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3 things to watch for Monday night when the Jets face the Colts

The Jets finally have a winnable game — if they can ruin Andrew Luck's return.
If Brandon Marshall and the Jets receiving corps get going the Jets could have a big Getty Images

The Jets’ season is sinking and the only thing head coach Todd Bowles is doing to save it is by rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic – i.e., keeping quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the starting lineup.

Second-year passer Bryce Petty isn’t the savior to keep the Jets (3-8) afloat, but at the very least, Bowles and his staff need to know if the former Baylor star is worthy of at least competing for the starting gig next season. And with only about a month’s worth of auditioning remaining, now would be the time to see what the kid’s got. As of right now, Petty only has one start under his belt – a 9-6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, three weeks ago. That’s hardly enough real-time action on which to judge.

But as it stands, barring injury, it looks like Fitzpatrick is Bowles’s man for the remainder of the season. The Jets’ Monday night opponent, the Indianapolis Colts, don’t have such quarterback issues. Franchise leader Andrew Luck (concussion) will likely be cleared in time to play, and he’ll be needed to spearhead a Colts’ attack that is seeking to get back on track. Indianapolis dropped a Thanksgiving decision at home to the Steelers, sans its franchise signal caller. And if they don’t have its full arsenal against the Jets, it could be a long day for the visitors because New York’s front seven is as good as any. It’s the same unit that befuddled the New England Patriots at times last week.

The Colts (5-6) have the weapons to attack any defense, though, as they average 352 yards per game (15th in the league), including 257 yards passing per game (11th). It’ll be great chess match between the team’s strengths. Whichever wins that battle will go a long way towards determining a victor.

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Metro takes a look ahead at other storylines to watch, as the Jets now revert to the role of spoiler.

What to Watch:

1. Colts need Luck

The Colts have won three of their last five games, and are in the midst of a tight divisional race – albeit in the putrid AFC South. Indianapolis played without Luck on Thanksgiving, as it dropped a 28-7 contest to the visiting Steelers. Head coach Chuck Pagano said on Monday that he anticipates his star quarterback to play on Monday. He’s definitely needed, especially with a Jets’ front seven that even made Tom Brady look ordinary at times, last week. The Colts can’t afford to stick Scott Tolzien into the lineup again, as this game is too important. The offense will only go as far as Luck takes them. The former Stanford star has accounted for 2,827 yards, 19 touchdowns, and eight interceptions, while completing 62.9% of his passes for a passer rating of 94.0. He’s also a threat with his feet, as he’s second on the team in both rushing attempts (51) and yards (246). Luck is averaging 4.8 yards per carry and has recorded 13 rushing touchdowns in his career. Look for the Colts to protect its top commodity and use a lot of max protection to keep an ornery Gang Green front seven at arm’s length.

2. The others

Luck is the head of the offense, but there are also other viable threats that the Jets will have to pay extra attention towards. Luck’s primary option is speedy wideout T.Y. Hilton, who ranks fifth in the league in receiving yards with 942. He also leads the team in receptions (60) and is tied for first in touchdown receptions with five. Hilton also ranks second in the league with 20 catches of at least 20 yards and has two games this season with over 170 yards receiving. Balancing out the passing game is running back Frank Gore. The veteran stalwart, 33, is the league’s oldest starting running back, but hasn’t seen his production curtail too much. The 12-year veteran leads the team in both attempts (178) and rushing yards (670), and has scored four rushing touchdowns. There’s no shortage of playmakers at Luck’s disposal. Gang Green will have its hands full.

3. Gang Green’s firepower

Despite the dismal year from Fitzpatrick, there are weapons abound for him. If the veteran journeyman keeps the ball out of the enemy’s hands, the Jets have enough talent to keep up with Luck and co. Brandon Marshall is still one of the better wideouts in the league, and seemingly gotten his mojo back after he ended his five-game touchdown drought on Sunday (six catches, 67 yards, and a touchdown). He’s also seemingly found a reliable sidekick in the burgeoning Quincy Enunwa, who registered his first-career 100-yard effort, last week, against the Patriots (five catches for 109 yards and a touchdown). And of course, when those two are covered, Fitzpatrick can still rely on running backs Matt Forte (759 rushing yards and 202 receiving) and Bilal Powell (308 rushing and 247 receiving) to bail him out both on the ground and in the air.

 
 
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