The Indianapolis Colts may be more quarterback dependent than any other team in the NFL, and they have been this way for many, many years, stretching back to most of the Peyton Manning era. The quarterback has changed, Andrew Luck now takes snaps from center, but the Colts remain a quarterback in search of a supporting cast.
When Andrew Luck plays well the Colts win, and when he struggles the Colts lose. The Colts do not have a defense that can pick up the slack; they've given up 22 or more points in all but one game this year. The Colts do not have a running game to pick up the slack; they've run for 105 yards or less in all but one game this year. The Colts do not have an offensive line to protect Luck; he's been sacked multiple times in every game this year. What the Colts have is Andrew Luck and some nice receivers, and that alone is often enough to put up plenty of points and win.
That brings us to the Stat of the Week. Since 2013, Andrew Luck has thrown for more than 250 yards in 22 of 33 starts. In the 22 games Luck has exceeded 250 yards passing over the last three seasons the Colts record is 16-6. In the 11 games Luck has not exceeded 250 yards passing the Colts record is 2-9.
The formula for beating the Colts is simple, but not easy. Simply hold down the Colts passing game and they will not beat you. That, however, is easier said than done. Three teams have held the Colts under 250 yards passing this season, and another held them to 252 yards passing. The Colts lost all four games. These four teams are the Denver Broncos, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos, Jaguars and Texans rank 1st, 2nd and 5th in passing yards allowed per game this year. The Jets rank 22nd in passing yards allowed per game. That doesn't allow for a lot of hope for the Jets in this game. However, the Chiefs held Luck to 210 yards passing and won easily, 30-14. The Kansas City Chiefs surprisingly rank 23rd in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game, one slot worse than the Jets.
This game is not a great matchup for the Jets. The Jets have struggled badly all year against the pass, particularly the vertical passing game. The Colts live and die by the pass, particularly the vertical game. Fast, athletic receivers have killed the Jets. The Colts have two in T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. The Jets excel at stopping the run, but the running game is all but irrelevant for the Colts. If the Jets want to win this game they will need to find a way to limit the damage Andrew Luck does through the air. The Jets have been successful doing so mostly against lesser quarterbacks this year. The 2016 Jets have held Ryan Tannehill, Alex Smith, Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer and Case Keenum under 250 yards passing. Andrew Luck ranks 6th in the NFL with 283 yards passing per game. Carson Palmer ranks 5th. Joe Flacco ranks 12th. Keenum, Smith and Tannehill rank 22nd, 26th and 27th, respectively. The Jets did limit Carson Palmer, but mainly because the Cardinals won in a blowout and they mostly ran the ball to run out the clock as the game wore on.
If the Jets want to win tonight limiting Andrew Luck is job one. It remains to be seen whether the Jets pass defense will be up to the challenge.