To Indianapolis Colts S Antoine Bethea, the difference is striking.
The New York Jets, the Colts’ opponent this week in the AFC Championship Game, not only have won seven of eight games, they have won twice on the road in the postseason. That makes them a hot team.
And Bethea said they’re deserving of that tag.
“They’re hot right now,” Bethea said as the AFC South Champion Colts (15-2) prepared to play the Jets (11-7) in the AFC Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 3 p.m.
“Going into Cincinnati, going to San Diego on the road, playing two good teams, they are out there playing with a swagger – a lot of confidence. I think they are much better right now. Like I said, just playing with that much confidence, you really have a lot of things going for you.
“When they come in here on Sunday, we know we are going to get their best shot.”
The Jets, who made the playoffs as a Wild Card team, needed to win their last two games to make the postseason.
“Once the playoffs come, you kind of wipe everything clean,” Colts TE Dallas Clark said. “You just know things are going to be a little different. Playoffs are a different environment, a different atmosphere. And they’re certainly a better team.
If there was a theme that ran through the Colts this week when they spoke of the Jets, it wasn’t just that they were better than their regular-season record would indicate, it’s that they have improved while winning their two postseason games.
“Everything changes,” Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. “I mean, it really does. I think teams get better and better. Hopefully, we’re a little bit better team than we were at that time, and I don’t have any question in my mind that they are a better football team than they were. They keep getting better each and every week. We’re going to have our work cut out for us in that regard.”
The Jets, after a 3-0 start that included a victory over AFC East Champion New England, lost six of their next seven games to slip to 4-6 on November 22. But in the two months since, the Jets have won seven of eight games, with the lone loss coming at home, 10-7, to Atlanta on December 20.
Their current four-game winning streak has come over three playoff teams, with three of the victories – at Indianapolis (29-15), at Cincinnati (24-14) and at San Diego (17-14) – coming on the road. The road victory over the AFC North Champion Bengals came in an AFC Wild Card game, then the Jets beat No. 2 seed and AFC West Champion San Diego in an AFC Divisional Playoff Game this past Sunday.
The Jets beat Cincinnati, 37-0, at home in the regular-season finale.
“For them to go into Cincinnati, go into San Diego and play those teams – they’re playing really good football right now,” Clark said. “It’s going to take a tough-fought, four-quarter game from us to win the game. We’re preparing this week for anything and everything.
“They can do a lot of different things on defense. They definitely have the range to do a lot of different things defensively with the personnel they have.”
Said Bethea, “They’re playing in the AFC Championship Game for a reason. They are a good team – good defense, good running attack. You can’t take that for granted. When they come in here, we’ll get their best shot and most definitely, they are going to get our best shot.”
COLTS NEEDN’T REGRET NOT ELIMINATING THE JETS. HERE.
Reviewing Colts President Bill Polian’s weekly radio show . . .
* No apologies necessary. Here.
* Caldwell deserved Coach of the Year Honor. Here.
* Fans critical to victory over Baltimore. Here.
* Extraordinary season. Here.
Quoting the Indianapolis Colts . . .
* Head Coach Jim Caldwell and QB Peyton Manning. Here.
* WR Reggie Wayne and MLB Gary Brackett. Here.
* DE Dwight Freeney, WR Austin Collie and CB Kelvin Hayden. Here.
MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. ON THE HEALTH OF THE COLTS AND THE RB SITUATION. HERE
POPULAR OR NOT, COLTS EARNED RIGHT TO CHOOSE LATE-SEASON APPROACH. HERE.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS OWNER JIM IRSAY SUPPORTED DECISION AGAINST JETS. HERE.
AN UNBEATEN SEASON THAT WASN’T: A FINAL LOOK AT AN UNRESOLVABLE CONFLICT. HERE
FREENEY: PRO BOWL NEVER GETS OLD. HERE
TE DALLAS CLARK, QB PEYTON MANNING AMONG SIX PRO BOWLERS FOR COLTS. HERE.
DOES PEYTON MANNING GET TOO MUCH RESPECT? HERE
POLIANS’ CONTRACTS EXTENDED. HERE
COLTS FANS OWE RB JOSEPH ADDAI AN APOLOGY. HERE
*** CATCH UP WITH ALL THINGS COLTS ON INDY FOOTBALL REPORT. HERE
*** READ JOHN OEHSER’S INDIANA PACERS COVERAGE. HERE.
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