With a busy and tiring week finally over, Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts set their sights on a young and determined New York Jets team that is intent on pulling off the ultimate upset on Sunday.
With the Colts fresh off a convincing win in which their defensive line played an outstanding game against the Baltimore Ravens' explosive offense, the Colts are looking to build a path toward their Super Bowl destiny and aim for a third Lombardi Trophy.
On the other side of the leaf, the New York Jets are on a destructive warpath. Cincinnati and San Diego down, Indianapolis to go. That is the theory that Rex Ryan and his young but talented squad will be taking heading into Lucas Oil Stadium.
Amongst it all, one of the greatest quarterbacks in the game is set to kit up and go out and do what he does best. But just how confident is he?
The Sheriff isn't one to back down from a big game. He's played in them before, and has come out looking like a genius. This time, though, things are a little different.
Last week against Baltimore, Peyton possibly had one of the most underperforming games of his entire career. Realistically, his stats weren't bad (246 yards for two touchdown passes and one interception) but his confidence seemed shot at times. What is normally "Peyton winning the game for the Colts" turned into "The Colts winning the game for Peyton".
The defense played well. Blocked passes, sacks, tackles, fumbles and interceptions, Indianapolis made the statement "Defense wins Championships" truer than ever. This Sunday though, the Colts may have to focus more on offense rather than how they are going to stop the Jets.
New York is a blitz happy team. Watch the tape of the San Diego Chargers game and you'll notice just how many times they pressured Phillip Rivers into making unsteady throws and ultimately throwing interceptions. Although this worked against San Diego who have a mediocre passing game compared to Indianapolis, it won't work against Peyton Manning.
Blitz Peyton and you're going to get burned. It's as simple as that. Manning thrives off of pressure, and if the Jets are under the impression that pressure from the corners and linebackers is going to throw the passing game of the Colts off, well they need to think again.
Rex Ryan's statement "When you pressure the quarterback the whole team feels it", couldn't be more true. But when you pressure Peyton Manning, the opposing team feels it.
Aside from pressure, Manning needs to make sure that he hands the ball off on the odd occasion. Joseph Addai has not been a huge factor this season, but he may be in this game if the Jets are blitzing. Manning, being the offensive genius he is, will recognize a blitz, and more than likely take the halfback dive option for a run. Don't be surprised if Addai breaks one off in this game.
Unnoticed players to watch in this game are young wide receivers Austin Collie and experienced kicker Adam Vinatieri. Whether or not Matt Stover or Adam is chosen as the starter is yet to be determined. However, the Colts kicking game has kept them in many games this season, and Jim Caldwell will utilise Adam or Stover at any time possible. Austin Collie will have his work cut out for him with Revis guarding his every move, but it is possible that the speed and burst the young man packs will give him the advantage over the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up.
As for Manning, his confidence may be slightly lower than normal, but I expect it to boost up when the first snap is taken. Mix and match is the key for the Colts, and like I stated earlier, if the Jets pressure, then Manning will deliver. If Indianapolis can play like they did against the Baltimore Ravens, their ticket will be punched and scanned for yet another trip to the big game.