The AFC’s Saturday game is going to be a good one. In a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game, the New York Jets, who had to settle for the Wild Card after fading down the stretch in the AFC East, will face off against the Indianapolis Colts, who were able to win the AFC South by finally putting things together in the final four weeks of the season.
New York Jets 2011 NFL Playoffs Preview
The Jets have had an up-and-down season. They started out the season at 9-2, but they are only 2-3 in their last five games, including an embarrassing Monday Night Football loss to the New England Patriots. The Jets have had most of their success this season because of their rushing offense and overall defense. I’ve been telling people all season that Mark Sanchez will likely be the reason this year’s Jets team doesn’t make the Super Bowl, and it’s starting to look that way.
Another problem facing the Jets right now is the history between head coach Rex Ryan and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning is 5-1 against defenses coached by Ryan (either as head coach or defensive coordinator), including a decisive victory over the Jets last year in the AFC title game.
Indianapolis Colts 2011 NFL Playoffs Preview
After losing to the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl last year, many people thought the Colts were the team to beat from the AFC this season. Instead of being the team to beat, the Colts stumbled through a regular season. The Colts haven’t had much of a running game the entire season, and Peyton Manning has been uncharacteristically inconsistent this season, throwing interceptions at a much higher rate than we’ve seen in the past few years.
The Colts are, however, playing much better football right now than they were earlier in the season. At one point, the Colts were sitting at 6-6 and on the outside looking in. After winning their last four games of the season, the Colts were able to leapfrog the Kansas City Chiefs to get the third seed in the AFC.
Jets (11-5) at Colts (10-6) Conclusion
On paper, it looks like the Jets are probably the better team. Almost all of the intangibles, however, are on the Colts’ side. The Colts are playing better right now than the Jets, Peyton Manning has had recent success against Rex Ryan, and the Colts do get to play this game at home. Originally I was going to pick the Jets to win this one in a squeaker, but the more I look at it, the more I think the Colts have a really good chance of pulling this one out.
2011 NFL Playoffs Prediction: Colts defeat Jets, 23-17
All stats and standings from espn.com