On Sunday the (7-7) New York Jets head to Indianapolis to take on the undefeated Colts (14-0) at Lucas Oil Stadium (4:15 EST). While on paper this appears to be a mismatch, there are several contributing factors that could make this game very interesting. First off, the Colts have locked up home field advantage throughout the playoffs, so there is a chance that the team will not play all of their starters for the entire game. Then there is the thinking that with an undefeated season on the line Indianapolis could also decide to rotate players in and out to get them reps, but not over extend them in order to keep them fresh for the postseason. For the purposes of this preview we are going to assume that the starters are going to play the majority of the time.
As for the Jets they are fighting for their playoffs lives and must win in order to keep any postseason dreams alive. Lets take a look at how these two teams for match-up.
New York Jets Offense vs. Colts Defense
After last week’s pathetic offensive display against the Atlanta Falcons, no one truly knows what to expect from Gang Green at this point. The Falcons were not a good defensive team and the Jets made them look like world-beaters, with quarterback Mark Sanchez making several costly mistakes. Instead of trying to break down the Colts defense, it makes more sense to identify what the Jets need to accomplish on offense.
1) Gang Green must control the line of scrimmage and establish their running game. Too many times this season the Jets offense comes out with Sanchez airing the ball out and at this point the strategy is just not wise. The best way to beat the Colts is to keep their offense off of the field with lengthy drives. The Jets must continue to pound the rock throughout the entire game and try to wear down and tire out the defense.
2) Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer must get Mark Sanchez in rhythm with the short passing game. The Jets must simplify the game plan and use the short passing game to get their young gunslinger comfortable. Whether it is quick slant passes, dump offs to the running backs, or screen passes, let the kid made quick throws that will keep the defense on their toes a bit.
3) The coaching staff cannot panic if the Colts put points on the board. Regardless of how good the defense plays, the Colts are still going to put points on the board. The Jets cannot panic if Indy scores early, changing the game plan and starting to pass extensively. The last thing Gang Green wants to do is to get into a shootout mentality with the Colts.
New York Jets Defense vs. Colts Offense
The Jets enter the game with the top ranked defense in the NFL, with the Colts ranked #4 in total offense and #1 in passing, averaging almost 300 yards a game. With that being said Gang Green must find ways to slow down the passing game with either a consistent pass rush or confusing coverage schemes. In my opinion the Jets best bet is to knock quarterback Peyton Manning around and make him very uncomfortable in the pocket. Of course this easier said than done, as Manning is one of the least sacked quarterbacks in football. If Manning gets any amount of time he will pick any defense apart.
In terms of coverage Gang Green will probably have All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis follow Pro-Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne (92 catches, 1,210 yards, 10tds) all over the field. While that could be a favorable match-up for the Jets, they have a major challenge with the covering of Dallas Clark (89 catches, 10tds). Clark is a match-up nightmare for most teams and the Jets are no different. Gang Green may start out with safety Kerry Rhodes on Dallas and see how he fares before changing their strategy. As for the remainder of the Colts receivers, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie are both very dangerous and must be accounted for. Any lapse in coverage by the Jets will result in big plays and or touchdowns.
For whatever reason I just do not see the Jets winning this game. Whether it is my bitterness from last week’s disaster against the Falcons, or the fact that I have zero faith in the Jets offense, I just do not see it happening. In my eyes last week was the Jets final stand and they came up short. I have seen this movie too many times before and know the ending regrettably too well. Colts 31-14