2019 Colts Season Preview: Colts/Panthers, Week 16

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts hunker down for their final regular season home game of the 2019 regular season in Week 16 as they play host to quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

This game also marks the Colts' final non-division game of the season as they look to take care of that portion of the schedule along with finishing their home slate on a high note. By this time, if the Colts are in the playoff race then this game will likely play a big role in seeding, perhaps deciding whether or not the Colts win the division or even if they could obtain a first-round bye or home field advantage.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Sunday, Dec. 22, at 1 p.m. ET
  • Indianapolis; Lucas Oil Stadium
  • TV: FOX

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • Panthers lead, 5-1, and have won the last two games dating back to 2011.
  • Last game — Week 8 of 2015. Panthers won, 29-26 (OT).

COACHING STAFF

Colts:

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

Panthers:

  • HC Ron Rivera
  • OC Norv Turner
  • DC Eric Washington
  • STC Chase Blackburn

KEY NEW FACES

Colts:

Panthers:

  • ED Brian Burns/Bruce Irvin/Christian Miller (LB)
  • WR Chris Hogan
  • RB Elijah Holyfield/Jordan Scarlett
  • OL Greg Little/Matt Paradis
  • DT Gerald McCoy

OTHER SIGNIFICANT CHANGES

Colts:

  • Overall, this was a pretty quiet offseason for the Colts for a change. It was about building onto and shaping the current roster rather than shaking things up or making sweeping changes. Former starting receivers Ryan Grant and Dontrelle Inman both departed in free agency, and veterans Mike Mitchell and Al Woods also were not re-signed by the team. Offensive lineman Matt Slauson retired following a 10-year career.

Panthers:

  • Carolina did a great job in adding speed and pass rush help on defense by acquiring Burns, Irvin, McCoy and Miller. The additions of center Matt Paradis to replace the retired Ryan Kalil and Greg Little to potentially come in at tackle should be a couple moves that pay dividends.
  • The Panthers also moved on from Ryan Kalil's brother, Matt Kalil, who played tackle for them in 2018. A few veteran faces in linebacker Thomas Davis, wide receiver Devin Funchess (signed with Colts) and future Hall-of-Fame defensive end Julius Peppers (retired) are also on the move.

EARLY STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH

  • Andrew Luckand Ryan Kelly* vs. Luke Kuechly —* Luck, Kelly and Panthers linebacker Kuechly are known as three of the most cerebral players at their positions in the NFL. Watching them counter each other and make pre-snap adjustments off each other will be a fun chess match.
  • Devin Funchess Faces His Former Team — Funchess played the first four seasons of his career in Carolina after they selected him in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He compiled 161 receptions for 2,233 yards (13.9 avg) and 21 touchdowns in his time with the Panthers. Funchess signed with the Colts as a free agent this offseason and will be making his first appearance against his former teammates.
  • Colts' Defensive Speed To Be Key Against Panthers' Diverse Offense — The Panthers have a unique blend of playmakers on offense when you consider Newton, running back Christian McCaffrey, receivers D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel as well as tight ends Greg Olsen and Ian Thomas. The Colts put a premium on speed when it comes to defense, and it shows on the field, so this is going to be a great matchup for fans of athleticism.
  • Closing Out The Home Schedule — Unless the Colts make the playoffs and host a game, this is scheduled to be their final home game of the season. The biggest favor a team can do for itself to make the playoffs is to have taken care of business in its own building. If the Colts have done that exceptionally then maybe this won't be the final game in Lucas Oil Stadium on the season.

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

  • Colts WR T.Y. Hiltonvs. Panthers CB Donte Jackson — This pits two nearly identical athletes to each other. Comparing Hilton and Jackson's pre-draft measurements and scores, they measured the same height, were only five pounds different, their hands are only a quarter-inch different, they only finished 0.02 seconds apart in the 40-yard dash, only five inches apart in the broad jump, and they did the same amount on the bench press.
  • Colts Interior Offensive Line vs. Panthers Defensive Tackles — The Panthers have one of the deepest groups of defensive tackles in the league, featuring Kawaan Short, Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe and Vernon Butler. If any team would be capable of handling what the Panthers can dish out, it's the Colts and their offensive line, as guards Quenton Nelson, Mark Glowinski and center Ryan Kelly make up one of the best offensive line trios in the league.
  • Colts LB Darius Leonard* s. Panthers QB Cam Newton/RB Christian McCaffrey —* Newton and McCaffrey make up one of the most dangerous backfields in the NFL as the two combined for 2,453 rushing/receiving yards in 2018. The amount of speed, agility and sheer athleticism shared by the two is arguably unmatched. The Colts' linebackers, led by reigning NFL tackle king Leonard, will have a busy day of making sure the Carolina duo doesn't do too much damage.
  • Colts CB Kenny Moore II* v. Panthers WR D.J. Moore —* Panthers' second-year receiver Moore had a solid rookie campaign in 2018 with 55 receptions for 788 yards and two touchdowns. He's expected to make a sophomore jump with another year under his belt gelling with Newton. Moore lines up on the boundary and in the slot, which likely makes Moore II his primary defender for the game.

BETTING LINE

RETURNING LEADERS

Colts:

  • Passing — QB Andrew Luck (4,593 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Marlon Mack (908 yards)
  • Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (1,270 yards)
  • Touchdowns — TE Eric Ebron (14)
  • Tackles — LB Darius Leonard (163)
  • Sacks — DL Denico Autry (9.0)
  • Interceptions — CB Kenny Moore II (3)

Panthers:

  • Passing — QB Cam Newton (3,395 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Christian McCaffrey (1,098 yards)
  • Receiving — RB Christian McCaffrey (867 yards)
  • Touchdowns — RB Christian McCaffrey (13)
  • Tackles — LB Luke Kuechly (130)
  • Sacks — ED Mario Addison (9.0)
  • Interceptions — CB Donte Jackson (4)

COMPARING 2018 STATS

Colts:

  • Total offense — 7th (386.2 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 5th (27.1 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 6th (278.8 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed — 1st (18)
  • Running offense — 20th (107.4 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 1st (48.6%)
  • Red zone offense — 5th (67.1%)
  • Total defense — 11th (339.4 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 10th (21.5 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 16th (237.8 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-19th (38)
  • Running defense — 8th (101.6 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 23rd (41%)
  • Red zone defense — 11th (55.1%)
  • Time of possession — 18th (30:05)
  • Turnover differential — Tied-13th (2)

Panthers:

  • Total offense — 10th (373.2 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 14th (23.5 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 16th (239.8 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed — Tied-6th (32)
  • Running offense — 4th (133.5 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 9th (42%)
  • Red zone offense — 13th (62.1%)
  • Total defense — 15th (353.2 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 19th (23.9 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 18th (240.4 YPG)
  • Sacks — 27th (35)
  • Running defense — 12th (112.8 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 19th (40%)
  • Red zone defense — 27th (70.2%)
  • Time of possession — 12th (30:44)
  • Turnover differential — 17th (+1)

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