After an up and down performance in week 1, the Jets look to continue on their path to an undefeated season on the road in a Monday Night Football matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. This Superbowl III rematch (something you will probably be reminded of between 5-9739479 times during the course of the game) features two extremely different teams. The Jets have an extremely impressive defense, a strong running game, and a mediocre veteran QB. The Colts have one of the worst defenses in the NFL (and possibly some college conferences), a pass happy offense, and Andrew "having the #1 pick for Peyton Manning and this guy takes serious" Luck at QB. This is the type of game which is simply impossible to predict because you have an impressive offense going up against an impressive defense while an unimpressive defense goes up against an unimpressive offense. So what should you expect?
Where We Are
The Jets are currently 1-0 after defeating one of the worst teams in the NFL in a somewhat sloppy game. While the Jets have a stranglehold on the division sitting at 1-0 in a 4-way tie, a loss would automatically put the Jets in a tie for last place in the division due to the Bills playing the Patriots in week 2. Only 2 weeks into the season, records don't matter all that much, but it does feel like this will be a year when every win is needed in the powerhouse AFC East.
Where They Are
The underdogs of the AFC South, the Colts sit in a 3-way tie for last place. It would be a real Cinderella story for the Colts to find a way to overtake the Titans, Texans, and Jaguars in a truly crowded division. Honestly though, the Colts do not want to start the season 0-2 if they have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. I still don't understand all of the love thrown at the Colts this offseason. A team with no defense or offensive line went out and bought two offensive stars who haven't been studs in years. Sounds like a weak division winner/wild card team to me, and they looked even worse than that against a Bills team that embarrassed the Colts for 60 minutes. Frankly, the Colts desperately need a win at home against an unheralded Jets team and losing could derail their season.
Jets (Did Not Participate) - Antonio Cromartie, Lorenzo Mauldin
Jets (Limited Participation) - James Carpenter, Willie Colon, Chris Ivory, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Geno Smith
Colts (Did Not Participate) - Darius Butler, T.Y. Hilton, D'Joun Smith, Greg Toler
Colts (Limited Participation) - Todd Herremans, D'Qwell Jackson, Robert Mathis
Unlikely to play (not verified): Antonio Cromartie, Lorenzo Mauldin, Geno Smith, Darius Bulter, T.Y. Hilton, Robert Mathis
My X-factor for the Jets this week has to be Chris Ivory. The Jets need to play power football and run the ball effectively to keep Andrew Luck off the field, and this is right in Ivory's wheelhouse. While Marshall is likely blanketed by lockdown corner Vontae Davis, the run game will be key in the red zone and on 3rd and shorts. Against a very unimpressive defensive line, the Jets need to be able to pound the ball down Indianapolis' collective throat and Ivory is the man to do it.
If I choose a position group for the X-factor, it would have to be the offensive line. As I'm restricting it to a single player, however, I'll go with Andrew Luck. With very little to be gained on the ground and abhorrent pass protection, Luck will need to put the team on his back. Oh, and his #1 target will almost certainly be sidelined. When pressured, Luck has proven to be extremely inconsistent, sometimes rising to the occasion with mind-bending plays and sometimes folding like he's holding a Doyle Brunson (see the Colts-Patriots game in 201...heck, any year with Luck.) With the Jets defensive line stuffing the run and presumably applying pressure against a porous Colts offensive line, the game could easily come down to which Andrew Luck shows up Monday night.
Keys to Victory
The Jets have are better at just about every positional group right now except for QB. What does that mean? The Colts are expected to win by at least 7 points despite an awful week 1 showing. I honestly can't really blame anyone for thinking that because Andrew Luck is exceptional and Ryan Fitzpatrick is somewhere between Ryan Fitzmagic and Ryan Fitztragic. If the Jets want to win, they'll need to control the clock and continue to force turnovers. The Jets were +4 in the turnover margin in week 1 after forcing a whopping 5 turnovers. This coming from a team that finished dead last in interceptions and 3rd to last in forced fumbles in 2014. Feeding Ivory and Powell to control the clock and pressuring Andrew Luck to cause some turnovers should be a good formula for overwhelming the heavily favored, winless Colts.
The Bottom Line
It's very hard to predict a game like this, but I expect the Colts to win. It's hard to imagine an Andrew Luck-led team falling to 0-2 against a team coming off a 4-12 season. The Colts absolutely can't afford to lose on the big stage and the Jets are in a position where losing to a highly touted team won't cripple them. All the positional matchups seem to favor the Jets, but Andrew Luck is simply phenomenal and can take over games on his own. Fitzpatrick can get the job done, but he's more likely to throw a game away than take one over. I happen to remember some absolute genius claiming before the Browns game that "Tashaun Gipson will likely try to bait turnover-prone Fitzpatrick into some risky throws" and I hope he knows just how right he was in that assessment. Fitz has a habit of costly mistakes that lose games while Andrew Luck has a habit of being really good. Even with a vastly superior all around team, I think the Colts can squeak past the Jets to send both teams to 1-1 going into week 3.