Jets vs. Colts: Previewing NY Jets' Week 2 Matchup

Connor Hughes@@Connor_J_HughesContributor ISeptember 17, 2015

Jets vs. Colts: Previewing NY Jets' Week 2 Matchup

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Following the Jets' 31-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns in the team’s season opener, New York will travel to Indianapolis to take on the Andrew Luck-led Colts on Monday Night Football. With a win, the Jets will improve their record to 2-0 for the first time since 2011.

    While the Jets' win against Cleveland was impressive, in a way, it was expected. On paper, New York had the superior roster. On the field, the team played as such.

    But there’s a slight difference between Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel, and Luck. There’s a bit of a discrepancy between Andrew Hawkins and Andre Johnson. There’s not much of a comparison between Isaiah Crowell and Frank Gore.

    Despite this only being the second week of the regular season, the Colts will represent one of the tougher challenges the Jets face all year.

    So, what should you expect when the two teams battle it out in prime time? Here’s what to watch for as New York and Indianapolis square off.

    Date: Monday, September 21

    Location: Lucas Oil Stadium; Indianapolis, Indiana 

    Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

    TV: ESPN

Week 1 Recap: New York Jets 31, Cleveland Browns 10

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    Jets WR Brandon Marshall
    Jets WR Brandon MarshallAssociated Press

    On the day the free-agency signing period began, the first move made by the New York Jets wasn’t any actual free-agency signing. In the opening minutes, the deal between New York and Chicago was finalized, and it sent the Jets' fifth-round pick to the Bears in exchange for the rights to receiver Brandon Marshall.

    The Jets' hope was that Marshall would give the team its first true No. 1 wideout since Keyshawn Johnson.

    Against the Browns, those hopes and dreams became reality.

    Marshall caught six passes for 62 yards and a touchdown in New York’s 31-10 victory. He also had the play that Jets head coach Todd Bowles called the best of the game.

    Early in the first half with the Jets trailing 7-0 and their offense stagnant, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick went deep to Marshall. The pass was a bit underthrown, and Tashaun Gipson intercepted it.

    Without a second of hesitation, Marshall cut up the field, grabbed the ball in Gipson’s hands and ripped it out for a forced fumble and fumble recovery. From that moment on, it was all Jets as the team outscored Cleveland 31-3 the rest of the way.

    “That was huge,” Bowles said. “Brandon plays everything. He plays offense. He plays defense. He plays aggressive. To me, that was the play of the game.”

    Aside from that one interception, Fitzpatrick played a solid overall game. The veteran completed 15 of his 24 passes for 179 yards and threw a 15-yard touchdown to receiver Eric Decker in addition to the one-yard score to Marshall. On the ground, Jets running back Chris Ivory ran for 91 yards on 20 carries with a pair of scores.

    Defensively, the Jets made Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel’s day miserable.

    Filling in for McCown after the quarterback suffered a concussion early in the first quarter, Manziel was hurried nine times, sacked three times, fumbled two times and was intercepted once. He was under constant duress and struggled outside of a 54-yard touchdown to Travis Benjamin.

    On the ground, the Browns couldn’t get much going, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry.

    Overall, it was dominance by New York and a solid start to the Bowles era as head coach of the Jets.

News and Notes

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    Bills HC Rex Ryan and Colts QB Andrew Luck
    Bills HC Rex Ryan and Colts QB Andrew LuckAssociated Press

    Did Rex Ryan show the Jets how to beat the Indianapolis Colts?

    Maybe Rex Ryan had one last gift for the Jets before he turns his attention to beating them in the suddenly highly competitive AFC East.

    In the Buffalo Bills' season opener, the former Jets and present Bills head coach put together a masterful game plan to defend one of the league’s top passers in Luck. Ryan sent the house on near every play, disguised each blitz with a different look and had Luck under constant duress from the opening whistle to the final. When the game mercifully ended, the Bills had pulled out a surprise 27-14 victory over the Colts, and their defense was a big reason why.

    After completing 61.7 percent of his passes and throwing for 4,761 yards with 40 touchdowns and 16 interceptions a season ago, Buffalo made Luck look human. The three-time Pro Bowler completed just 53.1 percent of his passes last Sunday, and he threw for only 243 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

    Luck was pressured nine times and was never able to get in any kind of a rhythm. In a way, Rex gave the NFL the blueprint for how to beat Indianapolis. Will the Jets use it?

    Can the Jets offensive line continue to open holes against eight-man fronts?

    While to fantasy football owners Ivory’s 91 yards and two touchdowns were just what the doctor ordered against Cleveland, in actuality, they were about as hard-earned as any 91 yards and two touchdowns could be.

    Knowing of Fitzpatrick’s athletic limitations when it came to arm strength, the Browns elected to man-up receivers Decker and Marshall on the outside, play a single-high safety and then take the extra man and drop him in the box.

    The game plan for Cleveland was to shut down the run and make Fitzpatrick win the game. The game plan for New York was, well, run it even if there are 28 guys in the box.

    New York continued to pound it up the gut with Ivory until the defense began to wear down. Midway through the second half, those two- and three-yard runs turned into four- and five-yard rushes. It took time, but the Jets were content with waiting it out.

    Speaking after the game, Ivory said he expects most teams to attack the Jets offense in a similar fashion to what Cleveland did. It’ll be up to him and the offensive line to continue to find ways to beat the extra players near the line.

    “I trust our guys up front,” Ivory said. “It comes down to me just pressing my landmark and getting those guys to flow. At times, the guys, or their defense, are going to have the box pretty stacked. But once we start rolling, it opens up a bit.

    “We come in and work hard every day and we just practice as if it’s a game, we take those reps as game reps. I’m just confident. If you’re not confident in yourself, who else will be? You have to be, that’s the only way I think you prosper and progress in this game.”

    The question now is just how long the Jets can continue to have success when teams make it their priority to stop the run. Will Indianapolis be able to keep Ivory in check the entire game? Or will Monday night sing the same tune as last Sunday afternoon?

    Will not having Sheldon Richardson hurt the Jets significantly against Colts?

    At offensive tackle, the Colts are pretty well set. Anthony Castonzo is one of the game’s better blindside blockers, and Jack Mewhort isn’t any slouch. Inside? Well, things are a little different.

    Last Sunday, the Bills continually attacked the Colts at each guard position with blitzes, stunts and everything else imaginable. It worked, too. As outlined above, Luck was rushed nine times and never established any sort of rhythm.

    The Jets will almost certainly look to duplicate that game plan. The issue? The player who would make the Jets' plan of attack so much easier, and Luck’s day miserable, won’t be anywhere near Lucas Oil Stadium.

    Just one game into a four-game suspension for a second positive test for marijuana, Jets Pro Bowl defensive end Sheldon Richardson won’t play Monday. A season ago, Richardson recorded 66 tackles, eight sacks, forced a fumble and recovered another.

    Arguably the NFL’s most athletic 3-4 defensive end not named J.J. Watt, Richardson would have thrived against Indy’s interior line. In a way, his play style was tailor-made to wreak havoc. But Richardson won’t play due to his off-the-field issues. The question now is if New York will survive with him not on the field.

    Leonard Williams, the Jets' first-round pick and sixth overall selection in this year’s draft, will start in Richardson’s place. Can he have the same impact? Time will tell.

Latest Injury News

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    Jets CB Antonio Cromartie
    Jets CB Antonio CromartieAssociated Press
    PlayerPositionInjuryThursdayFridayOfficial Game Status
    Antonio CromartieCBKneeDNPLTDQuestionable
    Lorenzo MauldinLBConcussionDNP DNPOUT
    Darrin WallsCBHamstring DNP DNPDoubtful
    James CarpenterGBack LTD LTDProbable
    Willie ColonGKnee LTD LTDProbable
    Chris IvoryRBGroin LTD LTDQuestionable
    Jaiquawn JarrettSShoulder LTD LTDProbable
    Geno SmithQBJaw LTD LTDOUT
    Stephen BowenDLKnee FULL FULLProbable
    Brent QvaleOLFingerFULLFULLProbable
    Devin SmithWRRibsFULLFULLProbable

    Chart Codes: TBD (to be determined) || DNP (did not practice) || LTD (limited) ||
    Probable (75% chance of playing) || Questionable (50% chance of playing) || Doubtful (25% chance of playing) || Out (0% chance of playing)

    The obvious have already been ruled out, as quarterback Geno Smith (fractured jaw), cornerback Dee Milliner (short-term IR/wrist) and running back Stevan Ridley (knee, PUP) will not play. It’s highly unlikely linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (concussion) makes the trip, either.

    The team hasn't ruled out cornerback Antonio Cromartie (sprained knee) yet, but it seems like a long shot, as he didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday. He’ll give it a go later in the week to see how he’s feeling.

    Receiver Devin Smith (ribs) may see his first game action since the Jets drafted him in the second round, but Bowles said he won't make that decision until later in the week. 

    There was a surprise addition to the Jets injury report on Thursday. Towards the end of Wednesday's practice, cornerback Darrin Walls come up limp when he pulled his hamstring. He sat out practice Thursday, and it seems unlikely he'll play Monday. 

    If Walls doesn't play, expect to see increased action from second-year pro Dexter McDougle. 

Key Matchups

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    Jets S Marcus Gilchrist (No. 21)
    Jets S Marcus Gilchrist (No. 21)Associated Press

    Brandon Marshall vs. Vontae Davis

    Last week, Marshall had his way with one of the league’s top cornerbacks in the Browns' Joe Haden. When matched up one-on-one, Fitzpatrick targeted Marshall five times.

    He caught five of those passes for 56 yards and a touchdown.

    This week, Marshall will have another tough test in Colts cornerback Vontae Davis. Actually, with Darrelle Revis now a teammate, Davis may be the toughest challenge Marshall will face all season.

    In 2014, Davis was targeted 92 times by an opponent’s quarterback.

    He allowed 41 completions. Forty-one.

    That’s an astoundingly low completion percentage of just 44.6 percent. Davis also didn’t allow a touchdown, intercepted four passes and allowed a QB rating of 41.1 percent when those elected to throw his way. He was Pro Football Focus' No. 2-ranked cornerback in 2014better than Revis, Richard Sherman and all others except for Chris Harris Jr.

    During their two careers, Marshall and Davis have faced each other just once—the 2012 NFL season opener. In that game, Marshall caught nine passes for 119 yards and a touchdown, but just two of those catches and 16 of those yards came against Davis. Monday will be the first time the two go up against each other since Davis was given “Island Duty” and tasked with covering an opponent’s No. 1 wideout.

    There’s also this little tidbit to monitor: Back in 2011, when both Marshall and Davis played for the Miami Dolphins, the two got into a fight at practice. They have since made up, but still, it’s a minor storyline of note.

    Marcus Gilchrist vs. Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener

    With Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton potentially out of Monday’s game, there’s a good chance Luck turns to tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener for offensive production if Revis is able to shut down Andre Johnson.

    If that’s the case, it’ll be up to Jets safety Marcus Gilchrist to step up.

    A season ago, tight ends had their way with the Jets as Dawan Landry (who was not re-signed this offseason) routinely got beat. Rookie Calvin Pryor, who’s known more as a box safety, was also forced into more man-to-man coverage, which certainly didn’t go well. The two combined to allow a 74 percent completion percentage, 311 yards and four touchdowns. A quarterback’s rating when testing Landry was a 102.4, and a 121.1 when throwing at Pryor.

    As a result, the Jets signed Gilchrist, the former Charger, in the offseason. The hope was that he could go man-to-man with a tight end or running back out of the backfield. With the Browns not really having a threat at the position, Allen and Fleener represent the first threats for Gilchrist.

    If Gilchrist is able to lock down the Colts' two tight ends, Revis shuts down Johnson and Hilton doesn’t play, it’ll go a long way in the Jets' hopes for a victory.

X-Factor

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    Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
    Jets QB Ryan FitzpatrickAssociated Press

    New York Jets X-factor of the Week: Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick

    Fitzpatrick did enough for the Jets in the team’s victory against the Cleveland Browns. He wasn’t spectacular, but it was enough for the team to pull out a win.

    Against the Colts, there’s a chance Fitzpatrick is going to have to do a bit more, especially considering the fact Luck will likely be playing like a man possessed to ensure Indianapolis doesn’t start the year 0-2.

    If the game turns into a shootout, or if the Colts take a two- or three-possession lead, the Jets will take the ball out of Chris Ivory's gut and place the game on Fitzpatrick’s shoulders. With Smith getting healthier each day, Fitzpatrick needs to show he can not only start for the Jets until Geno returns, but remain there after as well.

    With Decker and Marshall, Fitzpatrick has arguably the best weapons he’s ever had in his career, but the questions that surround the veteran are if he’s athletically gifted enough to be a team’s starter. His arm strength was never elite, and at 32, it isn’t what it once was. If the game does in fact turn to a shootout, or at least a situation where Fitzpatrick needs to make plays, it’ll go a long way for his status as New York’s No. 1 if he can keep the Jets in it.

    Unlike last week, the Jets are going into Lucas Oil Stadium with most outside of Florham Park not believing they have a chance. As a result, the pressure’s off a bit. They’re not expected to win, and with a win already under their belt, the worst-case scenario is a not-so-bad 1-1 start.

    But what if Fitzpatrick and the Jets can go toe-to-toe with the Colts, put up points when they have to and Fitzpatrick himself leads the charge? That may be enough, or a huge step at the minimum, for Bowles to name Fitzpatrick the team’s starter the remainder of the year.

Prediction

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    Colts QB Andrew Luck
    Colts QB Andrew LuckElsa/Getty Images

    If the Colts had defeated the Bills last week, this is likely a different score. New York has a team that’s built to beat Indianapolis, pressure Luck, force mistakes and take advantage of them once they occur.

    But it’s extremely difficult to think that Luck and the Colts will start the year 0-2. So while there’s a strong chance the Jets can win this game, the gut pick says Indy.

    If the Jets do want to pull the upset, they’re going to have to mimic exactly what their former head coach did a week ago. Get creative against Luck, show him things he hasn’t seen before and pressure him right up the gut. Your outside pass-rushers need to contain, then you blitz the A- and B-gaps, take away any step-up lanes and prohibit Luck from setting his feet.

    It’s a big "if," but if the Jets can do the above, this game could easily be a New York victory. But at the end of the day, expect Luck to make two or three game-changing plays simply because he’s one of the game’s best, and Fitzpatrick will be unable to match.

    Colts 27, Jets 17

    Connor Hughes is the New York Jets beat writer for the Journal Inquirer and Scout.com. All quotes and advanced stats referenced and used are gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted 

    Connor can be reached on Twitter (@Connor_J_Hughes) or via email (connor_j_hughes@yahoo.com).