Ten reasons to fear the Colts
The Jets face the AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts in Saturday's wild card playoff game. Everyone knows Peyton Manning, but what other factors make the Colts a dangerous team?
10) REX CAN'T BEAT THEM
Not counting last year's late-season matchup in which Peyton Manning exited at halftime to rest before the playoffs, Jets head coach Rex Ryan is 0-7 in his career against the Colts. That includes the 2006 AFC title game, when Ryan was the defensive coordinator in Baltimore, and last January's AFC title game, when Manning threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns.
Ryan himself has acknowledged that his inability to beat Manning is a thorn in his side. "I don't know when I'm going to beat him, but I want it to be Saturday," Ryan said. "Is it personal? Yes."
9) THE COLTS ARE HOT
No, these aren't the same Colts who were so dominant last season they sat Peyton Manning in the second half of a Week 16 game against the Jets. In fact, after a loss to the Cowboys in Week 13 this year, the Colts were 6-6 and on the outside of the playoff picture. They had to win their last four in a row to make the postseason, which they did. Now they enter the postseason riding high.
8) ADAM VINATIERI
Don't think he's the greatest clutch kicker in postseason history? Name another guy who's made two Super Bowl-winning field goals and we can talk. Vinatieri (4, above) is 27-for-28 on field goals this season and he booted the game-winning field goal last week against Tennessee that clinched the Colts' ninth 10-win season in a row. If the game is on the line, Vinatieri's as close as it gets to a sure thing. The Jets hope it doesn't come to that.
7) HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
By virtue of winning the AFC South, the 10-6 Colts are at home against the 11-5 Jets. If that doesn't seem fair, talk to Giants fans, who have to watch the 7-9 Seahawks host a home game in the playoffs while their team (10-6) sits at home.
Back to the Colts. They're 6-2 at Lucas Oil Stadium this year. It's a domed stadium, which means there are no weather concerns, but Mark Sanchez will have to cope with huge amounts of noise every time the Jets have the ball, while Peyton Manning's offense will enjoy relative quiet. The Jets were no slouches on the road this year, going 6-2, but you can be sure they'd much rather play at home.
6) THE COLTS HAVE . . . A RUNNING GAME?
Don't believe us? Check the numbers from their last three games: 155 rushing yards in Week 15; 143 in Week 16; and 92 yards in Week 17. With Joseph Addai injured, the Colts rely on second-year player Donald Brown, a 2009 first-round pick out of UConn, and former Colts castoff Dominic Rhodes (above), who has a 4.6-yard average since coming back to the team from the Florida Tuskers of the UFL.
5) JACOB TAMME
Before this season, Tamme was just another tight end on the Colts' depth chart. But when Dallas Clark went down for the season with an injury in Week 6, Tamme filled in admirably and the Colts found a star. He caught 67 passes for 631 yards and four touchdown passes in just 10 starts. Not bad for a former fourth-round draft pick out of Kentucky. If Tamme gets open over the middle, the Jets are in big trouble.
4) ROBERT MATHIS AND DWIGHT FREENEY
Get to the quarterback, rattle him and you can defeat him. Without much of a secondary, the Colts have to rely on this philosophy. They've got two perfect defensive ends for it, with Robert Mathis on one side and Dwight Freeney (above) on the other. The speed-rushing pair harassed opposing quarterbacks this season with 21 combined sacks.
It'll be up to Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and right tackle Wayne Hunter to keep this duo out of Mark Sanchez's face.
3) THE OFFENSIVE LINE
Don't understimate the importance of the Colts' pass blocking to the team's success. 2010 was the second consecutive year in which Indy allowed the fewest sacks in the league -- they yielded just 16 this year. That's incredible when you consider that Indianapolis threw the ball more times than any other team in the NFL. A tip of the cap to Charlie Johnson, Kyle DeVan, Jeff Saturday, Mike Pollak and Ryan Diem (above).
2) PIERRE GARCON
It was Garcon -- not Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie or Dallas Clark -- who decimated the Jets' secondary in last year's AFC Championship game, with 11 catches, 151 yards and a touchdown. Garcon has taken over the No. 2 receiver role this year, so he'll see plenty of Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
Cromartie's the guy the Jets acquired specifically to stop opponents' No. 2 receivers. And that, folks, is your key matchup of the game.
1) PEYTON MANNING
Is there any quarterback whose reputation frightens opposing fans quite like four-time MVP Peyton Manning? Manning threw for 4,700 yards and 33 touchdowns -- and that was without Dallas Clark and Austin Collie for most of the season. He's a gyrating, pump-faking, blitz-beating machine. He may be the single most dominant player in the NFL.
He's still got Reggie Wayne (110 catches), Jacob Tamme and Pierre Garcon. And the Jets have to stop him, or their playoff stay will be very short.