The Indianapolis Colts try to maintain the momentum gained after last week’s stunning upset over the Green Bay Packers as they meet the New York Jets Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
It was as emotional a win as any you could imagine for the Colts, whose head coach Chuck Pagano is battling recently diagnosed leukemia. It is up to interim head coach and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to keep the monster under construction and on schedule in Pagano’s absence.
It helps when your rookie quarterback is playing as well as Andrew Luck has been the last three games. In my Luck vs. Manning comparison post a few days ago (see here: http://wp.me/prUUN-MRF), I highlighted that, after the Bears game, Luck is completing 55% of his passes for 899 yards, with 6 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. Granted, the best pass defense they’ve played this year is only ranked 14th (Chicago), but the worst they’ve played is currently ranked 21st (Jacksonville). So Luck is putting up good numbers against teams he probably should be putting good numbers up against. That may not seem like a big deal, but for a quarterback in his first year in the National Football League playing with the supporting cast he has right now (Reggie Wayne not included), it is downright impressive.
But the biggest issues facing the Colts this year hasn’t been the team on the other side of the line of scrimmage. It’s been the injury bug. It’s bitten hard before in the past, and it has done so again this week. One week after getting outside linebacker Dwight Freeney back, the Colts now lose Robert Mathis for 2-3 weeks with a knee injury. That’s a huge blow to a defense that is still without inside linebacker Pat Angerer, and has cornerback Vontae Davis listed a “doubtful” for the Jets game (>25% chance of playing). Also on the injury report for the defense is end Fili Moala, out for this game as well. On offense the injury report lists running back Donald Brown (out for 2-3 weeks as well), center Samson Satele and running back Mewelde Moore (both are listed as probable).
3 Things to Watch
Colts Offense w/o Donald Brown – I won’t sit here and tell you that Donald Brown’s injury is that devastating of a loss. Brown has shown in his career he is a serviceable running back at best. He’s capable of averaging 4 yards per carry, and has great speed when he can break loose. But breaking loose has been something he can’t do consistently. Against a Jets team that is the second worst run defense in the league – allowing 172.4 yards per game – he could have potentially done some damage. It’s going to be on rookie 5th round pick Vick Ballard to carry the load and keep the Jets 5th ranked pass defense from controlling Andrew Luck and the pass game. What helps Luck is he won’t have to worry about a trip to Revis Island, as the Island was closed for the season (read: put on IR) yesterday. That might allow another big day for the Luck to Wayne connection, but the key for the Colts offense will be Ballard.
Tebow vs. the Colts D – With Robert Mathis, Pat Angerer, and Fili Moala out for this game, now would be a great opportunity for the Jets to unwrap Tim Tebow. Tebow’s numbers so far this season: 1-2 for 2 yards passing, and 14 runs for 57 yards. That’s it. I know the Colts still have Dwight Freeney, and if anyone on the Colts can catch Tebow, it’s Freeney. But Mark Sanchez isn’t getting it done. The Jets have lost WR Santonio Holmes for the season, and the run game has been non-existent. You are going to have to shake things up, and Tebow can do that against a Colts defense reeling from injuries.
Colts Pass O vs. Jets Pass D -You know Rex Ryan has watched the game tape from last Sunday’s win versus the Packers. You know he circled one guy’s name on his notes in regards to the Colts offense, and who it has to stop. That man is Reggie Wayne. Wayne has been insane through four games this year, including his 13 catch, 213 yard output last week. Expect Wayne to be completely draped. If the Jets are successful at taking Wayne out of the game, it will be up to Andrew Luck to try and spread the ball around more than he has the past two games. Look for T.Y. Hilton, Donnie Avery, Coby Fleener, and Dwayne Allen to play bigger roles this week.
My 5 Predictions
Vick Ballard – If this rook is going to give himself a shot at keeping the starting job once Donald Brown returns, it can’t come up against a better team. Not only are the Jets giving up huge amounts of yardage per game, but also rank 31st in rushing touchdowns allowed (8). Ballard won’t go for 100, but he gets 85 and 2 touchdowns. The fact that he’s on my fantasy team as a Cedric Benson replacement may or may not have influenced this prediction. Just saying.
Andrew Luck – The Jets are as stingy against the pass as they are terrible versus the run. This is a unit that held Matt Schaub to 50% passing and only 209 yards last week. Luck is going to have to dump the ball off early and often and spread the love to other pass catchers to be effective. Luck completes 21/38 for 255 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception.
Reggie Wayne – I fully expect Wayne to be bottled up nearly completely in the first half, but if Luck is successful at spreading the ball around, things should loosen up in the second half. Wayne catches 7 balls for 87 yards.
Tim Tebow – In the interests of full disclosure, I am not a Tebow fan. Not as a quarterback, anyway. At this point even the Tebow-maniacs have to admit things haven’t turned out quite the way they had hoped it would. But he is a good football player. He needs to give up the idea of playing quarterback and move to running back. He’s got speed, he’s got moves, and he can score on the ground. But it will take not only him, but also the coaching staff to agree to the change. That being said, I see Tebow getting more opportunity this game than the previous five. He carries 10 times for 60 yards, scoring once.
Final Score – It’s going to be a tough go for the Colts, but I think they have the better offense of the two teams. If the Colts have success running the ball, they have a real good shot in this one. Colts win, 27-20.
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