There is a firm rule in sports gambling. Never, ever bet against Peyton Manning. Today that rule is going to be tested by gamblers all over the country, and for legitimate reasons. The Colts being banged up is one of the main ones. The fact that they are playing a hard-hitting New York Jets team is another.
Indianapolis already lost star tight end/H-back Dallas Clark (wrist) and two solid receivers in Anthony Gonzalez (knee) and Austin Collie (head) for the year.
Luckily, the Colts got Joseph Addai some reps last week after sitting out the majority of the season, and essentially the entire roster is questionable to play this week, and has been all season. The biggest concern for the Colts is starting right tackle Ryan Diem (back) who hasn't practiced all week.
Reggie Wayne's knee is slightly injured, but he will play, and be a threat. And defensively for the Colts, they are without Defensive back Kelvin Hayden and linebacker Clint Session.
So let's see if a banged up Colts team can hang with the Jets. It's playoff time boys, so shoot up those pain killers and run out of that tunnel.
Peyton Manning's best weapon is his brain. The guy is an offensive coordinator playing quarterback. He will make an errant throw, rarely, but his decision making is as good as it gets. As long as he doesn't suffer any head injuries, the Colts are going to have a good chance to beat any team based on what's going on inside that massive head of his.
Seriously though, the guy has a huge head. I think he plays the game with 10% of his brain, and books his next 47 endorsements simultaneously with the other 90%.
Rex Ryan is tired of being beaten by Peyton Manning, and unlike his alleged foot fetish, he was vocal about Manning this week. He said "this is personal."
Ryan didn't say it in a "these are fighting words" kind of way, but in a respectful way of sorts. Manning knocked the Jets out of the playoffs last year on his way to the Super Bowl, and we all heard Ryan -- one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL -- voice his frustrations on the sidelines.
Everything he did, Manning had an answer. Ryan is going to throw the kitchen sink at Manning this week, and I know he can handle it, but will the guys around him not at 100% be able to handle it? That's the question. Will they be able to perform at a playoff level? With the exception of a few (Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon), they won't be able to keep up with the Jets.
Manning's team might be banged up, but he still has Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon as his go-to receivers. Most quarterbacks in the league would hope for that lineup. Wayne, even with a hurt knee, is just too good to be completely shut down. And he is always a threat that will have to be accounted for.
Garcon is just a beast. A younger version of Wayne with insane athleticism. He has established himself as one of the best receivers in the league and those two should open things up for Joseph Addai to get some yards and give the Colts some much needed balance on offense.
I think they'll use the pass to open up the running game, and the trio of Manning, Wayne and Garcon is the reason why.
Without having the benefit of a running game this year, Manning threw a league-high 679 passes this season. In all those attempts, he threw 17 interceptions -- the most he's thrown since 2002. If he has any chance at winning this game, he is going to have to not make mistakes.
He has no room for error, none. The Jets defense is a talented one that will make you pay, and do their best to confuse. Like I said earlier, confusing Manning isn't likely, but confusing some of his younger receivers is. If the jets can cause miscommunication between Manning and his younger receivers (Blair White, Jacob Tamme), then interceptions will be thrown and the Colts will no doubt lose the ball game.
This is huge for the Colts because they can finally get a little bit of balance back. They have committed to doing so the last month, and it has paid dividends. They had to win-out, and they did that to get into the playoffs.
Like I stated earlier, I think they will use the pass to open up the run because they have Peyton Manning and can count on his decision making. Not as much risk in passing. But it has to be nice to have Addai back, especially with Dominic Rhodes slowed by a hip injury.
Rhodes has done what he has to in Addai's absence, but it will be nice to have both for a hard-hitting team like the Jets.
The Jets have the fourth best rushing attack in the league this season, and the Colts are not very good against the run (25th). I think it is fair to assume they are going to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible with Shon Green and LaDainian Tomlinson.
This will force more Colt defenders into the box and open things up down field for Mark Sanchez. They would prefer Sanchez to not have to throw to win this game, one would think.
They are a good, tough running football team, and in this case it will keep one of the best signal callers in the league on the bench. Could be their best defense, although their real defense is pretty good.
Peyton Manning is 5-1 against Rex Ryan, one of the league's best defensive coordinators. Manning owns him. Last season when Ryan was miked-up for a game, you heard it. "He's got an answer for everything we do."
Ryan loves his team, and has some serious swag. He hates losing, and he loves winning. But Manning doesn't lose all that often, and has Ryan's number. Manning knows how to beat Ryan's scheme. It's like he broke the code, or knows some algorithm.
Yeah, he probably knows created some algorithm. Once again, notice the size of that dome.
If the Colts are without starting right tackle Ryan Diem, then that could easily be the factor to lose it for them. They are going to need all the help they can get against this defense, and the crazy scheme Ryan is going to bring to the table.
Diem hasn't practiced at all this week, but has started every game this season with his injured back. So it might come down to the question of who is better? An injured Ryan Diem, or backup Michael Toudouze. Toudouze would no doubt be targeted by Ryan, and if exploited, it could be a long day for Manning and the Colts.
Not only are the Colts a veteran team who has seen many a playoff game, they have had to win for the past month to just get into the playoffs. They just know how to win. They come to play when they have to, but if they can do that in the playoffs is a different story.
Playoff wins don't come nearly as easy as regular season win. Manning knows all about that. He's like the Lebron James of the NFL. Win MVP, have a great regular season, flame out in the playoffs. Don't think anything ever happened between Peyton's mom and a teammate, though. Could be wrong.
Peyton Manning has been known for under-performing at certain key moments Last year's Super Bowl anyone?), and is currently at 9-9 for career playoff games. Who knows what will happen against the Jets, but if it is close down the line, many would argue Manning is not the one you want at the helm.
It is like the one time that he actually mentally functions like a normal, human, NFL quarterback, and I think he is just confused by it. Usually everything is in slow motion and he has an average of five minutes in the pocket. But he is becoming known as a choker in the playoffs, despite having one ring.
I think the Jets are coming into this game healthier, and with more to play for mentally. They want to win it for Rex Ryan and they have a great defense with Bart Scott, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. They will be able to capitalize on any mistake by Manning and control the tempo of the game, even on the road.
Run the ball into the ground, then go up top to Braylon Edwards or Santonio Holmes. I'm gonna break the rules, and bet against Peyton Manning.
Sorry Peyton, but you gotta prove me wrong.