As football fate would have it, the Green Bay Packers keep on helping the Indianapolis Colts. It was exactly one month ago the Colts crept within a win of .500 with a 31-26 victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field. On Sunday, Green Bay continued its crusade for its fellow Midwestern football cousins, knocking off the Houston Texans, 21-13, ensuring that if the Colts win on “Monday Night Football” against the New York Jets, there would be three-way tie record-wise for first place in the AFC South with Indianapolis, Houston and Tennessee all sitting at 6-6. (Texans would still lead by virtue of a better divisional record.)
While the Colts are fighting for a playoff spot, the Jets are drowning. Two different three-game losing streaks have all but buried New York’s playoff chances in what has turned out to be a devastating disappointment of a season.
Indianapolis at New York
Kickoff: Monday, Dec. 5 at 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Indianapolis -2
Three Things to Watch
1. The Return of Andrew Luck
Last week, the Colts proved that they’re only as good as their franchise quarterback is. Luck (concussion) didn't play against the Steelers on Thanksgiving night, and the Indianapolis offense was lost without him. With backup Scott Tolzien at the helm making his first start in three years, the Colts totaled 310 yards of offense, averaged less than five yards per play, and managed just seven points in Pittsburgh’s 28-7 victory.
Luck was back to practicing in full by the end of this week and on Saturday he was cleared from the NFL’s concussion protocol, so he will get the start tonight. As previously mentioned, this game against the Jets carries heavy implications for Indy. A win at MetLife Stadium would ensure a showdown for first place in the AFC South on Sunday with the Colts set to host Houston. But first Indianapolis needs to take care of business tonight. At least the Colts will have Luck back, but will he be in top form?
2. Jets’ Defensive Line Wreaking Havoc
On paper, New York may not be the popular pick on Monday night, but one area where the Jets have a clear advantage against the Colts is their defensive line. Indianapolis’ offensive line woes have been a common theme over the past several seasons and it’s no different in 2016. With rookie center Ryan Kelly and guard Denzelle Good battling injuries, the Jets’ front could have a field day.
A season ago, New York was among the league’s best, especially at forcing turnovers (30). But this year, that signature Todd Bowles aggressiveness hasn’t been as fruitful in the turnover department, as the Jets have just eight takeaways on the season. Tonight could be the perfect opportunity for Gang Green to simply pin their ears back and go full bore against a wobbly Colts offensive line.
3. Betting on a Brandon Marshall Breakout
It’s no secret that Indianapolis’ secondary is vulnerable, especially if you tuned in on Thanksgiving night and watched Antonio Brown torch a hobbled Vontae Davis for three touchdowns on five catches. Davis was eventually pulled because of a tweaked groin.
This week, it doesn't get much easier for the Colts’ defensive backs. The back end will be shorthanded once again as starting safety Clayton Geathers and cornerback Patrick Robinson have been ruled out, leaving an ailing Davis to deal with New York’s Brandon Marshall largely on his own.
Marshall leads the Jets in receptions (49) and receiving yards (668) this season, but his production is down to what he did in 2015. He has just three touchdowns, but tonight could result in a breakout performance for New York’s top target.
The Jets aren’t playing for much of anything for the rest of this season, while the Colts have everything to lose on Monday night. So what is the greater force? A team with nothing to lose or a team fighting to stay alive? Indianapolis clearly has more on the line and gets Andrew Luck back. As long as Luck can make it through the game, the Colts should be able to get past the Jets and create a three-way tie in the AFC South with just four games remaining.
Prediction: Colts 28, Jets 24
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.