INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts (6-8) close out their 2019 regular season home schedule on Sunday as they host the Carolina Panthers (5-9) at Lucas Oil Stadium on Fan Appreciation Day.
The Colts look to finish the season on a high note and build momentum heading into the offseason with a win on Sunday, the first of their final two contests. The Panthers are gearing up for 2020 as well after letting go of head coach Ron Rivera two weeks ago and turning to rookie quarterback Will Grier for the first time this week.
Both teams have a lot of pride to play for after their seasons didn't pan out how they anticipated. Here's everything you need to know heading into Sunday's showdown.
- Sunday, Dec. 22, at 1:00 p.m. ET
- Indianapolis; Lucas Oil Stadium
- TV: FOX — Dick Stockton (play-by-play), Mark Schlereth (color) and Jennifer Hale (sideline)
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- Radio: WFNI "1070 The Fan" and WLHK "HANK FM" — Matt Taylor (play-by-play), Jim Sorgi (color) and Larra Overton (sideline)
- 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).
- HC Frank Reich
- OC Nick Sirianni
- DC Matt Eberflus
- STC Bubba Ventrone
- HC Perry Fewell (interim)
- OC Scott Turner/Norv Turner
- DC Eric Washington
- STC Chase Blackburn
- Lost @ New Orleans Saints (11-3), 34-7
- Lost vs. Seattle Seahawks (11-3), 30-24
- OUT — DT Denico Autry (concussion), CB Kenny Moore II (ankle), CB Quincy Wilson (shoulder)
- DOUBTFUL — N/A
- QUESTIONABLE — S Malik Hooker (hand)
- OUT — ED Marquis Haynes (knee), OL Garrett McGhin (ankle), LB Shaq Thompson (ankle)
- DOUBTFUL — N/A
- QUESTIONABLE — DT Vernon Butler (illness), WR Curtis Samuel (knee)
STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH
- Pride On The Line — Although they have been eliminated from playoff contention, the Colts are playing for pride as well as the man beside them over these next two games. "I think we are all disappointed (with) where we are all but we all realize that we have a lot to play for and we are professional athletes," Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters this week. "Our fans deserve that, we deserve that with each other and really want to prove ourselves trustworthy to each other and to our fans in that every opportunity you get in this journey is really important. We talked about climbing the mountain. So the illustration was you can train for mountain climbing, but when you are on the mountain you get particularly good reps. Those are real live reps. We've got two more weeks of that. We've got to take advantage of that. We've got to get better from that. So I feel like our guys are going to respond to that and we will have a good week of preparation and have the right mindset."
- Welcome To The League, Rookie — The Colts' defense presents a difficult task for Grier to draw on his first career start, but that's his reality on Sunday. Carolina has allowed a sack in every game, and it has 11 games where it's allowed at least three sacks (that's all but three games). The Colts' defense has a good chance to keep pressure on Grier's back all day.
- Big Day Coming For Marlon Mack, Colts' Rushing Attack? — The Panthers' defense ranks near the bottom of the NFL in run defense (30th, 140.2 YPG), run plays of 20-plus (31st, 20) and 40-plus (31st, 5) yards allowed, and opponent rushing yards per carry (32nd, 5.2). With Colts running back Marlon Mack just 81 yards away from reaching 1,000 in a season for the first time, this could be a big day for the Colts on the ground.
- Colts' Offensive Tweaks — With two games left, the Colts will be tweaking some things on offense to see how they go under quarterback Jacoby Brissett. "I mean, I have one subtle thing in mind that I obviously don't want to share for game-planning reasons," Reich said. "It would be maybe something philosophically and it could be a couple subtleties of things off playbooks or maybe things that are in but we haven't emphasized that maybe we need to emphasize a little bit more and see how we respond as an offense. Like I said, we are really committed to winning these last two. We talked about that. We had a very spirited team-meeting this morning. We acknowledged that we had to reset our goals because our goal was to win our division, get in the playoffs and win a world championship. That is not happening this year so you have got to be a man and face that. So now what are our goals? So we reset those goals and talked about what we are going to try to do the next two weeks."
- Carolina's Fierce Pass Rush — One thing the Colts do really well in the passing game is protect the passer, as they're tied for allowing the eighth-fewest sacks in the NFL. However, Carolina is tied for the most sacks in the league with 49. They have five players who have at least five sacks: Mario Addison (9.5), Bruce Irvin (6.5), Vernon Butler (6.0), Brian Burns (5.5), Gerald McCoy (5.0). The Panthers also have five players with at least two interceptions: Tre Boston (3), James Bradberry (3), Donte Jackson (3), Ross Cockrell (2), Luke Kuechly (2).
- Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Panthers CB Donte Jackson — This pits two nearly identical athletes against 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. Jackson has developed into a nice asset for Carolina's secondary while Hilton is obviously the Colts' top receiver.
- Colts OT Anthony Castonzo vs. Panthers ED Mario Addison — Although he's not a household name, Addison is knocking on the door of double-digit sacks as he's just a half-sack away. Castonzo will be tasked with making sure that doesn't happen this week.
- Colts DE Justin Houston vs. Panthers OT Dennis Daley — The Panthers' offensive line is banged-up, and that pits the rookie Daley at left tackle for his eighth career start. Houston himself is also on the verge of a 10-sack season and stands a very good chance of getting it this week against the young blindside protector.
- Colts LB Darius Leonard vs. Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey — McCaffrey is one of the most dangerous multi-purpose offensive weapons in the NFL, as his blend of speed, agility and sheer athleticism is rarely matched. The Colts' linebackers, led by reigning NFL tackle king Leonard, will have a busy day of making sure McCaffrey doesn't do too much damage.
- (Retractable roof stadium) Mostly sunny, 10-percent chance of precipitation, temperature in the low-40s°F, wind from the W at 18 mph.
- Head referee: Walt Anderson (24 years). Click here to see all referee assignments for Week 16.
- Favorite: Colts (-6.5)
- Over/Under: 46.5
REGULAR SEASON LEADERS
- Passing — QB Jacoby Brissett (2,661 yards)
- Rushing — RB Marlon Mack (919 yards)
- Receiving — WR Zach Pascal (591 yards)
- Touchdowns — WR T.Y. Hilton, RB Marlon Mack, WR Zach Pascal (5)
- Tackles — LB Darius Leonard (104)
- Sacks — DE Justin Houston (9.0)
- Interceptions — LB Darius Leonard (4)
- Passing — QB Kyle Allen (3,027 yards)
- Rushing — RB Christian McCaffrey (1,307 yards)
- Receiving — WR D.J. Moore (1,174 yards)
- Touchdowns — RB Christian McCaffrey (18)
- Tackles — LB Luke Kuechly (131)
- Sacks — DE Mario Addison (9.5)
- Interceptions — S Tre Boston (3), CB James Bradberry, CB Donte Jackson (3)
COMPARING 2019 STATS
- Total offense — 24th (331.4 YPG)
- Scoring — 19th (21.6 PPG)
- Passing offense — 27th (204.2 YPG)
- Sacks allowed — Tied-8th (26)
- Running offense — 9th (127.1 YPG)
- Third down offense — 11th (42 percent)
- Red zone offense — 7th (64.6 percent)
- Total defense — 16th (350.7 YPG)
- Scoring defense — Tied-17th (23.5 PPG)
- Passing defense — 21st (249.8 YPG)
- Sacks — 21st (33)
- Running defense — 9th (100.9 YPG)
- Third down defense — 23rd (42 percent)
- Red zone defense — 12th (54.8 percent)
- Time of possession — 12th (30:40)
- Turnover differential — 15th (0)
- Total offense — 19th (346.7 YPG)
- Scoring — 16th (23.1 PPG)
- Passing offense — 18th (225.9 YPG)
- Sacks allowed — Tied-30th (51)
- Running offense — 13th (120.8 YPG)
- Third down offense — 29th (32 percent)
- Red zone offense — 9th (63.6 percent)
- Total defense — 26th (377.8 YPG)
- Scoring defense — 29th (27.9 PPG)
- Passing defense — 16th (237.6 YPG)
- Sacks — Tied-1st (49)
- Running defense — 30th (140.2 YPG)
- Third down defense — 20th (40 percent)
- Red zone defense — 28th (62.5 percent)
- Time of possession — 24th (28:59)
- Turnover differential — 28th (-8)
NOTES AND QUOTES
- Mack needs one 100-yard rushing performance to tie Joseph Addai (eight) for the fifth-most such games in Colts franchise history.
- Colts running back Nyheim Hines needs six receptions to pass Marshall Faulk (108) for the second-most receptions by a Colts running back in their first two seasons in the NFL.
- Hilton needs one touchdown to pass Dallas Clark (46) for the 11th-most total touchdowns in franchise history. Hilton also needs one receiving touchdown to tie Clark (46) for the sixth-most receiving touchdowns in franchise history. With one reception, Hilton will also pass Clark (70) for the eighth-longest streak of games with a reception in franchise history. With one game with 10-plus receptions, Hilton will pass Don McCauley, Lydell Mitchell, Joe Washington, Anthony Johnson and Clark, all with three, for the third-most such games in franchise history.
- Colts tight end Jack Doyle needs two receiving yards to pass Coby Fleener (2,154) for the fifth-most receiving yards by a tight end in franchise history. Doyle also needs one receiving touchdown to pass Ken Dilger (18) and tie Tom Mitchell (19) and Dwayne Allen (19) for the fourth-most receiving touchdowns by a tight end in franchise history.
- Reich on where the team stands after being eliminated from playoff contention: "Yeah, I think this team is – not at a good spot as far as nobody likes where we're at. I mean we're disgusted quite frankly. Every one of us is disgusted (about) where we're at but you have to have maturity. Life is not easy and we know we're professional athletes. We get paid a lot of money by Mr. Irsay to come out here and win games and win championships. That was our aim and that was our goal this year. We didn't reach that this year. But here is what we believe, we believe these next two weeks are critically important because even though the wins and losses don't carry over to the offseason or to next season, our process carries over and what we represent in the next two weeks. You better believe that carries over. We better believe that that carries over. So we need to go about our business, be professionals, play to win, get back to 8-8, do everything we can to get back to 8-8, have the right process to get there and end the season on as a positive note as we can."
- This week, the Colts made the following roster moves: Signed free agent cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun. Placed safety Rolan Milligan on the Injured Reserve list. Signed offensive tackle Travis Vornkahl and defensive tackle Roderick Young to the practice squad.
CATCH BEFORE THE GAME
- Jacksonville Jaguars (away)
- New Orleans Saints (home)