Rex Ryan's Jets do a victory lap after their win on Sunday, the last game they will play in the Meadowlands this season
Rex Ryan and his New York Jets entered the 2010 NFL seasons with lofty expectations. If they want to deliver on those Super Bowl aspirations, they will need to do it from the back of the field starting Saturday night.
Entering the playoffs as the sixth seed, the Jets will need to win three consecutive road games to reach the promised land and are a far cry from the first round bye week they sought all season.
The first in line are the Colts and their hall of fame-bound quarterback, Peyton Manning who is the great equalizer.
These five things need to go right for the Jets to win Saturday night...
Jacob Tamme has become a star tight end for the Colts in the absence of Dallas Clark
I have heard a lot of NFL pundits say the Jets "need to get pressure with the front four". However, if that is truly a Jets' key, that is the NFL equivalent of insanity.
The Jets haven't been able to pressure with the front four all year, why would they suddenly be able to do it Saturday night, against one of the league's best quarterbacks?
If they are able to finally do it, more power to them, But realistically, they need to blitz.
Here are the keys: The blitz needs to get to Manning, and force him to unload the ball quicker than he'd like. And when the blitz doesn't get there, Revis and company need to run with their receivers. More than likely, they will be able to do that for the most part. The concern is the middle of the secondary. The safeties cannot allow Jacob Tamme to dominate the middle of the field.
Manning can pick apart a defense if given multiple reps
More than occasionally, the Jet defense has been porous on third down, even on third and long situations.
If they are able to get Manning third and long, they have to get off the field.
You can't give Manning multiple opportunities and expect to contain the Colts' offense.
Conversely, the Jets offense needs to sustain drives. Third down conversions will be huge for ball control and to play keep away from Manning. It will be a major statistic when you analyze who wins and who loses Saturday night's game.
Jets' QB Mark Sanchez must play well Saturday
Those same NFL pundits have stated that the Jets need to run the ball.
This is not the same Jets' team as last year. That team had to run the ball to mask Mark Sanchez's inexperience.
Last season's playoffs saw Mark Sanchez take advantage of defenses that were stacking the box to stop the run.
Last year, Shonn Greene was playing excellent football in Lucas Oil Stadium before injuring his ribs. Sanchez played his best game of the year in that day, and now has another year of experience under his belt.
With Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards, the Jets could big play the Colts often in this game. So it really isn't the running game that is key, it is the passing game as the Jets will need to score to allow their defense to aggressively defend Peyton Manning.
This year, I believe the passing game will get the running game going.
Also, the Jets' cannot afford what I call disastrous turnovers, such as turnovers that occur in the red zone, or even worse, turnovers that give Manning a short field. You can live with a turnover or two around the opposing 40 yard-line, but nothing else.
Dustin Keller is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Too often, the Jets haven't taken advantage of his skill-set.
He can stretch the middle of a defense like a Dallas Clark or Antonio Gates.
If Keller can stretch the field consistently, it could open things up for the running game, and create the one on one matchups Sanchez needs to find Holmes or Edwards for the big play.
Special Teams is an area of advantage for the Jets. The Santonio Holmes/Jerricho Cotchery combination have really settled in for punt returns, and they ought to be able to make plays for the Jets in the punt return game on a fast track.
Brad Smith is one of the league's most underrated game-breakers in the kick return game, and Joe McKnight is a threat to break one in his own right.
The only area of concern is the kicking game. Adam Vinatieri has shown that he is one of the NFL's elite in terms of making the big kick while in short, Nick Folk has shown that he is not.in that category.
The Jets cannot allow this game to come down to needing a big kick from Nick Folk.
I truly believe the Jets have the better team.
Sanchez will make plays, the running game will be effective and the defense will do just enough: New York Jets 28, Indianapolis Colts 23.