Intro: A pair of road games await the Colts (10-4) before complete focus shifts to the playoffs. Here’s a look at seven things to watch for in the Cowboys (10-4) meeting the Colts in Week 16.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts will now take their act on the road to close out the 2014 regular season.
What should fans be looking for when the Colts head to Jerry’s World on Sunday afternoon?
1. Murray’s Status
-Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is listed as questionable on Sunday, but the feeling is that he will give it a go. For Dallas, this game is about as close as it gets to a “must win” for Week 16. That means the Cowboys needs the game’s top running back, who has gained more than 400 yards than any other player in the league this season.
2. Fast Starts
-The lack of fast starts from an offensive standpoint has been talked about a ton over the past few weeks. A first down on the opening series come Sunday would be the just the second such gain since Week 10. While the offense looks for some consistency early in games, the defense has been stout in allowing just two first quarter touchdowns all season long.
3. Defensive Momentum
-Since the return of Arthur Jones, the Colts defense is beginning to look like the unit envisioned at the start of the year. However, this Cowboys offense provides a challenge the Colts haven’t seen in 2014. Whether it’s through the pass, run or from a trench-standpoint, the Colts will see an elite offense this weekend.
4. Dez Bryant’s Playmaking
-When teams load the box to slow down Murray, that’s when Bryant takes full advantage of favorable matchups. For the Colts, that probably means some one-on-one looks for Vontae Davis and Greg Toler against the NFL’s leader in receiving touchdowns. When healthy, the Colts secondary has limited the big plays for a large part of 2014, but Bryant will test that this weekend.
5. T.Y. Hilton’s Health
-Hilton is listed as questionable for Sunday after not practicing all week long. If Hilton can’t go on Sunday that would mean more expanded roles for guys like Donte Moncrief and Hakeem Nicks. Can Nicks build off last weekend’s game against the Texans, where he recorded his first touchdown since the New England game?
6. Playoff Barometer
-With each week that goes by, it’s looking more and more like the Colts will have to make trips to Denver and/or New England in order to reach the game’s grandest stage. In that path stands two impressive offenses, just like the opponent this weekend. Dallas is certainly a desperate team searching for a playoff bid, so Sunday will be a nice warmup for the month of January.
7. Resting vs. Health
-Chuck Pagano has made it clear the Colts won’t rest guys just strictly to hold guys out. Nagging injuries will be taken into consideration though and that’s something to watch when inactives come out just before 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. The Colts will pretty much lock up the No. 3 seed with one more victory and still have a very slim chance at earning a bye.