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AFC Conference Championship Preview

AFC Conference Championship Preview
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Bill Barnwell

Hubris can be a funny thing sometimes.

Both the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Jets' seasons have been marked by hubris. For the Colts, it was the hubris projected onto Bill Belichick's "This is a tricky gray area" decision on fourth-and-2 in Week 10 that ended up handing the Colts a go-ahead touchdown on a silver platter. Weeks later, it was their own hubris that cost them their shot at a perfect season. Under direction from general manager Bill Polian, head coach Jim Caldwell removed Peyton's Army early in the third quarter of the Week 16 game against these Jets, saving them for an impending playoff run while believing in the ability of a second-string offense and defense to hold a slim lead over the Jets.

The Jets, on the other hand, virtually run on hubris. Fellow rookie head coach Rex Ryan seems compelled at times to be the football manifestation of New York City; larger than life, with a legion of foot soldiers running at terrifying speeds. Ryan will get his own section when The Year In Quotes pops up in Football Outsiders Almanac 2010, but plenty of coaches are good quotes; few call themselves the favorite to win the entire shebang as a Wild Card, or map out their team's playoff itinerary down to the victory parade before Week 18, though.

Of course, hubris is confidence or swagger until you lose. By remaining alive, neither team has had to apologize for believing in themselves. That changes Sunday.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the Football Outsiders stats, they are explained at the bottom of the page. Scroll down or click this link.

In the charts we've included on this page, games where teams sat their starters are colored differently and are not included in the trendlines. In addition, we've calculated weighted DVOA without those "sit starters" games for those respective teams, and have included those numbers in this article. Note that each team's chart includes a pair of dots for Week 16; the dot that's marked a different color and not included in the trendline is that unit's DVOA after Peyton Manning departed the game in the third quarter.

Also note that for the conference championship previews, we've done two charts for each team: one for offense, one for defense. Because defensive DVOA is opposite of offensive DVOA, the defensive charts are flipped upside-down -- the higher dots still represent better games.

Jets on Offense
DVOA -9.7% (22) 1.8% (16)
WEI DVOA -4.3% (23) -3.5% (9)
PASS -20.4% (28) 3.4% (14)
RUSH 5.8% (11) 0.0% (20)
RED ZONE -9.8% (20) -17.7% (10)

Colts on Offense
DVOA 19.6% (6) -23.4% (1)
WEI DVOA 22.8% (4) -18.9% (1)
PASS 42.1% (6) -34.6% (1)
RUSH -3.0% (22) -11.5% (8)
RED ZONE 29.7% (3) -19.3% (9)

Special Teams
DVOA 2.6% (6) -0.6% (20)
NYJ kickoff -2.3 (20) -1.2 (15)
IND kickoff 7.6 (6) 1.5 (14)
NYJ punts 2.2 (14) -5.8 (26)
IND punts 5.0 (9) 3.9 (12)
FG/XP 2.8 (12) -2.1 (21)

All readers can click here for in-game discussion on our message boards. If you have FO Premium, you can click here to see all the matchup of DVOA splits for this game.

The Week 16 matchup between these two teams ended in a 29-15 Jets victory, but that final score bears no resemblance to the game that actually took place in Indianapolis that day. It would be more accurate to suggest that the Colts won 3/5ths of a game, 15-10, and that the Jets shut out the Colts' second unit with a 19-0 victory during the other 2/5ths of the game. Of course, the NFL is strictly binary until that fateful day when the games are actually played on paper and writers in their parents' basements worldwide can finally embrace their stereotype.

DVOA bears out those scorelines; if anything, it suggests that the Colts should've been leading by more than just five points when Manning and company departed. Here's a look at DVOA within that game, separating the game into two "halves," with the point of delineation coming immediately after the failed two-point conversion that followed Donald Brown's one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

Table 1: DVOA By "Half", Week 16
  Offense Defense
Colts "1H" 49.4% -10.5%
Colts "2H" -100.4% 5.4%
Jets "1H" -12.1% 13.1%
Jets "2H" 8.5% -146.6%

Of course, DVOA is far from Olmec status, and that's where some context and game tape analysis comes in. While the Jets will bring roughly the same lineup to Indianapolis this weekend, the Colts were without five key players: Cornerback Jerraud Powers, linebacker Clint Session, left tackle Charles Johnson, wideout Pierre Garcon, and defensive end Robert Mathis. Fellow defensive end Dwight Freeney had two sacks, but played almost exclusively as a situational pass rusher. And that was before the bench got a lot more expensive. All of those players besides Powers will start and/or see significant action on Sunday. Those absences affected how both teams played in Week 16, and we'll make a note of how that should change Sunday's matchup where relevant.

Finally, if you haven't already, read Doug Farrar's insightful Cover-3 on the Colts and Jets before you go any further. Doug covers some of the important concepts about the these two teams and their rush schemes, which adds a lot of context to what we cover below.


Whether it was because Mark Sanchez stood under center, because Robert Mathis was out and Dwight Freeney was mostly resting, or a combination of those things, the Colts came after Sanchez in their opening matchup. Sanchez was met by five or more rushers on 10 of his 25 dropbacks (40 percent), yielding six hurries and two sacks. (For more on the Colts' new rush-happy tendencies, check out this piece from Thursday's New York Times by Judy Battista, which incorporates Game Charting data.)

Even if Freeney and Mathis go without a sack, their presence in the lineup will undoubtedly impact the Jets' offensive scheme. Sanchez had just five blockers around on 11 of his 25 dropbacks; with both Mathis and Freeney in on most snaps, expect to see more of tight end Ben Hartsock and fullback Tony Richardson as pass protectors.

To keep Sanchez out of trouble and create easier reads for his rookie quarterback, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer loves to use play-action and send Sanchez out on bootlegs, where he almost always has the same route combination to look at: Tight end Dustin Keller mirrors Sanchez's motion with an out or a crossing pattern, while wide receiver Braylon Edwards goes deep with a double move or a go route. It's a simple read: If Edwards doesn't have a step, hit Keller for the short gain; if Keller's playing the Bengals, he runs for 40 yards after the catch.

Running bootlegs against the Colts, though, is a good way to get your quarterback killed. (This goes double if it's Brad Smith.) Freeney and Mathis will run the occasional twist to get isolated against a guard and keep offensive linemen honest, but they're paid to get around the opposing offensive tackle with their speed and beat them to the quarterback. If they're taking their usual route to the quarterback and Sanchez goes on bootleg after a play-action, he's going to basically run right into Freeney or Mathis. The Jets can slow that style of pass rush with screens and by running draws into the D-gaps vacated by Freeney and Mathis, the latter of which was an effective tactic for them in Week 16.

With that in mind, while the return of two star defensive ends normally results in fewer blitzes and more defenders dropped into coverage, don't be surprised if that's not the case here. The Colts want Sanchez to stay in the pocket, where he has to read their entire defense and is more likely to make mistakes: 11 of Sanchez's 18 interceptions this year were passes thrown from the pocket. Furthermore, while left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and right tackle Damien Woody combined to allow only three sacks this year, Pro Bowl left guard Alan Faneca allowed a whopping six. Expect the Colts to bring pressure up the A-gaps again and through the middle of the Jets' line, getting in Sanchez's passing lanes even when they don't hit him.

Perhaps in part as a response to the pressure up the middle, the Jets ran the ball outside repeatedly before the exodus pulled Freeney and middle linebacker Gary Brackett from the game. Some of it was misdirection, including a reverse to David Clowney that was eaten alive for a drive-killing loss of 14 yards, but Thomas Jones was constantly trying to push his carries outside. Logic would stand that such a move would be a bad idea against the speedy, aggressive Colts, but Indy's actually better against runs up the middle (21st) than they are to left tackle (29th), right tackle (28th), or right end (31st). Here's one where we're going to ignore the numbers, though, and suggest that the Jets are better off running up the middle and getting right guard Brandon Moore to the second level; if he can seal off Brackett regularly, the Jets should be able to run the ball very effectively. Shonn Greene had a very nice day against the Colts, especially when the second-string came in, but offensive coordinators tend to favor veteran backs as pass blockers. Don't be surprised if Jones sees more action than his playoff numbers deserve.


Make no bones about it: Regardless of what the voters said earlier this month, the best individual offensive and defensive players in football will be lining up in Lucas Oil Stadium this Sunday. Even more interestingly, though, both of them have something to prove; both Peyton Manning and Darrelle Revis had subpar games when these teams met in December.

Let's start with Revis, who was matched up against Reggie Wayne on virtually every snap, most often in man coverage. Wayne was thrown eight passes before leaving the game; outside of his final catch, which came against the grain of a soft zone coverage, Revis was clearly responsible for Wayne on each target. Those seven remaining passes only resulted in two catches for 22 yards, but those paltry numbers are not because Revis shut down Wayne; in fact, Wayne should have caught six passes, and had a reasonable shout for all seven, with two touchdowns in the process. The reason why Wayne didn't have that huge game becomes apparent when we break down each play.

  • Target #1 (First-and-10, Jets 21): The Colts go play-action, Manning gets through a seven-step drop without being even remotely molested, and Wayne runs a deep out. Revis has no safety help, and Wayne has him beat to the outside, but Manning anticipates Wayne breaking earlier and his pass is well ahead of Wayne's route. Hard to say whether Revis altered Wayne's route with some relatively ineffective handiwork at the line of scrimmage, but a better pass would have resulted in a 19-yard completion and had a decent shot at a touchdown.
  • Target #2 (Third-and-4, Jets 4): Wayne lines up in the slot with Joseph Addai split outside of him. Revis is in the slot with Wayne. The Colts run a classic pick play, with Addai running a quick in and Wayne looping underneath Addai's route. Manning throws his pass behind Wayne, though, and not even Wayne can do a pirouette and make a one-handed catch at the same time. It's not really Revis's fault that Wayne had a shot at a touchdown here, but this should have been six.
  • Target #3 (First-and-10, Colts 21): Here was the one that really hurt. The Colts go play-action again, and Manning has all the time in the world to let Wayne get deep. It's hard to tell what Revis's responsibilities are on this play; he follows Wayne far deeper than a shallow zone corner would, but he also clearly seems to decide that Wayne is no longer his responsibility at one point. Dan Dierdorf suggests that Revis is in man coverage on the replay, but we're inclined to think that it was bracket coverage without one of the brackets. Regardless, there's no safety behind him, and Wayne is wide open 35 yards downfield with several steps on Revis and safety Kerry Rhodes five yards away; Manning simply overthrows him on what could have very easily been a long touchdown. Revis deserves some credit for a subtle tug on Wayne's jersey.
  • Target #4 (First-and-10, Colts 39): If teams gave away Chalupas for play-action passes and not just points or shutouts, Colts fans wouldn't have been so angry about that whole losing-the-undefeated-season thing. This is play-action again, but this time, the Jets collapse Manning's pocket with five rushers. Manning scrambles a little bit and throws a pass vaguely in Wayne's direction that's well out of bounds. Revis is in coverage, but he's called for an illegal contact penalty against Wayne on the play.
  • Target #5 (Second-and-13, Jets 41): Finally, a completion! Wayne's isolated with Revis, who does a good job of jamming him at the line, but once Revis turns his hips upfield, Manning throws to Wayne's back shoulder for a ten-yard completion. Revis wraps up Wayne after the catch with an excellent tackle, preventing him from getting the first down.
  • Target #6 (First-and-10, Colts 44): The Jets bring seven men on a blitz, but the Colts have seven to pick it up. One rusher comes free, but Manning stays in the pocket and hits Wayne on a curl for nine yards. Wayne's cut is impeccable and allows him to catch the ball with yards of space, allowing him to pick up three yards after the catch and get out of bounds.
  • Target #7 (Second-and-10, Jets 44): With Manning in the shotgun, the Jets present a really simple look: Corners at the line in man coverage, and one high safety deep. Manning gets time to survey the field and goes over the top to Wayne, who's running a go route down the sidelines against Revis. Wayne has a step on Revis, but Revis is still close enough that a completion would have required a very good throw; either way, the pass is thrown three yards ahead of Wayne for an incompletion.

It's not fair to say that Revis had a bad game against Wayne, but it certainly wasn't up to his lofty standards. Beyond the fact that Wayne is simply a great receiver, it makes sense that Revis would struggle against him. While Revis has great athleticism, timing, and ball skills, what makes him the best corner in football is his ability to read and anticipate the routes of opposing receivers in real-time, thanks to significant film study. With the retirement of Marvin Harrison, there's probably not a better receiver in the league at disguising his routes and making cuts than Wayne, which limits Revis's ability to maintain tight coverage all the way downfield. There were opportunities for big plays against Revis in single coverage during Week 16; don't be surprised if the Colts hit on one of those big plays this Sunday.

With the Jets giving Revis some help over the top in Rhodes, there were ample opportunities on the other side of the field for Austin Collie to take advantage of Lito Sheppard. With Pierre Garcon injured, Collie was the full-time flanker and had a big day while Manning was still in the game, catching four catches for 88 yards while also drawing two pass interference penalties for 37 yards. Sheppard was in coverage on six of those eight passes. With the Jets playing mostly man coverage with one deep safety, the Colts used Collie on drag routes, getting him 12-15 yards downfield before cutting and crossing the hashmarks. Sheppard has no prayer of covering Collie by himself for that long. When the Jets started giving Sheppard help over the top with Rhodes, the Colts ran the same route with Dallas Clark against nickel cornerback Dwight Lowery. Clark was another bundle of frustration for the Colts in the first matchup; Manning had him open against safety Eric Smith for what could have been a touchdown pass on a go route, but overthrew him.

It's pretty obvious by now that Manning had a bad game. Whether it was timing issues caused by the Jets' aggressiveness or simply an off night, Manning left a half-dozen big plays on the field. Those go down in DVOA as mere incompletions, but the Colts could have scored 21 points in the first half instead of the nine they actually put up. (An extra point in the first half was blocked.) It seems ill-advised for Rex Ryan to hope that Manning will have a similarly poor showing this time around.

It wasn't the best game for Ryan, either; his vaunted blitz packages had little impact on Manning, despite the absence of left tackle Charles Johnson. Manning dropped back 25 times, and while the Jets rushed five or more 14 times, all they had to show for the blitzes were three hurries and one quarterback knockdown.

Will the Jets get to know Manning a little better on Sunday? If history's any indicator, absolutely not. Since 2005, when Ryan took over as the Ravens' defensive coordinator, he's faced Peyton Manning five times. Manning's dropped back 141 times against those industrious Ryan defenses ... and been sacked three times. And one of those sacks came when Manning tripped over Jeff Saturday's feet taking the exchange from center. (Note that the 2006 playoff game between the two teams was not broken down by our Game Charters, and so hurry, hit, and blitz data is not available for that game.)

Table 2: Manning vs. Rex Ryan
Dropbacks Hurries Hits Sacks Blitz %
2009 25 3 1 0 56%
2008 30 4 2 2 47%
2007 17 2 0 0 35%
2006 31   1
2005 38 1 3 0 29%

Manning has had a mix of good (2007, 2008) and bad (2006) games against Ryan-authored defenses, but it would be totally out of character for a Ryan defense to materially affect Manning with pressure. In fact, the Jets' best strategy might be to rush three or four on most plays, attempt to get overloads on one side of the line, and drop seven or eight defenders into coverage. That would involve Ryan swallowing his pride and admitting to himself that his blitz schemes don't work very well against Manning, though, and the likelihood of that happening seems slim. Hubris, remember?

One place Ryan can rest comfortably is in power situations. Although the Colts were an underrated offense running in short yardage this year, the Jets stuffed them on four of their five carries with a yard to go (including one stretch of three consecutive plays, although a stuff on fourth down was nullified by a Bart Scott tripping penalty) and twice on carries from the four-yard line. The Colts' lone conversion in short yardage was a one-yard touchdown run by Donald Brown that saw him break two tackles on the interior before breaking to the outside and scoring. Those seven carries went for a combined zero yards.


Brad Smith returned the opening kick of the second half for a 106-yard touchdown in Week 16; of course, if you return the ball from six yards deep in your own end zone, you pretty much need to do something big if you don't want to get yelled at. Smith went untouched for 70 yards or so, thanks to overpursuit by the Colts' coverage units and great blocking by the Jets. It's tempting to chalk up the great blocking to Vernon Gholston, but he's not even a good special teams guy. The Jets also blocked an extra point, which ended up being a three-point swing when the Colts subsequently went for two and failed.

Over the course of the season, the Colts have been above-average on kickoffs. That's thanks to the leg of Pat McAfee, who kicks off, punts, and holds for Matt Stover. Stover hasn't made a field goal from beyond 50 yards since 2006, so don't expect any booming field goals from him. T.J. Rushing has been putrid on punt returns, and Chad Simpson's an inconsistent return man.

The Jets will have the advantage on special teams. Smith's actually been worse than Lowery outside of the Colts' touchdown, but they're both blessed with good coverage units in front of them. Jerricho Cotchery also enjoys their company on punt returns, where he's a step ahead of Jim Leonhard. Kicker Jay Feely and punter Steve Weatherford are nothing to write home about.

As we mentioned in Quick Reads, field goal kickers are 0-for-5 against the Jets in the playoffs. The last time opposing kickers missed five consecutive field goals against a team was in 2001.


It was easy to construct a winning narrative for the Jets in each of their first two playoff games; they had a defense that was uniquely suited, stylistically, for stopping the Bengals and the Chargers. The Colts are a pass-happy team, just like the Chargers, but if Rex Ryan really had a wrinkle to get consistent pressure on Peyton Manning, wouldn't it have come out by now? You don't save the money plays this long.

As tempting as it is to favor the hot Wild Card team considering what's happened in recent postseasons, don't compare apples to oranges; compare apples to apples. The Colts dominated the Jets before removing Manning and company in Week 16, with a far superior DVOA that doesn't even consider injuries or how many near-misses the Colts' offense had. The margin of victory for the Jets last time around was 14 points; they scored a defensive touchdown and a special teams touchdown, neither of which have any predicative value going forward. Barring an absolute meltdown by Manning, the Jets are going to need one of each again to make it to the Super Bowl.


DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) breaks down each play of the season and compares it to the NFL average based on situation and opponent. You'll find it explained further here. Since DVOA measures ability to score, a negative DVOA indicates a better defense and worse offense, and a positive DVOA indicates a better offense and worse defense.

SPECIAL TEAMS numbers are different; they represent value in points of extra field position gained compared to NFL average. Field goal rating represents points scored compared to average kicker at same distances. All special teams numbers are adjusted by weather and altitude; the total is then translated into DVOA so it can be compared to offense and defense. Those numbers are explained here.

Each team is listed with DVOA for offense and defense, total along with rush and pass, and rank among the 32 teams in parentheses. (If the DVOA values are difficult to understand, it is easy to just look at the ranks.) We also list red zone DVOA and WEIGHTED DVOA (WEI DVOA), which is based on a formula which drops the value of games early in the season to get a better idea of how teams are playing now (explained here).

Each team also gets a chart showing their performance this year, game-by-game, according to total DVOA. In addition to a line showing each game, another line shows the team's trend for the season, using a third-power polynomial trendline. That's fancy talk for "the curve shifts direction once or twice."

All stats except for WEIGHTED DVOA are regular season only, unless noted.


58 comments, Last at 24 Jan 2010, 1:37pm

1 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

"few call themselves the favorite to win the entire shebang as the #6 seed"

The Jets are the #5 seed, actually.

3 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

"few call themselves the favorite to win the entire shebang as the #6 seed"

The Jets are the #5 seed. Ravens were #6.

4 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

Charting data supplement, from the first half of BAL-IND 2006:
On 19 dropbacks, the Ravens rushed 5 or more 10 times. They hurried Manning 5 times, two each by Suggs and Scott and once when they rushed 7 (which still resulted in a 7 yard gain). Suggs had the only hit of the first half, while Scott and Johnson each had an official one in the second half. The Colts kept at least 6 in to block on every dropback, and frequently kept 7 in. They spent most of the time in singleback, two tight end sets, frequently with Clark flexed into the slot position. This was back when the Colts' shocking formation wrinkle was playing Wayne and Harrison on the same side and they didn't trust a 3rd wideout (Aaron Moorehead!); this year, I think they're much more able to do interesting things with personnel packages and groupings.

6 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

Holy jebus, there is logic in this world. After reading and listening to all the rhetoric this week, its nice to see some concrete numbers, facts, and intuition. I know I'm a total Colts homer, but I couldn't believe some of the logic surrounding the jets chances in this game. I will be referring everyone to this article as the voice of reason.

31 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

Bah! You're forgetting all about swagger!

Actually, from what I can tell, the media are jumping on a good story and an approachable, affable, quotable HC. The media will all point out the Jets fine attributes, but at the 11th hour, make the smart move and pick the Colts. It's win-win (unless the Colts romp 72-0), because if the Colts win, they were right and if the Jets win, they can say they saw it in the tea leaves but made the safe choice.... With one exception, I haven't seen anyone credible picking the Jets (Billick, I guess is credible....)

The Internet side of things, well, Jets fans are enthusiastic and excited. Talking a little trash. But you have to make allowances--NYers talk trash in the confessional. (Where's George Carlin to expand that concept when you need him?)

My father, God bless his pea brain, bet my brother $10 and took the Jets and the points. When I called to upbraid him for this, he said he learned his lesson 41 years ago when he lost $3,000 (a monstrous sum for a blue collar father of 6) betting on SB III. I think there is a bit of that blowing in the wind, too. The Jets won their last two playoff matchups, as if it has any impact on 2010.

7 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

It doesn't really make a difference, but Freeney (in 3rd down duty), Brackett, and Bethea continued to play for the next 3 Jets drives following the Brown TD, and weren't fully benched until the score was 21-15 early in the 4th quarter. I'm not sure why those drives should be excluded from DVOA if the previous Jets drives (without Mathis, Session, and Powers) are.

15 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

Interesting. So it seems like Brackett and Bethea actually did stick around later. Were they around on the subsequent drive? Or was it just a different cut-off point for the defense?

The screenshots also show why I have reservations about that site, though -- even ignoring the issue of "grading" players, there's not 11 players on the screen on first down, and the players that are on the screen aren't exactly distinctly identifiable.

19 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

PFF's participation stats are pretty useful for formations — how many linemen, defensive backs, receivers, etc, are in on each play. The actual identification of which players are in — I'm not so sure. Example: for the wildcard game in Arizona, PFF had Packer tight ends Donald Lee playing 41 snaps and Jermichael Finley 56; Tom Pelissero, a more trustworthy source, put the ratio at 34:63. PFF ends up inflating Lee's numbers by about 20%.

I like the idea of the PFF site; it would be a valuable resource if it were trustworthy; even the grading is interesting, however arguable it might be. However, I'm not sure they have the technology or the manpower to realize what they want to do. I dread to think how much time they must spend playing and pausing their remote controls.

10 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

You might want to look at the difference in DVOA% on the Colts offense and Jets defense. The Jets O vs Colts D didn't really change that much after the offensive lineup changed. I think the complete lack of an offense, and thus, giving back much greater field position, could easily offset the continued usage of a few defensive starters.

9 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

Melvin Bullitt also missed the first game. That means even without 4 defensive starters, the Colts D gave up 3 points before they got yanked.

As a Colts fan, I'm trying to stay level-headed about this game, but without a monumental Colts screw-up on both sides of the ball the Jets don't stand a chance. They can't line up toe-to-toe with the Colts and expect to plain beat them. It's going to take a whacky game.

32 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

Looks like Powers will sit, and that is probably smart. A CB is not the Colts highest need in this game and he'd be infinitely more valuable against a potential SB opponent--both of whom can kinda throw.

I expect two giant meltdown plays for the Colts, maybe on D when they are totally not expecting a pass and Edwards actually hangs on to one, and maybe on ST (50 yd return). Or a fumble returned a long way. Even so, I am not sure the Jets hit 13 points. The giant Frank Gore run aside, I don't think the Colts allowed any other long TD runs this year, which is almost a requirement for a Jets win.

Comparing the Colts to the Chargers last week, Manning was forced to master the short/imtermediate game in 2005 when everybody put like four safeties deep on every play to prevent another 49 TD year. That has made his game a little more humdrum, but much more sound and reliable. They work those routes and draft guys to suit them. Rivers either has not had that problem this year, did not have the options in the playbook, or the personnel to pull it off--without their deep game (which was the best in the game this year) SD could only muster about half their usual point total. Ouch. I don't think that will be the Colts' problem.

The Jets probably won't have a D meltdown, but Bill's discussion of the deep ball potential may change my mind on that--with Garcon in, Collie more seasoned, and Wayne, of course. I suspect the "bad" Manning throws were long or wide in the direction that was AWAY from Revis, so they were affected by DR being there. They were safe throws that maybe Reggie could catch, but surely nobody else. Just my gut feeling without tape to review. But to Collie/Clark/Garcon on the other side, one TD bomb could spell doom for the Jets. The Jets might have an O meltdown, though Sanchez has been playing a safe "small ball" game lately. Maybe it's Braylon Edwards not quite bringing a ball in and a Colt yanking it away. That's not too painful if it's 30 yards downfield, but if it's just 8 yards deep and there's a bit of a return....

To me, 24-13 feels about right. Not a blowout by conventional standards, but not a game that's ever really in doubt.

21 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

As a disappointed Charger fan, it seemed like the short passing game was there and pretty effective (especially on first down). Unfortunately, the Chargers don't pass short very well and didn't capitalize on that.

The Colts however, are very happy to pass short if that's what given to them and do it well. I expect they will throw a lot of short passes to Clark & Collie and slowly work the ball down the field. Unless the Jets scored some early points, I think they'll die a slow death of 6-10 yard passes...

22 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

Re: Rex Ryan's "hubris".

Rex constantly over-praises and pumps up his tewam, his players and his assistant coaches. He does this to motivate and show his faith in them.

Rex NEVER inflates himself (insert fat joke here) or puts down an opponent. He gives away all the credit to his players and assistant coaches. I sincerely doubt his "ego" would get in the way of using a particular defensive scheme over another.

Let's not confuse "hubris" with "ego"

24 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

Would this happen to be the same "faith" he showed in them when he declared them dead before Week 16?

I think this game's going to be close, but the Colts are just too good and thinking (or in my case wishing and hoping and praying) the Jets get lucky again is just not something I'd put my money on.

41 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

That makes no sense... He didn't declare them dead because of what he thought of the talent of the team, he actually thought the Jets were eliminated from the playoffs.

I never really understood why people made such a big deal about that whole thing.

29 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

I also had an issue with how Bill used hubris. Not sure how resting guys to focus on the playoffs constitutes overweening pride... it's conservative and humble, really. Hubris would be to say "fuck it" we can go 16-0, 19-0, and finish next year 38-0--just watch us! And in a couple weeks we'll re-shoot The Superbowl Shuffle." Resting guys says "we're mortal and know it. We need to be healthy to do what's important, so we'll take a backward step here to regroup."


37 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

You know, I thought that too. Achilles exhibited hubris by dragging Hector's body around Patroclus' tomb. Odysseus exhibited hubris by telling the blinded Polyphemus his actual name while sailing away. I think real hubris would be the Colts starters chest bumping on the sidelines thinking that they were so good that even their pep band third stringers could beat them, when the reality is that the Colts braintrust didn't feel that the effort required to win the Jets and Bills games wasn't worth the benefit due to rest.

Hubris is more emotional than logical, and more about self-promotion and perceived invincibility.

25 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

Was Suggs out in the first contest between them this year? I ask because wouldn't his health make a major difference (and improvement) for the Jets pass rush?

28 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

"The NFL is strictly binary until that fateful day when the games are actually played on paper and writers in their parents' basements worldwide can finally embrace their stereotype."

I must give you credit for that--probably your best FO joke ever, Bill.

53 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

Nobody calls it that, do they?

Even after that Visa/Mastercard commercial about 15 years ago, set in some backwater African savannah/desert, where the kid was running after the people shouting ATM! ATM!

Oh well, I'm gonna get in my Volkwagen car now and drive down the road street.

36 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

No because the second conference signifies the title of the particular playoff game. The first conference clarifies american football what. So you see? while it may seem strange to say, it is technically correct and thus NOT redundant.

35 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

the jets against the chargers...the trouble is how much credit do we afford the jets d that game? How many penalties and norv turner's stupidity play a factor in the jets performance? Key penalties put rivers in third and long...continuing to establish a failed run game put rivers in third and long---dropped passes---missed fgs...etc etc, it really reads more like a list of charger gaffes than good defense. Gut feel says this will be a close game and I know I should not be expecting a blowout, but this really looks like a mismatch. Even if manning is going to be subpar(which everyone already assumes for whatever reason), the jets still would need some breaks to go there way to win. Frankly, unless the colts D absolutely fails, no lead for the jets would be a safe. it would take a total monumental team collapse for the colts to lose this, their d would hafta give up gashing runs and their o wud need to go 3 N out religiously, or keep turning the ball over. Of course this CAN happen, but logic and odds say it wont.

39 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

"The Jets also blocked an extra point, which ended up being a three-point swing when the Colts subsequently went for two and failed."

I disagree. If the Colts had made the first extra point, they almost certainly would have kicked an extra point later instead of going for two (and failing). So it really was a two-point swing.

Generally though, a very good article. I agree with your conclusion that the Colts probably will win. In fact, I think the Jets and Ravens are very similar teams, and we saw last week how easily the Colts throttled the Ravens' offense, while doing just enough themselves on offense. Although the Colts did get several breaks last week (Reed fumbling asfter the first int., the PI call to nullify the second pick, the personal foul against Ray Lewis, the Colts play near the end of the first half that somehow took only 2 seconds), I think those teams could have played eight quarters and the Ravens still wouldn't have scored a touchdown. And I don't think the Jets are significantly better than the Ravens on offense. So barring a few black swans, I think the Colts probably win something like 24-10.

47 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

Re the Jets/Ravens offensive comparison, I disagree...unless Sanchez reverts to his (definition of a rookie qb) midseason form...barring that, 1)Sanchez' recent play argues for a better performance than Flacco's injury-marred output last week; 2) the Jets have better receivers (by plenty) than the Ravens' one guy, and 3) the Jets have a much better offensive line, and therefore, a better running game, even though Rice is a fine running back...the line is more important...

Superficially similar, but significant quality differences in the Jets' favor (again, barring a Sanchez reversion)...

40 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

It will come down to Manning. Revis will shut down Wayne, and the Jets will probably double Clark. Can the other Wr's/RB's beat the one on ones and read the blitzs for the hot reads? Manning will have to read the blitzs and get it out quick. Look for quick screens to the wrs and tes.

Second can Indy shut down the run? That is what the Jets are built on. It won't look pretty in the 1st half but eventually the Jets will wear down the smaller Indy defense.

Can the Jets keep it close enough to try to win it in the fourth quarter? I dont think so. Collie, Garcon, Hart, Addai and Brown had 15 of the 30 receptions in the Baltimore game. Both the Jets and Raven's defenses are similar. I dont think the Jets can match up with the 1-back offense with Clark and Wayne on the same side. Especially against the seam-in combo routes the Colts like to run. The Colts will score early and make the Jets have to pass, which is not their strength.

44 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

Revis will shut down Wayne...

Bzzt. No points for you.

It's possible, but not probable (to this homer) and certainly not a foregone conclusion.

Manning, when he's on, can fit a football through the head of a needle, and Wayne can perform some mighty magic of his own. Revis will play him tough, but nobody completely shuts down Wayne.

46 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

I think they must have gotten a "sports-writers' crib sheet" that told them everything you write must absolutely have "an angle". Rather than just try to inform us about the gam there always has to be some cutesy intro.

48 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

It's really fun when you write nearly 3000 words analyzing the game (or the gam) and people spend time complaining about the intro.

And a "sports-writers crib sheet"? Was this crib sheet from the 1880? Did it offer suggestions for covering catch wresting and base-ball?

49 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

Gee, Bill, you're a little sensitive for a guy writing on the internet. You're unhappy because people are spending time discussing (or "complaining about") the intro? Maybe that's because because it is...the intro--the thing that you read first, the thing that the writer uses to quickly get the reader's attention, the thing that sets the tone for the article. OK, so you wrote "nearly 3000 words analyzing the game," and the paragraphs on hubris made up 250 of them (I actually did cut and paste them into Word, then used the word count feature...I do plan to get a life sometime soon, however.) If you thought it was an interesting enough idea to lead with it and devote nearly 10% of your article to it, why do you want your readers to disregard it?

To me, one of the best things about Football Outsiders is that the writers on the site are willing to discuss a concept like 'hubris' instead of just 'swagger' or 'momentum' or whatever other cliche is commonplace on the pregame shows, and that the people writing comments on the message boards are as apt to get into a discussion of what is really meant by 'hubris' (in come cases, complete with classical references) as they are to discuss the different types of zone coverage. At its best, FO is like discussing the upcoming game or the game we just watched with a bunch of intelligent and literate people with a wide range of interests outside of sports. Don't worry when the discussion gets a little far afield, the games will start soon enough.

56 Re: AFC Conference Championship Preview

In Bill's defense--and I don't spend as much time here as I did 3-4 years ago--but my impression of his interactivity level is super high. He's the guy who checks back frequently and sometimes responds to a dozen comments at a shot. He has to have the HIGHEST response rate (as an author clarifying things for readers who posted questions) by far. And just as we don't always love everything about the article, it's fair for him to not love every aspect of the feedback, and for us to not love every aspect of his feedback-back.... But most of the time, the writing's great, our feedback is sincere and constructive (unlike my query about a redundant title), and his re-feedback is helpful and clarifying.

Did that make any sense?

Anyway, I am sure we could all name a handful of sites where the author replies are infrequent if at all, and then are snappish, defensive (or offensive, I suppose) and not helpful. Bill seems to be VERY open to the discussion aspect of the Intrenet, instead of the "I created this mute non-interactive piece of journalism, now read it and leave me alone" school of thought.

I mean, sure he sucks, but you know, reading this passes the time and besides, what else do I have to do on a Saturday night?

(Yes, kidding.)

Oh, and Go Colts!