1) Feed Greene: A lot has been made of the Colts over the last four weeks shoring up their running defense (actually the last three because CJ gauged them for 111 yards in Week 14). But stopping people like CJ and to some extent Darren McFadden is one thing. With those two, you need to close cutback lanes early and make sure you don't lose contain on the outside. Stopping Shonn Greene is something else entirely, and something that Colts showed that they weren't capable of in last year's AFC Championship game. Before Greene went down with the rib injury in the second half, he had 10 carries for 41 yards, and I consider 4.1 yards per carry a successful day on the ground. Whether it's good for the Jets pass protection or not, Damien Woody sounds like he's going to be back at right tackle. He's a very sound run blocker, which should make running to the right behind him, Moore, and Mangold easy money most of the evening. The Colts have two good edge rushers, but nothing in between the team, and little else residing in the linebacking corps besides an aging Gary Brackett. The Jets should be able to pound it between the tackles and control the clock with Green, keeping Manning off the field.
2) Just like the Bears: The Colts have played a similar Tampa 2 scheme to the Bears since Dungy was in town. If the offensive line can keep Freeney and Mathis off Sanchez, that means a very similar gameplan for Brian Schottenheimer. The Cover 2 and Tampa 2 have holes, they're designed for the quarterback to make tight throws, or have to check down to shorter options. Sanchez had a very good game against the Colts last year, and it's no surprise. Most quarterbacks would like to play in a climate controlled dome with no wind, and Sanchez is no different. I see that the Colts really don't have anybody to defend Keller so he should get some burn, and I think that Braylon and Santonio present challenges too big for the Colts middling cornerbacks to handle.
But the Jets offense against the Colts defense isn't the way the Jets are going to lose this game, unless Brick gets hurt and Freeney or Mathis runs wild against the line.
1) The Colts have running backs?: I don't think this will be a huge issue because Pouha, DeVito and the rest of the line have been so good all year, but the Colts running backs are sneaky good. Donald Brown piled up 129 on the ground against Jacksonville a few weeks ago. Rhodes had 98 yards against Oakland in Week 16. Those were both wins for the Colts. I get the feeling that Colts aren't going to test the run too much and just look to work on Cromartie, Coleman, and the linebackers, but they have the personnel capable of doing it. The first key is to make them completely one-dimensional and take away any threat of a running game that they might pose.
2) Can Garcon escape Alcrotraz? Revis held Reggie to 5 catches for 46 last year, so I'm not worried about that matchup. Garcon is a very underrated talent because he's a #2 receiver with Peyton as his QB. Well we all saw how that worked out for Reggie Wayne, and I think Garcon could be just as talented. He's capable of big plays, and made quite possibly the best catch of the season. He's a big dude, and what's scary for Cromartie is that he's not afraid of getting physical. Those are the type of receivers Cromartie has had trouble with this season. Anquan Boldin, Brandon Marshall. Garcon isn't quite as strong, and is definitely faster, but if Cromartie can hold Garcon in check, under 65 yards would do the trick, the Jets are in business.
3) Say it with me. Pass Rush: Rex loves dialing up blitzes, and early in the game last year they got to Peyton a few times. But if the Jets can generate pressure with 3 and 4 man rushes, they win this game, I don't even think there's a question. Not even sacks, just nothing like the Bears game where Cutler had days upon days to throw the ball. There have been a few glimpses of last year's type of defense this year. First early in the season against the Ravens and Patriots. Then against Green Bay. The second half against Cleveland when Sanchez was injured. And last week against Buffalo. I know Buffalo is Buffalo, but I'm going to take it at face value that the rush got there with regularity and forced an already bad QB into worse decisions. If the Jets can actually mix up their blitzes with confusing coverages, and still get a decent amount of pressure on the quarterback, that's where turnovers will come from, that's where sacks will come from. The more people we have to defend the big guns like Garcon and Wayne, and then the ancillary weapons like Tamme, White, and Addai, the better. Peyton can make tight throws in tight spaces, but as we saw in the middle of the season, he can get frustrated and start trying to throw it into holes that aren't there. Jason Taylor, YOU WERE SIGNED FOR THIS TIME OF YEAR. He and Shaun Ellis, Calvin Pace, and Bryan Thomas will be what this game turns on. If you see Manning having to step up in the pocket or shift his feet to get away from pressure, then the Jets will win this game barring mistakes on offense.
1) Sanchez passes for between 200 and 250 with 2 TDs and one turnover. I think he'd flat out tell you that he liked playing here last year. Controlled environment, no wind, and he does fine with noise. He has a good game.
2) Jets get over 150 on the ground. The Colts can't defend it, the Jets two running backs are rested, and the Colts needed to fight until the last second to beat a very game Tennessee team last week. Heavy doses of Greene pounding it for 3 and 4 yards, followed by a few 11-15 yard carries by LT.
3) Garcon over 75 with a TD. I just don't see Cromartie matching up well with Garcon, I think he is criminally underrated, and he has a big day unless Cromartie gets safety help with regularity.
4) Peyton has just as many turnovers as TDs. Maybe wishful thinking, but we're playing with a full healthy squad (literally just knocked on wood). Everybody says Peyton owns Rex Ryan defenses. Of course he had a monster game last year, but how about 2006 when the Colts beat the Ravens 15-6 with all field goals and Peyton was 15-30 for 170 and 2 INTs. I know this defense isn't the best in the league, but it was built to stop Peyton and Peyton is missing some big pieces with Collie and Clark. I say 2 and 2.
Overall, I think the Jets control the clock, especially in the second half and get to go have round 3 in Gillette Stadium next week. Jets 23 Colts 20.