By: CJ Nadeau, Intern
When the playoffs began the Nadeau crystal ball saw the Saints and Chargers taking the Super Bowl down to the wire in a replay of a Patriots-like nail biter. But my AFC pick was ruined by the New York Jets, who are currently playing with more swagger than Elvis Presley on a particularly good day (that is the skinny Elvis, not the fat one in the white jump suit and cape).
After watching the Jets defense manhandle the Chargers, though, I’m going to jump onto their bandwagon. I like them for several reasons: Mark Sanchez proved that all he has to do is manage his mistakes and turnovers to win in the playoffs, Thomas Jones or Shonn Greene can pound the ball against opposing defenses and Darrelle Revis continues to give opposing QB’s nightmares.
After the game the Jets’ rookie head coach Rex Ryan stated that the Colts and J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets! game is “a matchup that probably nobody wanted, but too bad. Here we come!”
Rex Ryan’s in-your-face attitude has propelled the somewhat average 9-7 Jets into feeling like the Belichick/Brady three-time Super Bowl champs.
When New York clinched its playoff berth, Rex Ryan’s Joe Montana-esque exclamation of being Super Bowl bound was laughable. The Jets, who started off their roller-coaster of a season winning their first three and then losing the next three, didn’t find their rhythm until after a week 11 loss to New England. They were forced to win five of their last six just to sneak into the playoffs.
Now his prediction is one win away from making him one look like one of the elite coaches in football.
This Sunday the Jets take on the Colts in Indianapolis in what could prove to be a very intriguing matchup. The Colts folded in their final two games, which arguably punched the Jets’ ticket for the playoffs. Their head coach, Jim Caldwell, was vilified for resting his starters.
While Peyton Manning and his Colts put on a clinic against Ray Lewis and his Ravens, it is not safe to say that the same will happen in the AFC Championship game. I think that the Jets have an edge with their old school playoff style. Their defense gave up only 87 yards on the ground in just under twenty carries against the Ravens.
On the flip side, the Colts have the 14th ranked pass defense in the league and only the 24th ranked run defense. Meanwhile, the Jets have averaged 170 yards rushing per game this postseason.
Look for Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to develop a game plan to allow their backs to break off some big gains against a weak Colts run defense.
For the Jets, the key to this game will be controlling Mark Sanchez’s mistakes, who threw 20 interceptions in his rookie season, compared to only twelve passing TDs.
The Jets are 4-7 when Sanchez has over 20 passing attempts, compared to the 6-0 when he stays under 20. If the Colts cannot generate enough pressure on the run game and can’t force Sanchez into making mistakes, they will be hitting the golf course early this year.
While the NFC did not have any surprising upsets in the divisional round, the powers of the NFC proved why they held the top two seeds in the conference.
Both the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings flexed their football muscles and carried their victories in blow out fashion.
Brett Favre made it clear why he came back this season, adding another four touchdowns to the 33 already on his shelf. If the Vike’s have any hopes of beating the Saints in the NFC tilt, Favre will need to remain stingy with his interceptions, having only thrown seven this season.
Last week against Arizona, the Saints, who stumbled into the playoffs with three consecutive losses, and QB Drew Brees proved why they were still undefeated until week 15 by dominating Kurt Warner’s Cardinals 45-14.
Saints QB Drew Brees was coming off his fourth consecutive season with over 4,000 passing yards (and sixth consecutive season with over 3,000 yards) to go along with 34 passing touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. He only continued his brilliance against Arizona.
In this NFC duel I like the Saints for the two reasons: Brees strong performance this year and the fact that Minnesota’s ‘All Day’ Adrian Peterson hasn’t been ‘All Day’ since week 10.
For whatever reason, AP hasn’t been himself, gaining over 100 yards rushing in three games this season. In the past eight games, however, he seems to have shown a hint of resilience, with seven TD’s.
With Brett Favre holding the reins of the Vikings’offense this season I like their chance to make it a close game with the Saints, whose porous defense is ranked no higher than 20th in any of the major categories.
I look for AP to get out of his slump early in this game, but the Saints will find a way to win behind the arm of Drew Brees.