Al Bello/Getty Images
New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts
Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011, 8 p.m. ET
Line: Indianapolis -3
The New York Jets began this season red hot. They lived up to all the hype they gave themselves and had people thinking they might have what it took to become a Super Bowl contender.
They stumbled after the bye week and entered a skid filled with losses and close games with bad teams. They have looked better in the last three games, but will it be enough to knock out the Colts?
The Colts are still banged up, but their offense is getting healthier. They dropped three games in a row and had to win their last four before they could clinch the division. Even so, the Colts are a great playoff team.
Regardless of who is on the roster, when Peyton Manning is under center the Colts have a shot. In a game jam-packed with story lines, the Colts aim to do their talking on the field.
Keys to the Game
- The Colts have to keep up their recent success against the run. They near the bottom of the league in terms of run defense and are facing a team who runs for nearly 150 yards a game. The Colts have struggled all season long against the run, but there has been an influx in production in recent weeks. If they can find a way to at least keep the Jets’ run production to a dull roar, it alleviates some of the pressure off of their offense to put up 30 points.
- Mark Sanchez has got to be able to handle the pressure of playoff football. The Jets traded up to get him because they wanted him to one day be the face of the franchise. Sanchez came from a college with a huge market in a big city where he played in high-profile games. Sanchez is still young, but New York is impatient. Unlike No. 18 on the other sideline, his body of work is yet to be completed. This could very well be a game that determines his worth going into next season. If he knocks off in the playoffs, the city of New York will likely embrace him going into next season. If he ails to do so, the murmurs are going to be louder than ever. The Jets command a lot of attention on purpose and by doing so, they leave themselves open to criticism, especially at the quarterback position.
Peyton Manning vs. Rex Ryan
- Peyton Manning is probably the smartest NFL quarterback in the history of the league. He runs an offense in which the receivers never enter the huddle. Any defensive tell is recognized by Manning and every play features a series of hand signals and audibles. He knows how to dissect a defense as well as anyone ever has. It appears one defensive mind he has infiltrated, is that of the head coach of the team he faces this week.
- Rex Ryan is one of the best defensive guys in football. His defense probably will win the battle on paper in this one, but Peyton Manning has found soft spots in the Rex Ryan defense before, and will aim to do so again this week. Ryan did not deny that this matchup is personal. It should be interesting to see if he has cracked the code when it comes to stopping Peyton Manning.
The Jets outmatch the Colts when it comes to personnel, but all that is thrown out the window when Peyton Manning is on the field during playoff time. Will a heavy dose of running the football and stout defense be enough to allow the Jets to advance?
Free NFL Pick: Indianapolis -3