AFC Championship: New York Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts Preview and Pick – Point Spread

New York Jets (11-7 SU, 11-7 ATS) vs. Indianapolis Colts (15-2 SU,
11-5-1 ATS), 3:00 p.m. EST, Sunday, January 24, 2010, Lucas Oil
Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind., TV: CBS

by Badger of

Point Spread: Jets +7.5/Colts -7.5
Over/Under: 39.5

Isnt it funny how fate has a great sense for the dramatic?

Everything will come full circle on Sunday in the AFC Championship
game when the Indianapolis Colts host the New York Jets at Lucas Oil Stadium.

For those hard of memory, it was just a few scant weeks ago when the
Jets made this same trek to Indianapolis in week 15 with their
playoff hopes teetering on the bubble and the Colts on the verge of a
perfect season.

Colts head coach Jim Caldwell called off the dogs in the third
quarter ahead 15-10, the Jets came back to win 29-15 and have now
become the team nobody wants to play in the AFC. Now well finally
get to see the Colts go against the Jets defense the whole game, and
find out if Caldwells decision for a healthy, rested team will be
enough to knock the Cinderella Jets from their postseason run.

Once again the Jets will likely be more than a touchdown underdog in
the game, as oddsmakers opened the game with Indy as 7-point
favorites and the early action has moved the number up to 7.5 at most
offshore sportsbooks. There are even a few Colts minus -8 (BoDog) and even one -9 (5Dimes) on the board, so all of the early
money appears to be riding on the Colts and Peyton Manning to break
the Jets glass slipper.

The over/under total opened at 41 and dropped hard and fast to correct itself quickly at 39 at a majority of the sportsbooks on the
Web. There are a still 39.5s listed here and there offshore, and you
can still get 40 at a few books in Las Vegas (Hard Rock, Planet
Hollywood) so you should be able to find the hook or even a full-
point if you want it.

Offensively these two teams are on the opposite extremes of the NFL as far as schemes are concerned.

The Colts ride Manning and his 21-player awareness on nearly every down, passing with pinpoint accuracy where the weakness is detected. To the Colts the running game is but one of the options for Peyton Manning at the line at the line of scrimmage.

Whereas the Jets like to grind it out with Thomas Jones and emerging rookie Shonn Greene, move Mark Sanchez out of the pocket every now and then and use short routes over the middle to convert enough third
downs to make it one game away from the Super Bowl. Dont turn the
ball over, then sit back and watch the defense under Rex Ryan take over.

The big question is whether or not the Jets defense and Ryan can get
a few of their blitzes past the pre-snap detecting eye of Manning.
Safeties Kerry Rhodes and Jim Leonhard will be counted on to pick up
Dallas Clark on many of those hot-reads at the line, a matchup that
could be deadly for the Jets. End Shaun Ellis broke his hand and will
be playing in a cast, so when the Colts do choose to run they might
run at him since hes one-handed.

The Colts defense continues to play solid and continues to do it despite a lack of attention about it all. Their run defense held firm
against the Ravens attack last week (87 yards on 18 carries), and the
once paper-thin secondary is back to full strength (although Antoine
Bethea is questionable) and is suddenly a deep and talented unit (2
INT vs. Flacco last week).

In games between the Colts and Jets the homefield has meant little, as the road team has broke serve twice in a row and four out of the
last six overall straight up. But that doesnt count the Colts
retreat in week 15, or the fact that its the playoffs now, so its
actually the home team that is 7-3-2 ATS in the last 12 meetings

If youre a betting trend man (or woman, sorry), what this game comes
down to is whether or not the underdog Jets (4-1 ATS in last 5
playoff games as underdog; 7-2 ATS in last 9 games as road dog) can
continue their magical late-season run against the Colts and their
impressive stats (5-2 ATS in last 7 home playoff games; 4-0 ATS in
last 4 playoff games as 3-to-10 point favorite).

For the record, the over is 5-1-1 in the last seven games in the
series, which is something to think about especially if the total
continues to drop below 39. Throw the week 15 game closing total of
40.5 out because of questions about the Colts intentions, and the
lowest total this series has seen is a 43.5.

Badgers Pick: Can the Jets continue the run? Im going with my gut
and the law of averages here, as in the rookie Sanchez is bound to
play like a rookie soon. Its gotta happen. It wont be pretty, but
Manning will lead a late touchdown drive to seal the victory and also
notch a backdoor cover. Take the Colts minus the 7.5-points.