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2010 AFC Championship Game

New York Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts

1/24/10

The Surprising New York Jets visit the Colts Sunday afternoon with the winner being crowned AFC Champion and earning a trip to the Super Bowl. This is a matchup no one, with the exception of a crazy Jets fan or two, predicted. But it's a matchup with plenty of twists and turns and sub plots and a matchup which has the potential to be a pretty exciting game.

Currently, leading Sportsbook Sports Interaction has the Colts favored by -7.5 with a total of 39

The most interesting sub plot is actually motivation for BOTH teams. These two played in a game everyone is talking about, back on December 27th. It was a late Christmas present for the Jets as the Colts ahead 15-9, pulled their starters and let the game slip away, along with a perfect season. As a result, no one can say for sure what would have happened if the Colts played full throttle in the 2nd half. There lies the motivation. The Colts want to prove they would have won the game, while the Jets want to prove they belong, and deserved the win.

Of course that's not the only motivation. A little trip to Miami and a game called the Super Bowl hangs in the balance. For this handicapper, the Jets have burned me twice in the playoffs. I was convinced that the Jets downfall would be their one dimensional offense and their rookie QB. Especially last week against one of the better offensive teams in the NFL and one of the better QB's. The Chargers, their fans, and many so called experts stated that the Chargers didn't play up to their ability in that game. That they made mistakes and didn't play their game. But let's face it, good teams, and specifically good defenses, have a way of making teams look bad. All the credit goes to the Jets. While the Chargers came out and moved the ball in the first half, and looked as though they were on their way, the Jets clamped down and dominated the 2nd half.

As a handicapper, there are thousands of opportunities over the course of a year to step in and make plays. You need to find the best opportunities. For me, this game isn't one of them. I will say this though. The numbers point one way, and a lifetime of watching AFC and NFC Championship games points another. Read on.

The numbers. Yes, they actually point towards the Jets. There are a variety of ways to come up with a number on an NFL Game. There are power ratings, formulas involving different stats, be it yards per point, yards per play, yards per pass, and so on. There are formulas that stress rushing yards and formulas that convert yards gained into points on the scoreboard, all of which are used to come up with a predicted final score. There are simulation programs that simulate the entire game thousands of times and spit out the average results. We know all of those formulas and have access to simulations and other data. Just about all of them have the Jets coming in under the number. Some even have the Jets winning straight up.

During the course of a football season, I will rarely if ever go against my own numbers. I did it this year in the playoffs going against the Jets and was taught a costly lesson. My numbers have the Colts winning by less than a touchdown and that's whether I take into account the entire season, or just the last 6 or 7 meaningful games. So then, why am I not going to play the Jets in this spot, and instead, pass?

I'm still convinced that the Jets eventual downfall will be their offense, their rookie QB and their one dimensional attack. It's a style of play that requires near perfect football and the odds of that continuing are astronomical.

You think the QB position is important in the playoffs? Look at the remaining 4 teams. Favre, Brees, Manning and, uh, Sanchez. Other than the Jets, those teams all have the super star QB AND the talent around him on both sides of the ball. They can all run the ball, they all have good defenses, but the difference between the Jets and the rest is the QB position. Sanchez may be great some day. But not now. Rex Ryan and the Jets coaching staff have done a fine job taking the game out of his hands as much as possible. But at some point, you'd have to think the kid is going to be in a position where he has to put the team on his back and make things happen and I don't believe he can do that. Not this year. Not against Peyton Manning.

The Colts deserve some respect. They gave two games away to rest starters. Otherwise, they are an undefeated team. They are a team that won 23 straight regular season games. They are a team that knows how to win football games with perhaps one of the best Quarterbacks to ever play the game. The number of options Manning will have offensively compared the options the Jets have offensively is like night and day. Don't underestimate the Colts defense either. That may be the difference in the game.

Manning and the Colts offense will move the ball. The Jets are not going to shut them down. Rivers moved the ball in the first half. Carson Palmer would have had better results had he not missed so many throws. The Colts won't be able to run the ball but that is a little deceiving. The Colts running game is their passing game. They throw plenty of short screens, the dink and dunk throws good for 3-4 yards a clip which is just as effective as a good running game. Again, Rivers completed some big throws downfield, it's safe to say Manning will as well. Expect Manning to stay away from Rivas which may mean that we don't here much from Reggie Wayne this week but Manning is capable of finding the open targets. Expect Dallas Clark to have a big game and expect the short dump off throw when the Jets blitz to always be there.

Ultimately I think what happens here, is that the Colts defense shuts down the Jets offense much in the same way they shut down the Ravens. While the Jets defense will no doubt have some success, I don't think they can completely shut down Manning, and that should be the difference in the game.

If you look at the history of the AFC and NFC title games in the Super Bowl era, you'll find very few close games. What you usually see, is the superior team putting everything together, clicking on all cylinders in a big way, and making the final push to land in the Super Bowl as they pull away late and put the game out of reach. Just going back to 1998, and looking at the last 11 AFC Title games we find 10 games decided by a touchdown or more, with one close game, the Colts 4 point win over the Pats in 2007.

The talent gap between teams is magnified in AFC/NFC title games as well as Super Bowls. I could write an entire new article on the reasons why I think that is. But there's no disputing history. With that in mind, there is a talent gap between the Jets and the Colts. Despite the numbers suggesting a close game, I think the talent gap becomes magnified late Sunday afternoon as the Colts prove to be too much for the Jets to handle. The clock strikes midnight for Cinderella some time around 6pm est. on Sunday. Look for a score in the neighborhood of 21-10, 24-7, 17-3, something along those lines as we then await to see whether it will be Manning vs. Favre or Manning vs. Brees in what promises to be one of the highest rated Super Bowls in years.

 

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