New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Indianapolis Colts

The New York Jets’ lone scheduled prime time game for the 2021 season comes in Thursday night fashion against Indianapolis.

The Opponent: Indianapolis Colts
The Date:
Week 8, November 4, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network (@ IND)
The Series: 
Colts lead 43-32 (last meeting: 2020, 36-7 IND)

Much like the original cast of another metropolitan staple, Saturday Night Live, the modern New York Jets could well be described as “Not Ready for Prime Time Players”.

The Jets’ only prime time game of the 2021 season (discounting a morning game against Atlanta in London) is a Thursday night contest against the Indianapolis Colts. Former division rivals will square off for the second straight season: the Jets will be seeking revenge for a 36-7 shellacking they endured at Lucas Oil Stadium, one that showed how far they had fallen since the 2018 trade that put Sam Darnold on a green path.

Both the Jets and Colts have made changes at quarterback since last season’s showdown: no trade was necessary for the Jets to choose Sam Wilson second overall in April while the Colts have opted for another veteran in Carson Wentz after Phillip Rivers’ retirement.

The Skinny On the Colts

The Colts have managed to make the most out of meandering in franchise quarterback purgatory after Andrew Luck’s infamous abrupt retirement. That’s been made possible by a reliable offensive line anchored by Quinton Nelson, one that has protected its stopgap throwers like Rivers and Jacoby Brissett. Running back Jonathan Taylor has likewise flourished, as the rookie broke through for 1,169 yards last season. A fearsome defense is headline by three-time All-Pro Darius Leonard.

Indianapolis has built its consistency through the draft, an endeavor that partly started through its fateful deal with the Jets. The picks sent to the Colts eventually yielded horseshoes for several vital contributors, including primary blockers Nelson and Braden Smith, defenders Kemoko Turay and Rock Ya-Sin. Rusher Jordan Wilkins, the final portion, has also proven to be a reliable depth option, working with Taylor, Nyheim Hines, and Marlon Mack (who missed nearly all of last season with a torn Achilles).

Eight Indianapolis starters have been acquired over the last three drafts prior to 2021. At least one more should be added to that tally with Michigan pass rusher Kwity Paye arriving at 21st overall last spring. NFL agents recently named Colts general manager Chris Ballard the best talent evaluator and in a poll conducted by Ben Standig of The Athletic. Both Ballard and head coach Frank Reich were recently granted contract extensions that will keep them in Indianapolis through the 2026 season, high honors for the first-time GM and lead headset man.

Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay was proud to keep continuity in Indianapolis in addition to the sense of consistent stability that could’ve been lost in the wake of Luck’s franchise-altering departure.

“When you bring in two people like Frank and Chris who had never been general manager-head coach before, you invest in their growth,” Irsay said, per team reporter JJ Stankevitz. “You invest in the fact they’re going to mature and become better than they were when they started…that’s what continuity does, it brings the day where you can read the growth of a person’s professional track as they grow.”

“They’re outstanding men in our community, they’re the type of men that our players can look up to and truly see as mentors where they know their feet go where their words go. That means a lot to me.”

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New In Indianapolis?

The new hope for the Colts is Wentz, who’s seeking to reclaim the narrative on his NFL career after the good times in Philadelphia fizzled out. Indianapolis was perhaps the best place for him to land: the Colts have let up only 52 sacks over the last two seasons…in comparison, Wentz was sacked 50 times alone in 2020, and he missed four games after he was benched for Jalen Hurts.

Indianapolis lost of one of its blocking staples this offseason through Anthony Costanzo. The Colts made up for the loss through the signing of Eric Fisher, Kansas City’s top overall pick from 2013, but he’ll be out for the team’s Sunday opener against Seattle (1 p.m. ET, Fox). Paulsboro, NJ native and recent signee from Houston Julien Davenport is scheduled to take over. The rest of the group is otherwise the same. Both Nelson had late foot issues that were addressed, but each is scheduled to be a full-go for Week 1.

Right guard Mark Glowinski once against spoke about how important Colts chemistry and continuity was in another report from Stankevitz. It’s exactly what Wentz needs to gain some long-sought protection and for Taylor to keep up the momentum from his freshman campaign.

“We still find ways to learn from one another and make it interesting,” Glowinski said. “We’re still able to use the same jokes and still laugh and stuff like that. It’s kind of funny being able to be together for this long but we’re just working. Like I would say every year, you’re working on the same blocks and everything. You just find another way to get better at those and you can keep developing new ways to do your job. It’s pretty cool to be able to be with all those guys for that long though.”

While Reich was made a staple on the Colts’ staff, several assistants departed, some joining former offensive coordinator and new Philadelphia boss Nick Sirianni. Quarterbacks coach and three-time CFL champion Marcus Brady takes over in Sirianni’s wake, while the Colts were able to keep defensive boss and popular head coach interviewee Matt Eberflus. The arrival of Paye partly settles pass-rushing quandary: the departures of Denico Autry and Justin Houston cost the Colts 15.5 sacks from last season.

How To Beat Them

-Corral the Pass Rush

Indianapolis’ pass rush was hit or miss even with Autry and Houston in tow. DeForest Buckner fulfilled expectations in his first season in blue while inside man Grover Stewart played his way into an expensive extension. Mekhi Becton will likely get first dibs at the legendary Leonard. The group will have to step it up in the early going, as Rutgers alum Kemoko Turay will miss Sunday’s opener.

But even with the Costanzo-sized on the offensive line, the Colts felt that needed to address the area through the selection of Paye out of Michigan. Thus, it’ll be up to the Jets’ blockers to keep sowing doubt when they meet up for their nationally televised matchup.

“Kwity pops off the tape, one, with his athleticism and his speed, but also with his effort,” Ballard said of the choice to draft Paye over a lineman, per Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star. “This kid, he already plays the way we want to play. He’s going to fit in pretty quickly.”

-Wentz Turnovers Cometh

Part of the reason why Philadelphia moved on from Wentz was his increasingly troubling turnover issues: his 15 interceptions were a league-worst in 2020 and he fumbled 10 times…the latter mark was an improvement after putting 16 on the grass last season.

As with so many other areas of their horrid 2020 season, the Jets struggled to force turnovers, picking up only 19. Upping the pressure on Wentz could lead to those struggles resurfacing and the Jets have the front seven to do so, even with the oft-cited red flag of Carl Lawson forced out for the year.

This time around, Wentz’s turnover issues could be partially cast aside by the idea that the Colts have the additional weaponry to get by, namely the multi-pronged run game. The Colts were 1-3 when Taylor, Hines, and Wilkins were held to under 100 yards rushing

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets Game Preview Week 3: Indianapolis Colts

The depleted New York Jets hit the road to take on an Indianapolis Colts squad looking to start a winning streak.

What: New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
When: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
Watch: CBS

“Next man up” has routinely been a mantra for NFL squads when a major contributor is lost to an injury. The New York Jets, however, may need a next team up entirely if current events keep pace.

The Jets (0-2) will be missing at least five representatives as they hit the road to battle the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday late afternoon (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). That manifest includes two of their top receivers (Breshad Perriman, Jamison Crowder) and two members of the secondary (Quincy Wilson, Ashtyn Davis), as well as a starting offensive lineman (George Fant). Not counted are the numerous players on injured reserve, such as running back Le’Veon Bell.

Head coach Adam Gase remarked this week that “whoever’s got a pulse right now” should be ready for action in Circle City.

“I look at it as if we’re the only team going through this it would be one thing,” Gase said in an attempt to find a silver lining, through Al Iannazzone of Newsday. “You’re seeing guys going down left and right whether it be in practice or games. We’re having soft-tissue things happen to us. It seems a lot of these other teams are going through major, major season-ending type injuries.”

The Jets are coming off a one-sided loss to the San Francisco, falling 31-13 in their 2020 debut at MetLife Stadium. Strong points were hard to come by in the ugly defeat, but Quinnen Williams earned the first multi-sack game of his career. Pierre Desir also had the first interception of his New York tenure, while Sam Darnold found Braxton Berrios for a 30-yard score late in the game. Desir will make his

On the AFC South side of things, Indianapolis (1-1) earned their first win of the season with a 28-11 advantage over the Minnesota Vikings last weekend. The Colts took three interceptions from Kirk Cousins while rookie Jonathan Taylor earned the first triple-digit yardage game of his career, picking up 101 and a touchdown. Mo Allie-Cox led all receivers with 111 yards on five receptions.

The Series

This will be the 75th meeting between the Jets and Colts, former AFC East rivals prior to divisional realignment in 2002. Indianapolis leads the series 42-32, but the Jets have won five of the last seven get-togethers. The most recent meeting came in 2018 in East Rutherford, a matchup the Jets took by a 42-32 final. Andrew Luck threw for 301 yards and four touchdowns but it wasn’t enough to counter three interceptions, including one by Avery Williamson. Then-rookie Sam Darnold has a strong game as well, throwing for 280 yards and two scores.

History Happens: 2011

The Jets will return to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, the site of one of their most recent playoff victories. They topped the Colts 17-16 in the 2011 AFC Wild Card playoffs en route to the latter of back-to-back trips to the conference title game. Indianapolis took the lead on a 50-yard field goal with 53 seconds remaining, but Antonio Cromartie set the Jets up with a strong return to the New York 46. Three Mark Sanchez throws later (two caught by Braylon Edwards), Nick Folk booted a 32-yard field goal that punched the Jets’ ticket to New England. LaDainian Tomlinson scored two one-yard touchdowns for the Jets in their victory.

They Said It

“We don’t do 3/4ths. We don’t do half-speed…That’s how we practice on defense…Those guys, whether it was misunderstood, they are taking ownership. Especially after a game, like we all do. Me first, then them. We practice very hard. It’s shocking when other people come into wherever this staff is, when they’ve been allowed to do certain things a certain way other places, that’s not what we do here.”Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams on the Jets’ practices after several players spoke out against them this week, per SNY

“He’s a tough runner. He doesn’t quit, he’s not an out-of-bounds guy, he’s going to lower his shoulder. He reminds me a lot of Adrian Peterson and how they’re 17 years into the league, that’s when football was football where you’re going to run between the tackles, man on man, is my man stronger than you, is my will better than yours? And he still has that mentality. I think that’s what makes him who he is, because when he gets between those tackles he’s going to lower his shoulder, he’s going to try to run you over, and that’s what type of mentality you need playing at running back and not a lot of this other stuff you see at running back.”-Colts LB Darius Leonard on Frank Gore, per Andrew Walker

Matchup to Watch

Quinnen Williams vs. Colts offensive line

Williams put up his best New York performance to date during last Sunday’s loss, picking up seven tackles and two sacks while forcing a fumble against the Niners. It’s up to him to prove that won’t be a fluke. That challenge won’t be easy against a Colts line anchored by Quinton Nelson.

Nelson has an indirect, yet eternal, part in Jets history. In the 2018 draft proceedings, the Jets were originally slated to choose sixth. That pick was later shipped to Indianapolis for the right to select in the third slot, where Sam Darnold’s name was called. Nelson went in the rebranded sixth slot and has gone on to become one of the NFL’s top offensive linemen.

“You don’t really hear a ton of things about offensive linemen especially interior guys when you’re coming out of college,” Gase said of Nelson in a report from team writer Ethan Greenberg. “This guy was the talk of the combine. Everyone was talking about him leading up to the draft. Not only is he extremely smart, but he plays really physical. He’s mean. He sets the attitude of the entire room, but his technique and fundamentals are phenomenal. You can tell this guy takes a lot of pride in what he does.”

The Colts’ offensive line has done a solid job of protecting aging quarterback Phillip Rivers in the early going, allowing only two sacks over the first couple of weeks.

The Jets Will Win If…

Williams and the front seven can win the battle in the trenches.

With so many offensive contributors sidelined, the Jets will have to win the “ugly” way…low scoring, may multiple turnovers, and making the wary Rivers uncomfortable. The defense is missing key components as well, some of whom aren’t coming back (noted opt-out C.J. Mosley). If the defensive substitutes can rise to the occasion, they may stand a fighting chance in a low-scoring game, to the tune of a 16-13 or 13-10 final.

The Colts Will Win If…

Like many Jets games for the remainder of the season, the battle will be won if they take care of business.

The Colts are in an interesting spot in the AFC South. For example, the Houston Texans, division champions in four of the past five seasons, could well be winless in three games by the end of the weekend. The rebuilding Jacksonville Jaguars have been no slouches, as the Colts found out the hard way in Week 1. At the top, the Tennessee Titans are proving that their conference title game appearance was no fluke, at least so far. Simply put, this game very well may be a must-win for the 1-1 Colts.

Indianapolis will need substitutions of their own to step up on Sunday. Cornerback Rock Ya-Sin will be missing his second consecutive game, leading to the rise of T.J. Carrie. Several Colts are also looking to atone for slow starts, like former receiving yardage leader T.Y. Hilton (7 receptions, 81 yards). They could certainly benefit from a derailed Jets squad dealing with countless departures.

Prediction

The Jets have endured a brutal week, and it seems only right to end this with yet another tough defeat. If a depleted 49ers squad at home was too much to handle, it stands to reason that a slightly banged-up Colts squad that has everything to lose in front of their fans (Lucas Oil Stadium will admit 7,500 to Sunday’s game) would produce a similar result.

New York can keep things more respectable this time around. Wins, however, are far too tough to come by right now. A meeting with the equally famished Broncos on Thursday? That could be another story…

Colts 23, Jets 6

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Saquon Barkley Wins 2018 Pepsi Rookie Of The Year

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

After already winning the PFWA Offensive Rookie of the Year award, New York Giants’ running back Saquon Barkley has added another trophy to his collection. Fans across the country voted for the Pepsi Rookie Of The Year, and the Giants’ rookie won the voting. Saquon beat out other great talents, such as Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Darius Leonard, and Phillip Lindsay.

It should come as no surprise the Saquon won this award. Barkley was the third running back in NFL history to total 2,000 scrimmage yards as a rookie. With this feat, the rookie from Penn State joined the elite company of Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James.

Barkley proved to be well worth the 2nd overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Along with his league leading 2,028 yards from scrimmage, Saquon scored 15 total touchdowns. He totaled 15 with 11 rushing and 4 receiving. His 91 receptions were also a rookie running back record. Saquon was a true force in both the rushing and receiving game.

Barkley was also voted to the 2019 NFL Pro Bowl. Saquon is greatly respected by his peers and coaches. Of course, the Pro Bowl is an event for the fans, so this is another testament to how much the fans love Barkley.

Saquon was excited to receive the award, and eager to bring it back to the Big Apple:

Giants fans should take a moment to reflect and appreciate Saquon Barkley’s incredible rookie season. Not only was Saquon a stat-sheet stuffer, he was also a human-highlight reel. Barkley proved he could take any play and turn it into a highlight.

A simple screen pass:

A speedy handoff from 78 yards out:

An everyday 9 yard gain:

And of course, an ordinary handoff from the 1 yard line: