Last season, the Jets rallied to make the playoffs, and Rex Ryan rubbed some people the wrong way when he said that the Jets were going to be a tough out in the playoffs.
Then the team rallied to win two road playoff games with a rookie head coach and rookie quarterback, backing up their tough talk on the field.
In a game that the Jets led at halftime, the Jets suffered injuries to key players and were eventually picked apart by Manning as the Colts dominated in the second half.
This time, there are no excuses as the 11-5 Jets will have their playoff rematch against the 10-6 Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning, albeit with a more suspect offensive line and receiving corps than last year. Dallas Clark and Austin Collie are lost for the season, replaced by Jacob Tamme and Blair White.
The Jets have prepared for a full year for the chance to face Manning again. They replaced cornerback Lito Sheppard with Antonio Cromartie. They drafted another cornerback in the first round of the draft in Kyle Wilson of Boise State.
They’ve developed more secondary depth in Drew Coleman, Marquice Cole and Dwight Lowery, roster holdovers who are much improved from last year.
The key to stopping Peyton Manning and the Colts offense is to pressure him in the pocket and play lock-down defense in the defensive backfield.
There’s no outsmarting Peyton Manning—we’ve seen it year after year. He will likely be able to read the defense pre-snap and try to pick on the weakest link in the pass defense on any given play.
Containing Manning means limiting the amount of times he has has the ball and avoiding the big plays from the Colts offense.
That means Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense cannot afford to turn the ball over or give Manning a short field. That means Brian Schottenheimer and Rex Ryan must understand that Shonn Greene has to get 15-20 carries, and that pinning the Colts inside the 20 with Steve Weatherford is probably better than attempting a 50-yard field goal with Nick Folk.
The Jets offense should not be shy to pass on first down either, however. Being predictable on either side of the ball will only benefit the Colts.
Schottenheimer has called some great gameplans the last few weeks, so hopefully he won’t outsmart himself and overmanage the game, which he’s prone to do at times. He needs to be unpredictable, but he has to get the ball to Greene and not give up on the run throughout the second half.
The Colts are more vulnerable than they were last year, and the Jets have better depth top to bottom on their roster than they did last year. If the Jets can contain Peyton Manning, win the turnover battle and win the field position battle, there’s no reason they can’t win this game and advance to face the New England Patriots in the divisional playoff round.
“If the Colts beat us, it’s going to be physically, not mentally,” said Rex Ryan today. There will be no excuses for this talented Jets team if all the preseason bravado and tough-talking mentality leads to a first-round knockout in the playoffs.
No question, the Jets will be ready to win on Saturday. It’s time to exorcise their playoff demons and show up big against the Colts. The time for talk is over. It’s time to show the league what the Jets are about.