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'Thursday Night Football' preview: What to watch for in Jets-Colts

New York Jets
2021 · 2-5-0
Indianapolis Colts
2021 · 3-5-0

8:20 ET (NFL Network, FOX, Amazon) | Lucas Oil Stadium

The quarterback matchup when the Colts hammered the Jets, 36-7, last season -- Philip Rivers versus Sam Darnold -- makes it seem like a lot more than a year since their last meeting. Both teams have since moved on to younger faces at quarterback, and have dropped five losses each just eight weeks into the season. New directions, but still not the right direction. In this installment of a Super Bowl III rematch, the Jets bring much momentum from the biggest upset of Week 8, a 34-31 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Indianapolis, by contrast, comes off a crushing overtime loss to Tennessee that put even more AFC South distance between the division-leading Titans (6-2) and Colts (3-5).

Here are four things to watch Thursday night when the Colts play host to the Jets:

  1. More Mike White, please. The feel-good story that is Mike White looks to write another chapter against the Colts. To review: the Jets inserted White for injured rookie Zach Wilson during their Week 7 loss to the Patriots, after three years of practice-squad obscurity, and he threw for a touchdown on his first pro pass attempt. A week later, he led the Jets to a season-high 34 points with 405 passing yards in stunning the Bengals. Teammates Ty Johnson and Elijah Moore, among others, showered him with premature praise and outrageous comparisons in the aftermath, but who can blame them? A 2-5 team should cling to and clamor about whatever hope it can, and for the Jets right now, that’s White.
  2. Can the Colts get a push inside? It’s been a rough year for the Colts’ center-guard tandem of Ryan Kelly and Quenton Nelson. Kelly hasn’t missed a start, but hasn’t played to his Pro Bowl standard of 2019-2020. When healthy, Nelson is the best guard in the game. But he’s been anything but healthy this season, and after three straight All-Pro seasons, there’s something jarring about his current standing as the NFL’s 50th-ranked guard, per Pro Football Focus. How well the Colts interior line plays against Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and Co. will make for an interesting watch.
  3. Odds are, Colts win the turnover battle. There isn’t a metric (advanced or old school) more telling of an outcome than turnovers, and this matchup portends turnover trouble for the Jets. Indianapolis boasts the NFL’s second-ranked turnover differential for the season (+8), while the Jets rank 30th at minus-10. Ball security will be paramount for White against an opportunistic Colts defense. Meanwhile, the Jets defense has been dismal when it comes to takeaways. It entered last week as the only team in the NFL without an interception (defensive end Shaq Lawson snared a screen pass for their first.) Absent a trend reversal here, there’s no reason to think the Colts won’t steal a couple extra possessions.
  4. Carters coming into their own. Jets rookies are logging a ton of playing time this season, but two in particular -- Michael Carter, and the other Michael Carter -- are hitting a midseason stride. NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah noted this last month, and the running back from North Carolina named Carter just posted his best game against the Bengals with 172 total yards. The DB Carter from Duke, meanwhile, played nearly every defensive snap on Sunday and looked good doing it. The Jets draft class will be judged primarily on Wilson, but the continued upswing of these two is worth eyeing Thursday in Indianapolis.

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