NFL Conference Championship Weekend: Are The Jets For Real?

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jetsdThe NFL playoffs have been, for the most part, boring.  Not that the games haven’t been exciting, it’s just that when you look at the final four teams in the playoffs, everyone in that list was expected to make it to where they are…except for one team: The New York Jets.  I’ll be honest, I’m a Jets fan, and even I am surprised at this major turnaround.  While everyone expected Peyton Manning and the Colts, Drew Brees and the Saints, and Bret Favre and the Vikings to go deep into the playoffs, who’d of ever thought that the fourth team in that equation would be the Jets.  What makes it even more crazy is that the team has been led by a pair of rookies: QB Mark Sanchez and playoff breakout star Shonn Green.

However, while those guys may be the face of the big plays, the true face of the Jets this playoff season and the reason why they’ve had road wins at both Cinci and San Diego (and the reason they have any sort of fighting chance against the Colts this weekend) is their amazing defense.  While the Jets D, ranked first in the league in defense with by far the best pass coverage in the NFL, has only one star in third year Pro Bowl CB Darelle Revis, this group of home grown talent and guys like Bart Scott-who’ve always taken the secondary role to bigger star players-have taken the league by storm with their confusing coverage and blitz packages.  The Jets defense was built for grinding, difficult playoff football, as we saw last week with their confident dismantling of the league’s best offense in San Diego.  Coupled with the league’s top running game (Thomas Jones and Green led the league in combined yards per game during the season, Green leads the playoffs in total yards and yards per game), the Jets have what LaDanian Thomlinson called “the magic formula” for intense playoff matchups.

This is not to discount the Indianapolis Colts, who are the most dominant team of the past decade and have arguably the best QB in the history of the game.  While Peyton has not had the best record in the playoffs during his career (8-8), most of those losses are from years ago, and most of those wins from the past 4 years.  In those 4 years, Peyton has won multiple MVP trophies, a Super Bowl, and a Super Bowl MVP.  He’s probably tied with Bret Favre as the most unpredictably amazing player left in the playoffs, one of only two players who could pull a rabbit out of his hat to make his team win.  That being said, I think the Colts will lose this weekend.  I just can’t see the Colts offense putting up big points against the Jets lock-down D, so I’m predicting that the Jets win 20-14.

Prediction for NFC Championship game: Vikings @ Saints: Vikings win 35-28.  Favre will be a beast again, even with Drew Brees gunning for him in the Superdome.  The difference will be Adrian Peterson.  These two teams match up well on paper, except for two things: The Saints have no run defense, and the Vikings have the best young back in the game on their team (he may be the best running back in general).

Enjoy football this weekend, next week I’ll post my season wrap up.