PREVIEW: Colts (2-2) vs NY Jets (2-3)

WILL THE COLTS RUN OUT OF LUCK AT METLIFE STADIUM THIS SUNDAY?

After an up-and-down five weeks — a period in which many pundits predicted the rise of New York’s prodigal back-up quarterback, Tim Tebow as the starter — Mark Sanchez is still the man for the New York Jets. The fourth year starter is in the middle of a career-worst four-game stretch, amidst a complete overhaul of offensive weapons due to injury and at the epicenter of an epic quarterback controversy.

It could be argued that luck has not been on the Jets’ side. The likes of Darrelle Revis, Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller, Stephen Hill, Sione Po’uha — and now safety Eric Smith, who injured his knee in practice Wednesday — all missing at least one game this season. That’s not even including the ever-growing daily injury report that’s beginning to look more and more like a dictionary than a rundown sheet. Now, more than ever, the Jets are living by the mantra “next man up”.

“There’s no doubt. We’re a little beat up.  Again, no excuses. We feel good about our depth,” Rex Ryan said Thursday.

On Sunday no one will argue what side Andrew Luck will be on as his 2-2 Colts come to MetLife Stadium fresh off a landmark victory over the Green Bay Packers for the top pick in this year’s draft.  And unlike the Jets, there is no perceived quarterback controversy in Indianapolis.

Sanchez’s 48.4 completion percentage ranks last in the league, prompting more calls for Tebow to take over. The Jets rank 30th in the NFL with 293.4 yards per game. With fans clamoring for more Tebow, is this the week Tebowmania breaks loose in New Jersey? Ryan remains insistent that if or when Tebow is in at quarterback it will be because he called for it, not anyone else.

“One thing I know about the public, the public wants to win just like we do and I understand that. But the decision of playing Tebow, that’s going to be my decision.  It’s not going to be the public’s decision or anybody else’s. It’s on me,” Ryan said.

Despite the Colts living up to their team name, coming in to the season as the youngest average team in the NFL, their old workhorse Reggie Wayne continues to carry the load. Wayne, who turns 35 next month, continues to prove he’s far from finished. He caught 13 passes for a career-high 212 yards against the Packers, and his 506 yards rank third in the league.

WHEN: Sunday, October 14, 2012 @ 1 pm EST (Can be seen on CBS or heard on ESPN Radio).

WHERE: East Rutherford, New Jersey / MetLife Stadium (capacity: 82,500)

SERIES HISTORY: 67th meeting / Colts lead, 40-26-0

LAST MEETING: Jets 17 — Colt 16, Lucas Oil Field (01/08/11) (AFC Wild Card)

Will Jeremy Kerley be able to follow-up his 90-yard performance from Monday night? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Will Jeremy Kerley be able to follow-up his 90-yard performance from Monday night? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

NOTABLE: Since the conferences were realigned in 2002, New York and Indianapolis have split their six match-ups. The two teams have faced off in the playoffs three times since 2003, with New York winning two-of-the-three contests. The last time the two teams met during the regular season, New York scored 19 unanswered points to snap Indianapolis’ 23-gam regular season winning streak.

HEAD COACHES:

  • COLTS — Bruce Arians / Interim head coach / 1-0
  • JETS – Rex Ryan / fourth season / 34-25 (including playoffs)

INJURY REPORT:

  • COLTSOUT LB Pat Angerer (foot), RB Donald Brown (knee), LB Robert Mathis (knee), DT Fili Moala (knee), G Joe Reitz (knee), DT Martin Tevaseu (ankel)- . DOUBTFUL – CB Vontae Davis (ankle). PROBABLE – LB Dwight Freeney (ankle), RB Mewelde Moore (ankle), C Samson Satele (knee).
  • JETS OUT - CB Darrelle Revis (knee). DOUBTFUL - RB John Conner (hamstring), DT Kenrick Ellis (knee), WR Clyde Gates (shoulder), DT Sione Po’uha (back), S Eric Smith (knee). QUESTIONABLE - C Nick Mangold (ankle). PROBABLE – LB Nick Bellore (shoulder), CB Aaron Berry (ribs), CB Antonio Cromartie (shoulder), TE Jeff Cumberland (ribs), LB David Harris (hamstring), WR Stephen Hill (hamstring), T Austin Howard (back), TE Dustin Keller (hamstring), WR Jeremy Kerley (illness, finger), S LaRon Landry (heel), G Brandon Moore (hip), LB Calvin Pace (toe), G Matt Slauson (knee), LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring).

KEY MATCH-UPS:

  • Dwight Freeney vs. Austin Howard – According to Pro Football Focus, the right side of the Jets offensive line has had serious problems stopping defenders. Heading in to Monday night’s game Howard had given up an astounding 17 quarterback disruptions, while his linemate Brandon Moore had six disruptions against him. The problem for the Colts has been getting Freeney on the field. He made his season debut last week against Green Bay. He recorded two tackles and a sack in his first game back after nursing an ankle injury. Even though he came up limping a bit after the Green Bay game, Freeney has been a full participant in practice this week and is expected to play Sunday.
  • Dustin Keller vs. Antoine Bethea — The Colts have shut down every tight end they’ve played to this point. In four games they’ve allowed a total of seven receptions, 80 yards and touchdown to tight ends that has included the likes of Kyle Rudolph and Marcedes Lewis. That’s bad news for Keller, who’s looking to play for the first time since a Week 1 hamstring injury. Keller’s been sorely missed, who’s established himself as Sanchez’s go-to target the past three seasons. He said he expects to be a go for Sunday, so expect Sanchez to break in his new toy early.
  • Antonio Cromartie vs. Reggie Wayne — The marquee match-up this week. Cromartie is coming off a stellar performance against All-Pro WR Andre Johnson, but so is Wayne. At nearly 35, Wayne is enjoying the best start to his sure-fire Hall of Fame career. His 36 receptions and 506 yards are both the most he’s amassed in the first four games of the season. Ryan said the key to stopping Wayne is keeping hands on him as much as possible. “It’s kind of hard to get your hands on him. They put him in the slot, they put him in a lot of bunches, they put him in what we call snugs, which is a two-man bunch. They don’t want you to get your hands on him, and that’s something that obviously, we’re going to try to do.  They’re not just going to let [Cromartie] go out there and ‘D him up’ from the line of scrimmage.  They’re going to move him.”

X-FACTORS:

  • Vick Ballard, RB, Colts – Are you asking yourself who the heck this guy is? You should. This year’s fifth round draft pick out of Mississippi State has only averaged 10.5 yards per game. But with Donald Brown ruled out after having surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knee. The Jets rank 31st in the NFL against the run, giving up 172 yards per game on the ground. The teeth of the Jets defense already missing Po’uha and Kenrick Ellis, they are nursing injuries to inside linebackers David Harris and Bart Scott.
  • Jeremy Kerley, WR, Jets – At this point, why wouldn’t he be the Jets x-factor? He’s the only big-play threat the team has (aside from Joe McKnight, but it seems he never gets enough touches). The fifth round pick has proven to be an early diamond in the rough for GM Mike Tannenbaum and has been one of the few players on offense to step in Holmes’ absence.

THE PICK: After playing such Super Bowl contenders as San Francisco and Houston, Indianapolis will be a greeted with a warm welcome by the Gang Green faithful. They may prove to be a bigger task than anticipated, however, with the team playing for their head coach Chuck Pagano, who recently underwent treatment for Leukemia. I believe the Jets do just enough of on offense to hold on to the victory. Jets 27 — Colts 23.

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