Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 10:59PM
By Steven Shaffer, TheSportsHatch.com writer
The AFC championship game came be summed up by Aretha Franklin.
The Jets feel no one has given them any respect since making the playoffs. Head coach Rex Ryan proclaimed that his squad should be the favorite “in the whole tournament.” That's a big change coming from the man who only a few weeks ago declared his team was out of the playoffs after a terribly disappointing loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
But that's where everything changed for this team. Once they realized it would take a seemingly impossible run to get them to the dance, critics and fans alike began to write them off. After all, with a rookie head coach, a rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez, finishing 8-8 would be acceptable. They should be satisfied with the team's growth let the NFL's big boys play for a while.
All of a sudden, the Colts laid down in Week 16 and the Bengals decided not to play in Week 17. Every other team lost where needed and Rex' big talkers were in.
The Jets were 1.5 point underdogs to the Bengals for the first round of the playoffs in Cincinnati. 24-14 Jets. The Bengals aren't really a good team, though they were the popular pick by the writers. Next was a trip to San Diego where the Gang Green were 5.5 point underdogs. But missed field goals by Nate Keating and poor coaching by Norv Turner handed the Jets a 17-14 win, and the popular pick Chargers were one and done.
Now it's Peyton the Great and the Colts, installed as 7.5 point favorites. No way the Jets can win, the prognosticators pontificate. Peyton will throw the ball at will. Freeney, Mathis and company will chase Sanchez all over the field. The brash boys from New York are all talk and will be shut down and should just be content with their recent progress and nothing more, according to the pundits.
That being said, my forecast for the AFC Championship on Sunday, Jets 24-Colts 17. New York will go to Super Bowl XLIV because no one, aside from the guys in green, think they can. That is what Ryan has them believing. When all the NFL learned scholars say it's a passing league, Ryan says “ground and pound.” Led by Shonn Greene (44 carries 263 yards 2 TDs) and Thomas Jones, they have the number one rushing attack that will keep the ball away from Manning.
The Colts gave up 126 yards rushing per game during the regular season. That equates to lots of running lanes for Greene and Jones to run through and less time for Manning to work his magic.
Oh yeah, and then there's the Jets defense which has turned it up a notch from the regular season. No one has yet to escape from Revis Island. Kerry Rhodes is playing up to his previous level after a brief two week benching earlier in the year and should be able to contain Dallas Clark. Blitzing is the Jets forte. As seen in previous playoffs, Manning can be rattled if he is hit.
Once Manning is off his rhythm the Jets will force him into mistakes. The Colts do not run the ball well, as evidenced by their 80.9 yards per game average, leaving the Jets to concentrate on what they do best, covering receivers and putting pressure on the quarterback.
If respect is what the Jets are seeking they might have to win the whole thing because once they are in the Super Bowl I'm positive they will be underdogs, once again. Either Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings or Drew Brees and the high flying New Orleans Saints will be getting all the respect from the writers, experts and pundits. That is certainly the way Rex Ryan wants it.