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Gameday Live 15: Jets at Colts

Happy holidays, good people, and welcome to episode 15 of GDL. Stephen Haynes back with you on the day after Boxing Day to provide stats, updates and randomness. Join us, won’t you.

Know what Santee Claus got the Jets for Christmas? Hahaha, no, not a playoff berth. The 7-7 record says they’ve been equally good and bad so, for goodness’ sake, he wasn't sure about what to do. So what the Jets found under their tree was a box of building blocks. Not the big, clunky ones from way back, but the Lego sets you can do something with besides build a rectangular house. The kind that was cool in the mid 90s (hey, my generation had the best toys). They’ve got 500 small pieces and directions so vague the picture on the box serves as a better guide. Fist full of blocks and a chance maybe to put something together that they’ll enjoy.

Last week’s loss 10-7 loss to Atlanta didn’t eliminate them mathematically [Rex Ryan joke goes here] but it makes it damn near impossible for them to reach the postseason. The Ravens have the Raiders ahead on their schedule; Broncos have the Chiefs; the Jaguars have the Browns. Damn near, but they aren’t there yet. Jets fans have another week to stress.

Still, maybe more disturbing than the loss itself and the position it puts them in is how it went down. All the things/traits that flipped a 3-0 start into a season of abject mediocrity were exhibited. Meaning they’re not past them; not much progress has been made. Mark Sanchez threw three more interceptions. The offense failed to capitalize on numerous scoring chances served to them by the Falcons’ “ehh” defense. They boo-booed on three field goals, finding yet another way to lose a close game. And again, this defense whose No. 1 ranking has several times shown to be mostly a stat sheet euphemism, let down in the clutch and couldn’t get the key stop.

So the Jets no longer walk the tight rope in Timberland work boots. The rope snapped and by sheer luck they were able to grab an end before plummeting. Will and hope is all they’ve got to cling to as they twist in the wind these last two weeks. And they deserve that for having choked up a very digestible Wild Card situation. Eleven wins couldn’t get the Patriots into the playoffs last year, but the AFC landscape has changed enough that the club has almost excluded its exclusivity. Yet, here the Jets are.

But then again, here they are. Opportunity isn’t knocking anymore, but it’s still on the block… at the bus stop. And perhaps the Jets will see serendipity courtesy of timing. Had this game been scheduled for a few weeks ago, the odds would be really-really-really in the Colts’ favor (instead of just really-really). But Indianapolis, at 14-0, have nothing necessary left to play for. They’ve got the top seed locked. And Peyton Manning, with his status and stats and his team’s record and the fact that he’s done his thing without a running game and Marvin Harrison and with several injuries to the offense and a couple receivers you’d never heard of, he might’ve already secured his fourth MVP. All the Colts have left to shoot for is 16-0 - yeah, just that little thing. But above that, they’ve said, is going into the playoffs in good health and at full strength. They’ll sit a few of their banged-up players today.

But I think they’ll go for it. Regardless of what’s said, every team wants to chase history and be remembered as “that team.“ And the Colts always want to top what the Patriots have done. They’re five wins shy of 19-0 and the title of Greatest Team Ever (though on paper they wouldn’t be). Manning’s legacy is his competition.

The Colts beat the Jets, 31-28, in their last meeting in 2006. The teams have split the last six against each other, but the Colts hold a 40-27 advantage all time.

I might be a contrarian with this, but I don’t think blitzing would be the best thing. The Jets aren’t a good pass-rushing team (22nd with 27 sacks) and Manning has been sacked just 10 times (fewest in the league). The Jets haven’t been able to get consistent pressure against most teams this season, so against the Colts, blitzing might be a gamble that’s not worth it. Manning’s also got a 122.2 QB rating and completes 70.4% of his passes against the blitz. He isn’t mobile - obviously - but he’s got a quick release, deciphers a defense better than any quarterback and has reliable targets underneath on hot routes. Dallas Clark has been worked more into the offense and he’s got 89 catches for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s become Manning’s top quick read on drags and flares to beat the blitz. Clark has 58 catches on passes thrown under 10 yards and he’s catching 75% of the balls thrown his way.

The Jets could try singling Darrelle Revis on Reggie Wayne (92 catches for 1,120 and 10), double-teaming Clark with a safety and linebacker and hoping that Lito Sheppard can contain Austin Collie.

On offense, you’d think the strategy is simple: Run. A lot. The Colts have improved against the run and are only giving up 112.4 yards per game at 4.1 per carry, but they are yielding 5.66 yards per carry going around the left end. That's at defensive end Robert Mathis (quad) and linebacker Philip Wheeler.

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