After a slow start last week the Jets settled down and were able to cruise to an easy 31-10 victory over the Browns. The Colts were stymied all game long in their matchup against Rex Ryan and the Bills and will be looking to bounce back with a win in their home opener.
Will the fact that the Colts have such high aspirations for this season cause them to come out swinging Monday night to avoid digging themselves an 0-2 hole? The Jets players don't seem to think that matters at all, they also happen to be correct, the only thing that matters is the Jets have to find a way to replicate Ryan's success in containing Andrew Luck.
All week long the Jets said they can't worry about the other team's mindset they have to worry about their own and make sure they are prepared. They feel like if they execute Todd Bowles's game plan and live up to their own expectations they can beat anyone. A Monday night game, in Lucas Oil Stadium, against Luck in the Colts home-opener will be a tough early season task for this Jets team but it's a task they can absolutely achieve if they can follow the blueprint Ryan laid out last Sunday.
WHEN: Monday night September 21, 2015 8:30 pm EST (TV-ESPN, Radio-ESPN)
WHERE: Lucas Oil Stadium Indianapolis, IN
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Contain Andrew Luck - It's the old Michael Jordan rule. You can't stop Luck, you can only hope to contain him. The Bills managed to actually stop Luck for most of the game, and were able to build up a 24-0 lead in doing so, but while other teams can hope to have similar success they can't depend on it. The Jets need to be prepared for Luck to do things only Luck can do and hope the rest of their game plan holds up just enough to survive those Luck moments and pull out the win.
The Colts offense is littered with playmakers, Luck at quarterback, Frank Gore still an extremely effective running back, Andre Johnson, (possibly) T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief at receiver. And two very capable tight ends in Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. The weakness of the Colts offense is in their offensive line, specifically the inside of the line. That's where the Bills were able to disrupt the flow of the Colts offense and that's exactly where the Jets will have to attack to keep Luck uncomfortable and prevent him from making those Luck type plays.
The Jets have a similar defense to the Bills, not quite as good upfront but much better in the secondary, and they will have to attack the middle of the line and collapse the pocket from within so Luck can't step up in the pocket and make a perfect throw.
Even if the Jets do manage to pressure Luck they also have to be careful and make sure they stay in their lanes and don't allow Luck to make plays with his feet. The Browns were able to move the ball downfield with the legs of their quarterbacks last week but Luck is far superior of a playmaker when on the move than either Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel. Luck can take off and run for the first-down but he can just as easily pull up and deliver a strike to a receiver breaking off his route.
Control the ball and the clock - This is simple. As good and talented as the Colts offense is there's one easy way to stop them and that's to keep them on the sidelines and the Colts defense is nowhere near as talented at their offense. Vontae Davis is one of the best cornerbacks in football and there are some other solid players on the Colts defense but nobody else that scares you.
The loss of their big offseason pickup Arthur Jones to injury may be too much for the Colts defense to overcome. Too often teams gashed the Colts in the running game last season and Jones, being an excellent run-stopper, was supposed to be the cure. With Jones out the Colts will once again struggle to stop the run game and Chris Ivory should be in for another big game as he runs with his blend of power and quickness.
The combination of Ivory and Bilal Powell should be able to find success against this Colts defense and if they do not only can the Jets drive downfield and put numbers on the board but they can also eat up clock and keep Luck and that potent offense on the sidelines.
Avoid mental mistakes - Yes, I'm going back to this well. I listed this as a key to the game last week and the Jets were able to do just that, causing four turnovers of their own and causing a fifth on their only turnover as Brandon Marshall ripped the interception out of Tashaun Gipson's hands. Last week was a good start and it's not fair to hold Bowles and all these new players to the ineptitude of the Jets past but it's going to take more than one win against the Browns for me to believe the days filled with mental mistakes and turnovers are truly behind the Jets.
Last week the key was to avoid these mistakes and allow the Browns to hang in the game, this week the key is to avoid those mistakes and not let Luck stomp on their throat and punish the Jets for it. Luck is too good to give him extra chances and it's vital that the Jets limit his chances, not give him more.
Luck vs. Jets defense - Seriously, incase you weren't aware, Luck really is that good. It'll be up to the Jets defensive line to pressure him and keep him uncomfortable, it'll be up to the secondary to blanket the receivers incase the line fails to pressure Luck enough and it'll be up to the linebackers to cover the tight ends in the middle of the field and at the same time be prepared to fill the gaps and stop Luck if he takes off with his feet.
Luck is already one of the best quarterbacks in the league and certainly has the potential and ability to go down in history as the best ever. As a football fan you should cherish every moment you get to watch him and to see him go against a defense this could only makes the viewing experience that much more special.
Darrelle Revis vs. Andre Johnson - Johnson isn't quite the receiver he once was but he's still a physical speciman and has the ability to beat most corners. But as you Jet fans know, Revis is not most corners. We still don't know exactly how Bowles intends to use Revis in these situations as the Browns lacked anything even close to a true number one receiver. Will Bowles stick Revis on Johnson the entire game, or will he be moved around. Either way anytime you see these two matched up it'll be fun to watch.
Vontae Davis vs. Brandon Marshall - On the other side of the ball the Colts have one of the best corners in football not named Darrelle Revis (yes, I used that line last week but I'm going to repeat it while it still applies) and Davis and Marshall know each other well from their days as teammates in Miami. Davis figures to draw Marshall in coverage most of the game and as physically and mentally gifted as Davis is Marshall proved last week a top five corner isn't enough in itself to stop the machine that is Marshall. The Jets have a great run game and other receivers for Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw to but no matchup on this side of the field figures to be nearly as compelling as Davis-Marshall.
Devin Smith/ Chris Owusu - Marshall will draw Davis in coverage most of the game and while Davis won't be able to shut Marshall out he will likely make it so Fitzgerald has to look elsewhere on a handful of plays. Eric Decker is obviously capable of handling that responsibility and making plays, as he did last week, but if Devin Smith returns he provides the one thing this receiving core is missing and that's a true deep-threat that can stretch the field.
Davis will cover Marshall, but will he get help from a safety over the top? Or will Decker get Davis and the Colts double Marshall? If Smith can play Monday night all that game planning could be pointless as the Colts could draw up perfect coverage on Marshall and Decker only to watch Smith torch them on a deep-route. One or two deep throws to Smith, whether completed or not, could open up bigger holes in the run game and softer coverage for the Marshall and Decker.
If Smith can't go Owusu will have to fill that role for Smith. Owusu has the speed to do that but he isn't quite as adept at catching the ball over his shoulder or going up, competing for and winning jump balls as Smith. Either way the Jets will have to take some shots downfield to stretch this Colts defense so they can follow that up by pounding Ivory until he wears the defense out and allow the Jets to eat up clock and keep Luck on the sidelines.
PREDICTION: 27-23 Colts
The Jets can absolutely win this game. They matchup incredibly well with this Colts team and even in Lucas Oil Stadium on a Monday night no one should be surprised if the Jets pull out the victory. I think the Jets will have control for most of the game but Luck will make a late push to pull out the W.
This quote on Luck from Marshall sums up my feelings on this perfectly.
"The game's never over. The play is never over. He just competes," Marshall said. "It doesn't matter how he gets it done, he just gets it done. Spit foaming, hanging out of his mouth, all kinds of stuff in his beard. I mean, the guy is the ultimate competitor."