Saturday’s primetime matchup is a good one. Rex Ryan brings his rag tag Jets to Indianapolis for a second straight postseason to face the incomparable Peyton Manning and the Colts in what may be the most intriguing game of the opening round.
I really don’t know what to think of this game and I’m not alone. Every time I turn on the radio, Jets fans don’t seem to be too confident. But, it seems like most people betting the game are taking the Jets.
The Colts are banged up. But they also have Peyton Manning, who I think will retire as the greatest QB to ever play the game. After their collapse in the 2nd half of last year’s AFC Championship game, the Jets went out and added players to make sure that didn’t happen again. They have their chance and if they don’t take care of business, 11 wins or not, this season will be a failure with all the Super Bowl talk after being 1 win away from it last season. Obviously, there’s a ton riding on this game.
I think this game comes down to a couple of key matchups. Clearly Reggie Wayne and Darelle Revis will have quite a battle. Maybe Revis will neutralize Wayne, maybe not. I think the more important outside matchup will be Antonio Cromartie against Pierre Garcon.
In the 2010 AFC Championship game, Garcon carved up the Jets secondary for 151 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches – the best game of his career. As a result, the Jets parted ways with Lito Sheppard and traded for Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie has played better than Sheppard did, however he has still been victimized for big games by receivers this season, like in Week 1 when he gave up 7 catches for 110 yards to Anquan Boldin. I think Peyton will definitely be able to throw the ball over the middle to guys like Jacob Tamme and Blair White. The biggest question in the passing game is whether he can get a couple of big plays on the outside by Garcon and maybe even Wayne.
The other important matchup will be the Jets offensive tackles vs the Colts defensive ends. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis both racked up double digit sacks this season so D’Brickishaw Ferguson and Damien Woody, who is just coming back from an injury, will have their hands full. In the 2010 AFC Championship game, Peyton Manning was sacked more than Mark Sanchez who actually didn’t go down once. If that happens again, this game may turn into a shootout that could be in the Jets’ favor.
Finally, the running game will obviously be tantamount for both teams to control the clock and I actually think both teams will do a decent job running the ball. Since Dominic Rhodes’ return to the Colts three weeks ago, they have rushed for an average of 140 yards a week – a significant change from a team that had the largest pass to run ratio in the league. They will have a tougher time of it this week against a stout Jets run defense, though.
As for the Jets, I think that despite LaDanian Tomlinson being largely ineffective for most of the second half of the season and Shonn Greene still being unproven in his second year, they will be able to have success against a Colts run defense that has been downright dreadful at times this year. To be honest, though, I wouldn’t be too surprised if the Colts wind up with more rushing yards in this one despite the odds being against them. I think the Jets will want to throw the ball more to send a message and to try to keep up with a dynamic Peyton Manning.
This one is going to be fought hard until the final second ticks off the clock. The Jets are improved from last season, but still inconsistent at times. The Colts are hurting, but so are the Jets – even Sanchez was having some shoulder problems just a couple of weeks ago. I have a hard time betting against Peyton at home in the playoffs even if his team isn’t the best one out on the field – he’s just that good and can take control of a game himself. That being said:
Prediction: Colts – 30 Jets – 27
I’m looking forward to a good one either way.