Jets fans are much in evidence in the Circle City these days. They dominated a restaurant or two in downtown Indianapolis and belted out more than a few “J-E-T-S” chants, much to the consternation of the locals.
And they’re expected to be in evidence in the just now filling up Lucas Oil Stadium, along with more than a few Jets and Jets-related celebrities. Expected in the stadium: ex-Jets QB Boomer Esiason, working the game for Westwood One Radio; former Jets Jason Fabini, a Hoosier himself, and Marvin Jones; Marty Schottenheimer, father of the Jets offensive coordinator; Jets fans and funny men Ray Romano and Kevin James, and Fireman Ed Anzalone, who should be visible about six rows up behind the Jets bench during the game.
Will the Jets be treating all their followers to a Saturday night delight in Indianapolis? That’s the idea.
But of course, the Colts stand in the way. And they stood tall in this venue a little less than a year ago when Peyton Manning and the Indy offense roared from 17-6 down to 30-17 ahead and on to the Colts’ Super Bowl date with the Saints.
And Lucas Oil can be a deafening place to play, even with Jets fans scattered throughout the building. But the Jets have shown their mettle on the road in their two seasons under head coach Rex Ryan. They have gone 6-2 away from New Meadowlands Stadium this season and 13-5 in 2009-10, including last season’s playoff run.
And while it’s not necessarily a green badge of courage, the Jets have become familiar with the trappings of being a road playoff team. Tonight is their eighth consecutive postseason match on the road, or ever since they defeated the Colts, 41-0, at home in the 2002 playoffs. In the previous seven games, their record is 3-4, with the wins coming after the 2004 regular season at San Diego and last season at Cincinnati and San Diego.
Also worth considering is that while the Jets appear to be in better health than in recent weeks, the Colts are suffering. They have put 17 players on IR this season, and of the 11 players listed on this week’s injury reports, reports are that RT Ryan Diem, LB Clint Session and DB Kelvin Hayden will not be available.
Still, the ‘Shoes have Manning and the Jets have Mark Sanchez, sore-shouldered but ready to reprise his role as a young NFL QB rising to the challenge on the NFL’s second-season stage. It should be an exciting evening for Jets fans.
The Jets’ inactive list for tonight’s game has a few surprises. DE Vernon Gholston has been deactivated, a CD (coach’s decision). RB Joe McKnight, who starred in the backfield last week vs. Buffalo, is also IA. So are CB Isaiah Trufant, OL Vlad Ducasse, DTs Jarron Gilbert and Marcus Dixon, and TE Jeff Cumberland. (Kellen Clemens is the third QB.)
With the two D-linemen down, the Jets have four DL activate for this game — starters Shaun Ellis, Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito, and DT Trevor Pryce, back and available. Ryan and DC Mike Pettine have gone heavy on the back end as they anticipate defensing Manning passes to his receivers.
Also for the Jets, Dwight Lowery will stay at safety in the starting lineup, although Eric Smith is back from his concussion and available for the first time in four games. And Damien Woody is back in the OL starting lineup at RT, after also sitting out three games following his knee scope, with Wayne Hunter returning to his role as the backup at both tackle spots.
Update, 7:47 p.m.: The Colts’ inactive list contains several more starters, further depleting their ninth consecutive playoff effort. DT Antonio Johnson is inactive, as are Session, Hayden and Diem, as mentioned above, plus S Al Afalava, Gs Jamey Richard and Jaimie Thomas, and T Joe Reitz. Indy does not designate a third QB.
The Jets are wearing their white jerseys and white pants for this game. As you know if you’ve followed the numbers in these pregame blogs, the Green & White fare very well in white & white. They’re 7-3 in that combo this season (although 1-2 in their last three) and 13-5 in all white in the Ryan regime. The Jets wore their road whites in both games at Lucas Oil Stadium last season, the 29-15 Week 16 triumph and the AFC Championship Game loss.
Ryan tabbed six players as his gameday captains: DE Shaun Ellis, CB Darrelle Revis, G Brandon Moore, TE Ben Hartsock, P Steve Weatherford, TE Dustin Keller.
Gene Steratore is this wild-card games referee. This is Steratore’s sixth Jets game as the man in the white hat. His first was the 2006 season opener at Tennessee, Eric Mangini’s first game as Jets head coach. His last two were the 2008 primetime triumph at New England and last season’s 38-0 rout at Oakland.
The Jets-Colts game has drawn NBC’s A-team, Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, in the booth. This is only the fourth Jets game on the network since it passed the AFC franchise on to CBS. They are 3-0 in those most recent NBC games, last year’s regular-season finale and then AFC Wild Card win, both against Cincinnati and this year’s Game 3 at Miami.
Tags: AFC Wild Card Game, Damien Woody, Dwight Lowery, Indianapolis Colts, joe McKnight, Lucas Oil Stadium, Peyton Manning, Rex Ryan, Vernon Gholston
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