Last January for the AFC Championship Game, the New York Jets travelled to Indianapolis to face the Colts as the Cinderella team of the 2010 playoffs. Their momentum from "win and we're in" carried them past the Bengals and heavily favored Chargers. They fell short of the Super Bowl when the Colts defeated the Jets 30-17. This Saturday, the Jets will be looking to avenge their 2010 loss to the Colts by defeating them and continuing their dream of winning the Super Bowl.
In the last few weeks, the Jets pass defense has been their Achilles heel. They may have two top cornerbacks in Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, yet the Jets have struggled to contain the aerial attacks of the Patriots, Bears and Steelers.
This past weekend, coach Rex Ryan gave both starters a game off when the Jets played the Bills since they were already in the playoffs. Hopefully the rest will help the two cornerbacks since the main weapon on offense the Colts have is their pass game. Another big factor in this pass game will be how well the Jets' starting safeties will be able to handle Peyton Manning's passing attack. With the loss of Jim Leonhard, Eric Smith will be starting at strong safety and Brodney Pool will be starting at free safety. These two will have to be on their A-game as they will face receivers like Austin Collie, Pierre Garçon and Reggie Wayne.
Play-calling will make a huge impact in the game. The Jets are notorious for their exotic third down blitzes, last year they were like the wildcats emergence in 2008; not many people knew how to stop it. This year, teams have begun to become accustomed to these third down blitzes and will adjust their play-calling, which ends up backfiring on the Jets. In their game against the Steelers, the Jets would be able to get Ben Roethlisberger and his crew into 3rd-and-long situations and still blitz, leaving the Steelers' skilled receivers in man coverage which led to first downs.
With a quarterback as talented as Peyton Manning, Rex Ryan and the Jets defense will need to change their play-calling on third downs so Peyton Manning does not take advantage of their defense.
Lastly, Mark Sanchez will be the Jets' main concern if they want to beat the Colts and survive another week to play New England. At times, Sanchez has played well (Steelers) and at other times his inability to throw the football was scary. In Pittsburgh, Sanchez was able to lead his team to a victory that would ultimately ensure their chances of making the playoffs when Sanchez was 19-for-29 with no interceptions and he had a rushing touchdown (offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's best play-call of the year, so far).
In one of his poorer games, Sanchez displayed his lack of experience against the Patriots in Week 13 when Sanchez completed 17-of-33 passes, and threw three interceptions. At receiver, the Jets have an immense amount of talent with Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes. In order for the Jets passing game to be successful, Mark Sanchez will need to be precise and make smart decisions.
The Jets will need to prove themselves on Saturday when they face the Colts. For Rex Ryan it is personal: Manning and the Colts have beaten Ryan five of six times (the one loss coming in Week 16 of the 2009 season when the Colts sat their starters) and he is looking to make it five of seven. Expect a good fight to the end. If the Jets play while firing on all cylinders, gang green should be victorious.