Colts vs. Jets: AFC South Pressure Game of the Week Preview
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It's time to prove it.
The result was that many Colts fans have begun to whisper openly about the playoffs.
While those hopes and dreams are still premature, the Colts can take a major step forward against the New York Jets in Week 6.
Here's everything you need to know about the game.
What it Means
For Indianapolis, it would mark the first road win of the Andrew Luck era and signal that the Colts might be better than previously thought.
It's one thing to win an emotional home game aided by a rabid crowd. It's another to take down a desperate New York team playing at home.
A win would give the Colts a winning record heading into a four-game stretch against four teams that are currently a combined 4-16 on the season.
If the Colts can indeed win on the road, suddenly, those playoff murmurs become that much louder.
The Jets are working on a short week after Monday night's loss to the Texans, and their season is hanging by a thread.
A loss to Indianapolis would mean a three-game losing streak and the further erosion of whatever confidence the franchise still has in Mark Sanchez.
A win and they guarantee themselves of being no worse than one game behind the New England Patriots for first place in the division heading into their Week 7 game.
The winner of this game will feel great about their hopes for the season. The loser will have to focus more intently on 2013. That's why this is the Pressure Game of the Week.
Matchup To Watch
Reggie Wayne vs. Antonio Cromartie
Wayne's heroics have been well-documented. Right now, he is the Indianapolis offense.
With starting running back Donald Brown out after knee surgery, the Colts attack will be more dependent than ever on Wayne's production.
None of the other Indianapolis receivers will be of major concern for the Jets. New York has a massive split between its defense against No. 1 and No. 2 wideouts, and a good reason for that is Cromartie.
After Darrelle Revis went down, Cromartie has had to carry the coverage load for the Jets. He's excelled at taking away top options.
Of course, the Jets are 31st in the league against second wideouts, but given that Donnie Avery has struggled to get open most weeks, they have to figure that if they can shut down Wayne, they'll close down the Indy offense completely.
Andrew Luck will have to be wary of the different ways Cromartie can shadow Wayne. The corner was brilliant against Houston in limiting Andre Johnson to a single catch.
On this play, he actually undercut Johnson's route and picked off Matt Schaub.
Johnson goes in motion and lines up in the slot, similar to what the Colts do with Wayne. Cromartie follows him all the way across the formation to maintain the matchup.
Cromartie gives Johnson a bump just inside the chuck zone at the 40, pushing Johnson off the spot while letting him get behind him. The corner knows that the he has safety help over the top, so he can afford to allow Johnson to get depth.
He then undercuts the route and picks off Schaub.
Luck will have to be wary of such tricks if he wants to avoid costly turnovers.
Stat that Matters
Yards per carry is often an overrated stat, but in this case, it tells quite the tale.
It's a terrifying yarn of a team completely incapable of running the ball (the Jets) and their bizzaro counterpart in the Colts who cannot stop the run.
The Jets rank 31st in the NFL with a YPC of 3.2. Indianapolis allows 4.7 yards a rush, good for 26th in the league.
New York wants to run the ball because the passing game is so poor. It's struggled on offense in large part because it is incapable of doing it effectively.
If it can move the ball on the ground against Indy, it'll be in control most of the day.
If it can't run on the Colts, it can't run on anyone.
Biggest Advantage for the Colts
The Colts have a massive edge at the quarterback position.
Though just a rookie, Luck is already the superior player to Mark Sanchez.
In virtually every significant metric, Luck's play trumps that of Sanchez. It's an impressive feat because Indy has played some tough pass-rushing defenses.
Biggest Advantages for the Jets
The Jets have a huge special teams advantage over Indianapolis. They have multiple returners who pose a threat and illustrated the impact they can have on the game against the Texans.
The Jets have had their share of injuries, but they'll look to take advantage of a Colts team down Robert Mathis and Brown.
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The Colts Will Win If...
Luck and Wayne put on an encore performance.
If Luck has a big game, New York isn't going to keep up. Rex Ryan will throw every exotic look he can at Luck, so the rookie had better be freebasing game tape this week.
Should Luck get hot, the Colts can move the ball on New York, and if the game turns into a pass-fest, Indianapolis should have the advantage.
Likewise, if Wayne wins his matchup with Cromartie, the odds of Luck playing well skyrocket.
The Jets Will Win If...
They stop Wayne and run the football.
Luck is going to pass between 40-50 times, especially with his top running back out of commission. If the Jets can ensure that the bulk of those passes go to T.Y. Hilton and Avery, they should hold Luck under 50 percent completions.
If they can take the pressure off of Sanchez to win the game with his arm, they will sustain drives and put up points.
Indianapolis gave the NFL a great story against the Packers, but the fact is that it isn't a very good team. The offense is far too one-dimensional, and the defense hasn't played well.
While Luck has been a revelation, the rest of the team simply isn't ready to win tough road games. Reality starts to set in this week for the Colts.
For all the Jets' flaws, they are playing at home and they do have talent on their squad.
New York is the better team, and the better team playing at home will win.
Jets 17 Colts 13
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