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Colts’ M*A*S*H Unit Gets Ready for Texans’ Rematch by Lloyd Vance

Former Colts’ reserve running back Mike Hart and the rest of the team’s backups will need to step-up as injuries are mounting in Indy

With an eye on getting “revenge” on the Houston Texans in a crucial Monday Night Football AFC South grudge match at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indianapolis Colts (4-2) are dealing with a slue of injuries.  Right now it is “Next Man Up” time in Indy and superstar quarterback Peyton Manning has to be looking around the team’s lockerroom and saying, “Who are these guys?”

There is no doubt that injuries are a huge part of life in the NFL.  Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles have suffered 6 concussions on their roster in 2010 and the Packers also have resembled a M*A*S*H unit at times – lost franchise RB Ryan Grant in Week 1 and it was downhill from there in terms of injuries.  But after seven weeks of play, the Colts should be crying more about the “injury bug” more than probably any other NFL team.

Here is a list of some of the injuries and to say the least many of the players listed were considered core team members when the season started.  TE Dallas Clark (Wrist – I/R), WR Austin Collie (right thumb injury  – 4 to 6 Weeks), RB Joseph Addai (Shoulder – Indefinite), Safety / Special teams co-captain Melvin Bullitt (knee – I/R), safety Bob Sanders (bicep – indefinite), OT Charles Johnson (foot – questionable), LB WR Anthony Gonzalez (ankle – should be back for WK8), RB Donald Brown (hamstring – should be back for WK8), rookie LB Kavell Conner (foot – I/R), and too many others for GM Bill Polian and Caldwell’s liking – had 18 players listed on their Week 5 Injury Report.

And to make matters worse for their in Week 8 game, punter/kickoff specialist Pat McAfee will be serving a team-mandated 1-game suspension resulting from his Oct. 20 arrest on a public intoxication incident. Free agent Jeremy Kapinos, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, will step in this week to do the punting duties and veteran Adam Vinateri will handle the kickoff duties.

Colts’ head coach Jim Caldwell said of the team’s many injuries, “I call it the ‘Gideon Principle’ in this league.” He added, “At some point in time, you get pared down to the absolute bare minimum. So you see who can stand tall and who can function in their present circumstances.”

So far this season, Manning (passing numbers 171-254, 1916 yards, 67.3%, 13 TDs, 2 INTs, and a rating of 103.4) has looked like he is in the running for an NFL-record 5th MVP award.  But now he will need non-household players like TE Jacob Tamme, TE Blair White and RB Mike Hart to help out in the starting line-up.  The Colts’ 2nd teams will also have to help out wherever the coaches need their services including special teams injured starters.  Even former Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea has been called upon to help out on special teams as the Colts need help from everyone.

The Colts will surely be looking to show not only the AFC South, but the entire league that after a bye week, they are ready to put up more of a fight against the surging Texans (4-2).  In Week 1, the Texans out-physicaled the Colts in a dominating home victory — improved to 2-15 all-time vs. Indianapolis.  The breakout star of the game was unheralded, at the time, running back Arian Foster who rushed the ball 33 times for 231 yards and three touchdowns.  Houston out-rushed Indy 257-44, setting a franchise record for most rushing yards in Texans’ franchise history and most rushing yards allowed in Colts’ franchise history.

Texans QB Matt Schaub only had to throw 17 times as Houston dominated up front.  The one bright spot for the Colts from their Week 1 loss was that they were able to move the ball against the Texans’ defense.  Despite poor O-line play at times, penalties, and dropped passes, Indianapolis put up 463 total yards and on their last three drives of the game showed that they were coming back after being down 20-10 after three quarters. Produced two touchdowns and another drive where WR Pierre Garcon fumbled inside the Texans’ 10.  We will see this time if Manning and his crew can overcome the Texans attacking defense – Houston will be without LB DeMeco Ryans (Achilles – I/R) – to get a playoff implication win. 

Caldwell said of the challenge of playing through so many injuries, “My job is to win, plain and simple… I have to deal with the here and now, what we have to play with. The guys we have, have plenty of talent. We have more than enough to get it done.”

The biggest keys for the Colts, in my opinion, will be their ability to run the ball with Hart and company – ranked 25th in the NFL in rushing at only 94.8 yards per game – and stopping the run on defense (ranked 26th as Indy has allowed an average of 137.3 yards per game).

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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NY Giants – Philadelphia Eagles Preview by Lloyd Vance

samuelAll eyes will be on Philadelphia, Pa for two NYC vs. Philly battles.  The Fightin’ Phillies take on the Yankees in Game 4 of the World Series and the Eagles will face the NY Giants in a key NFC East divisional battle

NY GIANTS (5-2) AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-2), 1PM EST on FOX

Broadcast Team: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa (Field reporter)

Though some national media outlets will tell you that Green Bay, Wisconsin will be the place to be on Sunday, November 1st  for Brett Favre’s return to Lambeau.  Most sports fans will agree with legendary actor W.C Fields who used to always say, “I’d rather be in Philadelphia”.  The reason for sports fans flocking to South Philadelphia will be for a sports extravaganza featuring the Philadelphia vs. New York City.  With pleasant expected conditions of only a 30% chance of precipitation and temperatures in the 60s, Philadelphia fans maybe looking at one of the best sports days in the city’s history.  The Philadelphia Eagles will take on the New York Giants in an NFC East grudge match at 1:00 PM EST at Lincoln Financial Field then sports fans can return to their tailgates to recharge for World Series Game 4 featuring the New York Yankees vs. the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park (NY leads 2-1 going into Sunday). 

Eagles-Giants games are almost always close physical games and I don’t expect Sunday to be any different.  This week’s meeting will be the first time these two teams have played each other since the Eagles surprised the home team Giants in the divisional round of the 2009 playoffs by a score of 23-11.  The game also will take on significance as the Eagles are only one-half a game behind the Giants in the current standings and a win will vault them back to the top of the NFC East.  In recent weeks both teams have had to fight through some hard times, but you know Sunday that they will be bringing their “A” effort.  The G-Men have lost two straight games (Saints and Cardinal) after fattening up on a string of early season cupcakes.  And the Eagles also are looking for consistency as they have looked like a potential playoff team in wins over the Panthers, Chiefs, and Buccaneers.  But in a win over the Washington Redskins last week and a horrific loss to the putrid Oakland Raiders in Week 6, the Birds’ lackluster play made everyone watch even more Phillies baseball. 

In breaking down the game, the Philadelphia Eagles offensively will follow the lead of their head coach Andy Reid (over 100 career regular season wins).  The Giants are known to play the run well (Top 5 in the NFL), so to the surprise of no one expect the Eagles’ pass-first offense (rank 7th in the NFL in throws per game) to continue.  The Birds probably will be without RB Brian Westbrook (concussion), so look for rookie RB LeSean McCoy to get several touches on screens and for them to go after a Giants defense that has struggled in pass coverage.  Especially safety C.C Brown, who has had difficulty in coverage since safety Kenny Phillips went on injured reserve (knee) and cornerback Aaron Ross has been missing with a lingering hamstring injury.  It will be very important that Eagles QB Donovan McNabb (63-110, 768 yards, 6 TDs, and 1 INT) starts faster than he did in recent erratic performances against the Raiders and Redskins. 

The Giants are susceptible to three and four-receiver formations as they are known to sit back in coverage, so expect to see a lot of receivers DeSean Jackson, rookie Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant.  Without Westbrook, the Eagles surely will look to get the ball in the hands of their main playmaker Jackson, who has 5 touchdowns this season (3 receiving, 1 punt return, and 1 rushing) all 50+ yards.  Plus tight end Brent Celek, who leads NFC TEs with 386 receiving yards.  Of course any big plays from McNabb, Celek, Jackson and the rest of the Birds’ offense will start with solid offensive line play.  I believe the O-line is one of the biggest keys of this game as the Giants defensive line is fast and relentless and loves getting after the passer.  With a rotation that features Pro Bowl players Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck (3.5 sacks in ’09) along with many other fresh players including DE Mathias Kiwanuka, the Giants thrive on pressuring the quarterback.  However even though new Giants defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan’s unit is ranked #1 in the NFL in terms of yardage (262.0), in recent weeks when his D-line has not gotten pressure, opposing quarterbacks had big games.  Saints QB Drew Brees threw for 369 yards and 4 TDs in a dominating 48-27 win and he was not sacked once in that game.

On defense, Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott will be concentrating on getting pressure on Giants quarterback Eli Manning (120-203, 1633 yards, 12 TDs, and 6 INTs), because as Eli goes so go the Giants.  The last time these two teams met in the divisional round of the 2009 playoffs, Manning was inconsistent, completing 15 of 29 passes — and only six to the outside receivers –- while the Giants had the ball five times inside the Eagles’ 20, and came away with just three field goals to show for it. Manning is getting a very good relationship with Plaxico Burress replacement receivers Steve Smith (NFC leading 45 receptions for 594 yards and 4 TDs), Mario Manningham (watch for drops), and rookie Hakeem Nicks (1st Giants receiver with a touchdown reception in four consecutive games since 1948).  Even though the Eagles’ top-ten pass defense rarely gives up big plays – 4th in the NFL in allowing gains of 20+ yards through the air -– it will be imperative that the Eagles pressure Manning. So the Eagles will look to DE Trent “The Hunter” Cole (6.5 sacks, 2nd in the NFC) and newcomer MLB Will Witherspoon (8 TKLs, 1 INT for a TD, 1 sack and 1 FF in win over Redskins) to supply most of the heat on Peyton’s little brother.  The Eagles are currently ranked first in the NFL in turnover ratio (+11) so any pressure usually leads to big defensive plays especially in the secondary led by Pro Bowl cover corner Asante Samuel (4 INTs, tied for 3rd in NFL).

To take that pressure off Eli, who surprisingly has had success against the Eagles in Philly (has won 4 starts in row), the Giants will look to re-establish a dominating run game that has recently taken a couple of weeks off.  The Giants have a new Thunder-n-Lighting combination their backfield with workhorse Brandon Jacobs (120 rushes for 464 yards, and 3.9-2 ypr plus has an average of 5.45 ypr since Week 5) and Ahmad Bradshaw.  It will be interesting to see if Bradshaw is even close to 100% after a cracked metatarsal in his foot was found this week.  Despite the injury, Bradshaw says he will play against the Birds so you know all eyes will be on him and the Giants veteran O-line.  Speaking of the Giants offensive line, against the Cardinals this group’s 38-game consecutive start streak was ended as OT Kareem McKenzie (groin) had to be replaced by rookie William Beatty who struggled at times blocking one-on-one and penalties. 

LV’s Pick: Though the Giants lead the all-time series against the Eagles by a count of 79-67-2 and the G-Men have won three of the four last regular season meetings, there is something special in the air around Philadelphia this week.  There is nothing better to a Philadelphia Sports fan than “sticking it” to an NYC team, whether it is the Mets, Knicks, or Rangers.  I expect the home crowd to be amp’d from pre-game introductions on and McNabb (won 9 of past 13 starts vs. NYG (incl. playoffs) is going to rise to the occasion of playing in the national spotlight for the second week in a row.  It will be a typically close NFC East slugfest, but the Birds win – Eagles 20, Giants 17

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award -winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)