Colts vs Jets: What to Watch For
By Evan Reller
The Indianapolis Colts (0-1) are hoping to bounce back from a disappointing season opener with a win over the New York Jets (1-0) on Monday Night Football. The Colts are hoping to avoid their second 0-2 start while the Jets are trying to build on a win in a season of turmoil.
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While the Colts struggled last week against a very good Bills defense, the Jets cruised to victory over the Browns. In that game, the inept Cleveland offense turned the ball over four times (with a fifth coming during an interception return). Three of the Jets four touchdown drives were on fields of less than 30 yards. It would have been more surprising if they hadn’t scored in those situations.
While the Browns offense isn’t very good, the Jets still have a great defense, led by Darrelle Revis. The Colts offense will be tested again, but at least this time the conditions will be much more favorable.
Here’s what fans should be watching for:
- Rebound. Andrew Luck doesn’t generally string together bad games, and there is nothing from Week 1 that can’t be solved with a better game from Luck himself. Everything was going against the Colts in Week 1 (home opener, new coach, optimistic Buffalo crowd, and weather) but now they have all the advantages. Luck will have a better game at home and fans should watch for a better connection between him and his receivers.
- Some people in the media have pointed out just how poorly Luck played over the past two games (Week 1 of 2015 and the AFC Championship Game from January). For the life of me I cannot figure out why you would ever do this. The team is completely different as are the opponents. The only similarities between these two games was the rain and the fact that the receivers couldn’t get any separation.
- Fitz-magic. The Jets QB is Ryan Fitzpatrick. The same guy the Colts broke last season when he was with the Texans. He holds a 1-6 record against the Colts all-time and might be the definition of a journeyman player (if that player somehow managed 90 career starts). He completes just under 63 percent of his passes while throwing seven touchdowns and six interceptions in those seven games. Considering the QB and emphasis on the run, watch for the Colts to crowd the box and dare Fitzpatrick to beat the Colts with his arm.
- Mirror Image. The Jets are built much like the Bills: tough defense but offensive question marks (although the Bills might have answered those with Tyrod Taylor). I’d give the defensive edge to the Bills due to coaching and overall talent, however. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Colts struggle to move the ball at times, especially with T.Y. Hilton likely out. Watch for the Colts to shut down the Jets offense (Fitzpatrick is not mobile) and the offense to click in the second half.
- Balance. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is promising offensive balance, which means running the ball more. Expect that lack of balance came from Luck audibling out of run plays against an eight-man box, which is exactly what you are supposed to do. Throwing the ball is how you win in the NFL today. The Colts only need the run game to keep defenses honest and set up play action. A run game will make the Colts offense more dynamic all around, but doesn’t need to be a featured staple. That said, expect more of a commitment to the run from the Colts on Monday as they attempt to get Frank Gore rolling.
- Turnovers. Luck not being sharp last week led to two turnovers (although the last one was just as much on Andre Johnson). With a defense like the Jets, it is likely that the Colts will have one or two dumb turnovers Monday. While the four takeaways by the Jets defense really says more about the Browns, they still have an opportunistic unit that will make team’s pay for mistakes. Conversely, Fitzpatrick doesn’t turn the ball over frequently, but he also doesn’t throw a lot of touchdowns (nearly a 1:1 ratio). Taking care of the ball is the next step in Luck’s development and I expect him to be more cautious this week.
- The Return (I mean it this time, maybe). Robert Mathis was a last minute scratch last weekend. Everything indicates he’ll be back on the field very soon though and the home opener seems like the kind of game he’d make his comeback in. While I firmly believe that it will take Mathis some time to get back into the swing of things, it also wouldn’t be surprising to see him have at least one big play.
- The Center. Jeff Saturday is going to be inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor during halftime of Monday night’s game and a number of former Colts are reported to be coming to town. The importance of Saturday to the Colts success in the 2000s cannot be understated (just look at the rotating carousel at center in the Luck-era). He was also instrumental in helping to end the lockout in 2011. Saturday was a six-time Pro Bowler and First Team All-Pro twice. His best play was a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots in 2006. There are so many more great things to say about Saturday and he will receive the loudest of ovations as he takes the field.
Luck bounces back after last week and the offense is more efficient. The Jets struggle to move the ball but will find some success running the ball. The Colts win, but the final score is closer than most fans hope for.