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Jets-Colts Part II: Don't expect any favors this time

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning passes in the

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning passes in the first quarter during the NFL divisional football playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010 in Indianapolis. Credit: AP Photo/Michael Conroy

SAN DIEGO - As the Jets were putting the finishing touches on yesterday's remarkable 17-14 upset of the Chargers, you probably were wondering what the Colts were thinking about all this.

You know, the Colts team that helped create this green-and-white monster in the first place by rolling over and playing dead - aka resting their key starters - near the end of a 29-15 Week 16 victory by the Jets that helped them get into the playoffs.

Let me be the first to tell you that this has come as no surprise to the Colts.

"After we beat them, there were guys on the Colts saying, 'We'll see y'all again,' " Jets receiver Jerricho Cotchery said a few minutes after yesterday's win. "There's a reason for it. They knew what type of team we had."

And here it is: Jets-Colts Part II. For the right to go to the Super Bowl.

The Jets' defense pounded Philip Rivers and the Chargers into submission and their "ground-and-pound" offense buried Shawne Merriman & Co. in scoring another spectacular playoff knockout in front of a stunned crowd of 69,498 at Qualcomm Stadium.

Team of destiny? Sure is starting to feel that way.

"We believed all year when it wasn't the popular thing," Rex Ryan said afterward. "But here we are."

The Colts played a big hand in giving the Jets the chance to get here by sitting down Peyton Manning with 5:36 remaining in the third quarter while holding a 15-10 lead. Colts coach Jim Caldwell passed on a chance at an unbeaten season, throwing in rookie Curtis Painter and opening the back door to the playoffs for the Jets.

The next week, the same thing happened. The Bengals rested several key starters and the Jets routed them to clinch a playoff spot.

More bad karma for the Colts? Well, the Bengals certainly paid with last week's loss to the Jets. Might the same fate await the Colts? After what we've seen out of the Jets ever since they bottomed out at 4-6, there is no telling how far they might take this thing. They've won seven of eight since then.

"We expect to win," said Ryan, who came into the playoffs suggesting the Jets should be favored for the duration of the tournament, up to and including the Super Bowl. "The Colts know we're a good team. We know they're a great team, of course. I don't know if Santa Claus is going to be that good again, but I will say it: I'd like to see Peyton Manning not play this week."

Sorry, Rex. Santa already left that present under the tree. You're on your own for this one.

But after what's gone on in their first two playoff games, we suspect the Jets don't care who plays and for how long. These Jets are young and brash and unafraid. And they will play that way next week, just as they did in beating a team that had won 11 straight games before Sunday.

"We're like little kids who don't know any better," right guard Brandon Moore said. "We don't know about history, about failed opportunities. We're feeling like this is our year."

Maybe that's why left guard Alan Faneca has decided to start wearing the Super Bowl ring he won with the 2005 Steelers around the locker room these days. "You've got to show people the prize at the end of the road," he said. "I just figured I'd wait for the right moment."

The moment is now.

With the Jets forcing Rivers into two interceptions and the offense again grinding it out behind the running of Shonn Greene and some timely throws by Mark Sanchez, the Jets produced one of the biggest wins in franchise history - bettered, perhaps, only by the most magical moment of all in Super Bowl III more than four decades ago.

Same Old Jets? Sorry, not this time.

"We're hoping we can change the DNA with this team and in this city," linebacker Bart Scott said. "This isn't Same Old Jets. We want people to understand this is a new era."

An era that is beginning with one of the most delectable playoff runs in franchise history. And maybe their best chance at winning it all since Joe Namath wagged his finger into the Miami sky 41 years ago.

Another appointment with destiny in Miami next month?

Could be.

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