What have we learned thus far? We've learned that the Colts do not get rusty, the Superdome is an extremely hard place to play in, and that the Jets are one of the best four teams in the NFL (you have no idea how much it pains me to say that). What will we learn this weekend?
New York Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts. 3:00 p.m. EST. CBS.
The Jets have shown us that it doesn't matter if they don't have a quarterback, at least yet. Mark Sanchez has continued to play the role of "game manager" throughout playoffs and that has been all the Jets have needed. Their defense has held the Bengals and Chargers to about half of their average offensive output and their powerful offensive line has paved the way for two above average backs. This team is basically a carbon copy of the Ravens team that won it all in 2001. Sanchez equally as incapable as Trent Dilfer, Thomas Jones and Shonne Greene are dually as good as Jamal Lewis, and both teams boast great defenses. The Jets need to remain mistake free against an opportunistic Colts defense and their defense needs to play the way its been playing all postseason to have a chance.
The Colts showed no rust last week with a dominant performance at home against the Baltimore Ravens. Their defense forced three turnovers and Peyton Manning guided his team (who was in cruise control most of the game) to a relatively uneventful 20-3 win. The match up that will decide this game is Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne vs Darrelle Revis. Revis Island has become a place where no receiver wants to vacation to and the Jets are 7-0 when he has an interception this year. One thing about Manning is the fact that he won't force a pass if it isn't there, he doesn't care if its Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, or Pierre Garcon. Whoever is open is who will be getting the ball. I don't see Wayne having a big game but I do see Clark running through the secondary all day. The Colts offensive line is one of the best in the league giving up a league least 13 sacks. They will give Manning plenty of time to find Clark running down the middle of the field (please don't tell me you think Bart Scott can cover Dallas Clark, don't be so naive). The Colts defense will force a couple early turnovers, the Colts will charge out to a big lead and force the Jets to pass. The RCA Dome will be rocking and this is when we get to see the demise of the Sanchize. It'll be over early.
Prediction: Colts 27 Jets 6
If you didn't see this match up coming mid way through the season you must be blind. Both teams showed throughout the whole season that they were clearly the top two teams in the NFC. Now they finally meet in the game to decide who truly is the best.
The Saints, like the Colts, showed no signs of rust in dismantling the Arizona Cardinals last week. Drew Brees played like Drew Brees, Reggie Bush had arguably one of the best games of a rather disappointing career, and the defense did enough to help the offense. Now the question is will they be able to duplicate that game? Will they be able to run for nearly 200 yards? Will the offensive line be able to keep Brees upright? Will their defense be able to force turnovers against a quarterback with a TD-INT ratio of nearly 5.5 to 1? I could see the Saints do one of these, maybe two, but they need to do all three of these in order to win and I just don't see that happening. Not even in the Super Dome.
The Vikings shut up the critics last week with an absolute pounding of the hottest team in the NFL. The defensive line played like they had something to prove (yes I'm talking about you Ray Edwards), Brett Favre was flawless, Sidney Rice showed why he is the best wide receiver with dreadlocks, and the team showed they can win without Adrian Peterson. Adrian Peterson hasn't taken over a game all year like he has done in the past but has showed a marketed improvement in his 3-6 yard gains as of late. He is due for a breakout game and the Saints are averaging giving up 125 rushing yards per game (mind you they have average margin of victory over 11 so teams usually give up running). Peterson could be the X factor against a defense that isn't really known to play "smash mouth" football. The one thing against the Vikings is they usually don't play as well on he road and they usually don't play that well at night. Playing in a dome will give them a sense of that home cooking and you better believe Favre will have the Vikes ready to go.
Prediction: Vikings 34 Saints 31