Last week the Indianapolis Colts didn't look like a Super Bowl-worthy team. Yes, it was just Week 1, but last week’s 27-14 loss in Buffalo exposed many, if not all, of the Colts’ most glaring weaknesses.
The offensive line looked inept, the defense was consistently pushed around, and there was zero semblance of a rushing attack. Quite frankly head coach Chuck Pagano’s team looked frighteningly under prepared. Luckily for Colts fans, rebound games have been sort of an MO for Pagano, as his Colts teams have won 14 of their last 15 games played following a loss.
On the other sideline, the Jets aren’t expected to even sniff the playoffs this season, but after last week's 31-10 drubbing of the Browns, Gang Green has caught a few people’s attention. Granted, yes, it was against Cleveland Browns, but first-year head coach Todd Bowles has a lot that he can build upon after a solid Week 1 victory especially when it comes to establishing a run game and making stops on defense.
New York at Indianapolis
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Colts -7
Three Things To Watch
1. Andrew Luck Rebound Game
Luck looked completely flat last week against Buffalo, completing just 26 of 49 passes with two touchdowns and two picks. Luck’s protection up front is going to be an issue all season long, and is an issue that has been failed to be addressed by GM Ryan Grigson over the last couple of offseasons. Tonight’s task against a Jets defense that forced five turnovers last week doesn’t get any easier. New York’s defense is going to put pressure on Luck all night long, hopefully forcing him from the pocket and exposing his turnover-prone tendencies.
Luck’s favorite target T.Y. Hilton is a game-time decision with a banged-up knee, and will no doubt be covered by All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. Take away Hilton and Luck still has a vast amount of options in tight ends Colby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and wide receivers Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief and rookie Philip Dorsett. Luck is the best young quarterback in the league, if the Colts’ offensive line can stymie the Jets’ pass rush this week, Luck could have a nice bounce-back performance.
2. Jets' Running Backs vs. Colts’ D
Last week running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell totaled 153 yards rushing in the Jets' win over the Browns. While that is a respectable, not necessarily amazing stat, the Browns' defense is probably more stout than that of the Colts' at this point. The Colts' defense looked improved last weekend compared to last season against the rush, holding LeSean McCoy to just 41 yards on 17 carries, but the defense allowed Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor to do pretty much anything he wanted, both throwing or running the ball.
Indy’s defense lacks any playmakers outside of shutdown corner Vontae Davis, or injured LB/DE Robert Mathis. Mathis is questionable after missing all of last season with a torn Achilles, and defensive backs Greg Toler and Darius Butler have already been ruled out. To say the Colts are thin defensively is an understatement.
With Davis effectively shutting down half of the field for journeyman Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, look for offensive coordinator Chan Gailey to dial up a multitude of running plays for Ivory and Powell and test the Colts' front seven, keeping Fitzpatrick’s throwing numbers under 30 attempts, and keeping Andrew Luck off the field.
3. Colts' Running Game, Does It Exist?
Since the Pagano era began in Indianapolis three seasons ago, the head coach has vowed that the Colts would be a power-running team, which seems pretty laughable given who he has playing quarterback. The Colts’ backfield in the Luck era has been a constant recycling plant for running backs just trying to stay in the league. Sadly, promising back Vick Ballard could never stay healthy and was eventually waived by the team last week. But Pagano and Grigson essentially doubled down on their desire to run the ball by signing veteran running back Frank Gore this offseason after the failed Trent Richardson experiment never took flight — or found a running lane, ever.
Last week Gore was nonexistent but not for lack of effort, but more for lack of touches. Gore had just eight carries last week against the Bills for 31 yards. Quite frankly (pun intended), Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has to do better. Relying on Luck to throw the ball 49 times with an offensive line that has failed to do its job for three seasons now, is inexcusable. For Luck’s sake, and safety, a running game must be established.
After last week’s uninspired loss to the Bills, the Colts' weaknesses were exposed to the rest of the league. Look for the Jets to blitz, blitz, blitz, and then probably blitz again, forcing Andrew Luck into errant throws and allowing their talented secondary to make plays.
That being said, Luck is statically the best signal-caller in the NFL against the blitz, so rush with caution. The Jets' defense can expect a heavy dose of Frank Gore as the Colts attempt to establish some semblance of a run game. If the Colts can get Gore’s wheels turning on the ground, look for Luck to have a big night through the air as well, as the Colts bounce back from a Week 1 downer.
Prediction: Colts 31, Jets 17
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.