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Quick take: Jets at Colts

1/3/2011

Three things to know about next Saturday's New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts wild-card game:

1. The Colts are trending upward in key categories. Over their final three games, they did excellent work stopping the run and providing a more than sufficient run attack to balance out the offense. The Jets will throw rested running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene at Indy after sitting them out of their finale and still crushing the Bills. The Jets had the league’s No. 6 rush offense before that game. The Colts have gotten a boost from running back Dominic Rhodes, who’s now working with Joseph Addai and Donald Brown. There is sure to be a big game-planning discussion about how to best deploy the three against the Jets’ rush defense, No. 5 in the NFL after 15 games.

2. We’ve got some seriously contrasting coaches. The Colts' Jim Caldwell is low-key, stoic and is never in danger of saying anything remotely controversial. The Jets' Rex Ryan is a laugh-a-minute, bombastic and will say anything. Neither of them will play Saturday night, but between now and then you can expect to hear a whole lot of comparing and contrasting. Caldwell has a steady quarterback who’s used to beating blitzes in Peyton Manning, and Ryan has a defense that brings extra people as often as anyone. How that sorts out could tell the story of the game.

3. Healthy rushers make for good results. When the Colts have had defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis both healthy for playoff games, they’ve fared very well. Best as I could tell, they both came out of the win over the Titans OK. If the Colts can get a lead and put more of the game on Mark Sanchez than the Jets might like, Indy will be in its ideal defensive position -- one where its two Pro Bowl pass-rushers can use their best moves and incredible quickness to smack the quarterback around, knock him down and hit his arm as he throws. The Jets have a very good defense, but Freeney and Mathis are strip sack artists who can change games in a flash.