Previewing Jets-Colts with some Holiday Cheer

Ho. Ho. Ho. I’d like to wish a merry Christmas to everyone reading Jets Insider! And if the reverie of this day doesn’t quite apply to your beliefs, hey man, that’s cool too. Hope you had a superb December 25th regardless. 

Now, I’m borderline surprised to have written such a trite, stereotypical opening to a column being crafted on this unique night. [Ho? Ho? Ho? Oh yeah, baby]

But then again, perhaps it was my subconscious channeling some common sense. After all, if an individual were logging onto this site in a festive mood, only to come upon a dry, clinical analysis of why the Jets season is going to crash and burn this Sunday, it just may preclude his continued merriment. It could negatively jolt his jolliness. Hey now, I’m no grinch.

Sure, I come hauling poor tidings. I think the Jets roller-coaster ride of a campaign will, for all meaningful intents and purposes, reach an unsatisfying conclusion against the unblemished Colts. But this article is still going to be jovial. Like a sloshed reveler at the Christmas party sporting a beaming, eggnog induced smile and slightly titled Santa Claus hat, I shall present my case with a damn near uncomfortable amount of good cheer. And nothing reeks of that breezy entertainment vibe quite like a list article. So let’s fire it up!

Five observations about this Jets-Colts tilt. 

1. The Offensive Philosophies of these teams couldn’t be more different

Not in terms of raw productivity, just basically in the control these two outfits give to their respective quarterbacks.

Peyton Manning is the engine of the Indianapolis Colts. They have drafted wonderfully, surrounding their franchise player with key offensive pieces, and refused to rely on free agency to build a stable core. They are cohesively put together in every sense.

All that said, if Peyton Manning weren’t dropping back, these Colts would be far from invincible; still a competitor without question, but nowhere near the rampaging juggernaut that currently resides on the verge of becoming the league’s signature team. Manning is that vital.

He runs this offense with a command that is both cunning and brutish. As he wildly motions pre-snap and occasionally gets caught chewing out a receiver, the genius may appear a borderline madman, treading a fine line between intensity and outright boorishness. But Manning shines brightest when one considers details. The endless hours of film study, the carefully constructed he’s-a-pitchman-but-still-an-everyman-image, the razor precision placement of certain passes.

Manning wins while defining an organization, and has a chance to define an entire era, too. Heavy stuff.

Meanwhile, the Jets have implemented a color-coded system to reel in the overly aggressive tendencies of their rookie quarterback. Slight advantage: Indianapolis. Call me crazy.

 Mark Sanchez may very well be a great passer one day. Peyton Manning stopped by the town of great many years ago and kept moving along…   

2. The quarterback disparity has to be considered a mitigating factor when comparing two teams closely matched in talent [especially in this one]

Bingo. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned writing up these game previews this season, it’s this! And sure, experienced chroniclers of the National Football League may file this fact under common knowledge, but for someone who considers Dedric Ward “old-school” [As opposed to say, Don Maynard or even Joe Klecko] this revelation taught me a ton about how one position can be a compromising force.

 Basically, trying to nail down results of games that have not been played is an extremely difficult task. Everyone from me to Paulie down in the Village who has his thumbs riding on the point spread will try correlating key match-ups and tendencies, in order to make what amounts to an educated guess.

Home field advantage could be a huge deal, or maybe not. A shutdown cornerback like Darrelle Revis affects the potency of an opposing offense. These are factors that are pretty consistent. A team is what a team is, to echo a similar sentiment originated by Bill Parcells. 

The one major variable, injuries, is duly accounted for in every major American newspaper throughout the week.

But a rookie quarterback, or even a shaky quarterback, can throw all of that research and reasoning out for a loop. Forget about it. Take last week’s game, an infuriating affair for the Jets. My preview was appearing pretty prescient, especially the points about Matt Ryan struggling in his return from the toe injury in raw conditions. I thought Thomas Jones would carry the mail, but the Falcons stacked the box to stymie him, and Sanchez couldn’t quite make them pay. Different ballgame than the one I foresaw, basically chalked up to one huge factor.

Quarterback is the most important position in football. Everything flows outward from that artery. Last year, not many gave the Arizona Cardinals a chance against the Carolina Panthers in the Divisional playoffs. The Panthers appeared the best team in the NFC after a late season slide by the Giants. But they were beaten badly, because an otherwise ordinary Cardinals defense had feasted on turnovers all year, and the Panthers’ quarterback served them up by the barrel-full at a most inopportune time. Everything else that had been debated and decided about the game before it took place evaporated the second Jake Delhomme started throwing the ball to the wrong team. Hey, I’m learning. “It’s a process.”

So, while I do believe the Jets’ defense is going to give Peyton Manning all he can handle, and that Thomas Jones could potentially control the clock, the uncertainty haunting New York at it’s most pivotal position leaves me unable to give them the nod. Flashback to the last Jets’ road game approaching this degree of difficulty: At Foxboro. They would have been right there, if only… you know the rest. 

3. I do think the Colts available starters will play the whole way 

This meaning, of course, no major burn for Curtis Painter. The Colts offense is predicated on timing and rhythm. A great team risking the acquisition of rust with a game at Buffalo looming in week seventeen as the perfect opportunity for a respite does not seem likely.

I could be wrong, but I believe Manning and the first team plays four quarters. The Colts do have a long list of players nursing injuries, though, and it would be not be a surprise if questionable participants sit out completely.

Dwight Freeney has an abdomen issue which has limited his reps in practice. Pierre Gracon is missing in action with a hand injury. Clint Session is out. Defensive back Antoine Bethea and linebacker Gary Brackett have been unhindered in practice this week despite being banged up.

4. Thomas Jones may be slowing down

How many times, when assessing the Jets’ chances for victory in a given week, has Thomas Jones been the unquestionable focal point of any potential attack? More often than not, circumstances have demanded the best from Jones. The distinct lack of balance, in reliance, between the Jets running and passing game may be wearing on it’s most taxed individual.

If Jones is running on fumes, the awful injury suffered by Leon Washington surely has something to do with it, in addition to constantly running against a stacked box. Braylon Edwards’ may have stretched defenses at first, but the all around mediocre state of the Jets’ passing game has teams daring the Jets to make big plays consistently. Had Edwards and Sanchez hooked up just once more against the Falcons, even for a more moderate gain than an instant touchdown, the Jets may have coasted with Jones when it mattered most.

Should Jones be simply out of gas, and his performance against a very pedestrian Falcons run-defense was certainly eye opening, the Jets will be in serious trouble this Sunday on the road. He definitely needs some support. Will he get it?

The loss of Leon Washington put almost all the weight of the running game on Thomas Jones.

The loss of Leon Washington put almost all the weight of the running game on Thomas Jones.

5. Rex Ryan’s defense has one more stand left in them

Ryan is well aware that harassing and confusing Peyton Manning is the key to disrupting the Colts’ downright vicious aerial assault. The Ravens’ defense certainly couldn’t be blamed for their ’05 playoff ouster at the hands of Manning, as he looked downright lost at junctures against the aggressive, Ryan led unit. The Jets will be blitzing with ferocity, and with one of the leagues best collection of defensive backs providing support, they just may prop up an offense trending downward.

Last stand?

Last stand?

The Colts have nothing to play for, other than a historical milestone they may not even truly care about. Their battered offensive line will surely not be pushed into mandatory service against the Jets.

 Even still, Manning will be aware of these circumstances. It is unlikely, unless a staggering Jets offense attains an early lead, that he will force low percentage throws.

 This one is likely to develop into a physical battle, to be won easily by the better game manager.

The Jets will probably be close at halftime, but, as they have proven time after time in 2009, they are not ready to step toward the elite.

 Colts 23 Jets 12

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