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If you listen to Head Coach Rex Ryan, the New York Jets think that this battle against the Indianapolis Colts is one that is personal on Saturday night. These two behemoths will square off at Lucas Oil Field, where they are going to be slugging it out with one another in the 3/6 battle in the AFC side of the playoffs. Check out our NFL playoff picks for this one!
Matchup: New York Jets @ Indianapolis Colts
Date: Saturday, January 8th, 8:00 ET
Location: Lucas Oil Field, Indianapolis, IN
Game Line: Indianapolis -2.5
Jets Notes: This was supposed to be a season for the Jets in which they won the AFC East, earned a first round bye in the playoffs, played two home playoff games, and captured the Super Bowl. The media hype in the Big Apple is tremendous here, and there will be a lot of pressure on Ryan's shoulders to perform next season if New York doesn't at least get out of the first round of the playoffs. QB Mark Sanchez has improved, but we are still questioning whether he really has the ability to win as a quarterback in this league without a ton of help. He only completed 54.8 percent of his passes this year for 3,278 yards, and though his TD/INT ratio improved, 17/13 in that category is really nothing to write home about. He does have a great crop of backs and receivers, and a stellar offensive line around him, though. The combo of WR Santonio Holmes, WR Braylon Edwards, and TE Dustin Keller is one of the most talented trios in the league, and all three had averaged over 750 yards and 54 receptions apiece. On the ground, we tend to think that New York upgraded by trading in last year's rushing duo of RB Thomas Jones and RB Leon Washington for RB LaDainian Tomlinson and RB Shonn Greene. Greene was probably a bit disappointing with just 766 yards and two TDs this year, but LT proved that he still has some legs, rushing for 906 yards and catching 52 passes for 355 yards, totaling six scores. Defensively, this team can still cause opponents fits, as New York comes into the postseason ranking No. 3 against the rush at just 90.9 yards per game allowed and No. 3 overall at 291.4 yards per game allowed. Giving up 19.0 points per game shows that there have been some chinks in the armor, but when push came to shove this year, the Jets held seven foes to 14 points or fewer.
Colts Notes: QB Peyton Manning certainly wasn't the league's MVP this year, but if he is going to win the Super Bowl this season, he is going to have to put on a fantastic face and put this team on his back to do so. We know that this defense has improved just a tad this year, but there is still no excuse for a playoff team that is hoping to really win the Super Bowl to allow 341.6 yards and 24.2 points per game. The ground game is one of the worst in the league as well at just 92.7 yards per game, though we know that the combination of RB Joseph Addai and RB Dominic Rhodes has played relatively well in recent weeks. It's all up to Peyton though, and he knows it. He led the No. 1 ranked passing attack in the game this year at 288.1 yards per game, and he broke the single season record for most completions in a season with 450. Manning won't have either WR Austin Collie or TE Dallas Clark to work with, but there is still something to be said about how good TE Jacob Tamme, WR Pierre Garcon, and particularly WR Reggie Wayne have been this year. Wayne led the AFC in receptions with 111, and he had 1,355 yards and six scores to show for his work. He was also the only other skill position player, outside of Manning, that played in more than 14 games this year. Garcon had 67 catches and 786 yards in 14 games, while Tamme, who only took over as a starter seven games into the year, had 67 receptions for 631 yards and four TDs. Manning ended the year with 33 scores on the campaign, but he had 17 picks as well that proved to be real eyesores.
The Final Word: Though this sort of feels like the same type of mountain for the Jets to climb this year, the results aren't quite going to be the same. New York clearly has a better team than it did last year, and though it doesn't look this way statistically, it does reflect in the wins and losses. Don't be surprised if the Jets put their money where their head coach's mouth is and come away with an upset to avenge last season's loss in the AFC Championship Game.
Free Pro Football Picks: New York Jets +2.5
Prediction: New York 26 – Indianapolis 21