For the second straight season, the Colts will return home after a week one loss on the road in which they fell behind 24-0 and then had a comeback attempt fall short to host Monday Night Football for their home opener. Last year, the Colts blew a lead over the Eagles to lose on a game-winning field goal. This year, they're hoping for a different result as they host the Jets in their home opener. Here's a preview to get you ready for Monday night's contest.
Matchup to Watch: Colts Offense vs. Jets Defense
This one is really simple: how do the Colts respond to pressure up front? Last week, we saw the Bills' blitz schemes really throw off the entire rhythm of the Colts' offense, and while the tackles did well, the interior of the offensive line still raises question marks. The Jets may not have quite as good of a defense as the Bills, but they're still pretty dang good and can give offenses trouble. Last week (though, granted, against the Browns), the Jets got pressure on 20 of 42 dropbacks and recorded three sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. The Jets can absolutely get pressure on the quarterback, and the Colts' offensive line still has some question marks. Furthermore, because of Andrew Luck not having much time to throw last week the offense was forced into quick three-step dropbacks and that prevented the wide receivers from getting open as much as they might otherwise have. And because of all of that as well, the Colts were unable to really open up their downfield attack, which is a big staple of what they do. So, in other words, in order for this offense to function at their best, they need to give Andrew Luck time to throw. Against a Jets defense that can get pressure, that will be a key matchup to watch on Monday.
Matchup to Watch: Colts Defense vs. Jets Offense
Considering the injuries the Colts have on defense, there's really only one thing that I could highlight here as the key matchup: the Colts cornerbacks against the Jets receivers. The Jets don't exactly have the most intimidating receiving corps, but then again the Colts aren't trotting out the "Legion of Boom" either. In fact, the Colts will be missing a couple of key players at the cornerback position. Number two corner Greg Toler is out with a neck injury, number three corner Darius Butler is out with a hip injury, and number four corner is out for half of the season with a knee injury. That's not good news for Indianapolis. Thankfully, they have an elite number one in Vontae Davis, and I'd expect him to shadow Brandon Marshall. But after that? Jalil Brown, Sheldon Price, and Eric Patterson. If you're asking "who?" that's exactly my point. A couple of training camp standouts and a guy called up from the practice squad on Friday. If I'm the Jets, I'm looking at guys like Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley a lot on Monday night. Just go away from Davis and you'll be facing a guy who entered the regular season as, at best, the fifth cornerback. That's a concern for the Colts and should be something the Jets look to exploit.
Why the Colts Will Win
Firstly, Andrew Luck gives the Colts the advantage at the most important position over Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Luck won't struggle every week like he did in the season opener against the Bills. The Colts rebound very well under head coach Chuck Pagano after a loss. In fact, they are 14-1 since Pagano took over in 2012 the week after a loss, with their lone back-to-back losses coming in the opening two weeks of last season. In those 15 games following a loss, the team has outscored opponents 414-254. None of that guarantees that the Colts will win this week, but they've been as good as any team in the league at recovering well from a loss and winning the next week. And with week one serving as a wake-up call of sorts for the team, there's reason to think that they will be ready for this week's game.
Why the Colts Won't Win
The concerns at cornerback are legitimate for the Colts, and if Ryan Fitzpatrick can exploit those matchups then the Jets offense could be in for a good day. Chris Ivory can do some things in the running game as well, and while the Colts run defense played relatively well last week, there is still some uncertainty there. And then if the Colts' offense continues to struggle, they won't be able to bail their defense out and it will make the margin for error even thinner for this team. The reality is that we've had just one week to see this team in action, so when we say that we expect the Colts' offense to be fine this week, it's all about projection. But if what we see on the field doesn't match that and the offensive rhythm is still off, it could be a long night for Indianapolis.
I'm not sure this game will be as easy for the Colts as some seem to think, and I think it will come down to the fourth quarter, but I do expect the Colts to pull it out. They should be refocused and ready to get back on the right track, and Andrew Luck will likely improve from where we saw him a week ago.