The Jets very own “Super Bowl” may very well be taking place at 4pm in Lucas Oil stadium. At 7-7 and needing help, the once 3-0 Gang Green take on the 14-0 Indianapolis Colts, needing to win in order to save the 2009 season. How many lives has Gang Green had? LB Bart SCott said jokingly “twelve.” This after Rex Ryan called the season over after the horrifying last minute loss to Atlanta 10-7 that stripped the Jets of control of their own destiny from here on out. Who knew that the Raiders much maligned former top pick QB Jamarcus Russell would later in the day come off the bench and save the Jets? This by rescuing the Raiders against hated rivals the Denver Broncos? Now forget the convoluted wildcard math for a moment, and focus in on this. Santa needs to leave a W by the Jets Christmas tree. Without a win, the Jets are no longer part of the conversation. Period. With a win that will shock the league, out will come the math and combos needed for the Jets to play past December. Gotta beat those Colts though.
It won’t be easy. Or will it? Nobody can quite tell if and when Indy coach Jim Caldwell will take out his starters. With home field in the AFC wrapped up, all there is to play for is an undefeated season. All there is to lose is the health of key players. Will it be worth it to the Colts brass just to go 16-0?. It’s certainly an incredible accomplishment that the Colts have come close twice to obtaining with Manning under center. But will hard hits on the future first ballot hall of fame QB, should they occur, be worth accumulating in a game that matters only for the history books? What if pass rushing killer Dwight Freeney rushes around end and gets nicked up on the play? How far will the Colts be willing to go to win this game at full throttle? The Jets BETTER expect the Colts to go all the way. Anything less will leave the team flat and unprepared mentally for the challenge of outscoring a team second only to the Saints in total points, second to the Pats in points per game with 22.1 (Pats average 23.3) and fourth in yards per game at 383.00 per game.
Peyton Manning leads all passers in passing yards with 4,213 and perennial All pro WR Reggie Wayne is second in receiving yards with 1210, trailing only Andre Johnson, who Darrelle Revis shut down in the season opener at Houston this year. Revis will have to come up big once again as he’s done all year against every top wideout the Jets have faced. TE Dallas Clark is having maybe his best year leading all tight ends in receiving yards while averaging 11.2 yards a catch. Expect once benched FS Kerry Rhodes, who has been playing great since the benching, to take that assignment on. Just as he did admirably against Tony Gonzalez for most of the Atlanta game. Versatile pass catching RB Joseph Addai missed practice Thursday due to personal issues but tough rookie out of UConn, Donald Brown, could fill in and keep the ground game going well should Addai miss Sunday’s battle.
Defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have combined for 23 sacks this season. These two must be blocked by D’ Brickashaw Ferguson and Damien Woody with the help of the Jets running backs, if Sanchez is to have any chance throwing it downfield. The last game Sanchez threw with confidence, threw downfield effectively, may have been the loss to Miami in week 5 on Monday night. The Jets, will surely start the game with an initial game plan to “Ground and Pound” it with RB Thomas Jones and rookie Shonn Greene with a little Danny Woodhead mixed in. However, if and when the dam breaks on defense, the Jets could find themselves down two scores earlier than they’d like. Keeping Freeney and Mathis locked up will be the first of three essential steps the Jets will need to complete in order to hang with the Colts. The second will be confident decision making and accurate throws by the rookie QB out of USC. Third, Jet receivers will need to hold on to the catchable balls and also make a few tough grabs along the way. Hear that Braylon Edwards? Yards cannot be left on the field this week. A return to that confidence that was there in week 5, a long time ago, may be needed in a hurry on Sunday.
There are those in the media who DO give the Jets a chance this week, yet solely based on the assumption that the Colts won’t finish the game with their starters. The truth is, if Revis and Rhodes can make Wayne and Clark pedestrian, if Rex Ryan’s defense can pressure Manning at times, and Sanchez can regain an early season swagger that will not allow the Colts to keep eight in the box, the Jets can beat the Colts. WITH their starters. The real question is, can the Jets shut down two big passing game targets, get pressure on the QB, and attack through the air despite a shaky second half passing resume all on the same day? The answer to that difficult trifecta is days away but at least the three keys puts the onus on the Jets, not on the personnel decisions made by the Colts staff. Or the mindset of Santa Claus in determining which team has been naughty or nice this season.
THREE KEYS TO THE COLTS GAME:
Sanchez get in the time machine: C’mon Mark, let’s travel back to week 5 and Miami , when you brought the Jets back twice, played a carefree confident style in the pocket and GOT results. Tentative late throws won’t help this week. In fact, they’ll contribute to a rout. Dustin Keller Jerricho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, it’s time to break out, all at once. 300 yards in the air for the first time this season. Let’s do it.
Stop the Bermuda Triangle: Manning Wayne and Clark are a deathtrap. True there is Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and others, we know that. Yet It’s those three that do the most damage. Clark is hard to jam at the line. Rhodes will need help but
what is Rex Ryan’s choice? PRessure Manning to speed up release time, have Revis shut down Wayne and Clark bothered play in play out, and there is hope.
Get burned by this trio and you can warm up the buses by halftime. Oh, and THEN you’ll see Colts second unit.
DESPERATION; MOTIVATION If the Jets DON’T come out with the same urgency and desperation that the Giants did in Washington Monday night, kiss 2009 goodbye. If the Colts come out highly motivated to stay perfect in 2009, kiss it goodbye as well. What the Jets could really afford, is a combo of playing desperate against a complacent Colts team that has it’s sights already set on the Super Bowl in February. For the Jets, Sunday HAS to be THEIR Super Bowl.
follow TJ Rosenthal on twitter @ thejetreport