Every party has a crasher and now the NFL’s championship weekend has one, too.
After underdogs were annihilated in the first three division playoff games, the New York Jets, the longest shots on the board, are headed to Indianapolis to face the Colts in the AFC championship after they stunned the San Diego Chargers 17-14 Sunday.
The Colts had been expecting an opportunity to avenge playoff defeats to San Diego the past two seasons. Now, Rex Ryan’s Gang Green is Indy’s potential nightmare.
The only pure running team left in the tournament, the Jets will employ the same game plan that beat the Chargers against the Colts: Stay patient on offense and wait for their punishing defense to create a scoring opportunity.
The Colts, who open as 7 1/2-point favorites, have the NFL’s 24th-ranked run defense. San Diego had the 20th-ranked run defense.
The Jets are the No. 1 passing defense by a large margin. They allowed an average of 154 passing yard per game, 30 yards less than the No. 2 team, Buffalo. They are also No. 8 against the rush, which won’t be an issue since the Colts don’t run much.
The Colts’ public personality is all about Peyton Manning and the offense but the reality is that their defense is one of the most under-rated units in the NFL. Throughout this season, the Indianapolis defense, ranked a mediocre 18th, has battled through multiple injuries but, with several weeks of low-pressure games and a bye to start the playoffs, they are in the best of health at the most important time of the season.
If there was any rust on the Indy machine after the bye week, it showed only on the offensive side of the ball where the Colts failed to click consistently. Tough to tell if that was rust or just reflects Baltimore’s outstanding defense.
Now there’s another outstanding defense coming to Indianapolis for Manning and the Colts to deal with.
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