AFC Championship Preview: Jets Are Cinderella, but "Shoe" Fits The Colts

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst IJanuary 21, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - JANUARY 16:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts thows the ball against the Baltimore Ravens during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Lucas Oli Stadium on January 16, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

NY Jets @ Indianapolis (-7½)

The Jets continued their postseason run with a stunning 17-14 win in San Diego over the second-seeded Chargers, a win that sends the Jets to Indianapolis for the AFC Championship.

Shonn Greene rushed for 128 yards and Mark Sanchez won his second playoff game as a rookie, further validating his decision to forego his final year of college to enter the NFL draft.

"No one can doubt my decision to 'leave early' anymore than they can doubt Brett Favre's decision to 'stay late'," Sanchez said. "For me, the lure of NFL riches overpowered the advantages of returning for my senior year at USC. Of course, it was a huge adjustment jumping to the NFL, where football becomes a full-time job and your income is taxed. Classes for 'credit' take on a whole new meaning at USC.

"For Favre, it wasn't the money that brought him back. It was simply the love of the game and the lure of glory that enticed him. And speaking of 'lures,' a fishing excursion on Lake Minnetonka wasn't even necessary to make Favre commit to Minnesota. That's where our situations differ most: I chose to go 'hardship,' while Favre passed on the chance to go for a ride on the SS Hardship , which I believe is a sister ship to the SS Natch ."

"As for the Chargers, we certainly seemed to have their number in the latter part of the game. We were well-prepared for it—we're getting quite used to teams that stop playing in the second half."

"I guess our defense deserves a lot of the credit; but ultimately, you have to fault the Chargers for shooting themselves in the foot, which is exactly what they wanted to do to Nate Kaeding. Of course, if Kaeding had kicked like the Pro Bowl player he is, we would have lost.

"He's the new Mike Vanderjagt. 'Canadian Missed' made a name for himself in the regular season by hardly missing, then earned his nickname in the playoffs by always missing. The same goes for Kaeding. Call him 'Mister Again' because he 'missed 'er, again'."

"The historical significance of the Jets and Colts rivalry is not lost on me. I'm not sure who Namath's bold declarations have shocked more—the 1969 Colts or Suzy Kolber. At least in the case of Super Bowl III, Broadway Joe wasn't to be denied.

"I'm not one to guarantee victory. Believe me, though, if I can bookend my career with a Super Bowl win and a drunken sideline proposition, I'd die a happy man."

The Colts dominated the Ravens, 20-3, last Sunday, controlling the game against a foe that operates in similar fashion to the Jets. Like the Ravens, the Jets rely on a running game that, when clicking, allows for high percentage, play-action passes and dictates the tempo of the game.

"Obviously, we don't expect a shootout," Peyton Manning said. "But you never know—like the Saints did with Deuce McAllister, we could re-sign Marvin Harrison for an inspirational boost. Instead of 'bringing the wood,' Marvin could 'bring the steel'.

"You've got to love Marvin's entrepreneurial spirit—it's not enough simply to offer a drive-through car wash. Marvin's taken that a step further with his exclusive 'drive-by' service. God forbid Gilbert Arenas ever tries to collect a bet at one of Marvin's car washes."

"Anyway, we may be favored by seven points, but I firmly believe it will be a tight game, with the outcome not decided until the end. It will be like Lane Kiffin's tenure at my alma mater, the University of Tennessee—'touch and go.'

"One thing's for sure—the Jets don't lack confidence. The players feed off the swagger and brashness of Rex Ryan, and let's face it, like Rex, they don't seem to ever be hungry. I'm sure Rex will give us some bulletin board material—heck, he gave his own team some when he said they were out of the playoffs when, in fact, they weren't. I'm not sure if Rex is aware of the date change, but he's already guaranteed the Jets' participants will dominate the Pro Bowl.

"What's our key to victory? Winning. And having the same officiating crew that called the Ravens game. But seriously, I'll have to keep my eyes on Darrelle Revis. He's not only a 'shut down' cornerback—he's a 'shut up ' cornerback, as Chad Ochocinco can attest.

Revis made Ochocinco look ordinary; as receivers go, he's merely at 'si ' level. I think he just goes by the name 'Chad' now. Revis' skills are top-notch. He's got more coverage than CNN , or a Kirstie Alley mu-mu.

"But I think Reggie Wayne can handle himself just fine. We'll see what happens when a 'Hurricane' strikes Revis Island. If Revis takes Wayne out of the game, I have other options, like Dallas Clark and Austin Collie. If I need more, I'm sure I can find other receivers named after cities in Texas."

The Jets are playing like the team that started the season 3-0, while the Colts are playing like the team that started 14-0. Of course, you can't underestimate the Jets, but for a team that easily could have gone 16-0, the Colts don't seem to be getting enough credit.

For the Jets, it's all about "protecting" Mark Sanchez. In football, as in life, it's imperative to avoid getting a "Dirty" Sanchez. Of course, protecting Sanchez is two-fold—the offensive line will have to keep Indy's Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis away, and the Jets will have to successfully run to give Sanchez manageable passing opportunities. If the Jets face too many "third-and-Sanchez" situations, then they are in trouble, because their running game has faltered and the Freeney/Mathis speed rush can go all out.

For the Colts, it all comes down to Manning. Against a defense like the Jets, it's hard to be spectacular. The Jets will guard against anything deep. But Manning doesn't need to be spectacular; he needs to be safe and efficient. It's unlikely the Jets will throw something at Manning he hasn't seen before. If they do, a few quick glances at some snapshots, and Manning will have it diagnosed.

Manning throws for 210 yards and two touchdowns, and the Colts force two Sanchez turnovers.

Indianapolis wins, 23-13.


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