If anybody should be able to appreciate the Jets magical run to the AFC Championship Game it should be the Colts, as this run is mirrors their run in 1995 when they lost the AFC Title game to the Steelers after nearly completing a miracle hail marry as time expired. The Colts and Jets each won their Divisional Round games in similar ways as a kicker choked like a dog.
The Jets are returning to Indianapolis where their run began with a Week 16 win over the previously unbeaten Colts. Of course the Jets were trailing until Coach Jim Caldwell decided to fold the tent for the Colts and rest up for the playoffs; pulling the starters including Peyton Manning. Jets Coach Rex Ryan got his Christmas wish than he won’t be seeing Curtis Painter this week, and the Jets won’t be going any further. There is no doubt the Jets have a bright future, but it is the future. A few pieces here and there and the Jets can go from a Cinderella story to a Super Bowl favorite. The Colts on the other hand the time is now. The window of opportunity is going to close soon, and this could be their last best chance to win another Super Bowl.
The Jets defense is without a doubt a strong unit, but it is not a perfect unit and with Shaun Ellis hobbled with a broken wrist it could lose some of its strength. The Colts defense is underrated, but they are good at stopping the run as they shutdown Ravens star Ray Rice last week. The best defensive player on the field is Jets shutdown corner Darrelle Revis, who will likely be able to shutdown Colts leading Receiver Reggie Wayne. However, with the Sheriff Peyton Manning in town, can he also take out Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, and Pierre Garcon? No. The Colts have the anger factor as well as the Jets have been very talkative about their win over the Colts backups and they are they will have a desire to send a message, and that message is going to be a dominating effort that will put the game out of reach fast, as they return earn their second Super Bowl trip in four years.
The Saints are the spirit of New Orleans, as the city lay in ruins four years ago, the Saints playing on the road struggled with a 3-13 record. Losing records are nothing new for the Saints, as the franchise for most of its 43 year history as been referred to as “The Aints” by their fans that came to games, with a paper bag of their head. In fact in their first 20 seasons the Saints never had a winning season. As the Crescent City emerged from the flood the Saints singled a return to normal as they had an emotional return and put together their finest season advancing to the NFC Championship Game in 2006. They would come up short that year, but the Saints would become the indivisible symbol for the city.
The reason for the quick turnaround was the signing of Quarterback Drew Brees, who as a Free Agent partiaally chose to sign with the Saints with hopes of helping the City of New Orleans in their recovery. While the Saints failed to make the playoffs in the two following seasons, he became one of the premiere Quarterbacks in the NFL as the Saints. This season the Saints with an improved defense again rose and started 13-0 earning home field for the first time in franchise history, and that is a significant advantage as Saints fans have been just as loud and supportive as they were when they made their dramatic return after Katrina.
It is that home field advantage that will be the difference as these two teams are very much evenly matched, with Brett Favre at the age of 40 leading a powerful offense with the Vikings. The Vikings defense may be a bit better on a neutral field, but the Saints defense that ended the season in a mini-slump appeared to be back to the form that helped the Saints start 13-0, as they beat up the Cardinals. Which means the difference will be who commits fewer turnovers, and that will the Saints, as the intense crowd will be hard on Favre who has a history of committing the costly turnover in high pressure situations, and with the game on the line it will be Darren Sharper who picks off Favre to seal the win for the Saints.