NFL AFC Wild Card Playoffs 2011: Will Peyton Be Manning the Out of Control Jets?

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NFL AFC Wild Card Playoffs 2011: Will Peyton Be Manning the Out of Control Jets?
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January 2, 2011: Peyton Manning lets one fly in Indianapolis. Super Bowl hopes for the Colts fly on his arm.

How can the gimpy and grumpy New York Jets do anything to stop the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning? 

For one, the Jets (11—5) should have shutdown corner, Darrelle Revis “Island” back from a hamstring injury.  He could be hampered, though, against Reggie Wayne—and that’s usually a no—no.  Antonio Cromartie was inactive for the last regular season game, but he should be back against Indy.  Despite the injuries, the Jets still finished No. 6 in passing defense. 

They are the second best in passing defense, among playoffs teams, behind only the Saints.  Remember how New Orleans beat Manning and the Colts last year in the Super Bowl?  A game—ending interception was the culprit.

The Jets usually get a lot of interceptions, but this year’s numbers declined due to injury and distractions.  They had 17 interceptions in 2009 and 12 in 2010. 

Revis held out for more money in training camp.  He rejoined the squad with about a week left in camp and battled a hamstring injury all year.  He sustained the injury on a ridiculous and embarrassing one-handed touchdown grab by Randy Moss in Week 2.

It can be said the Jets live in a mossy area of the NFL known as the controversy belt.  Like some preachers in America’s Bible Belt, the Jets organization is often involved in public drama.

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January 2, 2011: Rex Ryan patrols the sidelines in New Jersey. His pass patrols will have to stop Peyton Manning.

Braylon Edwards was arrested for alleged DUI on Sept. 21, 2010.  He was still on probation from an aggravated assault against LeBron James’ homie in 2009.   Revis was, while trying to make it to practice on time, cited for speeding on October 14.

Sal Alosi, their strength coach, was fined and suspended without pay for tripping Miami Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll from the sidelines.  Now, two former massage therapists are suing the team. 

On top of all that, the Jets had even more distractions this season—see Jenn Sterger/Brett Favre news reports.  The Colts could take advantage of any distracted teams—not to mention the attention deficit Jets. 

Indy (10—6) has the NFL’s No.1 passing offense and are ranked No. 4 in total offense.  Among playoffs teams, they trail only Philadelphia—by about nine yards—in terms of average per game. 

Peyton Manning is the No. 1 ranked quarterback heading into the playoffs as far as yards passing goes.  Philip Rivers was No. 1 in the regular season, but the Chargers didn’t qualify for the playoffs.  Manning passed for exactly 4,700 yards.

If the Jets can sift the shaky Peyton out, then they could add some flavor to their season.  Earlier, he had one of the shakiest stretches in his career.  He was throwing interceptions at a high—rate, but he righted the situation and seems to be on target.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Sept. 26, 2010: Colts coach Jim Caldwell disputes a call in Denver. His team could still be the undisputed AFC Champion.

Although Colts running back Donald Brown has stepped his game up, he’ll be a prime target for New York.  The Jets are still stout on rush defense. 

On the flip side of the 50, the Jets are the No. 2 ranked rushing team among playoffs squads.  Indy’s rushing game isn’t what it once was when they had Marshall Faulk, Edgerin James or a healthy Joseph Addai. 

The Colts boosted New York’s confidence last season as they rested Manning and forsook an undefeated season.  The Jets then went on a playoff run that almost brought them into the Super Bowl last year.

Jets coach, the often easy—going Rex Ryan, said he’s tired of losing to the Colts in the playoffs.  They got him in 2006 and 2009.  He was Baltimore’s defensive coordinator in the 15—6 loss in ’06.  Last year, he was a rookie head coach with the Jets in the 31—17 AFC Championship loss.

Now, it’s the most wonderful time of the football year all over again.  College football bowl games and the national championship playoffs, err, game are upon us.  Along with the BCS hype comes the start of the road to the Super Bowl via the NFL playoffs. 

No sporting event represents Americana more than the Super Bowl.  Due to the large numbers of travelers and vacation days taken surrounding the events, it’s virtually a version of a holiday.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Nov. 21, 2010: LaDainian Tomlinson get loose in New York. If fresh, Tomlinson could do the same in Indianapolis this Saturday.

This year’s version will take place in what I call the Jerry Dome—the super landmark in Texas, that the Dallas Cowboys call home.  This season was similar to the Great Disappointment for owner Jerry Jones’ fans.

Cowboys’ fans were hoping their team would be the first to host a Super Bowl, but it didn’t happen.  A team that played in the Super Bowl last year, the Indianapolis Colts will play good hosts to the Jets.

New York’s No. 1 ranked rushing offense from last season took a small step back.  Indy’s shaky run defense could help them move forward. 

Thomas Jones, though, is sorely missed.  Last year, he scored almost twice the rushing touchdowns (14) than the top two Jets backs did this year (eight).  He rushed for over 1,400 yards last year.  This season, the Jets didn’t have a 1,000 yard rusher.

LaDainian Tomlinson led all Jets running backs with six touchdowns, but Shonn Greene underwhelmed his coaching staff, teammates and opponents.  Greene only scored two.  Reserve Joe McKnight rarely touched the ball.

Prediction

In the Manning era, running the ball effectively, scoring touchdowns and returning kicks are keys to beating Indianapolis.

Al Bello/Getty Images
January 2, 2011: Mark Sanchez thanks the home crowd. They could be thanking him after a win over the Colts.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez’s passer rating improved from 63 in 2009 to 75 this season.  He has outstanding starting wide outs in Edwards and Santonio Holmes—a former Super Bowl MVP with the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Tight end Justin Keller had five touchdown receptions in 2010, and LaDainian Tomlinson is a reliable receiver from the backfield.

Brad Smith could be a big factor in running the ball out of innovative backfield formations.  He leads the Jets in rushing yards per carry.

The loss of Leon Washington to Seattle hurt the Jets on special teams—an area Indy has traditionally been vulnerable.  Remember Devin Hester returned the opening kick of the Super Bowl for a touchdown against them? 

This year, the Jets had zero runbacks for touchdowns off opponent’s punts.  Smith ran two kicks, however, back for long touchdowns.

Ryan is highly motivated to finally kick Manning's butt.  He’ll probably get every shoe size of inspired play out of his team.  The Jets rested some of their stars in the last regular season game, while the Colts played theirs against the Titans.  The short week could have some negative results for Indy, but they are playoffs veterans—don’t bank on it.

Soon after the Saints—Seattle game, this one will be covered from Indianapolis on Saturday night by the NBC television network.  There will be too much Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne and Jacob Tamme on television, though, for the Jets to cover.

The Colts will send “Sexy” Rexy back to New York with yet another devastating playoff loss under his belt.

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