Mandel’s Musings – Why Jets Will Beat Colts

Published on: 21st January, 2010


Mandel's Musings - Why Jets Will Beat Colts  | read this item

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A few thoughts on this little diversion we call playoff football.

The Jets can absolutely get blown out of this Sunday’s American Football Conference championship game. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Peyton Manning exposed the Jets’ defensive backs with his pinpoint passing to his great receivers, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. His quick release could very likely neutralize the Jets’ average pass rush. The great Manning could throw 3 or 4 or 5 touchdown passes and the Colts’ speed pass rushers, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, could be unstoppable forces on their way to meeting up with each other at the Jets quarterback, Mark Sanchez as the young quarterback stands in the pocket, unable to pick out open Jets receivers. The quick and smallish Colts linebackers may very well continue their season-long success at filling the gaps in the line of scrimmage, stuffing the run and being all over the Jets running backs like white on rice.

In other words, nobody would be shocked if this game turns into a Colts rout, especially since it’s being played in what will surely be a very noisy and partisan home stadium in Indianapolis.

But sports fans, none of that is gonna happen this Sunday. Instead, here’s what’s going down when the Jets and Colts meet up for the AFC Championship, with the winner going to the Super Bowl.

Take a deep breath and smile, Jets fans. The Jets will ride this confident wave they’ve been on for several weeks right to Miami two weeks later to play for the NFL championship. Once again, Peyton Manning and his band of Colts will be made to appear like football’s version of the Atlanta Braves, great regular season records year after year but very little to show for it in the post-season.

The basis for this game, the true indicator of who will win or lose on Sunday is predicated solely on two factors. The main factor will be the Jets ability to control the line of scrimmage and ball-possession. The other factor will be on their ability to win the turnover battle. Mark Sanchez, their rookie quarterback, was a turnover machine for the first two thirds of the season. Since he’s learned to protect the ball, the Jets have been on a run, winning six of the last seven games. 

I expect this game to be dominated by Gang Green’s offensive line. It is the best O-line in the game, the true heart and soul of this team with three Pro-Bowlers in left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, left guard Alan Faneca, and the sports’ best center, Nick Mangold. The size and skill of this unit against the quick but undersized Colt defensive line and linebackers will be the cornerstone of any success the Jets have this Sunday.

The Jets also have one of the  NFL’s best blocking fullbacks in Tony Richardson, who, at 245 pounds is bigger than the Colts leading tackler, linebacker Gary Brackett, who will be meeting Richardson head-on in those gaps at the line of scrimmage. Richardson has amazingly lasted in the NFL for 17 years and it’s not because of his running ability. He is among the best at kicking out linebackers and chipping defensive ends to allow his backfield mates to run to daylight.  Against this particular Colt defense, with their 245 pound defensive ends in Freeney and Mathis and their 230 pound linebackers, the Jets’  “ground and pound” offense with Thomas Jones and Shonn Green will absolutely dominate the time of possession clock.

Indy’s defense is very fast, but it is diminuitive. Speed is a great thing when pursuing quick backs on sweeps and wide receivers on deep patterns. But, the staples of Brian Schottenheimer’s offense are not sweeps and deep patterns run by the likes of Jerrico Cotchery and Braylon Edwards. The Jets love to go off-tackle and the passing game, such as it is, is based on three-step drops and short passes.

Schottenheimer has learned how to take advantage of Sanchez’ abilities, his quick feet in the pocket and his roll-out skills. With the possession-type skills of his receivers and glue-fingered tight end, Sanchez, who demonstrated how well he could pick out open receivers and throw it accurately on the run when he found Keller in the end zone last week in San Diego should be able to neutralize Indy’s fierce pass-rush with play-action fakes and roll-outs to either side.

The Jets’grind-it-out offense is going to wear the Colts down. By the back half of the third quarter, if the Jets have a lead of seven or more points and the ball is in their possession, you will see Peyton Manning begin to take chances downfield with risky throws when the ball is in his hands. Indianapolis will not be able to run the ball against the Jets this Sunday. Joseph Adai is not a threat to take it to the house at any point so the Jets will make Manning beat them with his arm. That’s when the game’s best cover cornerback, Darrelle Revis, will spring into action and do what he does best. Knock down passes intended for the other team’s number one receiver. In this case, Reggie Wayne.

Ryan, a certified defensive genius, has learned very well as the son of another defensive guru, Buddy Ryan, who coached the defensive line for the last Jets team to make it to the Super Bowl, the Joe Namath-led 1969 champions. Ironically, that championship also came against the Colts, then of Baltimore.  Young Ryan will continue to disguise his defensive schemes, confusing Manning with blitz packages or pass coverages. Ryan will have Manning guessing from play to play and if the Jets do, indeed, hold a fourth quarter lead, Manning will be throwing the ball under pressure and into coverages even he won’t be able to decipher.

There is no doubt Manning has gone to the film and noticed the Jets inability to stop San Diego’s great tight end. Antonio Gates, who caught eight passes during last week’s game. With his own star in Clark, who caught 100 balls this year from the tight end position, Manning will absolutely go to work on Kerry Rhodes and Jim Leonhard, the Jets safeties. Given any kind of time by his offensive line, Manning can pick apart a defense.

But, Manning will have to get on the field to have that opportunity. Rex Ryan’s game-plan does not include allowing Manning a whole lot of time behind center.  I believe the Colts will not be able to keep the Jets from long, time-consuming drives as Manning watches from the sidelines.

The Jets will utilize the same formula the Bill Parcells-coached Giants teams used when an inexperienced backup quarterback, Jeff Hostedtler, stepped-in for Phil Simms in 1990. If you recall, the Giants sandwiched runs by Otis Anderson and Joe Morris with Hostedtler’s control-type passing on their way to an upset win over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV, the Scott Norwood “wide-right” game. The Jets will take a chapter from the Giants playbook and control the line of scrimmage on offense, intersperse Sanchez’ roll-outs and short passes to Cotchery and Keller, and will march up and down the field, keeping the great Peyton off the field much as the Giants kept Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas sitting on their helmets for most of that Super Bowl game.

Always remember that in most sports, it isn’t always the best team that wins the championship but instead, it’s the team that’s playing the best when the games get important. This Sunday will be the most important game of the season for the Colts, who expected to be here and for the Jets, who did not have a clue to how to achieve an AFC championship with a rookie quarterback and a rookie coach in Rex Ryan. Notwithstanding Ryan’s bravado about his team being the favorite to win this tournament and become NFL champions,  the pressure in this game is solely on the shoulders of the Colts and Manning, in particular. The Jets are playing with house money right now, and have already exceeded all expectations for this season. They are a very confident bunch and if the mood in their locker room is any indication, they are enjoying the hell out of their magic carpet ride.

The Jets defense will bend but not break in allowing two touchdowns and a field goal. But, the Jets, with no lost interceptions or fumbles and a running game that will keep Manning off the field, will put up two touchdowns and two field goals and will beat the Colts, 20-17.

You heard it here, first.

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