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. The lost a wild game to the Bears before smashing the lowly Bills to end the season.
When matching up against Indy, the question for any offense is can they generate enough points to keep up with the Colts? Indy averages better than 27 points a game, and has scored more than 30 points in four of the last five games. The Jets offense has been inconsistent all season long, posting more than 30 points in five games and fewer than 10 points in four games. The Jets offense hasn’t developed much from 2009, as Mark Sanchez has not advanced significantly as a passer. He did manage to cut his interceptions on the season from 20 to 13, accounting for much of his passer rating improvement. A closer look at the numbers however, reveals Sanchez’s improvement in ball protection might be a mirage.
Sanchez opened the year with 8 TDs and 0 picks through five games. He had a rating of 91.2 and looked to be on his way to a fine season. Over the next 10 games (he threw no passes in the season finale), he threw just nine TDs to 13 picks (a rating of 68.6). Sanchez showed in the AFC Championship game last year that he does have a strong arm and made several excellent throws against the Colts. However, he is currently battling a serious shoulder injury, and it’s unclear how fit he will be.
In the AFC Championship game last year, the Jets went with a run heavy scheme, sprinkling in a few play action passes. It would certainly seem likely they would do so again in this game. The Colts sudden improvement against the run has been well documented. Moreover, the Jets haven’t run the ball as well in recent weeks. LaDanian Tomlinson opened the season looking like a younger version of himself. After the first five games however, he’s averaging just 3.3 yards a carry. Shonn Green has also struggled, averaging less than four yards a carry over the same span.
Oddly enough, despite a better record in 2010, the 2009 Jets had a more defined identity. They ran the ball much better than they do this season, and they played amazing pass defense. The Jets have been a very average pass defense in 2010, though their run defense is excellent.
I don’t believe the Colts are an elite team right now, but if there is any squad they match up against, it’s the Jets. The Jets have a run based offense that is not dynamic and an injured quarterback. They feature a mediocre pass defense.
If the Colts can prevent the Jets from getting a big play in the kicking game (expect to see more starters play special teams), and can avoid turnovers, they should be able to handle a fading Jets team.