Peyton Manning vs. Mark Sanchez
Peyton Manning will go down as one of the best ever, there are no arguments in this battle. Mark Sanchez definitely has the potential to be a good NFL quarterback, but right now, he's nowhere near Manning.
With injuries to key targets in the passing game, including Austin Collie and Dallas Clark, Manning has continued to lead this team to wins and tying an NFL record with their ninth straight playoff appearance.
It is worth noting though, that Mark Sanchez has been a mediocre to average quarterback in big games. The focus for the Jets is on the run game and controlling the ball, but he has done nothing to separate himself from the pack this season.
In the three biggest games of the season, he threw two interceptions and no touchdowns against Green Bay in Week 8, no touchdowns and three picks against New England in Week 13, and 170 yards and no interceptions or touchdowns against Pittsburgh in Week 15.
The one exception to this pattern, though, was against the Patriots in Week 3 in which he threw for three touchdowns and no picks.
LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene vs. Joseph Addai and Donald Brown
While the Colts have upped the ante to average 150 yards rushing in the last three must-win games, they still don't compare to the Jets.
The pounding type of play is where New York excels and they should continue to do so on Saturday. Tomlinson has led the way in his first season here with 916 yards, but Greene has been a good complement to him, adding over 700 yards of his own.
As for the Colts, Addai's absence negatively impacted this team throughout the season, and his presence in the last couple of weeks pushed them over the hump and into the playoffs. But, against this tough Jet run defense, him along with Brown and Dominic Rhodes should have a rough time getting going.
The Colts are known for their all-around passing game, with many receivers getting touches and passes being thrown all around. With Dallas Clark and Austin Collie out, though, this became a little bit tougher.
Still, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Jacob Tamme have stepped up to fill the holes caused by all these injuries. Most notably, Tamme has stepped in from nowhere to become one of Manning's favorite targets.
Obviously, this is a situation of two different styles of play with the Jets looking to pound the ball more, as I've previously stated, but the Jets still have a talented bunch of receivers with Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller.
Keys on Defense
After all of those players expected to stand out in this playoff game, it's the defenses' job to make sure that doesn't happen. The Jets come in with one of the best in the league, while the Colts bring a quick, speedy defense.
Darrelle Revis is battling a hamstring injury this week, but will most likely be ready to go on Saturday. It's his job to stick Reggie Wayne on Revis Island and keep him out of the game.
However, the key for the Jets defense on Saturday will be Antonio Cromartie. He was brought in this year to be the cornerback to complement Revis' shutdown play. He's faced with a tough matchup this week against Garcon, so it will be up to him to help shut down another one of Manning's targets.
For Indy, you can expect Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney to cause havoc in the passing game, but shutting down the run will be the key.
When Gary Brackett returned from an injury this season, the Colts defense really improved in doing so and will be relied upon to do the same this week.
It's going to be very tough to out-physical this offensive line New York brings to the table, but it's imperative they find a way to do so.
Last year, the Jets held a 17-6 lead in the second quarter, but couldn't close it out. These two teams are completely different with the Colts passing on offense and speed on defense and New York's ability to play physically and wear you down.
However, this weekend I like the Colts to come away with a win at home. This season, they've played much better in Lucas Oil Stadium. Their defense is faster, their receivers are faster and they've been able to hold ground on the line.
Final Score: 21-17 Colts
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