On Sunday the New York Jets will take on the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game (3 pm EST). The game will be held at Lucas Oil Stadium and the winner will be representing the AFC conference in Super Bowl XLIV. That’s right Jets fans Gang Green is 60 minutes away from the Super Bowl. Lets take a look at the keys to the game from the Jets perspective. (Please note that I am not going to compare this game to the Jets week 16 victory over the Colts, as these are two different teams playing at two different levels)
New York Jets Offense vs. Indianapolis Colts Defense
1) A little help from your friends- The Jets will be counting on two rookies, Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene, to play a vital role within their offensive game plan. The veteran leaders on the team (Thomas Jones, Alan Faneca, Damien Woody) must keep these guys in line and not let the stage become too big for them. The last thing that the Jets can afford is costly turnovers due to rookie jitters.
2) 1st down yardage- While the Colts have struggled to stop the running game, they have two ferocious pass rushers in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis who combined for 23 sacks in the regular season. The Jets must avoid 3rd and long situations in order to somewhat control the Colts pass rush. This can be done by making the most of 1st down situations, getting 4 to 5 yards at a pop. It may sound easier said than done, but it is crucial in terms of keeping the young quarterback out of trouble.
3) Do not lose your identity- The Jets offense was built around the “ground and pound” approach of dominating the line of scrimmage and running the ball. The Jets cannot change their stripes now and must continue to use the formula that got them here. The Jets cannot afford to have a shootout mentality early on, as they do not have the firepower to keep up with the Colts. Time of possession will be a key to success for the Jets in this game.
4) Start short to go long- It is no secret that the Colts are going to bring the heat in passing situations, therefore the Jets must be quick to counter with the short passing game. Whether it is with, dump off passes to the backs, or quick slants, or even a draw play, something must be done to keep the Indianapolis defense off balance. This is the type of game where Leon Washington will be sorely missed for his hands out of the backfield. The Jets could look to Danny Woodhead, Brad Smith, or Dustin Keller to pick up some of the slack.
5) Know when to say when– Last week against the Chargers the Jets were very confident in their defense’s ability to keep the team in the game. The Colts offense plays at a higher level and the Jets must keep their eye on the scoreboard in terms of play calling. As mentioned earlier Gang Green must stay true to the running game, but if the game starts to get out of reach, do not be scared to open it up. You do not want to lose the game with ammunition left in the closet.
New York Jets Defense vs. Indianapolis Colts Offense
1) Make the Colts one dimensional- Even though the Colts have struggled at times with their running game, it can still be very effective with backs like Joseph Addai and Donald Brown. The Jets must bottle up the running game in order to get more pressure on quarterback Peyton Manning. If the Colts are effective running the ball it could be a long day for Gang Green as their defense will be on their toes in retreat mode.
2) Pressure Peyton- In their week 16 meeting the Jets did not have much luck getting to Peyton Manning in terms of a pass rush. Gang Green must find ways to at least get some hits on Peyton to disrupt his rhythm with his receivers. Manning is a rhythm quarterback and lethal once he gets in a groove.
3) Keep Wayne on Revis Island-A lot has been made about Darrelle Revis’ ability to shut down the opposing teams #1 wide receiver. In this game it will be essential for Revis to somewhat contain the explosive Reggie Wayne. Manning likes to hit Wayne down the field and the Jets defense cannot afford to give up big plays. It appears the Jets defense goes as Revis goes, and the All-Pro corner must play his best game of the year.
4) Contain Clark- The Colts set up their deep passing game with intermediate routes to tight end Dallas Clark. Clark is Peyton Manning’s go to guy when he is looking to move the chains and the Jets must find a way to control him. This is similar to the situation last week with the Chargers Antonio Gates. Whether it is with bracket coverage or safety Kerry Rhodes following him all over the field, he must be the focus of the Jets defense.
5) Secondary help– With Darrelle Revis and Kerry Rhodes having their hands full with Clark and Wayne, the remainder of the secondary must do a very good job in coverage against Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon. Lito Sheppard, Dwight Lowery, Donald Strickland must remain consistent in coverage and tackling. The Jets secondary cannot afford to give up substantial yards after the catch.
1) Tackle, tackle, tackle- As with last week the Jets cannot afford to give up big returns on special teams. The defense already has their hands full with the explosive Colts offense, and to give them a short field to work on will only spell trouble.
2) Break away- Gang Green needs to find a way to break off some big plays in the return game. There is a chance that the Jets offense could struggle putting points on the board and big special teams play could give the unit a boost.
This is such an exciting time to be a Jets fan, as everyone in Gang Green nation believes in this team. I think this will be a very physical game and much closer than the experts predict. In the end I think the Jets will come up short as Peyton Manning makes a big play in the fourth quarter to blow the game open. Colts 27-17 (For those of you who know me personally, check out my Chargers prediction. You know how superstitious I am)
One side note: I will be making the journey out to Indianapolis this weekend therefore will not be able to post an immediate game recap on Monday. To be honest if the Jets win, a post may not be made until Wednesday (kidding). I hope everyone enjoys the game and if there was fan base that ever deserved a win on Sunday it is the Jets. This has been one of the most exciting times I have ever experienced as a fan of Gang Green, sans 1998, and one can only imagine the celebrations if the Jets pull this one out. I can honestly say I have barely slept this week and hope a lot of Jets fans bring their enthusiasm and spirit into Lucas Oil Stadium. J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS!
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For some AFC Championship game fantasy football advice click here.