Indianapolis Colts-New York Jets: AFC Championship Game Preview

Bryan FlynnAnalyst IJanuary 23, 2010

Note: Before you read this, I am 4-0 in picking the winners of the playoff games for the AFC Playoffs in past articles. You can read link one and link two to see my past picks.)


The Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets have a lot of playoff history. The last time the Jets met the Colts in the playoffs, it was no contest with New York winning 41-0.

That meeting was in the 2002 season, and since then the Colts have gone on to win a Super Bowl and Indy quarterback Peyton Manning has become perhaps the best quarterback in the NFL. The Jets have made three playoff appearances since that win and changed coaches twice.

This could be the biggest Colts and Jets game since Super Bowl III and the Colts were still in Baltimore. That game, the first one officially called the Super Bowl, had more plot lines than a soap opera.

The third Super Bowl saw Joe Namath make a guarantee that the Jets would win, the former Colts coach Weeb Ewbank against the current coach Don Shula, and the Colts backup Earl Morrall starting in front of legend Johnny Unitas.

The game also featured a ton of future hall of famers on both teams. This game also legitimized the AFL/NFL merger with a former AFL team getting its first win over an NFL team.

Flash forward to 2010 and this game features its own interesting plot lines. This AFC Championship game has two rookie coaches playing for a spot in the Super Bowl.

One of those coaches Jim Caldwell of the Colts, who is quite and confident, and the other Rex Ryan of the Jets, who is as loud and brash as any coach the NFL has ever seen. The Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez made more news this season not by wearing a fur coat but eating a hotdog on the sidelines.

The Colts have a without question hall of famer Manning starting at quarterback, but rookie Curtis Painter as the backup behind him. The biggest story line could be the Jets feeling snubbed by the pundits once again.

In Super Bowl III, the Jets were considered weaker than their NFL counterpart Colts. This time New York is thought to have backed into the playoffs and do not deserve to be in this spot.

The question is who will win this time around. The Colts spectacular offense against the Jets shutdown defense but are those two units the key to this game.

Note: In every playoff game the winner has won the turnover battle and has not missed a field goal attempt. Also winners of every playoff game but one, the Colts, have out rushed their opponent. Expect the winner of this game to keep at least two of those three trends alive, if not all three.


What the New York Jets need to do to win the AFC Championship Game

The Jets do not need to look far to see the blue print to beat the Colts. They only have to watch tape of what the Miami Dolphins did to Indianapolis on Monday night in Week Two of the season.

What the Dolphins did is similar to what the Jets can do to win the game. In fact, the Jets could do it better.

In that Monday night game, Miami used a ball control game plan to dominate time of possession. The Dolphins held the ball a little over 45 minutes to the Colts nearly 16 minutes.

To do this Miami ran the ball effectively and used a short and accurate passing game with Chad Pennington. The Dolphins also used their wild cat attack with Ronnie Brown.

The only problem with this game plan was the Miami defense could not stop Peyton Manning when they need to most. Manning used his final possession to drive the Colts down the field for the game winning touchdown in a 27-23 victory.

Here is how the Jets can transpose the Miami game plan for a victory and a spot in the Super Bowl, starting with what the Jets can do on the offensive side of the ball, then on to defense, and last special teams.

New York will need a big day rushing from their two backs Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene. The Jets have used their running game to wear down teams, and in the fourth quarter of their first two playoff game they were able to break off long runs and keep drives alive with first downs.

Look for Jones to start but Greene has been able to rush for over 100 in his first two playoff games of his career. The Colts have the 18th best overall defense and 24th best rush defense in the NFL as well.

This should be right in the Jets' wheel house with the weak rush defense by the Colts. If New York can rush the ball effectively, it would set up the play action passing game.

The Jets can use that play action passing game to give Sanchez a few extra seconds to find a receiver or pull the ball down and run for what he can get. Expect the Jets to run at least two bootlegs.

Running the bootlegs gives Sanchez a chance to have a run pass option. Sanchez is a good runner and has used the bootleg for big plays in his first playoff games as well.

Expect for the Jets to put Brad Smith at quarterback and run the wildcat. Smith can keep the ball on the run or pitch/handoff to Green or Jones.

The Colts struggled against the Dolphins wild cat attack. Smith, a former quarterback at Missouri, also gives the Jets a threat to pass out of the wild cat as well.

Turnovers on offense will be the Jets biggest enemy. If the Jets, Sanchez in particular, can keep from turning over the ball, New York will have its best chance to win.

One other thing the Jets need to win—wide receiver Braylon Edwards must hold on to the ball and not drop it. If the New York offense is going to score the points needed to win this game, the offensive line must be the star of this game. With four former first round picks, the offensive line must open holes in the running game and keep Sanchez safe in the passing game.

On special teams the Jets have a Smith as a return weapon. If Smith can get good returns, it will help New York win the field position battle.

Also do not forget Smith ran a kickoff back for a touchdown before the Colts pulled their starters in their regular season meeting. The Jets should also be alright with field goal kicker and if need punter Jay Feely.

New York has been recipients of five missed field goals this post season. The Jets will gain a big edge in this game if Matt Stover starts missing field goal attempts as well.

On defense the Jets will try to make the Colts one dimensional on offense by taking away the running game. That should not be too hard to do since the Colts have the worst running attack in the NFL.

New York can then try to confuse and pressure Manning. Look for the Jets defense to try to hide their blitzes until the snap of the ball so Manning does not know where the pressure is coming from.

Make no mistake about it the Jets defense must hit Manning if they are to have any chance at winning this game. The Baltimore Ravens defense was most effective when they pressured Manning and got hits on him.

With Shaun Ellis having a broken hand, another Jets will have to help out rushing Manning. That player might be Bart Scott, Rex Ryan’s first accusation once free agency started before the season.

If the Jets can get pressure on Peyton Manning, they can expect opportunities at interceptions. New York will try to hide who star cornerback Darrelle Revis is covering when they can.

Revis has had an interception in both of the two playoff games the Jets have played in. New York needs Revis to have another big game if they are to pull off the upset in this game.

For the Jets to pull off the upset over the Colts, they will need to run the ball to win time of possession. They will also need to avoid turnovers on offense and force turnovers on defense.

If the Jets can win the turnover battle, be effective rushing the ball, and make field goal attempts they can beat the Colts. Unlike the Colts the Jets cannot lose the running battle or miss a chance to put points by missed field goals and turnovers in the red zone.



What the Indianapolis Colts need to do to win the AFC Championship Game

The Colts will try to use a game plan close to the one they used in the Divisional Playoff round to beat the Baltimore Ravens. That game plan is making the most out of their offensive possessions, even punting when need be.

The rest of the game plan for Indianapolis is playing solid special teams and shutting down the running game to make the quarterback beat them. That game plan worked for the most part with Ray Rice, who found a hard time running the ball and making Joe Flacco beat the Colts with his arm.

Indianapolis is the worst rushing team in the NFL and relies on Manning and the passing game to beat teams. As much as the Colts and pundits want to believe it this team cannot become one dimensional against the Jets.

Making a team one dimensional is what New York does the best. The Colts must run the ball so that the Jets cannot not get even more pressure on Manning.

That is what the Jets did last week against San Diego and Philip Rivers. It forced Rivers to throw the ball up and take more chances in the passing game which led to two interceptions.

Indianapolis does not have to run the ball as well as New York but has to keep the Jets thinking about the run. The Colts receivers, Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon and Dallas Clark, will see man, zone, and press coverage by the Jets.

This will make Manning and the Colt receivers have to all stay on the same page in the passing game. The receivers will have to be where Manning thinks they will be to avoid interceptions.

The running backs, Joseph Addai and Donald Brown, not only have to try to run the ball effectively, but help pick up the blitz. Look for New York to try to confuse the rookie Brown of who he has to block on the blitz to get a man free on Manning.

Manning, the receivers and the running backs have to avoid turning the ball over against the Jets defense giving the New York offense a short field for easy scores. The Colts offense needs to do what it did against the Ravens and what the Chargers did to the Jets.

Punt the ball and play the field position game. Put all of the pressure on the Jets offense to beat you and try to force their rookie quarterback into mistakes. Playing smart offense could be the best defense for the Colts.

Speaking of defense for the Colts, this game will come down to stopping the New York running game. The Indianapolis defense cannot let the Jets wear them down with long drives running the ball the whole game.

If the Colts can shut down the running game or at least contain it that will give Dwight Freeney the ability to do what he does best, rush the passer and harass Sanchez.

The Indy defense will be in trouble if Greene and the Jets offense are able to get close to their 170 yards rushing per game in the playoffs. That is nearly the identical average New York had in the regular season of 172 yards.

Indianapolis must watch as the game progresses to keep the Jets from the magical 170 yard mark. If New York make that mark, it will mean the Colts defense has not done their job and this game will be in the Jets reach late in the fourth quarter.

The Colts secondary will not scare anyone, but then again neither will the Jets wide receivers. Indianapolis gets better play in their secondary when the front seven gets pressure.

If anything the Colts defense does not have to win the game. They just have to keep the score close enough for the Manning and the offense to pull the game out.

Indianapolis does not have to be spectacular but sound in the kicking game. The Colts only have to avoid turnovers on kickoffs and punts.

More importantly the Colts have to make their field goals. Unlike Shayne Graham of the Cincinnati Bengals and Nate Kaeding of the Chargers who went a combined 0-5 against the Jets. 

The Colts will have to make their field goals without the services of one of the best playoff kickers in NFL history Adam Vinatieri. The duties will fall on Stover to break the spell the Jets have had over field goal kickers in the playoffs.

It also it needs to be pointed out that the Jets blocked the Colts' only PAT in the first quarter of their regular season meeting. The starters were in the game for both teams.

Home field advantage will not be a huge factor in this game. The Jets have already won two playoff games on the road.

New York has won three of the last four games on the road including a game at Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Colts.

One can think what they want about the first game these two teams played. But the Jets are not afraid of playing in front of a hostile crowd.


Who will win the AFC Championship Game

Do not be surprised if the Jets can win this game. New York must win the turnover battle and run the ball effectively.

I have to believe that the Colts will win this game. Indianapolis will keep the game close and in the fourth quarter Peyton Manning will win the game. The Jets defense will not make it easy but the Colts will get their points.

Expect the Jets to stay in this game unless they lose the running game and the turnover battle. If they lose these two aspects, expect for the Colt to win handily.

Pick: Colts


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