AFC South: Darrelle Revis

INDIANAPOLIS -- The video has been watched. It's been watched numerous of times, actually. Quarterback Andrew Luck has watched the film of the Indianapolis Colts' playoff loss to the New England Patriots too many times to count.

Nothing changed. The Patriots won the game 43-22 every time and Luck still threw four interceptions.

"It is good motivation because they obviously beat us and were the better team," Luck said. "But there are also mistakes that eat you up, but you sometimes have to take the emotion out of it. We look at this with a cold, hard analytical mindset and say this is the learning experience. Take the emotion out of it. You look at the mistakes and say, why. We watch every play from last season multiple times and we review regular third down and red zone and everything."

New England has been a nemesis of Luck during his first two seasons. He's 0-2 and has thrown seven interceptions against the Patriots.

Luck will get another shot to beat the Patriots when New England visits Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 16. He'll be facing one of the top cornerback duos in the league in that game in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
Though the New York Jets might want one of the draft’s top guards, if they had only the ninth pick in the first round, they may have been tugged a different direction.

Now, if Darrelle Revis passes a physical and a trade goes through sending the Jets cornerback to Tampa Bay for the 13th pick and other considerations, the Jets could be more inclined to take the lineman they like -- Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper -- ninth overall.

Tennessee has a hole at right guard, and could well aim to fill it with one of those players. I believe Warmack fits what the Titans are looking for better than Cooper does, thought it’s no certainty the team will draft either if he is there.

The Jets could help make the Titans’ decision for them.

Knowing the Titans at 10 and the Chargers at 11 may covet Warmack and/or Cooper, the Jets could go guard with the first of their two first rounders. The Dolphins at 12 could also be a threat if they see one of those two guards available and judge him a great value, though they have several needs that are more pressing.

So the Jets could land a top-flight guard, preventing the Titans from getting him. Then New York will have another bite at the first-round apple with the Buccaneers’ pick they just landed, just four spots later.

On the Colts' need at corner

January, 29, 2013
Among the Colts' list of needs, cornerback ranks right up there with offensive linemen.

Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus has Indianapolis on the list of teams that should look into trading for Darrelle Revis of the Jets.

“Bringing in Revis would allow them to allocate their resources toward must-needed upgrades to the front seven and ensure they can do something they weren't able to do this year: Shut down a team's wideouts,” Palazzolo writes.

But the Colts don’t have the ammo to make the deal. They are without a second-round draft pick in April because they sent it to Miami for the one good corner they do have: Vontae Davis.

With a lot of needs, sending picks to New York for Revis would be a difficult thing to do.

Tying into the Colts’ need at corner, it’s interesting to see the impact a big play they got from a cornerback in Super Bowl XLI had on the game.

William Cohen of ESPN Stats and Info looked at the 10 plays that created the biggest swings in win probability in the recent history of the Super Bowl.

Kelvin Hayden’s interception of Rex Grossman ranks ninth -- raising an already high win probability up an additional 24.7 points.

A reminder of the scenario from Cohen:
Situation: 11:59 left in 4th quarter, Bears' ball, trailing by 5, 1st-and-10 from own 38-yard line

Trailing by five early in the fourth quarter, the Bears still had about a 34 percent chance to make a comeback, but a Rex Grossman interception returned 56 yards for a touchdown by Kelvin Hayden made the score 29-17 and sealed the deal for the Colts, raising their win probability to 90.8 percent.

Win probability for a team that put together an 11-5 regular season will rise with cornerback addressed. I’d be really surprised if they are a player for Revis. But I expect they’ll spend a first- or third-round draft pick plus something later on the spot.

Dee Milliner from Alabama is likely to be gone by the time the Colts draft at 24th.

Johnathan Banks of Mississippi State could be an intriguing first-round option.

Scouts Inc. says he has good situational awareness and might be at his best in man-press coverage. The Colts didn’t get good situational awareness from Cassius Vaughn, who played the bulk of the season as a starter. And Chuck Pagano wants corners who can play tight man coverage.

Pondering Revis and the AFC South

January, 24, 2013
The image we have of Darrelle Revis and the image most GMs have of him are, I bet, divergent.

We think of one of the very best cover corners in the game. They see a guy with a rebuilt knee who’s got an uncertain future.

The Jets have floated the idea that they are open totrading Revis.

Fans of every team in need of cornerback help immediately wonder if their GM might make a deal for him.

The Texans need to play better pass defense, they’ve got three quality cornerbacks. I know the Titans were horrible defensively, but I see why they like their top three cornerbacks.

Big moves by those two teams are unlikely to address cornerback.

But the Colts desperately need to upgrade at corner, and the Jaguars are going to need help there, too.

Indianapolis already made its deal for a veteran corner, dealing its 2013 second-rounder to Miami for Vontae Davis, who was playing well after settling in and fighting through injuries.

And under new leadership, I can’t see the Jaguars giving up draft picks for a guy who would be getting old in three years, when the youth they are about to bring in would probably be ready to contend.

If the Jets want to deal Revis for Maurice Jones-Drew and a low-round pick, then sure, Jacksonville should make the move.

But an aging running back coming off a serious foot injury and surgery to repair it, with just one year left on his deal, wouldn’t provide the Jets with any sort of long-term solution at running back.

It’s always exciting to speculate about trade possibilities when we learn that a big name could be available.

Often teams overvalue draft picks when considering a move that would bring back a proven entity. Such deals don't happen enough.

If Revis was healthy, I’d have a different stance here. A new team couldn’t project how someone else’s player will come back from an injury that might render him a lesser player. It would be pretty dangerous to acquire him.
When Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis tore his knee in a Week 3 overtime win at Miami, it meant we were denied a marvelous matchup on Monday Night Football.

Hardly anyone in the NFL would try to cover Houston receiver Andre Johnson one-on-one.

Were Revis playing for the Jets at Met Life Stadium Monday, he’d be doing just that.

“Let’s face it, Andre Johnson is as good as it gets in this league as a receiver,” Jets coach Rex Ryan told Houston reporters on a conference call Wednesday. “But we would actually put Revis out there by himself and, not saying not to worry about it, but a lot of straight man-coverage against him and bet you we’re the only team in the league that would do that.”

Without Revis, Kyle Wilson steps into the lineup. He and Antonio Cromartie will be charged with slowing Johnson, but they’re sure to get help from one of three safeties -- LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell or Eric Smith.

It’s a shame we won’t see the matchup of two premiere guys. But the Texans won’t be sad to miss Revis, especially a year after they were the team missing key pieces for so many matchups.

Texans secondary has wattage, too

September, 30, 2012
JacksonTroy Taormina/US PresswireTexans defensive back Kareem Jackson returns an interception for a touchdown against the Titans.
HOUSTON -- J.J. Watt is the attention-grabber, the show-stealer. With two sacks and a fumble recovery, the defensive end continued a torrid production pace in the Texans’ 38-14 beat down of the Tennessee Titans on Sunday at Reliant Stadium.

“We joke around now on defense,” outside linebacker Connor Barwin said. “It’s a race to the ball to see if you can get there before he gets there.”

In this win, though, it wasn’t all about the front seven. The secondary jumped in at decisive moments, reminding us all that while the Texans have remarkable talent up front, the defensive backfield has serious playmaking potential as well.

“We can play back there and we knew that,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said.

Three plays helped set the tone and alter the scoreboard.

1. Safety Glover Quin jolted Jake Locker and knocked him out of the game with a left shoulder injury on a first-quarter sack off a blitz where he went untouched.

Phillips said the Titans were sliding toward inside linebacker Brian Cushing. Locker said he didn’t see Quin at all. Quin said he plays a lot of man-to-man on tight ends so it was easy to miss him and the Titans never pointed him out.

Locker will have an MRI and we’ll see what his status is. But it’s the same shoulder he separated in the opener and he was already wearing a harness. He will likely need some time to heal and be ready to land hard on it again. So it’s a play that may affect the Titans’ huddle for some time.

Matt Hasselbeck said he was somewhat tentative in some situations knowing he couldn’t get hurt as the Titans didn’t have another quarterback. (Receiver Damian Williams is the Titans' emergency option. Third quarterback Rusty Smith was not active.) How much that contributed to poor play is hard to say.

Hasselbeck was sacked three times, threw the two picks that were returned for scores and lost a fumble. All in all, an awful showing.

2. With the Texans only up 14-7 and the Titans hanging around and looking like they’d challenge, Hasselbeck threw a first-down pass for rookie tight end Taylor Thompson. Thompson reached back and got a hand on it, popping the ball in the air. Safety Danieal Manning pounced on it, then went on a nifty 55-yard cross-field sprint for a score that effectively broke the game open.

“That pick was timely,” Manning said. “It was great coverage by GQ, we had a great call. They actually ran a great route but we had great coverage and it forced the quarterback to throw the ball high. Tipped ball and I was able to make the play.”

In what hardly amounted to a vote of confidence for the rookie Thompson, Hasselbeck said he thought Jared Cook was in the game. The quarterback said he wouldn’t have made the throw had he realized who was running the route. No matter the intended receiver, it was an off-target toss that asked for trouble.

“That changed the game a ton,” Manning said. “Those guys were never able to get back in the game from that point. It changed.”

3. In the fourth quarter, cornerback Kareem Jackson jumped Williams’ route on the left side, brushing or bumping the receiver’s shoulder as he snatched Hasselbeck’s pass and took it 63 yards, high-stepping at least the last 10 on the score that made it 38-7.

Jackson is routinely seen as the weak link on the defense. He’s improved a lot and is fulltime now, not getting replaced in certain situations. And while “weak-link” may still fit, it’s increasingly because of how good everyone else is, not his deficiencies.

He understandably scoffs at that stuff.

In this instance, he said homework paid off.

“I got a pretty good read on it and it’s something I saw all week on film,” Jackson said. “I just kind of jumped in there and was able to make a play.”

So there are the three big plays.

Looking at the bigger picture ...

With Darrelle Revis out for the year for the Jets, Johnathan Joseph can stake a claim to playing as well as any cornerback in the league. Among the decisions made while putting the Texans together, the one where they chose to sign Joseph and Manning in 2011 rather than continuing to pursue cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was a key.

The free-agent half of the starting secondary gets better and better in Phillips’ system and shouldn’t be forgotten while we’re marveling at Watt, who Joseph has taken to calling Megawatt.

“You know we’re all brothers back there,” Joseph said. “We all like each other, love each other, care about each other, want to see each other have success. So to see those guys go out and make those plays, it’s just like I made the plays. I’m just as happy for those guys.

“It speaks volumes about this defense. Anybody can do it.”

In building a 3-0 record, the Texans had three picks -- one each for starting corners Joseph and Jackson and one for Cushing.

But the group wasn’t happy with the total and felt it botched a couple chances last week in Denver.

A fine system is in place, Joseph said. Drop a pick in practice and you pay $20. Boot one in a game and it’s $100.

“It can get pretty pricey if you happen to get your hands on a couple and don’t make the play,” Joseph said. “We’re on each other hard. It’s about turnovers in this league and making a play when the opportunity comes. Today was a prime example. Those two guys capitalized.”

Search for a soft spot in the Texans’ defense at your own peril. It will take a good while to find even something small, and the odds you can attack it effectively while holding up defensively aren’t great.

Of course bigger challenges named the Packers, the Ravens and the Patriots await.

In the meantime, Phillips will have to do what he can to find stuff to harp on in meetings.

“Our second team didn’t do very well (at the end),” he said. “I’m a little disappointed there.”

INDIANAPOLIS -- Morris Claiborne is largely regarded as the top cornerback available in the draft.

The Jaguars may be drafting a bit too late at No. 7 to get him, but he’d sure be a great fit. Jacksonville has a quality young corner in Derek Cox. But veteran Rashean Mathis is about to be an unrestricted free agent and is coming off a torn ACL. Even if he’s re-signed and recovered for opening day, the Jaguars need their next starting corner on the roster.

Not long ago, Claiborne wasn’t even a cornerback. He said he was recruited to LSU as an “athlete” and teammate Patrick Peterson, drafted fifth overall by Arizona last year, convinced him to try corner.

He was quickly hooked.

Regarding the combine, Peterson told Claiborne to “go up and take over.”

Claiborne is an admirer of Darrelle Revis and rates himself a technician who funnels receivers rather than being especially physical with them.

He’d be a great piece for the Jaguars. But it may be difficult for him to get beyond Tampa Bay at No. 5.
If I’m Darrelle Revis, I’ve got bulletin board material.

Because to hear Jason Hill -- a receiver who’s done very little to prove himself in the NFL -- tell it, Revis and the Jets are no different than anyone else in the league. They just have the biggest hype machine.

Newsflash: If Hill thinks Revis is a media creation, he’s really in for a surprise when he’s covered like a blanket Sunday at MetLife Stadium if Revis draws him.

Here’s what he said to Tania Ganguli:
"This is a league full of great players. I think sometimes they get overhyped. I talked to Drew [Coleman], Drew played there. He says it's just the aura of New York. They got a big media. That's not the Jacksonville paper, that's the big New York Times paper so they get more pub. That's what it is.

"It's a game that we all play. He been playing the game, Revis, just as long as I've been playing. This is a game full of good players making plays. He just made a lot more plays on TV than we've made being here in Jacksonville. He's a good player. We respect him. Hopefully he respects us because we're going to bring it just like they're going to bring it…"

"I think the whole New York is overhyped. Him personally, he's a good player, Pro Bowl player, I'm trying to make it to the Pro Bowl, too. This'll be a good game to put some notches on our belts too. It's the New York Times vs. the Jacksonville paper. New York Times they got a lot more viewers than you got.”

I guess it’s an admirable attitude in some respects. The Jaguars aren’t kowtowing to the Jets. But it’s also dismissive. Revis being a Pro Bowler and Hill wanting to be a Pro Bowler are far from the same thing, just like the newspapers he compared.

Hill probably could have, and should have, negotiated his theme a little more smoothly.

Revis and Antonio Cromartie would probably love a chance to cover Hill. Unfortunately for them, he's got a hip injury, hasn't even practiced this week and may not play.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Wearing a Cincinnati Reds hat and the sort of grin that comes after a huge payday, Chris Johnson met with the Tennessee media Friday evening.

Points of note out of that chat...
  • He said he agreed with Mike Reinfeldt when the GM suggested the prolonged holdout amounted to a “family argument situation.”
  • On getting up to football speed: “I’ve been working out every single day just staying in shape. Once I get out there on the field, that something for me and the coaches to get worked out, just to see how my body reacts off the things that they give me. In my mindset and the player that I am, of course I feel I am ready to take the whole load and be out there on Sunday. But you never know your body until you go through the situation.”
  • He didn’t watch much of the Titans in their four preseason games because he found it difficult to watch his teammates without him.
  • On avoiding the sort of injury that sidelines a lot of holdouts after they return: “I’m sure other guys that went through my situation and went out there and something happened to them, I am pretty sure they tried all the remedies and stretching and doing different things. But I think it’s just a situation where you have to pray about it and ask God to keep you safe out there and hopefully you don’t pull anything.”
  • The goals are a playoff appearance and a Super Bowl. Only after he mentioned them did he say he’ll always want to rush for 2,000 yards.
  • On staying motivated: “I feel like if I’m not the best player at my position or the best player out there on the field I don’t feel like I am doing my job. Just because I got this deal I don’t think that I won’t play as hard as I’ve been playing.”
  • He’s not going to willingly hand carries over to Javon Ringer and/or Jamie Harper early in the season while getting up to speed. “I’d like to get all the reps, that’s just the type of player I am,” he said to laughter. “At the end of the day it’s about more than the big contract and all the money, that’s the business side… When I’m here I want to be the best. When it’s time to win, I want the team to count on me. I want to put the team on my shoulders and steer us to victory.”
  • Johnson contacted St. Louis running back Steven Jackson and New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis before his holdout to talk to them about their experiences. They told him to be prepared for it to be difficult and to be lonely. Throughout the dispute he said they called on him to check on how he was doing. “That helped a lot,” Johnson said.
NFL Power Rankings: Cornerbacks IllustrationDarrelle Revis won a tight race over Nnamdi Asomugha as the NFL's top cornerback.’s NFL writers rank the top 10 cornerbacks in the league today. Next week: Top 10 quarterbacks.

Positional Power Rankings have produced some wild variations in voting. But none has had so many players mentioned as cornerbacks.

Previously, multiple votes had yielded 17 names. Our polling for the top 10 cornerbacks in the NFL touched on 23, a record that might be hard to break.

In another close finish, the Jets' Darrelle Revis edged the Raiders' Nnamdi Asomugha. The two collected all the first- and second-place votes, but Revis outscored Asomugha 77-75 thanks to five first-place votes.

Overall, veterans ruled the day, with the top five outpointing the rest of the field by a good deal. Revis and Asomugha were followed by three players with a collective 33 seasons of NFL cornerbacking experience: Green Bay’s Charles Woodson, Philadelphia’s Asante Samuel and Denver’s Champ Bailey.

Woodson finished with 58 points, Samuel with 54 and Bailey with 53.

Of the votes for that trio, only two fell outside of the top five. NFC North maestro Kevin Seifert had Woodson sixth, just behind his teammate Tramon Williams. And AFC East maven Tim Graham placed Bailey seventh, with New England’s Devin McCourty (fifth) and Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield above him.

I had presumed Bailey started to slip in his 12th season in 2010. Then he shut down a red-hot Dwayne Bowe and got my attention in a way I remembered when I put him third on my ballot.

Graham’s thinking was quite different.

“We're in the offseason, so I've taken into account not only last season's performances, but also how the player projects into 2011 when compiling my positional Power Rankings ballots,” he said. “Bailey is going to be 33 years old before the start of next season and is on the downside. He's still great, but for how long?

“Power Rankings shouldn't be career-achievement awards. Devin McCourty was second-team Associated Press All-Pro, a first-team Sporting News All-Pro, voted a Pro Bowl starter by the fans, coaches and players and tied for second in interceptions. He deserved to be ranked ahead of Bailey, who wasn't mentioned for All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement.”

Though Graham had him fifth, McCourty got bottom-of-the-list votes from most of us, who seemed to respect his inaugural campaign but did not want to overscore a player who has been through the league only once. NFC South cruise director Pat Yasinskas left McCourty off his ballot entirely.

“One great season does not make a great career,” Yasinskas said. “Let's see him do it again. I'm not saying he's got to do it for 10 or 15 years. I've got a guy in my own back yard, Ronde Barber, and a lot of people say he's already put up Hall of Fame numbers. I didn't even put him on the list because I think he's not much more than a very nice player in the system. But you have to be consistently at the top for at least a few years before you get on a top 10 list.”

Winfield finished sixth (29 points), Williams seventh (18), McCourty eighth (17), Washington’s DeAngelo Hall ninth (10) and Tennessee’s Cortland Finnegan 10th (eight).

Williams was the lone player to make the top 10 while not being looked at as his team’s No. 1 guy. As much as I liked him, that prevented him from getting one of my votes. Same for Oakland’s Stanford Routt.

Although Williams and Routt played very well in 2010, their jobs can be made a lot easier by playing with Woodson and Asomugha rather than being asked to be their team’s version of those players. The toughest receiver on the opposition isn’t usually a factor for Williams or Routt.

John Clayton had Routt sixth and NFC West chart-master Mike Sando had him 10th, which left Routt in 11th place. Clayton set me straight on why Routt was, in fact, deserving.

“Nnamdi has years of not being thrown on,” Clayton said. “He’s had years in which only 14 or 15 passes were caught against him in a season.

“Routt had a phenomenal year in 2010, which led to his big contract,” Clayton said. “The percentage of passes against him that were completed was among the lowest in the league. His job is tougher because he has more passes thrown on him because of Nnamdi.”

Indianapolis receiver Reggie Wayne was fuming after the Colts' playoff loss to the Jets on Saturday night. One of the league’s most prolific receivers matched up with Darrelle Revis and caught one, 1-yard pass. That was the lone time Peyton Manning targeted Wayne.

"It's bull. It's bull, man," said Wayne, per Mike Chappell. "I give everything I've got no matter what. Every day, I give it everything. And . . . one ball, that's all..."

"I shouldn't have even suited up. I should have watched the game like everybody else. I was irrelevant."

You’d want to be upset over his role and the result. You’d like for Manning to have looked to him more. You’d like for offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen to have designed more things to get him looks. And, of course, Wayne is free to do better work against Revis, which prompts Manning to throw to him.

Said Colts coach Jim Caldwell on Sunday: “Reggie was expressing some disappointment obviously in not getting it more. But just in terms of how we do what we normally do, week-in and week-out, plays are called that we think are going to give us an opportunity to convert and gain yardage, and all our quarterback does is read through his progressions and does his normal thing. It’s just one of those games.”

Last year we went into the Colts' offseason wondering about Wayne’s role in Tracy Porter’s crucial pick-6 that sealed the Saints’ Super Bowl win. Manning shouldn’t have made that throw, but Wayne didn’t seem to run a crisp route or put up much resistance as Porter jumped it.

This year we go into the Colts’ offseason wondering if Wayne, who made a play for a contract extension last season but is signed through 2012, will carry a bad feeling about the end of the season, and if it will play a role in another contract protest.
As always, ESPN Stats & Info has provided us with special insight into a big game.

Here are some nuggets from the Jets win over the Colts.

The Jets held back: The Jets are a blitzing team, but Rex Ryan sensibly steered away from a philosophy that rarely works against Peyton Manning Saturday night.

In last season’s AFC Championship Game, the Jets sent five or more defenders at Manning 63.4 percent of the time and he completed 16 of 24 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns against it. This time around the Jets used five or more rushers only 14.8 percent of the time.

When the Colts needed 10 yards: Manning boasted a league-high 66.3 completion percentage and 139 passing first downs when the offense needed less than 10 yards to move the chains this season. The Jets buckled down in those situations Saturday night, highlighted by allowing Manning to convert 1-of-4 third-and-6 or shorter attempts through the air.

Manning had a passer rating of 143.9 on 13 throws in which the Colts needed 10 yards or more, and a rating of 70.1 on 13 throws where they needed between 1 and 9 yards.

Manning steered inside: Manning did not target Reggie Wayne outside the numbers. In the regular season, Wayne was the fifth-most targeted receiver outside the numbers. Overall, he finished with one catch for 1 yard matched up against Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Manning’s numbers outside the numbers were down 12.4 in completion percentage (he was 4-for-9, all on the right sideline), three yards per attempt and 32.9 points in passer rating from the numbers he posted in the regular season.

Sanchez struggled with long throws: The Colts’ pass defense had allowed completions on half of opponents’ throws of 10 or more yards this season -- 68-for-136, 26th in NFL. But Indianapolis was a difficult matchup for Mark Sanchez in such circumstances. He completed only 22.2 percent of such passes for 4.7 yards an attempt, had one interception and no touchdowns and posted a passer rating of 6.9.

Frankly, Sanchez was high and wild in the first half. That accounted for these numbers as much as what the Colts were doing.

Final Word: Jets-Colts

January, 7, 2011
Wild-card Final Word: NY Jets-Indy | Baltimore-K.C. | N.O.-Seattle | G.B.-Philadelphia

Three nuggets of knowledge about Saturday's Jets-Colts wild-card game:

[+] EnlargeIndianapolis Colts wide receiver Pierre Garcon
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellColts wide receiver Pierre Garcon caught 11 passes for 151 yards in last season's AFC Championship Game against the Jets.
Will the Colts target Drew Coleman? Peyton Manning’s going wherever he finds an open receiver. But the Jets emphasized adding cornerbacks after Pierre Garcon had a huge game against them in the AFC Championship Game. ESPN Stats & Info says that Manning really took off in that game when he started attacking the middle of the field. Surely Reggie Wayne and Garcon will run routes that take them there. But if Darrelle Revis and Cromartie do well on Wayne and Garcon, respectively, we’re going to see how the linebackers can handle Jacob Tamme and how the nickel, Coleman, can handle Blair White. I suspect there will be at least a couple of moments when Colts’ fans grimace and wonder how much of a difference Austin Collie would have made. But Indianapolis has enough to still be effective.

Can the coverage contain Brad Smith? The Colts can’t let a big special teams play be a factor, and Smith can be exceptionally dangerous as a kick returner. Indianapolis should take a touchback every chance it gets. Seriously. There are two significant categories where the Colts and Jets are night and day. This is one of them. The Jets' average drive starts at the 31.5-yard line, the best spot in the league. The Colts start at the 22.7, the worst. It’s fair to cringe every time Indianapolis fields a kick, and that’s not a knock on Dominic Rhodes, who’s been handling the job. There is just nowhere for him to go.

What happens inside the 20? The other night and day contrast between these teams is in red zone production. The Colts don’t have to call on Adam Vinatieri a lot because they are busy scoring touchdowns. When they get close, they get touchdowns 67.9 percent of the time, the best percentage in the league by a good margin. New York doesn’t play great red zone defense. The Jets allow TDs 60.5 percent of the time with Indy’s defense faring better (52.1). On offense, the Jets punch it in only 40 percent of the time. That’s a lot of numbers to get to my point: A lot of Nick Folk on the field isn’t going to win this game, I don’t expect.

Double Coverage: Jets at Colts II

January, 6, 2011
Double IllustrationWho has the advantage in the wild-card game between the Colts and the Jets this Saturday? Our bloggers debate.
In last season's AFC Championship Game, the upstart New York Jets were on their way to scoring their third straight road upset in the playoffs. They'd already knocked off a pair of division champions and led the Indianapolis Colts in the third quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium.

But the Colts outclassed the Jets in the second half and won easily to advance to the Super Bowl. The Jets had to regroup, knowing that to attain their Super Bowl dreams, they had to figure out a way to get past the Colts.

They won't need to look for them in the playoffs this year. The Jets and Colts will meet in the first round Saturday night, again in Indianapolis. AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky and AFC East blogger Tim Graham break down the rematch.

Tim Graham: The first thought I have about the Colts is that Peyton Manning isn't going to win this game with his aura. Aside from past experience, the Jets don't have much reason to quake in their cleats Saturday night. They can beat this guy. Manning has proven to be a mortal without tight end Dallas Clark and receivers Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez to target. Seventeen interceptions? Almost knocked out of the playoffs by the Jacksonville Jaguars? These Colts are a shadow of what we've come to know.

Paul Kuharsky: How about with his chakra, then? You've been spending too much time with Ricky Williams, dude. Has Manning been perfect? Hardly. But as Colts blogger Nate Dunlevy points out, and our ESPN Stats & Information confirms, Manning threw for 4,700 yards, tossed for more than 30 touchdowns, connected on 66 percent of his throws, had an interception rate of 2.5 percent and won 10 games. If that's a shadow of what you've known, you must really know Tom Brady’s 2007 season then. Because that was the only other time it has happened.

[+] EnlargeNew York Jets' Mark Sanchez
AP Photo/Kathy WillensJets quarterback Mark Sanchez reached 10 wins two games faster than former league MVP Peyton Manning.
TG: Yeah, Manning won 10 games. So did Eli Manning and Josh Freeman. They didn't make the playoffs. The Colts' shadow doesn't have much to do with Peyton Manning slinging the ball all over the yard and racking up yardage. He's still great, but he's not a one-man show. If I were a Colts fan, my concern would be how they needed to close with four straight wins to avoid the embarrassment of being edged out of the playoffs by the Jaguars. The Jets, on the other hand, have shown to be a more complete team. That's how an erratic quarterback like Mark Sanchez can win one more game than Manning did and clinch a playoff berth weeks in advance.

PK: Well, Manning's always been crushed for being great in the regular season and not good enough in the playoffs. Congrats on being the first to hammer him for winning "only" 10 games and the division while throwing to Jacob Tamme and Blair White.

TG: That's what I mean. The Jets can contain those guys much easier than Clark and Collie. Plus, the Jets have been preparing for this matchup since last season's AFC Championship Game. They helplessly watched Manning carve the center of the field against them and realized immediately -- even though they had Darrelle Revis -- they needed more cornerbacks. Specifically with Manning in mind, the Jets traded for Antonio Cromartie and drafted Kyle Wilson in the first round. Previous starting cornerbacks Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman gave them depth in nickel and dime packages. The Jets' biggest issue is at safety, where injuries have made them vulnerable.

PK: Manning has a bit of experience against teams with poor safety situations. His numbers against Houston and Jacksonville? Just nine touchdowns, one pick and a 101.5 passer rating. On the other side is the unspectacular Sanchez. I doubt Sanchez will be able to attack Aaron Francisco, the Colts' fourth-string strong safety, in a similar fashion, but we'll see. The Sanchize was near perfect in the first half of last season's AFC Championship Game. But the Jets asked him to throw only seven passes. After intermission, Indy greatly reduced his potency. The Colts didn't sack him and were credited with only four hits that day. The Colts' big-play potential from their Pro Bowl defensive ends was neutralized, and they still rolled to a 30-17 win. Of course, it might have had something to do with Manning throwing two-second half touchdowns to Sanchez's zero (and one interception). What happens this time if Dwight Freeney and/or Robert Mathis are able to introduce themselves to him a few times?

TG: Sanchez absolutely is the pivotal figure for the Jets on Saturday night. But, much like the personnel adjustments head coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum made on the defensive side to thwart Manning, they made changes on offense with the playoffs in mind. Sanchez might not have progressed much in his second season, but he didn't have a sophomore slump either. He has gained another 11 months and 16 games of NFL experience since the last time he faced the Colts. Plus, the Jets' offense has the ability to come from behind, something it couldn't do before. Last season's Jets were all ground-and-pound, and if an opponent took a two-score lead, the Jets' chances to win were slim. Sanchez showed several times this year he can strike in crunch time. Santonio Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson out of the backfield give him much better weapons to go along with Braylon Edwards and tight end Dustin Keller.

PK: The most dramatic on-the-field difference in the Colts this year as compared to last is how they finished up running the ball and defending the run. Indianapolis enters the playoffs coming off four games in which they ran for 4.5 yards a carry and held opponents to 3.5 yards. Last year in their final four meaningful regular-season games, they were getting 3.5 yards and allowing 4.1 yards.

TG: Maybe the Colts will morph into the 1972 Miami Dolphins before our eyes.

[+] Enlarge Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezColts running back Joseph Addai is averaging 4.3 yards per carry in an injury-plagued season.
PK: A month ago the Colts defense recommitted to playing fast and having fun. It's funny how a team can get away from such simple themes, especially when a return to them produces such fine results. Gary Brackett's been great. Fellow linebackers Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner have been quite good, even as rookies. Veteran Clint Session could return to take time from Conner. Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen's willing to send in whichever back is best suited for a situation or a matchup, so we could see any sort of mix of running backs Joe Addai, Dominic Rhodes and Donald Brown on Saturday night. They are running more than well enough to give the Colts a balance that makes Manning's play-action super effective.

TG: Momentum on the ground has been a concern for the Jets since their bye in Week 7. Tomlinson went from MVP candidate to looking like the worn out player the San Diego Chargers thought they were bidding farewell. But Shonn Greene and Tomlinson found some traction in the closing weeks. Let's not even factor in what the Jets did against the Buffalo Bills in the regular-season finale, even though their backups trampled the Bills' first-stringers for 276 yards.

PK: I’m always willing to toss out Buffalo. I don’t even really like wings.

TG: Yeah, but I know you still have a cache of Rick James 8-tracks. Anyway, the Jets ran the ball well against three of the NFL's best run defenses late in the year. They surpassed the Pittsburgh Steelers' league-leading average by 43 yards and the Chicago Bears' second-rated run defense by 34 yards. As for stopping the run, the Jets pride themselves on it and improved statistically this year. They ranked third this year at 90.9 yards a game and 3.6 yards a carry. But -- and this is a big one -- they allowed more than 100 yards in each of their games before the finale. The Steelers averaged 5.8 yards a carry. The Bears averaged 4.4 yards. That said, I would be willing to bet if the Colts wanted to try to run the Jets to death and not have Manning throw so much, then the Jets would be thrilled.

PK: Give me a little impersonation of Rex Ryan thrilled after winning this game.

TG: It probably would go a little something like this ... "Well, shoot, doesn't feel much better than that, to be honest with ya. We played like Jets today. It was a dogfight out there; I'll tell ya that much. Those Colts are sunthin' else. One thing I'll say about them: I saw Joseph Addai running like Lydell Mitchell out there and was, like, 'Whoa! Wait a second! We could be in for a long day here.' But our defense was flying around and eventually found a way to wrestle him down out there. I said earlier in the week this was personal with Peyton Manning, and they do a great job. He's great, and it's hard to get to him, but I just feel like we knew what to expect and were able to find a way to bear down and put all our chips in the center of the table and beat him. That guy's had my number and it feels good to know I can beat the guy when it counts. But I gotta give a ton of credit to our offense out there, too. Mark Sanchez played great and showed why we traded up to draft him. That right there's what we saw when we scouted him and just knew this guy was going to be a special player. Their crowd was tough with the way they were roaring at the opening kickoff I was, like, 'Whooo! Here we go!' It was full speed ahead. But one thing I should point out is that I broke out my lucky sweatshirt with the pizza stain this week." ... How would Jim Caldwell react to a Colts win Saturday night?

PK: I can hear him, his voice just the same as if they'd have lost: "We're pleased to have beaten a good football team, a quality football team. It's gratifying that our work this week paid off. I shared with you some of the examples of the studiousness I encountered during the preparation week. You saw the rewards of that. We'll enjoy it, we should enjoy it, it was hard-fought and we’re fortunate. We will have to do those same things to prepare for Pittsburgh. It’s a tough place to play, an excellent football team. It's a new challenge. It will be fun to see them get out there and see what they can do."

TG: In that case, I'm glad I'll be covering the Jets' locker room, win or lose. It'll be more interesting. I think the Jets have a better chance to win the game than a lot of prognosticators are giving them credit for. But even if they can't pull off the upset, they'll face a lot of questions as an organization. With all of the negative attention they've generated this season, a loss against the team they spent a year preparing for should lead to considerable introspection in Florham Park. Should we make picks?

PK: Sure. I pick St. Elmo. Make a reservation.

RTC: Johnson vs. Revis a prime matchup

November, 19, 2010
Reading the coverage …

The top guys around the league who could be heading for free agency, from Jason Cole.

Houston Texans

Andre Johnson against Darrelle Revis is best against best, says Sam Khan.

Jason Allen should see time against the Jets, says Dale Robertson.

A dose of reality helped the cornerbacks, says Jerome Solomon.

Matt Schaub expects to be ready, says Dale Robertson.

Indianapolis Colts

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will be tough to replace, says Phil Richards.

Why the Colts and Patriots hate each other, from Bob Kravitz.

The Patriots are well aware of the threat of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

Austin Collie practiced but still needs to be cleared, says Mike Chappell.

Phil Richards breaks down the matchup.

Phil Simms respects the genius of Manning, says Richards.

Colts-Patriots never gets old because of the quarterbacks, says Albert Breer.

Jeff Linkenbach brought more power to the run game at right guard, but his pass blocking was suspect, says Scott Bolander.

A look at chip shot field goals and red zone production, from Joe Baker.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Adam Podlesh has quietly recovered from a cancer diagnosis, says Tania Ganguli.

Ganguli and Vito Stellino talk about Browns-Jaguars. (Video.)

Examining the good David Garrard and the bad Garrard, with Luis DeLoureiro.

What if they played on a field of pudding, wonders Vic Ketchman.

A look at some of the Browns’ tendencies, from Adam Stites.

Tennessee Titans

A look at the potential for Randy Moss’ role to grow, says John Glennon.

It looks like Jared Cook is in line for playing time with Craig Stevens hurt, say Glennon and Jim Wyatt.

A game breakdown from David Boclair.