The Jock 1-21-10

We are now down to the AFC and NFC Championships, with the winners moving into the Super Bowl.
The AFC will feature the Indianapolis Colts hosting the upstart, feisty New York Jets. This has a feeling of a rematch to a point, since late in the regular season the Jets beat the Colts, who played the last half of the game mostly with reserves.
Of the four remaining teams, the Jets are easily the underdog. They are a team that has come essentially out of nowhere to be still playing. New York features the #1 rushing offense in the League, along with the #1 defense. Both have been keys to the Jets beating both the Bengals and Chargers to get to this point. Meanwhile, the Colts showed us last week that the time off for their starters was actually a positive. Instead of being rusty, Peyton Manning and his teammates moved the ball effectively to beat the Ravens last week.
For the Jets, they will have to stop Manning and the Colt passing attack. New York will need to shut down both TE Dallas Clark and WR Reggie Wayne, both Pro Bowlers. The Jets will also try to pressure Manning with various blitzes, while also forcing turnovers.
Meanwhile, the Colts have a defense that has not been well-respected, but has done an efficient job in stopping opponents. They are known more for their team speed, as opposed to being a tough, physical squad. That said, their key will be in stopping rookie RB Shonn Greene, who has rushed for over 100 yards the last two games. He has done that behind an awesome offensive line, led by two Pro Bowlers…C Nick Mangold, and G Alan Faneca. It will also be interesting to see if rookie QB Mark Sanchez can pass effectively to his receivers… WR’s Jericho Cotchery and Brad Edwards, and TE Jason Keller.
This will be the third straight road playoff game for the Jets. They come in as seven-point underdogs to the Colts. All week long, we’ve heard stories about the past Jets-Colts games, including Super Bowl III and Joe Namath. In New York, the talk has been consuming, to say the least. Most football fans will root for the underdog, but the feeling here is that Manning and the Colts simply have too much to work with for New York to pull out a win…

In the NFC, we will see the New Orleans Saints host the Minnesota Vikings. Saints QB Drew Brees leads a #1 offense that has done a formidable job all season long in scoring, while the Vikings are led by incomparable QB Brett Favre, who at 40 still seems to be making things happen, both on and off the field.
All season long, New Orleans had been the upstart squad in the NFC, easily outscoring opponents while going 13-0. They then lost their last three games in the regular season, and media and fans were wondering how this team would play in the postseason. Their win over the Cardinals showed us they still have their game going, while the Saints defense did a great job stopping Kurt Warner and the Arizona passing game.
For New Orleans, they will have to essentially do the same against Favre and the Vikes. Minnesota has had a great season, with a receiving corps featuring Pro Bowl WR Sidney Rice, and rookie receiver Percy Harvin. Add to that the standout rushing of Pro Bowl RB Adrian Peterson, and you can see why Favre has enjoyed his season so far.
Meanwhile, the Saints offensive line must be able to stop a standout Vikings defensive front that did a great job last week against Dallas and QB Tony Romo, forcing turnovers abundantly. And while DT’s Kevin and Pat Williams and DE Jared Allen have been the strength, their fourth starter, DE Ray Edwards, had a great game as well. Look for him to make some key plays on Sunday.
It will be interesting to see who scores first in this contest. Having the upper hand at the start can mean a lot, in addition to seeing who will force more turnovers, as is with any game. If the Saints win, this will be the first time in the 43-year history of the franchise that they will be in the Super Bowl. Overall, though, I look for Minnesota to do the job on the road to overcome New Orleans and pull out the victory.
And so we’ll see what happens on Championship weekend. We should see two great games, both of which will lead into the Super Bowl in two weeks.