In a rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game, the New York Jets head to Indianapolis to face the Colts in Saturday's late game. The New York Jets feel they are better prepared to handle a playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts this year. They won't have to wait long to take their shot at the defending AFC champs.
In a rematch of last year's conference championship game, the sixth-seeded Jets visit a Colts club that overcame numerous injuries to reach the playoffs for a ninth straight season this Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
With a 9-7 record a year ago, the Jets went into the 2009 postseason as the AFC's fifth seed and knocked off both Cincinnati and San Diego on the road before taking on the hosting Colts for the right to go to the Super Bowl.
Led by then-rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez and outstanding corner Darrelle Revis, the Jets took a 17-6 advantage late in the second quarter versus the Colts, but failed to find the scoreboard again as Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning threw three touchdown passes -- two in the second half -- to rally his team to a 30-17 victory.
The Colts then went on to lose in the Super Bowl to New Orleans.
Sanchez said his team is excited to get another chance at Indianapolis.
"It's a great matchup for us, it really is," he said. "We beat them once [in the regular season] last year, they beat us when it really counted and that's hard. That's a tough feeling, going home after a playoff game, all the way to the AFC Championship Game, having the lead at halftime and then coming up short. This is a different team, very similar on their defense."
Behind a solid season from Sanchez, an excellent two-headed rush attack and stingy defensive play, New York went 11-5 overall and 6-2 on the road this year. It's the club's best finish since a 12-4 campaign in 1998 lifted the Jets to a second straight postseason appearance for just the fifth time in franchise history.
New York did lose three of its final five regular-season games, but capped the schedule with a 38-7 home victory over Buffalo. Sanchez played just one series in that game without throwing a pass as the Jets opted for him to rest a sore right shoulder, while running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene as well as corners Revis and Antonio Cromartie did not play.
Indianapolis had a little more to play for in Week 17, needing a victory or a Jacksonville loss to claim its seventh division title in eight seasons. Even though the Jaguars fell to Houston, the 10-6 Colts still did their part with a 23-20 triumph over Tennessee, in which Adam Vinatieri's 43-yard-field goal as time expired allowed Indy to carry a four-game winning streak into the postseason.
Not bad for a club that was once 6-6 while also finishing the season with 17 players on injured reserve.
"Hopefully, we can build off some of the momentum we established," said Manning. We feel fortunate to be playing this week. We don't take it for granted to be in the playoffs."
Indianapolis' nine straight playoff appearances ties a record set by the Dallas Cowboys from 1975-83, and the Colts are averaging just over 30 points per game over their last five tests. Jets head coach Rex Ryan, though, feels his club is up to the task.
"One hundred percent. We are ready," Ryan said. "It's going to be a physical match, so let's see who can win the physical battle. We are ready to go. I think we're confident in what we are doing schematically.
"Does that mean [Manning] isn't going to have success? No. We know that you're not going to stop Peyton Manning, but we're going to make enough plays to win this game."
Injuries might help New York. In last year's game, Manning threw touchdown passes to Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Dallas Clark. However, both Collie and Clark are on injured reserve and Manning will miss the duo.
"We were watching our film from last year's game against the Jets and some of the games we've played against the Ravens in years past, and Dallas played critical roles in all of those games," said Manning. "It'll be the first time playing against this style of defense without Dallas, so there is a change. It's more of a challenge. Collie was awesome last year."