The Jets continue their quest to right their ship, start stronger, finish stronger, and win some games. Next up: the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football.
"It's kind of been a broken record the last few weeks, but being professionals," QB Ryan Fitzpatrick said about what must continue to drive the Jets despite their 3-8 record. "Coming in and doing your job every day. That's the important thing and especially for some of the older guys that have been through stuff like this. Just setting a good example and showing the young guys the way."
Helping the Jets rebound from their third consecutive by five points or fewer, to New England last Sunday, is the ESPN primetime stage. And the Colts are a good foe for the Jets, who defeated them last year at Lucas Oil Stadium, also on MNF, by 20-7. But this year Indy would appear to be playing for more with a 5-6 record and AFC playoff possibilities still alive.
"We're definitely familiar with them," said CB Darrelle Revis, who no doubt will find himself during the game covering the sore-backed but highly productive T.Y. Hilton. "This will be a good test for us."
Here are seven more points to ponder about Jets-Colts, Monday night, Round 2:
1. The Series So FarThis rivalry started out with a Green & White win in a little affair known as Super Bowl III against the then-Baltimore Colts. Ever since, history has favored the Colts, who lead the series with their one-time AFC East rivals, 41-31. But some of that edge was built during the Peyton Manning era. The Andrew Luck phase hasn't been bad, yet the Jets have held the upper hand against him in their two meetings, in 2012 at MetLife by 35-9 when he was a rookie and last year's Week 2 Monday nighter by 20-7 in Indy.
2. The 30-Year-Old TailbacksIs this a matchup of the two oldest starting tailbacks in league history? No, but both the Jets' Matt Forte, who turns 31 a week from Saturday, and the Colts' Frank Gore, 33, are getting up there for NFL ballcarriers. Both still produce yardage — Forté is averaging 87 YFS/game, while Gore (whom head coach Todd Bowles called "timeless") is at 79. But both are also puttering along at 3.8 yards/carry. In theory, Forté and the Jets line should have the edge against Indy's 23rd-ranked rushing defense over Gore and the Colts vs. the Jets' 4th-ranked run defense.
3. Ryan's HopeBowles is staying with Fitzpatrick behind center — which could be sore-ankled Nick Mangold for the first time in five games — and Fitz has recent history, health and receivers on his side. He got the victory in last year's MNF meeting with an efficient 22-for-34, 244-yard passing night. One of the beneficiaries was Brandon Marshall, who notched the first of his 10 100-yard receiving games as a Jet in that one. The QB said the Indy defense is "not a whole lot different" this year, except maybe in who's out there. CB Vontae Davis (groin) is questionable, as is veteran pass-rushing OLB Robert Mathis.
4. Testing the Air DefenseQuietly, the Jets' deep ball defense has improved. According to 360.sportradar.com, in the first six games their opponents had a 119.4 passer rating on throws of 20-plus yards, completing 13 of 26 with five touchdowns and one interception. Over the last five games the opponents' rating is 29.1 on 6-of-29 with no TDs and two INTs. How real this improvement is will be tested by Colts. Andrew Luck likes to air it out and has a 115.8 rating on 20-plus throws, and T.Y. Hilton is second in the NFL behind only Julio Jones with his 20 catches of 20-plus yards.
5. Wilkerson OpeningLuck, expected to be cleared from the concussion protocol that kept him out of the Colts' Thursday night loss to the Steelers, still has to be nimble since he's been sacked a league-high 35 times. The Jets' pass rush, however, has struggled since Week 2 to a league-low 12 sacks. This would seem to be a good opportunity for Muhammad Wilkerson (39 career sacks but 2.5 this season) to get rolling again. "He's been healthy for the past week and a half or so," said Bowles. "He's feeling a lot better now, so I expect to see a lot better Mo."
A Look Back at the Storied History Starting with Super Bowl III
6. Turnover BluesBowles bemoaned the takeaway hole the Jets find themselves in, especially that after feasting on 30 turnovers last season, they've fallen on hard times again — no interceptions in three games, no fumble recoveries in four, and nine TAs for the year leading to the Green & White's minus-13 margin. "Yeah, it's frustrating," the coach said. "That's the biggest difference between this year and last year defensively." The Patriots were also struggling with takeaways until last Sunday. Take 2: The Colts are tied for 30th with eight takeaways. Here's another chance for the Jets to win the always important TO battle.
7. Field Position AlertThe Jets' average start-of-drive field position this season is their 26.2-yard line, close to being the lowest in a quarter of a century. One reason for this is their NFL-low 5.4 yards/punt return, a stat that doesn't mesh well with Indy leg man Pat McAfee's 50.1 yards/punt, tops in the league, and 43.1 net. But Jeremy Ross was re-signed recently to put some giddyup back into punt and kickoff returns. This primetime stage would be a great time for him and the Jets' return teams to kick it up a notch.