Manning Won't Be Watching This One from the Sideline

Bill HoneycuttContributor IIJanuary 20, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - DECEMBER 27:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts is pictured during the NFL game against the New York Jets at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 27, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Manning and many of the starters were pulled from the game in the second half and the Colts went on to lose their first game of the season 29-15.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In Week 16 of the NFL regular season, Peyton Manning watched from not the field, but from the sidelines. He watched the Jets end the Colts', or should I say Manning's, NFL record 23 game regular season winning streak.

An undefeated season lay on the line in that Week 16 meeting, but a Super Bowl appearance is now just a win away for the Colts.

The topic had come up in discussion the week prior to the game whether Jim Caldwell was going to risk an undefeated season and rest his starters. Many fans wanted to see the 16-0 regular season, but were let down when the rookie head coach did in fact pull Manning and the starters early in the second-half against the Jets. Although Manning said he never questioned Caldwell's authority and decision, Manning didn't appear to be too happy as he watched from the sidelines.

Putting all that aside, the Colts will be welcoming the Jets back to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday for the AFC Championship Game. The Colts last hosted the AFC title game in 2006, the same year they won the Super Bowl.

The Jets have fought to get to where they are by beating the Bengals and Chargers. They also had a little help from each team’s kicker.  On the other hand, it is no surprise that the Colts are where they are. They've been the Super Bowl front runner for the AFC since the beginning of the year.

The most appealing part of this matchup has to be the Jets' lock down defense against the high powered Colts' offense. The Jets' defense ranks No. 1 in almost every defensive category, including scoring defense and total defense.

Manning will be looking to get the ball to his big time receivers, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. Reggie Wayne will ultimately be matched up with shut down corner Darrelle Revis, which leaves the door open for Clark. Clark has been Manning's go-to-guy for most of the year.

However, the Jets' No. 1 ranked pass defense cannot just focus on Wayne and Clark. The Colts' wide receiving core also includes two talented young wide outs in Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon.

Look for Manning to test that Jets' secondary by utilizing all of his talented receivers.

In the end, the result could and might be a surprise to some. The Jets' may very well be the best fifth seed I've seen and are definitely not going down without a fight.

"We believed the whole time, the whole year, when it probably wasn't the popular choice," Jets' coach Rex Ryan said. "We don't have to apologize to anyone."

People used to say that defense wins championships, but is not said to be the case in these days.

I still believe that defense wins championships, but we'll just have to wait for Sunday to see if defense still is the key.