INDIANAPOLIS – After two home games in five days, the Colts will hit the road in three of the next four weeks.
The first venture is to New York, where the Jets (3-8) will host the Colts (5-6) on Monday Night Football.
What are the key ingredients to victory, presented by Papa Johns, when the Colts take on the Jets in Week 13?
1. Luck's Return
-With the most important stretch of the season here, the Colts are expected to have No. 12 back. Andrew Luck needs to clear one final step in the concussion protocol. If Luck does that on Friday afternoon, he will be under center on Monday night. Luck will be trying to change the script from past meetings with the Jets. In 2012 and 2015, the Jets held Luck to two of the worst passer ratings of his career.
2. Win The Trenches
-The Jets are one of the more physical teams in the NFL. Their defensive front has elite talent, particularly in the interior. Can the Colts implore their will and establish the line of scrimmage come Monday? That is going to be a key, with Indy's offensive line appearing to be in good health.
3. Find Early-Down Success
-This key plays off the need to win in the trenches. The Jets thrive off eliminating the other team's run game, playing man coverage and getting after the quarterback. That's why the Colts need to find early-down success to avoid the constant attacking nature that will inevitably come on third-and-longs. 4. Skill Guys Must Help
-It doesn't matter who the quarterback is, the drops the Colts had last Thursday against the Steelers were so demoralizing. They cost the Colts points, and ultimately the game. T.Y. Hilton said earlier this week that he had a meeting with his receivers. In that talk, the leader of the wideout group made it clear that last Thursday's performance was unacceptable. Monday is a chance for redemption.
5. Healthy Secondary?
-Like Andrew Luck, Clayton Geathers also is scheduled to see an independent neurologist Friday in the final step of the concussion protocol. If Geathers, who is also dealing with a neck injury, passes then the Colts will have their starting safety back alongside Mike Adams. The question is what about the team's starting cornerbacks? Vontae Davis and Patrick Robinson have both missed practice time this week. On paper, the Jets aren't a great passing team. But WR-Brandon Marshall's presence is something the Colts must game plan for.
6. Relish Primetime
-It's a stat you wouldn't think of right away with the Colts. But they've dropped seven of their last eight games in primetime. The Colts did win a Monday night game at MetLife Stadium in 2014 against the Giants. Since, they've lost seven of eight in primetime. The Jets are reeling, so getting out to an early lead could make Todd Bowles' team question the competitive juices playing with a 3-8 record.
7. Quick Turnaround
-The Colts will land in Indianapolis in the early morning hours of Tuesday. It will be a crammed week for the Colts with the Houston Texans coming to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 11. That is the game of the season for the Colts. A win, and the Colts have a (pretty good) shot in the AFC South. A loss, and the odds will really, really be stacked against the Colts winning the division.