The Indianapolis Colts did kind of a reversal regarding their quarterback situation. Initially it was the position of owner Jim Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard that Matt Ryan should be benched for the remainder of the season while they look at second-year man Sam Ehlinger and then decide what they should do for the draft.
But as BetOnline customers are aware, when Jeff Saturday was grabbed out of the booth and named the interim coach (following Frank Reich's dismissal), he indicated that if he was going to have the "best chance to win," it was going to be with the former MVP at QB.
So Ryan has started the three games Saturday has presided over.
Two of those games represented spirited efforts - a win over Las Vegas and a one-point loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. But then this team went flat in a 24-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett. Ryan had 199 yards passing in that game on 34 attempts, and Jonathan Taylor did what Jonathan Taylor has done for the most part this season, which is that he averaged 4.3 yards per carry.
The Colts may need a huge effort out of Taylor - one similar to what he showed last year in the process of leading the league in rushing - to give Indy a chance to win as they travel to AT&T Stadium in Arlington to face the Dallas Cowboys.
Saturday took a lot of criticism, through no fault of his own, when he accepted Irsay's invitation to become the team's coach. If there was a honeymoon, anywhere within the team's sphere, it's over now. But panic buttons are not being pushed; Ryan is sticking around and Ehlinger will continue to sit.
And the Cowboys are in a fight for a wildcard playoff spot. At 8-3, they are two games behind Philadelphia in the NFC East but are in very good shape to make it to the postseason.
In the Sunday Night Football betting odds posted on this game at BetOnline, the Cowboys are laying double digits:
Dallas Cowboys -10.5 (-108)
Indianapolis Colts +10.5 (-112)
Over 44.5 Points -112
Under 44.5 Points -108
Interestingly enough, the Colts have registered more explosive pass plays (20 yards or more) than the Cowboys this season (33-32). We don't know if that means anything within this context. What might be more telling is that they have only seven rushing plays of that length, and we know they were expecting much more from Taylor this season. But don't blame him completely. This offensive line hasn't been worth a damn. Ryan has been a sitting duck most of the time, going down 32 times.
Dallas has 45 sacks, and easily the best Adjusted Sack Rate in the NFL. That's bad news for the Colts. The Cowboys are also #1 in passing yards allowed. The best shot for the Colts is to take advantage of a Dallas front that has at times had difficulty against the run (4.7 ypc allowed) and maybe shorten the game.
It's hard for us to recommend the Colts here for a number of reasons. One reason is that we've seen them play, so we can see how clueless they can be on offense. Another involves the Cowboys and their ability to rush the passer. When you have a guy like Ryan, who doesn't have the kind of mobility a team is usually looking for, it has a tendency to turn pressures into sacks. And those become drive-killers.
And there is a disparity with regard to the preparation and/or rest time. The Cowboys played on Thanksgiving, which means that they have had ten days. Meanwhile, the Colts were in action on Monday night and now they have to travel.
We can envision the Colts having an awful lot of trouble moving the ball down the field. At the same time, they are fifth in the NFL in Total Defense. This is the kind of thing that points us rather strongly in the direction of an UNDER.
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