It will be man vs. machine at Giants Stadium this Sunday. The New York Jets, a team based around heart and fight, will host the Indianapolis Colts, a team more loaded with talent than perhaps any other in the NFL.
Through three games, the Jets have surprised many fans who wrote them off as non-contenders in the preseason. The team is 2-1 and hung close with the three-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in their lone loss. Though the execution has not always been flawless, the Jets have been a scrappy team that has hung around and delivered some big hits of their own late in games.
The Colts, on the other hand, have done exactly what was expected of them. They systematically destroyed their first three opponents mainly through a relentless offensive attack. Led by Pro-Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning, Indianapolis has run up a league-leading 90 points through three weeks. While the Colts and Jets are first and second in the AFC in passing yards, respectively, the Colts lead Gang Green by more than 100 yards in that category.
Something else that the two teams have in common is a struggle in the running game. Both teams rank in the bottom ten in the league in rushing yards, though this may hardly be a surprise. The Jets have struggled using a carousel of backs featuring veterans Kevan Barlow and Derrick Blaylock, rookie Leon Washington, and a small dose of second-year power-back Cedric Houston in Week 3’s win against Buffalo. None of the four backs has emerged as a clear replacement for future hall-of-fame running back Curtis Martin who is out with a reported bone-on-bone condition in his knee.
“I think that it’s an area that we’re working to improve,” Jets head coach Eric Mangini said of his running game, which has managed just 2.6 yards per carry as a unit thus far. “It takes everybody. It’s the receivers blocking, the offensive linemen, the quarterback, the full backs; the whole group has to be consistently on the same page to be an effective running team.”
Indy has had its own troubles trying to replace its feature back from a year ago, Edgerrin James, who signed with the Arizona Cardinals as a free agent over the offseason. The Colts have split carries between veteran and longtime back-up Dominic Rhodes and rookie Joseph Addai so far this season. While Rhodes has seen more action than the 2006 first round pick, Addai has clearly been more effective, averaging 4.7 yards a carry compared to Rhodes 2.6 yards per carry. Still, Colts head coach Tony Dungy maintains the gameplan is to evenly spread the load.
“We do not count carries and all that,” Dungy said in a conference call. “They just play by series and those carries will even out by the end of the year.”
Much of the hype leading into this Week 4 match-up has been surrounding the Jets ability to keep the Colts offense off the field. Mangini and his players have been quizzed all week on the importance of moving the ball effectively on the ground and through short passes to help manage the clock and control the ball. While Mangini acknowledged the danger of the Colts offense and its big play capability, he pointed to one statistic he finds slightly more important.
“One statistic to pay attention to is give-away/take-away, which they been extremely good at,” Mangini said, alluding to the Colts plus four turnover ratio. “Over the course of the first three weeks, a team with a plus one ratio has won 75 percent of the time, and a team with a plus 2 has won 83 percent of the time.”
If that is the case, the Jets have to like their chances. They are even better than the Colts with a plus 5 turnover ratio entering this weekend.
With a tremendous trio of receivers like the Colts’ Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and possibly Brandon Stokley (who is listed as questionable with an ankle injury), accompanied by a solid tight end in Dallas Clark, the Jets defense will have its hands full on Sunday. Making things even tougher for Gang Green on defense will be Manning’s uncanny ability to call plays from the line of scrimmage.
“You have to bring your ‘A’ game when you play the Colts because of that,” Jets safety Erik Coleman said of Manning’s intelligence. “He does such a great job of making decisions. People talk about him pre-snap, but after the snap he does a great job reading defenses. It’s tough, it just comes down to the plan and competing.”
While the Jets can try to downplay the significance of Sunday’s game as a measuring stick, we should get a good look at just how serious of a contender Gang Green is when they take on one of the NFL’s premier teams in the Meadowlands this weekend.
-Though Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery have cemented their roles as the Jets top two receivers, do not be surprised if offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer tries to get Justin McCareins more involved this week. The Colts defensive backs are small and McCareins is capable of playing a physical brand of football that Coles and Cotchery cannot.
-Though the Jets are 2-0 against the Colts in the postseason, Indianapolis holds a 39-25 regular season edge over Gang Green historically, including a 38-31 victory the last time the two teams met on November 16, 2003.
-The forecast for Sunday is currently calling for scattered thunderstorms. This would likely be helpful to the Jets as it would make it much more difficult for that potent Indy passing attack to get off the ground.
MARK CANNIZZARO FAN CHAT THIS THURSDAY: Be sure to check out a Fan Chat with NY Post/JI writer Mark Cannizzaro next Thursday (10/5) at 8PM in the Jets Insider Chatroom.
Mark will be giving all the latest info on all the happenings at Weeb Ewbank Hall including reaction to the Colts game and news leading up to the Jags game.
The is open to the public, you just need to register on the JI messageboard to participate.
DON'T MISS IT!
New York Jets
-CB David Barrett (Thigh): Questionable
-WR Laveranues Coles (Calf): Questionable
-WR Tim Dwight (Hamstring): Questionable
-OL Pete Kendall (Thigh): Questionable
-S Kerry Rhodes (Thigh): Questionable
-DB Derrick Strait (Thigh): Questionable
-OL Trey Teague (Ankle): Questionable
-DL Dave Ball (Hand): Probable
-RB Kevan Barlow (Calf): Probable
-LB Matt Chatham (Foot): Probable
-OL Anthony Clement (Shin): Probable
-CB Drew Coleman (Hand): Probable
-DL Shaun Ellis (Hip): Probable
-DL Bobby Hamilton (Knee): Probable
-QB Chad Pennington (Calf): Probable
-DL Kimo von Oelhoffen (Knee): Probable
-DT Corey Simon (Knee): Out
-S Bob Sanders (Knee): Out
-LB Gary Brackett (Thigh): Questionable
-T Ryan Diem (Thumb): Questionable
-C Dylan Gandy (Abdomen): Questionable
-CB Nick Harper (Ankle): Questionable
-DB Kelvin Hayden (Groin): Questionable
-DB Marlin Jackson (Concussion): Questionable
-DB Tim Jennings (Knee): Questionable
-LB Freddie Keiaho (Knee): Questionable
-DT Dan Klecko (Low Back): Questionable
-WR Brandon Stokley (Ankle): Questionable
-DE Josh Thomas (Hip): Questionable
-TE Ben Utecht (Groin): Questionable
-K Adam Vinatieri (R Groin): Questionable
-RB Dede Dorsey (Ankle): Probable
Game time is at 1:00PM on Sunday, local TV on CBS 2 and local radio on 1050 ESPN radio and WCRN 104.3 on Long Island. Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com after the game for a complete recap!