Friday, January 7, 2011

Wild Card Weekend Preview: AFC

#6 Jets (11-5) @ #3 Colts (10-6)
Saturday, 7:00 CST

-The two faced off in last year's AFC Championship game with the Colts winning 30-17 on the strength of a 17-0 second half. Rex Ryan, whose defenses are 1-5 against Peyton Manning (and in the one win, Manning didn't even play the second half), says it's personal against the QB, that he has "waited a full year for this" and wants to "put the shoe on the other foot" by knocking him out of the playoffs. Bad wording there, Rex. No mention of shoes or feet for you for at least, like, six months.

-The Colts are the go-about-your-business bunch with the low-key coach; the Jets are an in-your-face team with a coach who predicted his team would win the Super Bowl before the season. Makes me want the Colts.

-Peyton Manning returns to the playoffs for the 800th year in a row, while Mark Sanchez is now two-for-two in his short career. This game has something of an old guard vs. new guard theme goin' on, or something like that. Sanchez going to the playoffs his first two years but getting knocked out by the always-in-the-playoffs Manning? Makes me want the Jets.

What to watch for: Prior to the game, will Rex Ryan use Lucas Oil Stadium as a refreshing new setting for a foot fetish video? And if so, will the NFL allow him to use their cameras so it will be in hi-def?

X factor: The kickers. While the Jets' Nick Folk has one of the lowest field goal percentages in the league, the Colts' Adam Vinatieri has missed just two all season.

Prediction: These ain't your older brother's Colts. Injuries to receivers, a tight end and safety Bob Sanders have transformed the Colts from the near-infallible squad we've become used to into a 10-6 team that didn't put the Jaguars away until last Sunday. But they were 6-2 at home this year and I'm not ready to pick against Peyton Manning. After all, it is a night game. On top of that, I don't trust Mark Sanchez. Colts in a close one.

#5 Ravens (12-4) @ #4 Chiefs (10-6)
Sunday, 12:00 CST

-The Ravens won two more games than the Chiefs this year but are forced to go on the road because they're in a division with the Steelers while the Chiefs ... well, aren't.

-The Chiefs bring their league-best running game against the Ravens' top-five rush defense.

What to watch for: Are the Chiefs ready for playoff football? They haven't been to the postseason since 2006, haven't hosted a playoff game since 2003, and haven't won a playoff game since 1993. The Ravens, on the other hand, have been invited to the playoff party four of the last five years.

X factor: Ravens safety Ed Reed. Matt Cassel has been very protective of the ball this year--just seven interceptions--but Reed had an insane eight interceptions in just 10 games this year.

Prediction: The Chiefs didn't lose at home until Sunday against the Raiders, and their league-best running game is nothing to sneeze at. But the Ravens can stop the run just about as well as anyone, and besides, this is a passing league. Ravens by seven.

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