I read an interesting stat the other day about Colts QB Peyton Manning.
Manning, fresh off being named NFL MVP for a record fourth time, has never won a Super Bowl in a season where he won an MVP.
How can that be?
In 2003, when Manning was Co-MVP with the late Steve McNair, the Colts were knocked out by the Patriots in the AFC championship game.
In 2004, Manning won his second consecutive MVP award, throwing an NFL record 49 touchdown passes to lead the Colts to the playoffs again. Like a recurring nightmare, the Colts were bounced out by New England again, as the Patriots won back-to-back championships, eliminating the Colts in both years.
In 2006, Manning and the Colts were fresh off a devastating season the year prior in which the Colts won 14 games and were upset at home by the sixth-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers, which marked the third season in a row that the eventual Super Bowl champions beat the Colts on their way there.
Manning did not win an MVP in 2006; that award went to LaDainian Tomlinson of the top-seeded Chargers. This, however, was the only year in Manning's career that the Colts have reached a Super Bowl.
In 2008 and 2009, Manning won his third and fourth MVP awards. Last year, the Colts were knocked out of the playoffs by their new playoff nemesis, the San Diego super Chargers. Will this year be different?
There is another mitigating factor that can possibly explain why Manning has been unsuccessful in the playoffs so many years, yet dominant in the regular season like no other quarterback ever has.
In every season but one from 2004 to 2009, the Colts rested their starters at the end of the season. The only season where the Colts felt they had something to play for was in 2006, when Manning played every snap of the regular season and the Colts went into the playoffs with momentum and won the Super Bowl.
Which brings me to my point, in case you haven't figured it out by now. The only reason my J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets are still playing football this weekend is because the Colts decided, (with a 14-0 record no less!) to rest their starters again this year because they felt they had nothing to play for.
We can debate all day whether or not it was the right thing for the Colts and first year coach Jim Caldwell to rest their starters in the final two regular season games, and perhaps we'll know the answer after the Colts and Ravens square off tonight at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Many people believe that the only way to make up for throwing away a chance at a perfect season is to win the Super Bowl, and anything short of that will show that the Colts were wrong to not go for perfection, perhaps ruining the rhythm that the team had for the first 14 games of the season.
The Baltimore Ravens will try to extend their season tonight by following a formula that us Jets fans are very familiar with. That is, run the football and eat away the clock on offense, stifle Manning with the hard-hitting defense.
Easier said than done. If the Ravens beat the Colts tonight, it will be the second year in a row that a number-one seed got upset in the divisional round. (It happened to BOTH number-one seeds last year.)
It will also be another glaring hole on the resume of Peyton Manning, who at this point in his illustrious career has as many Super Bowl rings as Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson and his brother, Eli.
So will Joe Flacco be able to manage his way to another AFC championship game? To put it nicely, eh... maybe next year.
Let's flash back to week three, Monday Night Football in Miami. The Dolphins used their Wildcat-led rushing attack to hold the football for over 45 minutes. Generally, dominance in the time of possession is a big factor in winning games.
However, not against Peyton Manning.
The Colts had the ball for less than 15 minutes of the game, and only ran thirteen plays in the second half of their 27-23 win against the Dolphins.
This is the type of game I can see happening again. I think the Ravens will play well and play it close, and I wouldn't be surprised to see another big game out of New Rochelle's own, Ray Rice. But I can't see Peyton Manning let this one get away. Not this year, not now.
Colts 27, Ravens 20 .
(For more football news, and the best Mets, Jets and Nets analysis, visit my personal blog, MetsJetsNetsBlog)