Monday Night Football Preview: Andrew Luck Returns
The Colts (5-6) enter with a losing record, but they're only a half-game behind the Houston Texans (6-6) in the AFC South. With a win, they'll move into a three-way tie for first with the Texans and Tennessee Titans.
Despite the Jets sitting at 3-8 and all but eliminated from the playoff race, head coach Todd Bowles is reluctant to give young quarterbacks Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg any playing time. Once again, Ryan Fitzpatrick will be starting under center.
These teams are pretty evenly matched if we look at numberFire's nERD metric, which measures just how good a team is based upon their expected point differential against a league average team. The Jets (-4.49) currently rank 26th in nERD, while the Colts (-5.39) check in one spot below at 27th.
With kickoff nearing, here are four storylines to watch once these squads take the field at MetLife Stadium.
Andrew Luck is Back
After missing one game while in the league's concussion protocol, Luck will be back under center this week.
With Scott Tolzien against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 12, the Colts moved the ball up and down the field, but failed to convert a number of goal-to-go situations and lost 28-7. Tolzien threw for only 205 yards and a touchdown, while also tossing two interceptions.
Luck returns to face a pristine matchup against the Jets, whose pass defense ranks 25th in numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics.
Further enhancing Luck's matchup is the fact that New York's pass rush is nearly nonexistent. After notching seven sacks in Week 1, the Jets have had just 12 in the following 10 games. That total of 19 is tied for second-worst in the league.
Protecting Luck has been an issue for the Colts. Their offensive line has given up the second-most sacks (38) and quarterback hits (90) through 12 weeks, but that might not matter much this time around.
How Effective Will T.Y. Hilton Be?
As mentioned above, the Colts' passing game -- ranked 16th, according to numberFire metrics -- has an attractive matchup, but it remains to be seen how effective T.Y. Hilton will be.
Hilton was forced from the game twice with a back injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but finished the game with 3 catches for 54 yards on 5 targets despite playing in only 40 percent of offensive snaps.
Hilton missed some practice time this week, but eventually became a full participant and is expected to give it a go Monday night.
Hilton is on pace for 87 receptions and 7 touchdowns, which would set and tie career highs in those marks, respectively. The pass-catcher's 86.42 Receiving NEP ranks fourth among all receivers, trailing only Mike Evans, Julio Jones, and Antonio Brown.
More Positive Play From Ryan Fitzpatrick?
Our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric provides a better look at just how rough a season it's been for Fitzpatrick. NEP measures how many points a player is expected to add to his team's total based on historical expectation.
After an encouraging performance against New England, Fitzpatrick gets another plus draw against Indianapolis. On the season, the Colts' pass defense ranks 31st according to our schedule-adjusted metrics, while their defense grades out as second-worst in football.
A Plus Draw for the Jets Rushing Attack
After struggling against the Patriots with just 27 yards on 13 attempts, Matt Forte should find the going a little easier against the Colts' 24th ranked run defense, according to numberFire metrics. They're also allowing 116.3 rushing yards per game, which is 10th-most in the league.
New York's rushing attack already ranks as fifth-best in the NFL, but further boosting their rushing game is the expected return of center Nick Mangold, who missed the last six weeks with an ankle injury.
In his first year as a Jet, Forte has been a workhorse, logging the seventh-most attempts in the league (202). Over the past four weeks, he and Bilal Powell have a played similar number of snaps, but Forte is seeing nearly 20 touches per contest over that span, while Powell receives about 10.
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