Week 2 sees the Colts getting their first primetime game, Monday night in Indianapolis against the New York Jets, the second consecutive year their home opener will be under the lights. Also like last year, the Colts come into the game 0-1 and playing a team outfit in green. Let's hope the other thing that happened last year, a Colts loss, doesn't repeat itself as well.
The Jets made quite a few headlines during the preseason, and of course it had nothing to do with their play on the field. QB Geno Smith had his jaw broken when it got in the way of a I.K. Enemkpali punch, landing him on the shelf for the first month and a half to two months of the season. In his place becomes one of the best journeymen QBs the NFL has ever known, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and he's pulling off something pretty unique. For the fourth straight year, and fourth different team (BUF, TEN, HOU), he'll be facing the Colts. He also started against the Colts back in 2008 when he was with the Bengals, and has a career 0-6 record in those six games. Not pretty. The Jets are coming off a thumping of the Browns, 31-10 at home in Week 1, where the defense shined and the Offense took advantage of some excellent field position (more on that in a bit).
The other big change for the Jets this offseason was the firing of Rex Ryan and the hiring of Todd Bowles, former Defensive Coordinator in Arizona under Bruce Arians. I know some of you paid a little more attention than normal to the Cardinals because of Arians, and you saw a ball-hawking, flying Defense that was incredibly good with a lead. They put a hurting on the Colts a couple years ago, and the Jets are still extremely talented on that side of the ball (including the addition of Darrelle Revis). There are no breaks early on for the Colts Offense.
The Colts will be looking to avoid their second consecutive 0-2 start, something you'll hear as doom-and-gloom from the national media, but as long as the Colts play in the weak AFC South, it's easily able to overcome. Most of the problems the Colts had on Sunday afternoon in Buffalo are "correctable errors" according to the Colts coaching staff and players, so I'll take them at their word, for now, that those things can get cleaned up and we'll see a much better brand of football Monday night.
Hosting a Monday night game has been pretty rare for the Colts, even with the game last year, as this will be just the 3rd time since the 2006 season. The Colts had won seven straight home MNF games before last year against the Eagles, so it's time to get that back on track. Overall they have lost 3 of their last four games on Monday night, slaughtering the Giants a year ago in New York 40-24. The Colts and Jets have never played each other in a Monday night game before.
The Jets have been an interesting foil to the Manning/Luck Colts, as they have a better record then you'd expect since 1998, with the Colts going just 8-7 against their former AFC East foe. This includes losses in three of their last four games, one of which being the infamous Week 16 game in 2009, and another being the 17-16 Playoff loss, and Peyton Manning's last game as a Colt, thanks to an ill-advised timeout by Jim Caldwell. The last time these two teams met the Colts Offense had no "luck" whatsoever, getting pounded 35-9 in a game I don't think was even that close. Overall record against the Jets is 26-18 since moving to Indianapolis.
How do these two teams stack up against each other? Let's dive in and find out.
Statistical Comparison between the Colts and Jets (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||59.8%||5||52.4%||12||53.8%||22||48.3%||8|
|Avg Start Pos||28.2||31||30.4||29||31.4||1||29.2||8|
|3 and Outs||3.52||10||3.37||31||3.55||11||3.63||16|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.879||27||0.910||4||0.682||1||0.927||3|
Keys to the Game:
- I mentioned Field Position earlier, and I think that'll be a big factor Monday Night. The Colts spent the entire game against the Bills buried in their own end, starting drives on average inside the 20 yard line. The Jets, on the other hand, started on average at their own 40. An average drive (~30 yards) is easily field goal range for one, but punting for the other. If the Colts can force the Jets to drive the length of the field to score, it'll be a good night.
- The other benefit to forcing long drives? More chances to make a mistake, which we've seen Fitzpatrick give the Colts time and again. On the flip side, once again the Colts had turnover issues in Week 1, and the Jets forced five of them against the Browns. PLEASE PROTECT THE FOOTBALL. How much longer will they let this go on?
- One area the Jets Defense struggled last week? 3rd and 4th downs, giving up 50% to the Browns, while the Colts were over 50% against the Bills. The key to sustaining long drives is to convert on 3rd down, and the Colts have a really nice match-up this week for that.
- Another "strength vs. strength" match-up will be when the Colts are in the Red Zone, where each side is ranked 3rd in the NFL. The Colts were 2-for-2 last week, while the Jets gave up a single field goal in two trips. Touchdowns win games, field goals let opponents hang around. They signed Andre Johnson for a reason: go make it happen.
- I'm guessing the Jets are going to give the Colts a heavy dose of Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, then taking a shot down the field to either Brandon Marshall or Eric Decker. The Colts Inside Linebackers need to do a much better job tackling than they did last week, or else we're going to see some 6 or 7 minute, paper cut inducing drives. The Jets rushing numbers are pretty average to below average, so in theory the Colts should be able to slow them down. We've seen that song-and-dance before, however.
In hearing some of the Colts players in interviews this week, I think they were a little embarrassed by their play in Buffalo, and I think we'll see them come out of the gate strong Monday. However, I just can't see them running away from this team, mostly because they'll commit a dumb turnover that gifts the Jets 7 points, and they'll be there at the end of the game. Thankfully for the Colts, we've seen Ryan Fitzpatrick try to win games against the Colts several times in the past, and we're still waiting for the first successful one.
Colts 23, Jets 21