INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts (6-8) host their final home game of the 2019 season this Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium against the visiting Carolina Panthers (5-9).
After both teams lost in Week 15 — the Colts to the New Orleans Saints and the Panthers against the Seattle Seahawks — both teams are now out of playoff contention and now battle for pride in the regular season's final two games.
Carolina has made some big changes recently, parting ways with head coach Ron Rivera two weeks ago and now turning to rookie Will Grier at quarterback this week. Meanwhile, the Colts look to use these next two games to form some momentum heading into 2020, starting with this matchup.
Let's take a look at this week's opponent.
Seahawks' Passing Game
In last week's loss to the Seahawks, the Panthers became Seattle quarterback and NFL MVP candidate Russell Wilson's latest victim. He was 20-of-26 (76.9 percent) passing for 286 yards (11.0 YPA) and two touchdowns, with no interceptions, but he was sacked twice (Vernon Butler, Bruce Irvin) for a passer rating of 137.7. Wide receiver Josh Gordon also threw a pass, but it was intercepted by Panthers free safety Tre Boston.
Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett led both teams with 120 yards on eight receptions (15.0 avg.) as well as a touchdown. No other Seattle pass-catcher caught more than three passes.
Seahawks' Run Game
Running back Chris Carson led the Seahawks offense with 24 carries for 133 yards (5.5 avg.) and two touchdowns. As a team, Seattle ran the ball 34 times for 154 yards (4.5 avg.) and two scores.
Panthers' Passing Game
In a game that would lead to Grier getting the start this week, Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen struggled against the Seahawks' defense. He went 25-of-41 passing (60.9 percent) for 277 yards (6.8 YPA), with one touchdown, three interceptions, and he was sacked once for a final passer rating of 58.7. Running back Christian McCaffrey also threw a pass, but it fell incomplete.
Second-year wideout D.J. Moore led the Panthers with eight catches for 113 yards (14.1 avg.) while McCaffrey also had eight catches for 88 yards (11.0 avg.). The dynamic Curtis Samuel added five catches for 31 yards (6.2 avg.) and a touchdown to go along with his four carries for 23 yards (5.8 avg.).
Panthers' Run Game
McCaffrey, of course, led Carolina in rushing, carrying the ball 19 times for 87 yards (4.6 avg.) and two scores. The team totaled 145 yards on 29 carries (5.0 avg.) and two touchdowns.
Panthers' Passing Game
When focusing on this week's matchup, the thought initially goes to Carolina's quarterback position with Grier getting the nod. His only real body of NFL work came in the preseason when he went 34-of-61 passing (55.7 percent) for 385 yards (6.3 YPA), two touchdowns and three interceptions in four games. He was also sacked seven times for a passer rating of 65.3. This time around in the regular season, he'll have the aid of playing with McCaffrey, Moore and Samuel. The Panthers also just activated wide receiver free-agent acquisition Chris Hogan off of Injured Reserve this week after he'd been out since Week 4 with a knee injury.
Although the Colts' pass defense had been solid throughout the season, recent outings with star cornerback Kenny Moore II out with an ankle injury have been rough. The unit has given up an average of 387 passing yards and eight total passing touchdowns in the last two games with Moore II out. Prior to that, from Weeks 8-13, the Colts allowed just 203.7 net passing yards per game and were averaging 2.7 sacks. The Panthers have one of the weakest passing offenses and are near the bottom of the league in sacks allowed, however, so the Colts should be able to get some relief there after facing Jameis Winston and Drew Brees in consecutive weeks.
- QB Kyle Allen — 62.1 percent completions, 3,027 yards, 6.8 YPA, 17 TD, 15 INT, 45 sacks
- WR D.J. Moore — 86 catches (133 targets), 1,174 yards (13.7 avg.), 4 TD
- RB Christian McCaffrey — 94 catches (117 targets), 814 yards (8.7 avg.), 4 TD
- WR Curtis Samuel — 50 catches (97 targets), 597 yards (11.9 avg.), 6 TD
- TE Greg Olsen — 48 catches (71 targets), 552 yards (11.5 avg.), 2 TD
Panthers' Run Game
The most dangerous part of the entire Panthers' team is the threat that McCaffrey offers as both a runner and pass-catcher. He is currently third in the NFL in rushing, but he may also catch his 100th pass of the season against the Colts, as he is just six receptions away and averages nearly seven per game. With a rookie starting at quarterback, McCaffrey is likely to be featured heavily in this matchup.
The Colts have remained steady against the run this season, allowing 88.3 rushing yards per game since Week 5. McCaffrey is arguably their biggest test of the season, but Carolina's banged-up offensive line is a unit in which the Colts' front should be able to take advantage.
- RB Christian McCaffrey — 265 carries, 1,307 yards (4.9 avg.), 14 TD
- QB Kyle Allen — 30 carries, 101 yards (3.4 avg.), 2 TD
- WR Curtis Samuel — 17 carries, 126 yards (7.4 avg.), 1 TD
- RB Reggie Bonnafon — 12 carries, 101 yards (8.4 avg.), 1 TD
Colts' Passing Game
Behind quarterback Jacoby Brissett, this could be a game in which the Colts' passing game is more efficient than it is high-volume. The Panthers are very vulnerable against the run, and with that being the Colts' strength, it makes for a pretty reasonable assumption that it would be the Colts' plan of attack. If the Colts can be successful running the ball then it should open things up in the passing game off of play-action like we have seen in recent weeks.
The Panthers' pass defense is middle-of-the-road overall, but they are tied for the most sacks in the league. 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). They also have five players with at least two interceptions: Tre Boston (3), James Bradberry (3), Donte Jackson (3), Ross Cockrell (2), Luke Kuechly (2).
- QB Jacoby Brissett — 62.3 percent completions, 2,661 yards, 6.7 YPA, 18 TD, 6 INT, 21 sacks
- WR Zach Pascal — 39 catches (66 targets), 591 yards (15.2 avg.), 5 TD
- TE Jack Doyle — 40 catches (64 targets), 425 yards (10.6 avg.), 4 TD
- WR T.Y. Hilton — 39 catches (61 targets), 403 yards (10.3 avg.), 5 TD
- RB Nyheim Hines — 40 catches (52 targets), 296 yards (7.4 avg.)
Colts' Run Game
As mentioned, the run game is where the Colts could really thrive on Sunday in front of their home crowd. With Marlon Mack leading the charge, we could see him hit the 1,000-yard mark on the season, as he is just 81 yards away. The Colts have reached 150 rushing yards as a team five times this season, including four games over 175.
The Panthers have been leaky against the run, allowing 100 rushing yards to opponents in all but two games this season, including six games over 150 yards. They are among the bottom three teams in the NFL in run plays of both 20 and 40-plus yards allowed, opponent rushing yards per carry, and overall run defense. If the Colts really want to get the ground game going again, then this week presents an obvious opportunity.
- RB Marlon Mack — 216 carries, 919 yards (4.3 avg.), 5 TD
- RB Jonathan Williams — 49 carries, 235 yards (4.8 avg.), 1 TD
- QB Jacoby Brissett — 49 carries, 174 yards (3.6 avg.), 3 TD
- RB Nyheim Hines — 44 carries, 161 yards (3.7 avg.), 2 TD
- RB Jordan Wilkins — 42 carries, 223 yards (5.3 avg.), 1 TD
PANTHERS' 2019 KEY STATS
- 24th in time of possession (28:59)
- 28th in turnover differential (-8)
- Tied-1st in rushing touchdowns (19)
- Tied-3rd in rushing yards per attempt (4.9)
- 9th in red-zone scoring (63.6 percent)
- Tied-25th in interceptions thrown (16)
- 28th in passer rating (78.8)
- 29th in third-down conversions (32 percent)
- Tied-29th in pass plays of 20-plus yards (35)
- Tied-30th in sacks allowed (51)
- Tied-1st in sacks (49)
- Tied-6th in interceptions (14)
- Tied-7th in passing touchdowns allowed (18)
- 10th in opponent passer rating (87.1)
- 26th in overall defense (377.8 YPG)
- 28th in red-zone scoring (62.5 percent)
- 29th in scoring (27.9 PPG)
- 30th in run defense (140.2 YPG)
- 31st in run plays of 20-plus yards (20) and 40-plus yards allowed (5)
- 32nd in opponent rushing yards per attempt (5.2)
- 32nd in fourth-down conversions (71 percent)