Colts vs. Jets: 5 things to watch in Week 9

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The Indianapolis Colts (3-5) are coming off a disappointing loss to the Tennessee Titans and have a quick turnaround as they are set to face the New York Jets (2-5) on Thursday night.

Frank Reich will have to get his team to shake off the rough ending in Week 8 and make sure they’re ready to get things right in Week 9. Despite it feeling like everything is on fire surrounding the Indianapolis organization right now, the season isn’t a lost cause at this time.

Yes, the Titans have full control over the AFC South and the division is highly out of reach. But, Derrick Henry is out for at least the next six weeks, likely eight weeks, so the Colts will have to see how that impacts Tennessee’s season.

That shouldn’t be their worry, if things fall their way in that court then they can address it later this season, the focus should be getting to .500 and getting into one of the three Wildcard spots. They are currently only one and a half games out of the playoff picture.

The next couple of games against the Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars give them a chance to breathe back life into their season. It’s back to taking it one game at a time and that starts against New York in primetime.

Here are my top five things to watch in the opening Week 9 matchup:

Don't let Mike White beat you

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Week 8 in the NFL featured backup quarterbacks getting wins for their teams. The Jets were one of them in a surprise upset over the Cincinnati Bengals. In his first start, White went 37/45 for 405 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions.

He battled it out against Joe Burrow and led his team to a victory with his effort in the fourth quarter. New York found themselves down 31-20 with 7:29 left in the game. White would go on to lead his team on a 75-yard scoring drive to put them down only five points.

His defense followed it up by picking off Burrow on the first play to give the offense the ball back and the quarterback took advantage of it to get his third touchdown of the day. Matt Eberflus can’t afford to let his defense get picked apart by White. If the Jets backup follows it up with another solid performance then it will be an indictment on Eberflus’ resume.

The Colts still have a shot to potentially turn things around but if they lose because White diced up their secondary then it is time to officially put a fork in them.

Rebound game for Frank Reich and Carson Wentz

Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Colts head coach and quarterback have been tied at the hip since Chris Ballard made the move back in the offseason. After putting together a string of good performances by the offense, it was looking like Wentz was the answer for the quarterback position until the final moments in the loss to the Titans.

The boneheaded interceptions to combine with some questionable play-calling ended up costing the team the game and the tandem deserve all the blame they are getting right now. Reich has to make sure his offense has a balanced attack and stop limiting the number of touches that Jonathan Taylor gets in the game. Some of the cute play calls closer to the endzone also need to be cut out, too many times a drive has been derailed or he has put his team in 4th-and-goal situations.

Wentz’s issues from his 2020 season showed up this past Sunday when he tried to play too much hero ball. The quarterback tried to press too much and looked to win the game on one play. He has to get back to playing efficient football and take what is given to him. The Jets defense is giving up 390.4 YPG, which ranks fifth in the NFL. They can’t afford to look at it as easy pickings, but this is a favorable matchup for Reich and Wentz to work out their kinks in the offense.

Will the edge rushers ever show up?

AP Photo/Tony Avelar

The secondary isn’t the only ones that are under watch to not let Mike White pick apart the Colts defense with ease. It is also going to be on the defensive front to not only be dominant against the run, but they have to get the backup under duress throughout the night.

The inability to create consistent pressure is a constant theme for the organization in the Ballard era and somebody needs to step up on the edge. Kemoko Turay continues to show flashes but he needs to stay on the field and do it more often.

Kwity Paye has shown some positive things when you turn on the film but he just needs to put it all together and be more effective as a pass rusher. Dayo Odeyingbo just made his season debut and the team will need to be patient with him as he works his way back from his Achilles injury.

But with the season-ending injury to Tyquan Lewis, they are going to need him to step up sooner than later. These are the three players that need to start delivering on the outside otherwise Eberflus will see yet another quarterback have all day to sit in the pocket to make the correct read and give his unit problems throughout the night.

Who steps up in the passing attack?

AP Photo/Tony Avelar

Michael Pittman Jr. has proven that he’s capable of being the lead dog in the receiving corps. He leads the team in receptions (45) and receiving yards (594). He’s also tied with Mo Alie-Cox for the most receiving touchdowns (4). The next leading receiver is actually Jonathan Taylor who has with 265 receiving yards.

T.Y. Hilton is out with a concussion so Pittman Jr. will need someone to step up in the receiver room to help take eyes off him. Wentz is relying on his trusty target too much that it played into his final interception against the Titans. He never took his eyes off of him and tried to force the throw into triple coverage.

If the offense is going to get back on track then they need some players to make more of an impact as a receiving threat. Zach Pascal had early-season production but hasn’t done much of late. Ashton Dulin is a great special team player and is still developing to be more effective as a receiver. Mike Strachan made a couple receptions to start the season but he was a healthy scratch on Sunday and hasn’t gotten much of an opportunity to prove himself. With T.Y. in and out of the lineup this season, Reich is going to need to find someone that can help complement Pittman Jr. as defenses start to shift coverages his way.

If it can’t be one of his receivers, then he can lean on his tight ends. Alie-Cox has emerged this season as more of a consistent threat, Jack Doyle looks like he’s getting healthier, and Kylen Granson continues to see more involvement every week. One player I would like to see more involved is Nyheim Hines. He’s electric speed hasn’t been on display in the recent weeks and his ability to create chunk plays needs to be used more often. Regardless if it is one player or a mixture, the offense needs some help to go with Pittman Jr. when they go to the air on Thursday night.

Don't let the Jets hang in it

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Anything can happen on any given Sunday (or Thursday night) as the world saw during Week 8 across the league. Everything lined up for the Bengals to walk all over the Jets but they came out flat and allowed New York to have confidence throughout the game.

Cincinnati fell to an early seven-point deficit and it was a one-score game until they opened up to an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter. Even when the Jets were down two scores late in the game, they still fought back to get their second win of the season. They can’t be taken as an easy opponent for the Colts. Not only did they beat the Bengals, but their other win came against the Titans.

This is a matchup that Reich needs to get his team to come out and punch New York right in the mouth. Indianapolis 14-0 lead against Tennessee was a perfect start, but they failed to capitalize on it. If that happens again, then they need to keep the pressing to stack up points and not allow the Jets to think they have a shot to win this. A slow start and giving New York an early lead will give them the belief that they can get the road victory in Lucas Oil Stadium. After showing the killer instinct in San Francisco, it didn’t show up in the loss on Sunday.

If that was something that Wentz and company were serious about having then the team needs to handle their business to get their fourth win of the season.

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