Sunday, January 24, 2010

2010 AFC Championship Preview: New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts

New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts
Favorite: Colts (55.7%)

Jets Offense (with grade):

Points Per Drive: 1.56 (C-)
Drive Success Rate: .629 (C-)
Turnovers per: .165 (D+)

Last week the Jets did things a bit differently against the Chargers, trying to throw the football a bit more despite that being their offensive weakness, instead of playing to their strength and running the football. However, as the game progressed and the Chargers' front seven wore down, they went back to the run, and were able to string together two key touchdown drives to take control and seal what ultimately became a 17-14 win.

Offense Line Run Blocking: C+
Left End: D-
LT: C+
Interior: C
Right End: D
Pass Protection: D+

Jets backfield:

QB: Mark Sanchez: F (Rushing: B-)
RB: Thomas Jones: C
RB: Shonn Greene: C

Should the Jets try a similar approach this week, they'll be happy to note that the Colts aren't that much better defensively, and that like the Chargers the Colts aren't especially hawkish for turnovers, which indicates Mark Sanchez can safely throw 20-25 passes provided a safe, solid passing gameplan. If they can wear out Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, they can take control with Shonn Greene and Thomas Jones rotating carries. That said, Peyton Manning can probably engineer at least a couple of touchdown drives, and 20 points isn't out of the question, so the Jets will need a bit more on offense than they got last week versus the Chargers.

Plus last week's Chargers team ran a base 3-4 defense, which is better suited to stop the run than the pass-rush oriented 4-3 the Colts run. Expect the Jets to run the ball sooner, especially if the Colts front four gives against the Jets offensive line and allows them to run off the tackles. The Jets know their best bet is to keep the ball out of Peyton's hands, and the best way to do that is to run run run and try to hold the ball for 30-35 minutes.

Jets receivers:

WR: Jerricho Cotchery: C+
WR: Braylon Edwards: C
WR: David Clowney: F
WR: Brad Smith: F (Rushing: A)
TE: Dustin Keller: D

This is why running the ball is very, very important for the Jets.

Jets defense (Base 3-4):

Overall: A (Momentum Weighted*: A+)
Points per drive: 1.04 (A+)
Drive Success Rate: .591 (A+)
Turnovers per drive: .148 (C)

* - Weighed to emphasize late season performances over early season performances

Run Defense: B
vs left end sweeps: B
Right DE: C
Interior run defense: A
Left DE: B+
vs right end sweeps: D+

Pass Defense: A+
Defensive line vs rush: A
Pass rush: C
vs #1 WR: A+
vs #2 WR: A
vs Other WR: A+
vs TE: A
vs RB: A

The best secondary in the NFL gave Philip Rivers nearly 300 yards passing and he still couldn't manage more than two touchdown drives. Peyton Manning has the savvy plus the weapons to fare a bit better, but 20 points against the Ravens despite a ton of chances plus a season of relatively meager point totals under a one-dimensional offense indicates he can be contained. Peyton won't turn the ball over and don't be surprised if once again he doesn't take a sack or puts up 250-300 yards somehow, but he's not going to torch the Jets. He's going to have to work very hard for every completion.

Jets Special Teams:

Kicker: C (Kickoffs: C)
Kick returns: B
Punting: C+
Punt returns: C+


Colts Offense (with grade):

Points Per Drive: 2.43 (B+)
Drive Success Rate: .748 (A+)
Turnovers per: .140 (C)

Offense Line Run Blocking: D+
Left End: F
Interior: B-
Right End: C
Pass Protection: A+

Colts Backfield:

QB: Peyton Manning: A+
RB: Joseph Addai: B- (Receiving: B)
RB: Mike Hart: D
RB: Donald Brown: D (Receiving: A)

Like last week, don't expect Joseph Addai to be a huge factor versus the Jets' 3-4 front.

Colts Receivers:

WR: Reggie Wayne: B
WR: Austin Collie: B
WR: Pierre Garcon: C
WR: Hank Baskett: F
TE: Dallas Clark: A
TE: Tom Santi: B
TE: Jacob Tamme: F

The Jets are probably the only team that can keep a body on every single one of Peyton Manning's weapons, and as Philip Rivers had to do, Peyton's going to need to squeeze passes into wormholes to move the ball as the game progresses.

Colts defense (Base 4-3):

Overall: C (Momentum Weighted*: C+)
Points per Drive: 1.64 (C)
Drive Success Rate: .688 (C-)
Turnovers per Drive: .144 (C)

* - Weighed to emphasize late season performances over early season performances

Run Defense: C
vs left end sweeps: C
Right DE: D-
Interior run defense: C
Left DE: D
vs right end sweeps: F

Pass Defense: C
Defensive line vs rush: D-
Pass rush: C
vs #1 WR: C
vs #2 WR: D+
vs Other WR: C
vs TE: C
vs RB: C-

Once again, the Jets offense isn't facing a great defense, despite Freeney and Mathis' persistent threat on the ends. The Jets can wear this front down, and can certainly run on a 4-3 with an average pass rush (as good as the ends are at rushing the passer, the tackles and blitzers are fairly poor).

Colts Special Teams:

Kicker: C (Kickoffs: C)
Kick returns: C
Punting: C+
Punt returns: D+


So who has the edge?

I can't deny Peyton Manning's talent and adaptability, and I don't doubt he can string together a couple touchdown drives despite the talent on the Jets defense. The Colts are still the favorites... but not by much. The Jets can shorten the game with the run against an average defense, minimizing Peyton Manning's chances to pull the Colts away even if the Jets can't capitalize in the early going. Mark Sanchez doesn't have the ability to win this game by himself, but as always he won't need to. Rex Ryan's good old fashioned defense-and-rushing approach is going to keep this close, and only a Hall of Fame performance by Manning is going to put this game away before the final moments.

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