Thursday, January 21, 2010

AFC Championship Preview: Jets vs. Colts

Coach Rex Ryan and his Jets team will always have doubters. The ones that expected New York to go into Cincinnati and lose and the same group that were laying up to nine points on San Diego being the final stop on New York’s playoff tour.

This week Indianapolis welcomes New York in the AFC Conference Final and although some of the doubt has been erased following back-to-back playoff wins, the challenge that awaits at Lucas Oil Stadium is arguably the toughest hurdle in all of football.

Let’s break this game down and look at the pick we suggest. You can see more analysis on this game and the Vikings at Saints at www.BetRepublic.com both by watching their innovative online sports betting TV shows and on their posting boards.

Online sportsbooks have the Colts set as 7.5-point favourites with an Over/Under of 39. Books reported early action on Indianapolis when the game went up on the board, but the betting has levelled off the last couple of days. The Over/Under is a different story, as bettors liked the Under right from the opening number, bringing it down from 41 to 39.

Peyton Manning leads one of the league’s most elite offenses and for this road-weary defense it will be a step up in class. In a 20-3 win vs. Baltimore in the division finals Manning used his usual play-makers, Reggie Wayne (8-63, 1 TD) and Dallas Clark (7-59, 0 TD), for key third down situations that kept the chains moving. But it is also the supporting cast, the other five targets that Manning spread 15 passes to, that make this unit hard to defend.

Indy’s offense scored 27-plus points in the four games that preceded the controversial Week 16 loss to New York that will forever live in infamy with the Colts faithful. There hasn’t been any real evidence so far this season that an opponent can come into this building and stop the home side (again, when the starters are all in the game) from putting up some points.

New York’s D is based on a shutdown, Pro Bowl corner (Revis) that can all but eliminate his opponent’s top WR. The rest of the secondary has above-average coverage skills and the front seven can blitz with the best of them. It helped New York lead in nearly every defensive category during the regular season, but 15 out of 16 times the Jets weren’t playing this offense and in the one game where they did face Indy, it was vs. the Junior-V edition in the second half.

Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez is going to be expected to do his part running the offense but the majority of the time that just means handing the ball to any one of his talented backs and stepping out of the way. The Indianapolis run defense gets a bad rap for not being able to defend the run but it’s actually a bit of myth. Just ask the explosive Baltimore Ravens RB trio that managed 78 yards last week on 16 carries. So far New York has rushed for 171 yard (CIN) and 169 yards (SD) but the Colts will be gameplanning for this and do have more run-stopping ability than they are given credit for.

The Colts secondary had a facelift this season and helped by the speed-rush of DEs Freeney and Mathis will be able to limit New York through the air. If the Colts can keep the run-game on a short leash and prevent big gains that are becoming common place in this year’s playoffs, it is going to result in stalled drives and a lot of time spent on the field by New York’s defensive unit. Eventually this could lead to holes in the coverage and gaps on the line that Manning and the offense will take full advantage of.

Oddsmakers, much to the chagrin of HC Ryan, opened with a line of Colts -7 and that was quickly bet up a half-point to the current line. We recommend buying that line back to the TD and going with the superior offense to finish the job at home that it started in Week 16.

BetRepublic.com Pick: Take the Colts

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