NFL 2019 (Week 15): Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 15): Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

This Monday night rematch of Super Bowl XLIV finds the New Orleans Saints still very much in title contention and the Indianapolis Colts struggling to tread water. Both teams are coming off of high-scoring, close losses last week, with the Colts dropping a 38-35 disappointment in Tampa and the Saints being edged out at home by San Francisco in a 48-46 barn-burner. Indianapolis is actually mired in a three-game losing streak, and their surprising 5-2 start seems like ages ago. New Orleans, meanwhile, finds itself in the hunt for a first-round playoff bye and has already clinched the NFC South. The injury bug has bitten these teams harder than many others, and several key starters will miss this game for each side. Whichever team handles that adversity better will likely walk out of this one with a win.

Colts: You already know the story for this Indianapolis team: Franchise quarterback Andrew Luck abruptly retired two weeks before the season, and career backup Jacoby Brissett was thrust into a starting role. To his credit, the stage has rarely seemed too big for Brissett, although no one can argue that he is the next Luck. Brissett’s strengths--mobility in the pocket, protecting the ball, checking to the run--have caused a lack of explosion in the Colts’ offense. T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron’s injuries have clearly not helped that cause, either. Ebron has been placed on season-ending injured reserve, and Hilton will be a game time decision with a calf injury. The most talented remaining offensive players (tight end Jack Doyle, running back Marlon Mack, and guard Quenton Nelson) are best utilized in a methodical, grinding run-based offense. If New Orleans gets out to a big lead, that could spell doom for a team without game-breaking receivers. To keep the Saints from jumping to that big lead, second-year linebacker Darius Leonard will need to continue his recent tear. Leonard recorded two interceptions (one of which he returned 80 yards for a touchdown) against Tampa Bay and two sacks against Tennessee. He is beginning to show once again why he was a first team All-Pro as an unheralded rookie last year. Leonard and the defense simply must bring their “A” game to slow down Drew Brees and the Saints.

Saints: As long as Brees is in town, he will be the offensive ringleader. New Orleans’ biggest threat this season, however, has been receiver Michael Thomas. Thomas has 121 receptions through 13 games, which is only four shy of his career record (set last season) and 23 short of breaking Marvin Harrison’s single-season catch record of 143. At his current pace, Thomas will finish the season with 149. The major caveat there is if Sean Payton and the Saints front office sit Thomas and other stars to rest up for a playoff run. They are presently slotted third in the NFC playoff race, but they, Green Bay, and Seattle can all still unseat San Francisco and move into the top seed, so don’t expect much rest in the next three pivotal weeks. Thomas’ production has allowed the Saints to continue thriving even without spectacular contributions from Alvin Kamara. Kamara still leads the team in rushing and is third in receiving yards, but it seems much quieter based on Thomas’ outlandish stats.

Prediction: Thomas is too much for the depleted Colts’ secondary to handle, which allows New Orleans to close out an entertaining affair.

New Orleans Saints 31, Indianapolis Colts 26

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.

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