The 2010 regular season has officially come to an end, so it's now time to get prepared for what is likely to be an exciting playoffs. The Wild Card Round is scheduled to kick off this upcoming week, and we've got four matchups awaiting us.
The first game will be on Saturday when the No. 6 New York Jets (11-5) will be traveling to Indianapolis to take on the No. 3 Colts (10-6). This game will feature big-time names such as Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Mark Sanchez, LaDanian Tomlinson and Darrelle Revis.
Note, this is a rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game, which as we all know the Colts won 30-17. Interestingly enough, the Jets had a 17-6 lead with just 2:13 remaining in the 1st half, yet allowed it to evaporate as the Colts went on to score 24 unanswered points.
Peyton Manning dominated the game and their defense smothered the Jets' rushing attack. All in all, a strong comeback win through a cumulative effort.
However, this time around, I see matters playing out a bit differently. Despite currently riding a four-game winning streak, I see the Colts run coming to an abrupt halt against the Jets.
Sure, the Colts may be 6-2 at home but the Jets have posted the same record on the road, so home field advantage shouldn't have a significant effect here.
The primary reason I have the Jets winning this one is because they are built to exploit the Colts.
I believe the key to containing Peyton Manning is simply keeping him off the field, and the Jets do an excellent job of controlling the clock as they only allow their opponents an average time of possession of 28:26, which ranks 5th in the NFL.
Of course, this will most efficiently be achieved by a strong ground game which is yet another area the Jets excel at, as they are 3rd in the NFL with 148.6 rushing yards per game. That being so, the Colts will have to find a way for their 7th worst run defense, which allows 127.0 yards per game, to muster the strength to contain the dynamic duo of LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene.
On the flip side, even though Manning leads the top-ranked aerial attack in the league, the Jets are rather effective defending the pass primarily due to their innovative schemes and aggressive playcalling.
It's been proven time after time that generating an effective pass rush is an integral key to success. Even though the Colts only allowed 16 sacks all season, expect the Jets unit that registered 40 sacks (T-8th) this season to get after Manning all day long in order to force him into making mistakes.
Moreover, since I don't see the Colts getting any effort out of their running game (29th) against the Jets stout run defense (3rd), they may be one-dimensional, and we've seen how excessive pressure can effect Manning this season as he's thrown 17 interceptions, which is the 4th most in a single season during his career.
With that being so, I believe the Jets will successfully achieve their key of the game which will be to contain No. 18.
Of course, that is why I believe that if the Colts hope to stand a chance in this one they'll have to find some sort of edge. That, in my opinion, will come through their own pass rush. Defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis combined for 21 sacks this season and if they can get consistent pressure on quarterback Mark Sanchez then I think they'll stand a chance. It'll not only disrupt the young signal caller, but will also throw off the squad's overall rhythm throughout the ball game.
Nevertheless, in the end, I have the Jets closing out a close one in what some may consider an upset.
Final Score: Jets 24 - Colts 20
Be sure to tune in tomorrow for my preview of the New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks game!
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