INDIANAPOLIS – Some 34 days after their first road trip of the 2012 season, the Colts will pack their bags this weekend and head to the east coast to play the New York Jets on Sunday at 1:00 p.m., a game that begins a stretch of three road games in 25 days.
The Jets (2-3) will be awaiting the Colts (2-2) for the series' first meeting in East Rutherford, N.J. since 2006.
Heading into Sunday's game with the Jets, the uncertainty of what exactly to prepare for is something the Colts have had to deal with this week.
Injuries have plagued the Jets' receiving corps, and the team is without All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis.
At the quarterback position, Mark Sanchez has seen the majority of snaps, but backup Tim Tebow brings a running element to the game.
Tebow played seven snaps in the Jets' 23-17 loss to the Texans on Monday night. Playing in a variety of roles this season, including punt protector, Tebow has thrown two passes but has 14 carries for 57 yards.
Talk has stirred once again this week of the quarterback situation, but Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan is sticking with Sanchez as the starter.
"We've played five games and right now the record is not what we wanted it to be, but we're hitting the practice field and meetings and the classroom and things to improve that record," Ryan said. "Obviously we've got a big challenge in front of us this week, but we'll see if we're up to it."
As a former defensive coordinator, Ryan's challenge for that side of the football will be facing Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
While leading another game-winning scoring drive on Sunday, Luck is the first rookie in NFL history to throw for 1,200 yards (1,208) and win at least two of his team's first four games.
Luck and Carolina quarterback Cam Newton are the only players in NFL history to throw for at least 300 yards in three of their first four professional games.
It was Luck's four-yard touchdown to wide receiver Reggie Wayne which proved to be the game-winner in the Colts erasing a 21-3 deficit to beat Green Bay last Sunday, 30-27.
Wayne leads the league with a 126.5-yard receiving average, and he needs just two catches to become the 14th player in NFL history to reach 900 career receptions.
Opposing Wayne and the Colts' receivers on Sunday will be one of top corners in the league.
Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie held Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson to one catch last week and picked off his second pass of the season.
Since 2007, Cromartie is tied for fourth in the NFL with 24 interceptions.
While the Colts' passing game might have the marquee players on Sunday, it is the running game which has received a bulk of the attention this week.
Running back Donald Brown will be sidelined for two-to-three weeks due to a knee injury, thus opening the door for rookie Vick Ballard.
It will be Ballard getting the start on Sunday, with Mewelde Moore and Delone Carter looking to see extended playing time against the Jets.
Ballard is second on the team with 21 carries and Interim Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians believes the Colts' fifth-round draft pick is up for the challenge on Sunday.
"Oh, he's more than ready. He's shown that he's ready to do it," Arians said of Ballard.
Arians also is looking to see the first significant action of the season from Carter, a second-year power back.
"I'm anxious to see Delone Carter. He's been hurt and kind of lost his spot because of injury. He's a guy that can hit it between the tackles for us and did a great job training camp in short- yardage and goal-line, so I'm anxious to see him carry the ball."
Indianapolis is expected to start four rookies on offense against the Jets with the "Next Man Up" mantra extending to nearly a handful of positions on defense.
Injuries are a part of life in the NFL, and the Colts know that with four of their next six games on the road, winning away from Lucas Oil Stadium is paramount.
The emotion the team fed off from their home crowd against the Packers will not be present on Sunday, so it will be up to the players in the Indianapolis locker room to create the energy needed to earn their first road victory of the season.
"That's when it has to come from within," defensive end Cory Redding said of creating energy on the road. "It has to come from our playmakers. It has to come off just being where you are supposed to be, just flying around on the field. That's where energy is built. It's not going to rely on the crowd because they're booing you. That negative energy can also fuel you."
Jets 17, Colts 16 – January 8, 2011
The sixth-seeded Jets made their march to the AFC Championship game with a thrilling 17-16 win at Lucas Oil Stadium. New York kicker Nick Folk made a 32-yard field goal as time expired to give the Jets the AFC Wild Card victory. The game started off extremely slowly with the teams exchanging four punts each through the first quarter and a half. Quarterback Peyton Manning and the offense finally got things going with a five-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 57-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon. The Colts took a 7-0 lead into halftime thanks to a late second quarter goal-line interception by cornerback Justin Tryon. New York would get on the board on the first possession of the second half with LaDainian Tomlinson punching one in from one-yard out. The scoring would not stop there as the Colts re-gained the lead with an Adam Vinatieri 47-yard field goal on the following the possession. New York took its first lead of the game by answering the Vinatieri field goal with a nearly 10-minute drive that was finished off by another Tomlinson one-yard score. Vinatieri connected on a 32-yard field with 4:37 left in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 14-13. The Colts defense stopped the Jets and it would be Vinatieri hitting another clutch field goal. With just more than a minute to play, Vinatieri hit a 50-yard field goal to give the Colts a 16-14 lead. However, the Jets would not let the Colts kicker record another game-winning field goal in the playoffs. New York cornerback Antonio Cromartie returned the kickoff 47 yards to give the Jets great field position at their own 46-yard line. The Jets drove to the Colts' 14-yard line where Folk hit a 32-yard field goal as time expired to end the season for Indianapolis.
Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez versus the Colts defense: Sanchez has been under the microscope since the start of the season with backup quarterback Tim Tebow seeing a different amount of snaps each week. Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan has said Sanchez is his starter. In the Jets' 23-17 loss to the Texans, Sanchez was 14-of-31 for 230 yards, and he did that without his top two receivers and tight end. It remains to be seen whether or not the Colts secondary will get the services of cornerback Vontae Davis on Sunday.
Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne versus the Jets secondary: Wayne is coming off one of the finest performances in his career on Sunday. He has had the best start to a season in his 12-year career but will face a stiff test on Sunday. Even without Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, the Jets shut down Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson on Monday night. Johnson was held to one catch largely in part due to the coverage of cornerback Antonio Cromartie. The Colts and Cromartie have had their matchups before and Sunday looks to be another.
The Colts are 21-12 all-time on the road against the Jets.
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano and Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan were on the same staff with the Baltimore Ravens during the 2008 season.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck leads all AFC quarterbacks with 104 yards rushing.
Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne needs one touchdown to pass Edgerrin James (75) for third on the Colts all-time touchdowns list.
With Wayne's 212-yard performance against the Packers, he became the 7th player since 1990 to record a 200-yard receiving effort in his 10th season or later. This marked the second time Wayne has achieved that feat. He had 200 yards receiving against Dallas on 12/05/10.
With a sack against the Packers, outside linebacker Dwight Freeney now has a sack against every team in the NFL except Atlanta, Detroit, New Orleans and Washington. The Colts face the Lions on December 2.
Colts punter Pat McAfee is on pace to record the franchise record of gross yards per punt (46.6) and net punting average (39.2).
The Jets are 8-2 when quarterback Mark Sanchez has a 100 passer rating.
Since 2011, quarterback Tim Tebow leads the AFC with 717 rushing yards.
The Jets are 4-0 when running back Shonn Greene rushes for more than 100 yards.
Newly-signed Jets defensive tackle Daniel Muir played for the Colts (2008-10, 2011).
Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie had a career-high three interceptions (while playing for the Chargers) against the Colts on 11/11/07
Since 2009, Jets running back Joe McKnight has a 30.9-yard kickoff return which is the second- highest in the NFL.
Colts Offensive Coordinator/Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians(on if anxious to see how this team responds to going back on the road):
"Oh, there's no doubt. That was a big focus in our meeting this morning, how we're going to handle the road business trip – from the travel part of it, to the game part of it, to the crowd noise part of it. We didn't handle it extremely well in the second half against Chicago, although we had very few pre-snap penalties and did a pretty good job with our silent count and our snap count offensively. Then defensively, they'll probably be glad to be able to talk to each other with the crowd noise on the other side of the ball. It swings to offense this week, and we're the ones that have to handle it. We'll focus on it all week."
Colts Offensive Coordinator/Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians(on Jets defense):
"They're powerful, they're very physical and big upfront, and (they have) an outstanding corps of linebackers. That's always been Rex's motto, stop the run and make them one-dimensional, and then be exotic blitzers. We're very similar defenses with very similar philosophies. They've got the talent to do it. Obviously, when you take a guy like Darrelle Revis out of the mix, it changes some things. They still have (Antonio) Cromartie, and the young guys that are back there are still pretty solid. To me, it's the physicality of the front."
Colts Offensive Coordinator/Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians(on how critical it is to have Reggie Wayne in the meeting room with the other receivers):
"You want to have a vet in every room that is a pro that knows how to prepare on and off the field and shows up on Sunday. I think we're fortunate that we have one of those guys in every room, especially in that room where we're so young. The only room that's really light is the tight ends, but Alfredo (Roberts) is a vet. He played for a long time and knows how to prepare and the guys trust him, so I think that's very important, too. Having Reggie, especially with Andrew (Luck), the trust factor is huge."
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck(on if there is a stat he pays attention to):
"I think wins are important, probably the number one thing. I think there are stats that do tell you a little bit of a story. I've always believed third-down percentage, completion percentage, touchdown-interception ratio. I think they all are combined and entered to form a passer rating or whatever they may have. Wins, I think are the most important."
Colts tight end Dwayne Allen(on if this team is more prepared to go on the road than in week one)
"I certainly hope so. One of the things Coach Pagano always said, 'Great teams know how to win on the road.' We are going on the road and our first road trip, we didn't get the result that we wanted but we have another one and I believe we'll be prepared for it."
Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan(on if there is something always going on with the Jets):
"I think when you look at us, we're a very serious football team. We do like to have fun, we know that there's a lot more pressing issues in the world than playing football but we also know this is our job. It's a multi-million dollar business and we understand that, but it's also a game and we enjoy playing it. We come to work every day with a smile on our face. We try like heck to get better. We work our tails off to get better, but maybe our approach might be a little different than others but I think sometimes, because we are a transparent football team that maybe people get the wrong impression sometimes of us."
Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan(on did you anticipate that when acquiring Tim Tebow at some point it would be an issue with the media):
"Well, I think that the biggest surprise was the fact that, you know we did Hard Knocks a couple of years before or whatever it was and we did ESPN's version of Hard Knocks this year. They were parked outside of our deal. I think that's something that we never anticipated. Other than that, we knew that obviously with Tim, he's an immensely popular young man not just in the football community but in other communities as well. That never scared us one bit. We think it's a positive, he is a tremendous person, he's a tremendous competitor and he's a good football player, and that's what we wanted to bring to our team."
Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan(on how has Tebow progressed in your offense):
"Well, I think it's kind of what we expected. We're going to use him to the wildcat personnel grouping. We've had mixed results with it. We've had a couple of nice runs and we've also been hit in the backfield a couple times. We had a pass this past week that he laid in there perfect and unfortunately the young man dropped the ball. But it's kind of where we expected. I think he's been huge for us in the punt team. You've got to be a little careful when we put our punt team out there so we ran a fake against their base defense last week in our own territory and that's where we can always do it because we're confident in Tim back there in that role. I think that's something that probably slows down a punt rush as well."
Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan(on how different is it preparing for the Colts without Peyton Manning and your impressions of Andrew Luck):
"Man, I'll tell you what, you guys know how I felt about Peyton Manning. He's my all-time favorite, but I absolutely hated to go against him. Here's a young man (Luck) that I mean, wow, when you see him, he can make all the throws, he stays in, he extends plays, he's active with the football. He can move. He just seems very confident and obviously he's doing a tremendous job, and it's not just Reggie Wayne. He's throwing to a lot of guys. But the 15 targets a game to Reggie Wayne gets your antenna up a little bit as well."
Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan(on memories of Chuck Pagano during time in Baltimore):
"Oh, please. He was unbelievable, a great football coach as you guys know, and just a great person. The guys loved him. I'll tell you what, he's outstanding as a coach, he's smart, his guys were always prepared, he has great ideas, creative. I love Chuck. He's a tremendous guy. My brother coached with Chuck when he was in Oakland and obviously you look at his situation, his brother coaches and all that so we're similar that way. I'm not sure defensively where we ranked and all that, but I think it was one or two in the league when we were together. But he just brought a lot to us. He was just a terrific football coach. As you guys know, he's as good a person and a better person than he is a coach and he is a great coach."