Would people look at the New York Jets differently if they lost to the Miami Dolphins (10-6) and the New England Patriots (45-3) the first time they played them and then beat Dolphins (31-23) and the Patriots (28-14) the second time they played them? How about the Patriots; what would we be saying about them if Matt Flynn hasn't messed up the clock and the Packers chances and they punched it into the endzone in Week 15 in a prime time game followed by their embarrassing 34-14 loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 16 instead of that happening in Week 9? Would people feel different about the prospects for the Jets and the Patriots going into the playoffs? Had any of those events that happened nothing about the AFC playoff picture would have changed and everyone's seeding would be exactly the same.
NFL fans that are down on the Jets will point primarily to the embarrassing 45-3 Week 13 loss to the Patriots and say that since then, the team has lost its swagger and has not played well. While that certainly was a humiliating if not humbling defeat for the team and its fans, the reality is that it was simply one loss. In fact, that loss was no more harmful that than the Jets 28-14 win over the Patriots in Week 2 was valuable. Did the Jets lay an egg the following week against the Dolphins? Well the offense certainly but the defense definitely didn't. The Dolphins were held to 131 net yards in the game. While the Dolphins offense wasn't anything to speak of this year, a number like that on any competitive level of football is quite an accomplishment. You may be able to see where I'm going here as reality certainly isn't always is it's perceived.
By the Numbers
I find so many people, even credible people, focused about the fact that the Jets are only 2-3 in their last 5 games and that they aren't playing well. Check out the commentary from respected writer Nate Dunlevy of the well run Colts site, 18 to 88 (that's Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison to you and me) and his article, The Jets Are Fading, and how Indy fans are looking this match-up.
Dunlevy writes, "The New York Jets are a team that has failed to impress me all season. I've made no secret of the fact that for the second consecutive year, I've viewed them as the best matchup for the Colts in the playoffs. The Jets streaked to a 9-2 start this season, famously aided by three close wins in a row over the Lions, Browns, and Texans. Another win against the Bengals had the Jets thinking about the top overall seed in the AFC.
Since then, however, they've won just 2 of 5 games. In back to back weeks, they managed only 9 points against the Patriots and Dolphins. Then they scored an unlikely win at Pittsburgh, aided by a 97 yard kickoff return to open the game and a safety late. They lost a wild game to the Bears before smashing the lowly Bills to end the season."
Since when did a team's last 5 games have anything to do with the 6th game? What's so significant about quoting a 5 game span? They are 6-4 in their last 10, they are 11-4 in their last 15, are those numbers any more or less relevant? The fact is that they are 11-5 on the year and all the games counted towards getting them to the point they are today.
The un-skewed unbiased facts going into this game are that the Jets come into this game at 11-5 and the Colts come in at 10-6. In the Colts division, 10 wins was enough to win the division so they get the home game and in the Jets division 11 wins was not nearly enough, so the 11-5 team has to play the 10-5 team on the road.
The Jets are 6-2 on the road this year and the Colts are 6-2 at home. Including the Jets prime time debacle against the Pats that everyone seems focused on, the Jets have still scored over 25 points on the road in their 8 road games. Without that game the number jumps to over 28. The Colts average just over 27 points a game at home. You can't get much more evenly matched than that.
I particularly like the part where Nate says, "Then they scored an unlikely win at Pittsburgh, aided by a 97 yard kickoff return to open the game and a safety late." It's as if the special teams play doesn't matter! Try telling that to the San Diego Chargers who finished with both the number one offense and the number one defense and didn't make the playoffs because of their special teams play. And it's not like they don't have their own Peyton Manning in Phillip Rivers who threw for 4700 yards this year which is 10 more yards than Peyton Manning did (with 3 less TD's and 4 less INT's)!
The last time I checked, I seem to remember Brad Smith running a kick back for 6 points against the Colts too in the now infamous game where the Colts pulled their starters. If I remember correctly the 6 points counted and had a little something to do with the Colts not going undefeated on the season. And why is the Jets getting the safety in the Pittsburgh game and keeping the Steelers out of the endzone in the final moments "unlikely", because Nate said so? It seems to me that the 11 guys on the defensive side of the ball had something to do with that.
Presenting the facts without using convenient time frames to skew the numbers, the Jets defense is 4th in the NFL giving up only 291.5 yards per game and 6th in scoring defense giving up only 19 points per game (and yes that includes the 45-3 loss to the Patriots).
The Jets have scored 63 more points than they have given up on the year while the Colts have scored 47 more points than they have given up. Last year it was "the Jets backed into the playoffs and they were lucky to be there." Try telling that to the Cincinnati Bengals or the Chargers. The Colts beat the Jets fair and square last year in the AFC Championship Game, they were a better team and deserved to be the AFC Super Bowl representative. While the Jets haven't run the ball for 172.2 yards per game like they did last year (which is almost comical by NFL standards), they have in fact still been able to rush at a clip of 148.4 yards per game which is good for 4th in the NFL and is certainly nothing to sneeze at. And while they don't boast the gaudy defensive numbers that they did last year, defensively they they've let up 19 points per game and 200.6 yards per game in the air which is good for 6th best in the NFL in both categories. Not that this game will be won by Indy on the ground, but a healthy an dfresh Joseph Addai is back and the Jets do rank 3rd in the NFL in rushing defense.
This core group of Jets has already proved that they can win on the road in the playoffs and they were much bigger underdogs in San Diego last year than they are this year in Indianapolis. And while we've seen the offense sputter at times this year, we've also seen how dynamic they can be just as often. Mark Sanchez and the Jets clearly will have some confidence if they have to drive the field late as they've been there and done that often this year.
From an offensive standpoint, with another year of experience for Sanchez under his belt and Santonio Holmes in the mix this year as well, the Jets have the ability to be more dynamic in the playoffs than they were last year. Sanchez, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene were all given last week off and are totally fresh and on the defensive side of the ball Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis had last week off too, which brings us to how they will handle Peyton Manning.
You need to look no further than NFL Films coverage of Bill Belichick mike'd up for the Patriots game against the Colts this year and his obsessive requests for the defense to jam the receivers and screw up the timing of the routs. Revis will be locked on Reggie Wayne, Cromartie will cover Pierre Garcon, but who will cover Blair White, Jacob Tamme, Joseph Addai and the water boy or whoever else Manning appears to be able to turn into an All-Pro caliber player? These are the players that will pose the Jets defense the biggest problems Saturday as the Jets linebackers, while great at stopping the run couldn't cover you or I running down the middle of the field. And if the short catches by the tight ends, backs and slot receivers extending drives running jerk routs (making the Jets linebackers look like jerks) weren't concern enough, without Jim Leonhard patrolling the middle, who would be surprised to see one of them run right down the seam if a long gainer or two.
Everyone knows that's the match-up to target, Peyton knows, the fans watching know it, and the Jets do too. It would not surprise me to see Revis switch to covering an inside receive every so often on the fly after it's too late for Manning to make a pre snap read in an attempt to prevent the Colts from hitting these targets obsessively. Expect the Jets to blitz more often than not and not rely primarily on playing coverage. The goal here is not so much to sack the quarterback (although that's nice, it's not realistic) but to have the ball come out early for short throws and make Manning complete 10 throws to get down the field rather than giving him the opportunity to make a big play. And that's where jamming the receivers comes in. The Jets can hold a sign up saying "we are blitzing on this down" and it wouldn't really matter. Manning, the Colts receivers and the Jets defense all know that the ball will be coming out early and if the Jets can get good receiver jams, that's were tipped ball interceptions and incompletion passes happen. The Jets will rely on Revis and Cromartie to deal with Manning trying to beat them on back shoulder passes and over the top on fade patterns and fly routs when they blitz.
The Jets will need to not give the Colts short fields to play on and effective punting and punt coverage will be as big a part of this game as any other and the Jets have been very effective at this during the season. You will see the return of ground and pound this week as the Jets attempt to shorten the game and so long as the Jets do not fall behind big, they will stick with it. But that doesn't mean they won't take their shots down the field too as the "expected it when you don't expect it" passing game will be in the order of the day. Jets receivers will have plenty of opportunities to run down the field covered one on one as the Colts stack the box in obvious running situations.
As much as this is expected to be Shonn Greene's coming out party, with Dwight Freeney and Terance Mathis set in their starting blocks with designs on getting to the quarterback, LT will have plenty of opportunity's on Saturday to remind everyone he can still play as the screen play will be used quite a bit as a tool to attempt to slow Freeney and Mathis down.
Lastly, a word on the kickers. No one in their right mind would suggest that Nick Folk can compare to the NFL legend, Adam Vinatieri. Folk has a long leg though and kicking indoor on carpet can only help him.
The Indianapolis Colts have the better quarterback here (certainly in the conversation as the best in the game) and they have the best two pass rushers on the field as well as the better place kicker (from an field goal accuracy point of view, the Jets have the better guy kicking off), but the New York Jets have a better complete team. Forget the last 5 games, forget the Patriots game this is an NFL Wildcard Playoff game.
Throw out all the noise on both sides and what do you have? There are three phases to this game and when you grade everything out, the Jets winning isn't even an upset. The Jets have a better roster than they did last year, and the Colts (due largely to injuries) are worse. The line opened at 3 (where I place my bet) and is down to 2.5 as the "smart" money is flows in (yes I know, it's only smart if they win). Absent and new news, it would not shock me if the line dropped further.
Take the Jets MONEYLINE +120
P.S. - I was on vacation for the last two weeks of the season and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for participating in this years "Wagering for Charity" as we received nearly 7,000 charitable recommendations as to where the winnings should be donated and the funds will certainly be going to some worthwhile causes. We turned our $1,000 initial wagering account funding to start the season into $3,375.00! That's one heck of a return and some nice money being donated to charity. You guys certainly did your job as we and you all deserve a round of applause. hope that many of you were able to piggy back us and take advantage of some of the opportunities - Robert Fairchild
Robert is a professional sports gaming professional. He legally wages on professional and collegiate sporting events for a living. Robert is NOT suggesting that you quit your day job and try to wager on sports for a living. He is contributing his thoughts and experience to assist you in a recreational activity that you as an informed adult may choose to take part in.
You may email Robert directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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