Titans (7-6) (@ New York Giants [5-8])
  10. Denver Broncos (6-7) (Cleveland Browns [5-7-1])

***Clinched playoff spot.

NEXT WEEK

Colts:

  • New York Giants (5-8) (home)

Cowboys:

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8) (home)

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