The Dallas Cowboys begin their AFC South tour by kicking things off with the 4-7-1 Indianapolis Colts. Things have not gone according to plan for the Colts who, for the fifth-straight year, are trying to salvage whatever goodness they can get out of a veteran quarterback. Ever since the untimely retirement of Andrew Luck, the Colts have been playing musical veteran quarterbacks. First, they filled Luck’s vacated spot with Jacoby Brissett, then came Philip Rivers. The Carson Wentz experiment followed, only to call upon their most recent artifact, Matt Ryan.
The Colts are mathematically still alive, so who knows what we’ll see from them next, but here are five things to look for when they roll into AT&T Stadium on Sunday night.
1. A wild Saturday, but a lingering hangover
There was a time when former head coach Frank Reich was put on a pedestal. After offensive coordinating the Philadelphia Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl victory in 2017, Reich’s presence was immediately felt. The Colts went from 4-12 the year prior to Reich’s arrival to making the playoffs in two of his first three seasons. Unfortunately, things had since faded resulting in a midseason firing this year.
Enter Jeff Saturday. A controversial hire due to him having absolutely no prior coaching experience above the high school level, Saturday got off to a lucky start going into Vegas and beating the Raiders. But he’s since crapped out, first allowing the Eagles to steal one from them late at home, and then following up with a dismal performance against the Steelers last week. It’s hard to know what the mood is like in the Indy locker room, but with so much chaos going on, they could be riding on fumes.
2. Making a run for it
When we first saw this game on the calendar, many were likely wondering how the Cowboys defense was going to slow down the Colts' third-year star running back, Jonathan Taylor. After rushing for over 100 yards a game and finishing with 1,811 yards (and 18 TDs) last season, JT had brought sexy back to Indy’s rushing attack. But this season, the Colts' ground attack has gone bye, bye, bye as Taylor is averaging 20 yards less per game. Part of this is his efficiency (he’s averaging one yard less per carry this year), but much of it is the Colts’ poor offensive line and having to abandon the running game. After being in the top five in rushing attempts last year, they are 25th this year.
For the Colts to have a shot in this one, they must attack the one weakness on this Cowboys’ defense, the running game. If they aren’t able to have success on the ground, it’s going to put their quarterback Matt Ryan in a vulnerable position, which brings us to...
We discussed these things and more on the latest episode of Talkin’ The Star on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
3. Not so nice for Matty Ice
There was a time when Matt Ryan was leading Dan Quinn’s Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl, but both have moved on to new job opportunities. Quinn’s men lead the league in sacks as the Cowboys' pass rush has established itself as the most formidable unit in the NFL.
On the flip side, Ryan resides behind a banged-up Colts offensive line that has allowed the most sacks in the league. That does not make for an optimal work environment for the Colts' veteran quarterback. In the 10 games Ryan has played this year, he has been sacked at least three times in seven of them. This has all the makings for some crushed Matty ice.
4. The Colts can D up
While Indy’s offense is a hot mess, this group can play some defense. They are really good against the pass and do a nice job getting off the field on third down. Dak Prescott is in a bit of a groove right now, so it will be interesting to see if this Colts' defense can get him off-kilter. With their star defender DeForest Buckner coming at him from the middle and Yannick Ngakoue coming at him from the edge, the Colts could bring a little heat. And don’t sleep on nose tackle Grover Stewart who has been disruptive in the trenches.
5. A home team route?
The last time these teams met, the Cowboys went into Indianapolis and laid a goose egg on the scoreboard as the Colts routed them 23-0. It was the first time the Cowboys had been shut out since 2003 and it ended the team’s five-game winning streak.
Strangely, in the matchup before that, it was the Cowboys who were on the right end of a blowout. Dallas jumped out to a 42-0 lead at home in 2014 before the Colts finally scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter to avoid their own shutout. The win over the Colts was just one of four-straight December wins that season where the offense averaged over 40 points a game. Those were good times.
With these two teams taking turns blowing each other out in their own stadium, will the trend continue? This game has the makings for a huge Cowboys victory, so it’s not inconceivable.