2018 Colts Season Preview: Colts/Cowboys, Week 15

An early look at the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys Week 15 regular season matchup.

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INDIANAPOLIS — In Week 15, the Dallas Cowboys come to Lucas Oil Stadium, potentially with a playoff spot in their blinders.

Even though the Cowboys have been tough for the Indianapolis Colts to deal with in recent years, the Colts may be fighting for their own playoff lives with the Cowboys in their way.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Sunday, Dec. 16, at 1 p.m. ET
  • Indianapolis (Lucas Oil Stadium)
  • TV — FOX

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • Cowboys lead, 10-5 (Colts are 1-0 in the playoffs). Cowboys have won the last three going back to 2006.
  • Last game — Week 16 of 2014. 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

KEY NEW FACES

Colts:

  • OG Quenton Nelson
  • TE Eric Ebron
  • WR Ryan Grant
  • RB Nyheim Hines
  • DT/DE Denico Autry

Cowboys:

  • WR Allen Hurns/Tavon Austin/Deonte Thompson
  • WR Michael Gallup/Cedrick Wilson
  • OL Connor Williams/Cameron Fleming
  • DE Kony Ealy/Dorance Armstrong
  • LB Leighton Vander Esch

OTHER SIGNIFICANT CHANGES

Colts:

  • The Colts got an almost entirely new coaching staff this offseason, and general manager Chris Ballard went into his second offseason of flipping the roster.
  • With the coaching change came a switch to a 4-3, Tampa-2 style defense from the hybrid 3-4 defense.
  • From 2017 to 2018, there could be as many as a dozen or more new starters.
  • One of those new starters will be at running back. Frank Gore is now on the Miami Dolphins, so a new face will be stepping into the starting tailback spot.

Cowboys:

  • Two of the Cowboys' more recent legends — wide receiver Dez Bryant (released) and tight end Jason Witten (retired) — are no longer with the team. Former starting linebacker Anthony Hitchens (Kansas City Chiefs) and wide receiver Brice Butler (Arizona Cardinals) have also moved on through free agency.
  • With Dallas' top two options in the passing game gone, they'll have to re-work the pecking order through the air. The Cowboys have five new wide receivers and drafted a new tight end.
  • Previously suspended defensive end Randy Gregory has been reinstated on a conditional basis after missing 30 of the Cowboys' last 32 games for multiple suspensions. According to ESPN's Todd Archer, "He (Gregory) will be fully cleared to return after arrangements regarding his clinical resources in Dallas are confirmed and if he continues to abide by the league's substance abuse policy."
  • After making a couple of moves to the defensive line this offseason, by this point of the season the unit should be incredibly deep. At defensive end are DeMarcus Lawrence, Gregory, Tyrone Crawford, Taco Charlton, Kony Ealy and Dorance Armstrong, and at tackle are David Irving, Maliek Collins, Brian Price, Jihad Ward and Datone Jones.

EARLY STORYLINES

  • Playoff Races — This is one of the last three games of the season for both teams. How close are their respective divisional and wild card races, and are they in the hunt?
  • MVP? — The 2018 NFL MVP race should be pretty well defined by this point. This game could feature three players in the thick of it — Andrew Luck, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.
  • Will The Colts Get The Monkey Off Their Back? — It won't be talked about much because they are from different conferences, but the Colts have historically struggled against the Cowboys. Dallas has won nine of the last 12 matchups dating all the way back to 1972. Peyton Manning was 2-2 against the Cowboys while with the Colts, and Luck is 0-1.

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

  • Colts TE Eric Ebron/RB Nyheim Hines vs. Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith — If the Colts are moving Ebron and Hines around the formations, Smith could be a good candidate to follow them. The Fort Wayne, Ind., native is an incredibly athletic linebacker and can cover multiple positions.
  • Colts Offensive Line vs. Cowboys Defensive Line — We've already mentioned how deep the Cowboys' defensive line should be, but the Colts have been building some depth of their own on the offensive line. On paper, this should be the best offensive line we've seen of the Colts' in the last several years.
  • Colts Front Seven vs. Cowboys Front and Run Game — The Cowboys have been known for having one of the top offensive lines in the league for the last few years. Because of that, it helps their All-Pro running back Elliott immensely. The Cowboys also drafted another running back who has quite a bit of upside to pair with Elliott in Bo Scarbrough. The Colts' defense is mostly focused on disrupting the passing game, but could their new focus on faster, more athletic defenders come into play against the Cowboys' run game?

RETURNING LEADERS

Colts:

  • Passing — QB Jacoby Brissett (3,098 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Marlon Mack (358 yards)
  • Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (966 yards)
  • Touchdowns — QB Jacoby Brissett, WR T.Y. Hilton, TE Jack Doyle (4)
  • Tackles — LB Antonio Morrison (108 total)
  • Sacks — DE Jabaal Sheard (5.5)
  • Interceptions — S Malik Hooker (3)

Cowboys:

  • Passing — QB Dak Prescott (3,324 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Ezekiel Elliott (983 yards)
  • Receiving — WR Terrance Williams (568 yards)
  • Touchdowns — RB Ezekiel Elliott (9)
  • Tackles — LB Sean Lee (101)
  • Sacks — DE DeMarcus Lawrence (14.5)
  • Interceptions — S Jeff Heath (3)

COMPARING 2017 STATS

Colts:

  • Total offense — 31st (284.8 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 30th (16.4 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 30th (180.8 YPG)
  • Running offense — 22nd (103.8 YPG)
  • Total defense — 30th (367.1 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 30th (25.2 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 28th (246.6 YPG)
  • Sacks — 31st (25)
  • Running defense — 26th (120.4 YPG)
  • Time of possession — 22nd (29:41)
  • Turnover margin — 13th (+5)

Cowboys:

  • Total offense — 14th (331.9 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 14th (22.1PPG)
  • Passing offense — 26th (196.3 YPG)
  • Running offense — 2nd (135.6 YPG)
  • Total defense — 8th (318.1 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 13th (20.8 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 11th (214.1 YPG)
  • Sacks — 15th (38)
  • Running defense — 8th (104.0 YPG)
  • Time of possession — 14th (30:12)
  • Turnover margin — 17th (-1)

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Other 2018 Colts Season Previews:

Photos from the preseason contest between the Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts.

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