Just because my beloved Dallas Cowboys were rudely bounced from the playoffs does not mean that I’m not watching football this weekend. I continue to be amazed at the New York Jets. They figure out ways to win.
New York Jets versus the Indianapolis Colts. A lot has been made of this rematch from week 16. The Indianapolis Colts, in a tight game, pulled all their “main” starters towards the end of the third quarter. The Jets took advantage of a second string quarterback who had not really seen the football field in years. The dream of a perfect season went down the tubes. For the New York Jets, the dream of making it to the playoffs went one step closer to becoming reality.
There are lots of ways to look at this game. In some ways, the Indianapolis Colts are much like the San Diego Chargers. They have an okay defense coupled with a high-powered offense. The Jets kept the game close against the San Diego Chargers. Their defense continued to pressure Philip Rivers, who, up until that game, played a nearly flawless season. From deep in his territory, Philip Rivers throws a pass up the seam to nobody. The Jets intercept and the momentum which had been pretty even up until that moment, swings towards the Jets. So, can Peyton Manning avoid the big interception? Can the Colts offensive line give Peyton Manning enough time? I think the answer is yes. I think it is important for Peyton Manning and the Colts’ offense to control the ball. Scoring quickly is not going to help their defense. I think that the Jets’ defense is most vulnerable in the middle of the field. I think the Peyton Manning will look for a second or third receiver in the middle of the field. I think going after Darrelle Revis is foolhardy. He’s proven he can play in this league. I think the Jets will put him on Reggie Wayne and sometimes on Dallas Clark. Peyton Manning will look for receivers who are covered by linebackers or safeties. I think that’s where you will find most of his success.
On the other side of the ball, the New York Jets’ offense has a bruising running attack. They averaged over 170 yards per game on the ground. They have simply run over their last three opponents. The Indianapolis Colts are going to have to win first and second downs. If they’re able to get the New York Jets in the third and long, they will win the game. I don’t think that Mark Sanchez can consistently beat most defenses. On the other hand, if the New York Jets are always in third and short and play action pass with bootlegs and rollouts come into play. Mark Sanchez is perfectly capable of making these types of throws. The Jets have to play mistake-free football. No turnovers. No penalties. This is how they win. It is hard to play football with almost no margin of error every single week, but that is what the New York Jets have been doing for the last 8-10 weeks. So, can they do it again? Maybe. I don’t count them out.
I also think that the Jets are going to try to be very aggressive on special teams. Look for a fake punt or possibly a fake field goal.
Minnesota Vikings versus New Orleans Saints. The Vikings’ defensive front four completely manhandled the Dallas Cowboys last week. I think that Tony Romo is still in the sauna trying to get the soreness worked out. The New Orleans Saints are going to have to figure out how to protect Drew Brees. If he has time, it is clearly possible to take advantage of that secondary. I think this is the key to the game right here. Jared Allen and Ray Edwards are playing at a high level. The New Orleans Saints tackles are going to have to figure out how to block these guys. I’m not sure they’re going to be able to do it. If Drew Brees has time, you will find receivers. The New Orleans Saints are going to have to run some draws and screens in order to slow down the rush. The running backs are not going to have to pick up the blitz. Reggie Bush needs to have another game like he did last weekend!
The Minnesota Vikings’ offense can be slowed down. In spite of their dominating win over the Dallas Cowboys last week, I still say there’s something wrong with the offensive line. Adrian Peterson is not getting to the second level without being hit. He has not had an explosive run in weeks. In spite of this, the Vikings have been winning. Brett Farve has had his best year ever. He’s throwing the ball more accurately. He has not been turning the ball over which has plagued him his whole career. If the Saints are going to win this game, they’re going to have to get pressure on Brett Farve. If you can hit Farve early, you could throw him off his rhythm. He’ll start to press and that’s when the turnovers began. We saw just a little bit of this when the Vikings played the Steelers earlier this year. Darren Sharper has a little extra incentive to play well this week, as he was cut by the Vikings. He’s having one of his best years for the Saints, with five or six interceptions. He would like nothing better than to take one back to the house. I wonder if a safety blitz is in his future.
I think he ran for two very good games this weekend. Although I’m choosing the New Orleans Saints to go to their first Super Bowl and the Indianapolis Colts to go to their second Super Bowl in four years, I think both of these games are to be very close. Because the teams are so evenly matched, turnovers were be very important and will tip the scale. I’m looking forward to this.