AFC Championship Game
In a 3:00 PM start this Sunday, Jan. 24, the No. 1 seed Indianapolis Colts will host the No. 5 seed New York Jets in the AFC Championship game, with the winner earning the right to represent the conference in Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday, Feb. 7, in Miami, FL.
To earn their trip to the conference championship, in one of the most shocking upsets in recent memory, New York pounded out a 17-14 upset of the San Diego Chargers in a game that very few people, including myself, gave them a chance to win.
They did it by making the other team play their style of football. The Jets knew they would never win if the game turned into a shootout, so they used their top-ranked rushing attack to control the clock and the tempo of the game, as well as their top ranked defense to force a powerful San Diego offense into playing dink-and-dunk football.
Charger QB Philip Rivers completed almost 70 percent of his passes and threw for close to 300 yards, but in the end it only added up to 14 points on the scoreboard.
Indianapolis punched their ticket for the title game by grinding out a 20-3 win over the Baltimore Ravens. The game did not really feature the heroics of their best player and league MVP, Peyton Manning; rather, it was all about the dominating play of the Colts' defense.
They were able to hold the Ravens to just 270 yards of total offense and 87 yards on the ground. By taking away their running game, they put the ball exactly where they wanted it: in the hands of QB Joe Flacco.
His strength is not throwing the ball 35 times a game, and that clearly showed in the final result. Offensively for the Colts, Manning was not spectacular, but made the plays when he had to. He ended the day 30-for-44 for 246 yards and two TDs, which proved to be more than enough to seal the win.
After watching the Jets play the last few weeks, there is one thing I know for sure: their game plan for this game. Head coach Rex Ryan makes no bones about the fact that they will try and run the ball on offense and smother the Colts' passing attack on defense.
With veteran RB Thomas Jones not quite 100 percent, rookie Shonn Greene has emerged has the go-to guy on offense. Last week, he ran for 128 yards, including a 53-yard TD run that proved to be the game winner.
Defensively, the primary battle of the day will be All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis going up against Colt’s All Pro WR Reggie Wayne. Revis has shut down some of the best wide receivers in the league, but going up against Wayne in the biggest game of his career will be a huge test. The player that plays the best will have a major impact on the outcome of this game.
Indianapolis faces a Jets team that is not all that different than the team they beat last week, so their game plan should basically remain the same as well. On defense they need to stop the run and force rookie QB Mark Sanchez into having to make some plays to win. On offense they will simply be patient, taking what New York will give them.
There is no one better at managing a game then Manning, as he has the poise and experience to weather whatever storm the Jets throw at him.
Eventually, he will complete some passes that lead to points. Indianapolis will be content beating New York with either five touchdowns or five field goals, as long as they end up with one more point on the scoreboard.
Plain and simple, the winner of this game comes down to which team executes their gameplan the best. I have been very impressed with New York’s ability to impose their will on their opponents in these playoffs, but I am more impressed with Indianapolis’s ability to play whatever style of football necessary to win the game.
That being said, I’m going with the Colts and the UNDER in this game.
- NY Jets are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games
- NY Jets are 7-1 SU in their last eight games
- NY Jets are 5-0 ATS in their last five games on the road
- NY Jets are 5-0 SU in their last five games on the road
- Indianapolis is 6-2 ATS in its last eight games
- Indianapolis is 15-2 SU in its last 17 games
- The total has gone OVER in four of Indianapolis’s last five games
- Indianapolis is 14-1 SU in its last 15 games at home