The Indianapolis Colts take their second road trip of the season, this time to take on the unpredictable New York Jets. Here are five key factors to watch, not including a possible Rex Ryan meltdown:
More and more Luck
There's little question now that Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has the potential to become an elite NFL quarterback. He's shown a real knack for performing in the late-game, 2-minute drill. He has two wins and should have had a third, in four games. But he's also leaning on Reggie Wayne. Smart guy. Look for the Jets to try to use cornerback Antonio Cromartie and other schemes to take Wayne away. Luck will need to utilize T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener and Donnie Avery.
Colts on the run
In a bit of bad timing, Donald Brown came out of one his finest performances in the Green Bay game (17 carries, 84 yards) with a knee issue. He had surgery Tuesday and is out for the next two or three weeks. That means the Colts must get some production from rookie Vick Ballard along with Mewelde Moore and Delone Carter. Depending on how much the Colts pass (Luck threw 55 passes last Sunday), Moore might end up with more time. He has the most experience protecting a quarterback from his time with Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.
Bring the heat
Robert Mathis is out with a sprained knee. That's bad news because Mathis has been the most dangerous defender on the Colts. The good news is Dwight Freeney will be back again after returning from an ankle injury last week. The Colts limited Freeney's reps this week in order to keep him fresh for Sunday. He'll need to put some pressure on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, and he'll need some help from Cory Redding, Jerry Hughes and Justin Hickman. Maybe Moise Fokou will surprise again.
No Jets pre-game assessment would be complete without some Tim Tebow talk. The Jets have used Tebow in some capacity from week to week, but he hasn't really spent significant time at quarterback. Speculation over whether that could change remains speculation. But Colts interim coach Bruce Arians said this week the team would have to be prepared to deal with Tebow and the “wildcat” formation. They'll also want to keep an eye on him during punts.
Looks like the Colts could be without cornerback Vontae Davis again this week, but they've been encouraged by the relatively strong play of Cassius Vaughn in his place. If the Colts do not get pressure on Sanchez, he will try to exploit the Colts secondary, just as Aaron Rodgers did to a degree during the first half of the game last week. Before his momentum-changing interception in the third quarter, Jerraud Powers was struggling a bit. That's the nature of a defensive back.