Colts vs. Jets: Highlighting Key Matchups to Watch for New York
That's especially true as the team gears up to take on the 2-2 Indianapolis Colts, who have looked as vulnerable as the Jets for long stretches this season.
With one team on a mission to honor its coach and the other team on a mission to possibly save his job, let's take a look at this underrated Week 6 matchup.
What's At Stake?
For the Jets, as alluded earlier, it's getting closer to crunch time. At 2-3, the Jets are losing ground in the AFC East and need to get back to .500 if they want to keep pace with the New England Patriots.
That's especially true because after this week, three of the Jets' next four games are on the road.
Their schedule from here on out is loaded with winnable games, but almost all of them will be hard-fought—especially considering their injuries.
The Colts are without head coach Chuck Pagano, who is battling Leukemia. Their emotional comeback win over the Green Bay Packers gave the Colts some validation that they can win games without him, and that they can compete with anyone.
That being said, they lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Miracle comebacks make great storylines, but the Colts are still fighting their way out of the cellar.
The Key Matchup: Andrew Luck vs. Rex Ryan
The Jets defense is not performing up to the elite standard that was expected at the beginning of the season, but they still have one of the game's best defensive masterminds on their side.
The Jets were successful in their most recent game against rookie Ryan Tannehill, who went 16-for-36 for 196 yards and a pick, putting up (or down?) a 50.2 passer rating in the process. They proved they can still do enough to win against a rookie quarterback, and were aided by a pick-six where safety LaRon Landry baited Tannehill into a throw he shouldn't have made.
He made it appear as though he was dropping into deep coverage, but he undercut the route being run by Anthony Fasano and ran the pick back for a score.
Their ability to win this game will come down to forcing Colts quarterback Andrew Luck into more mistakes than Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez makes.
The Stat That Matters
Yards per rush attempt.
Neither team is very good at running the football or stopping the run.
In fact, the Colts, Jets and St, Louis Rams are the only teams left in the league that rank in the bottom 10 in offensive and defensive yards per rush attempt.
No matter which team has the ball, an inept rush attack will be trying to make a dent in an inept run defense.
Biggest Advantage for the Jets
The Colts kick coverage is among the worst in the NFL, giving up 27.5 yards per return. Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte returned a kick 32 yards, Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb took one 35 yards and Minnesota Vikings wide-out Percy Harvin took one for 50 yards against the Colts.
Joe McKnight's 100-yard kickoff return against the Texans gave the Jets a huge spark, but the failed onside kick that followed doused the spark.
They may not (read: no chance in Hell) be popping off 100-yard returns every time. With the Jets struggles on offense, though, they can use the good field position any way they can get it.
Also, the Colts will be without their top pass-rusher, linebacker Robert Mathis, who has logged five sacks this season. If Mark Sanchez has a clean pocket, he can throw it as well as any quarterback in the league. The chances of that happening just got a lot better with the absence of Mathis.
Biggest Advantage for the Colts
The Jets do not have Darrelle Revis, who has held Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne to just six receptions for 88 yards in the past two games.
That means Wayne will be lining up against Antonio Cromartie. Take nothing away from Cromartie, who has stepped up in the absence of Revis, and has allowed just six catches on 19 targets in the past three games according to ProFootballFocus.com, but Wayne's game doesn't play into Cromartie's strengths.
This won't be about Cromartie's long speed as much as his ability to cover Wayne in the short area. That's an area where Cromartie has struggled, and Wayne has been the only good thing going for Indy's offense, so shutting him down is a quick way to shut down the offense as a whole.
All that being said, calling this a "big" advantage is a bit of a stretch. It's more accurate to say, if there is an advantage for the Colts, this is it.
Best Video Tangentially Related to the Game
My man @hashtagfrankie tells it like it is on Mike Tannenbaum. Language NSFW.
The Jets Will Win if...
All over the field.
Third downs and inside the red zone on offense and defense are the spots the Jets need to clean up the most. They convert just 37.1 percent of their third-downs and just 35.7 percent of their red zone tries.
Any flashes of potential we've seen from this team have quickly been undone by negative plays in key situations. That includes a pair of untimely turnovers that killed a shot at closing the gap prior to halftime against both the San Francisco 49ers and Texans.
The Colts Will Win if...
They can expose a leaky run defense.
Further talk about the Jets' worst-ranked run defense would make me a broken record. The fact of the matter is, they've been run on by some very good backs.
The Colts will be without Donald Brown, and will instead be handing the ball off to some combination of Mewelde Moore and Vick Ballard.
If the Jets give up big yards on the ground at home to these guys, throw the dirt on 'em.
Who will win?
The Jets need a win badly, and got a soft ball right down the pike with a road game against a below-average team coming off an emotional win.
The matchups play favorably for the Jets, but in the end, the Jets need to get out of their own way before they can get back to winning games.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.
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