1. Primetime football returns to Indianapolis.
The Colts last hosted a primetime home game on Dec. 14, 2017 – a Thursday night matchup against the Denver Broncos. Since then, the Colts have played eight consecutive primetime games away from Lucas Oil Stadium:
- 2018 Week 5: @ New England
- 2018 Week 17: @ Tennessee
- 2019 Week 5: @ Kansas City
- 2019 Week 12: @ Houston
- 2019 Week 15: @ New Orleans
- 2020 Week 10: @ Tennessee
- 2021 Week 5: @ Baltimore
- 2021 Week 7: @ San Francisco
"That's crazy to think about," punter Rigoberto Sanchez, one of seven current Colts players to participate in their last primetime home game, said. "We're excited, I'm excited, everybody else in the building is excited. We're ready to go."
Dating back to 2016, the Colts have played two primetime games at Lucas Oil Stadium against 11 away from Indianapolis. Only five of the Colts' last 20 primetime games have been at home.
So Thursday night's "Blue Out" game against the New York Jets will be a showcase not only for the Colts, but for Indianapolis on a national stage. (Get your tickets here if you haven't already.)
But playing a primetime game at home this week does have a tangible benefit for the Colts beyond a Thursday night showcase. The game being at Lucas Oil Stadium means "we aren't getting home at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning," linebacker Darius Leonard said.
2. Primetime players making primetime plays.
Running back Jonathan Taylor and wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. psyched themselves up before night games against the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers with the mantra of "primetime players make primetime plays."
And in primetime this year, those two guys have absolutely made primetime plays:
- Taylor: 33 carries, 160 yards (4.8 yards/carry), 2 rushing TDs; 6 receptions, 119 yards, 1 receiving TD
- Pittman: 10 catches, 194 yards, 2 TDs
Fair or not, players often make Pro Bowl cases in front of national audiences in primetime. So far, Taylor and Pittman have done that, and with that mantra, there's no reason to think those two primetime players won't keep making primetime plays on Thursday night.
"I'm excited," Taylor said. "I love playing at home, Lucas Oil Stadium is rocking. So being able to have a prime-time game at home, that's going to be exciting. Real, real exciting."
3. Will a short week help the Colts?
The Colts had to flush Sunday's loss to the Tennessee Titans quicker than normal – when Randy Bullock's game-winning field goal went through the uprights, about 100 hours separated the Colts from kickoff against the Jets.
So Frank Reich went straight from Lucas Oil Stadium to the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center to watch Sunday's film, and when the Colts re-convened on 56th Street Monday, it was on to the Jets.
"It's all about time management," Taylor said.
There was no time to let the sting of Sunday linger, not with another game approaching so quickly. And perhaps that'll help the Colts put that loss to the Titans behind them quicker than in a usual week of work.
"It's a long season. We know where we are at," quarterback Carson Wentz said. "Fortunately, a loss like this we got a quick turnaround. Thursday Night Football is always tough on our bodies, but sometimes it's good for your mindset to just move on past this one. We have to learn from it. Mistakes we have to finish better. I have to finish better – no doubt about that. And we will."
4. How will Colts aim to slow down Mike White?
Jets quarterback Mike White set an NFL record with 37 completions in his first career start last week against the Cincinnati Bengals – a game in which he also became one of two quarterbacks to throw for 400+ yards in their first start, too. White led the Jets back from an 11-point deficit to beat a five-win Bengals team with legitimate playoff aspirations.
White's efficiency and patience were remarkable, especially given the circumstances – he had two tipped passes be intercepted in the first quarter and needed to dink and dunk his way to a comeback victory. The 6-foot-4 former Western Kentucky quarterback's average distance on his throws against the Bengals was about four yards, and his got the ball out quick with an average time to throw of about 2.3 seconds.
For reference, the lowest ADOT for a quarterback with 100+ dropbacks in 2021 is 6.9 yards; only one quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger) has a lower average time to throw.
"I think they do a great job of getting the ball out of his hand quickly," Leonard said. "You look at the film of Cincinnati, they were playing a lot of two-shell, so take away the deep throws, he was just throwing check downs to his back toward the middle of the field.
"We gotta find a way to make him throw the ball down the field more, make sure he's holding the ball a little longer so our D-line can get a rush and get after him there."
5. Don't underestimate the Jets.
The 2-5 Jets enter Week 9 with the third-worst point differential (-13.1) in the NFL this season, better than only the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions. They're last in the NFL in interception rate on both offense (5 percent) and defense (0.4 percent). They're 28th in Football Outsiders' DVOA.
And yet, the Jets' two wins have been over the Titans and Bengals – two teams that, halfway through the season, look to have good chances of reaching the playoffs.
The reality of the NFL is there are no "easy" wins, which is something the Colts certainly know going into Thursday night.
"You can't overlook any team," Leonard said. "There aren't too many blowouts in the NFL. Everything's probably a one-score game. Everybody has great athletes, everybody does a great job of game planning. Their wins are against Tennessee and Cincy, so we gotta come in and make sure we're firing on all cylinders and make sure that we're locked in understanding what they're trying to do to us offensively and make sure that we can find a way to stop that."