Free NFL Pick: Dallas at Indianapolis 12-05-2010

December 5, 2010


Dallas Cowboys at Indianapolis Colts

Sunday December 5th, 2010 4:15 PM EST

Line: Indianapolis -6


Peyton Manning and the 6-5 Colts have lost three of their last four games. With targets dropping like flies, even one of the most prolific passers in NFL history is bound to struggle. If the season ended today, the Colts would fail to make the playoffs. They will look to make a play for the AFC South title, but with losses piling up, Colts fans can’t help but wonder if their team will be a spectator come playoff time.

The Dallas Cowboys have been one of the biggest disappointments of this season. Many people had them pegged as the odds on favorite to take the NFC and be the first team with home field advantage in the Super Bowl. After plummeting to a dismal 1-7 record, the Cowboys have moved to 2-1 in their last three games under new head coach Jason Garrett.

Keys to the Game:

  • Peyton Manning is the best player in the NFL, but football happens to be a team sport. It’s easy to get caught up in the Manning hype. He is one of the best players in history and it seems like no matter who lines up, he will be able to produce. Now with most of his receivers either sidelined or battling an injury of some sort, the Colts are testing that hypothesis. Manning means everything to the Colts, but his four interception day last week speaks to just how much the changes in the offense are affecting him.
  • No Marion Barber means we are likely to see a heavy dose of Felix Jones. Jones is a Jamaal Charles type running back. He has the speed to flat out outrun the entire defense. Jones is a guy who fell off along with his franchise this season. It will be interesting to see if he can once again instill the fear he once put in defenses. Tashard Choice will share carries with Jones, but Jones is clearly the best option coming out of the back field.
  • Who is going to step up on the Colts offense. The defense has its holes and the Colts will need to outscore the Cowboys in a shoot out to come away with a victory. In order to achieve victory, they will need a guy who was likely pulled off the practice squad to step up. Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon are not at full strength. With no Austin Collie and no Dallas Clark, it is up to the check down players to become the difference makers. Dropped passes are inevitable, as they have probably around two percent of the snaps with Manning as the players they are replacing. Excuses need to be kicked to the wayside, as the Colts are in must win mode.
  • Jon Kitna has played well under the new coaching regime, but with the absence of Mario Barber, it is hard to foresee him succeeding. With Roy Williams, Dez Bryant, and Miles Austin at his disposal, it is easy to see why Kitna would succeed. That being said, Kitna has the potential to struggle, as he did against Jacksonville when he threw four picks. Kitna will play a larger role in this game than he has in his previous starts, especially if Felix Jones fails to produce. Whether he will have a positive or negative impact is yet to be seen.

Key Matchup:

Demarcus Ware Vs. Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney

  • Quarterback pressure is going to be key in this game. Whoever says Peyton Manning invites pressure needs to pop in a tape of the Charger game last week. Unfortunately for Demarcus ware, he has to apply pressure virtually on his own. With 9.5 sacks, Ware will look to come off the edge and disrupt the Colts passing game.
  • On the other side, Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney have the luxury of posing a dual threat for opposing quarterbacks. The two have combined for 14.5 sacks and will play a crucial part in the way the Cowboys operate. The Colts don’t have a stellar defense, so getting pressure on the quarterback will dictate the success Kitna has on offense.

Wrap Up:

While the Colts are struggling, it is unlikely Manning will continue to struggle while his team so desperately needs a victory. He tossed four interceptions, but he should be able to take advantage of a Cowboys team that is prone to miscues. The Cowboys have struggled all season long, but I just can’t help picking them to cover. They may lose, but six points is too many, despite the fact that the Cowboys are grossly underachieving. Marion Barber is out, but the Cowboys will still put up points and compete with the Colts.

Free NFL Pick: Dallas +6

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