Jets--Colts scouting report

By Jim McBride
Globe Staff / January 7, 2011

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Jets on offense: New York will look to pound the rock for two reasons: 1. It keeps the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands; and 2. It keeps the ball out of Mark Sanchez’s hands. LaDainian Tomlinson (914 rushing yards) will get the start, but it would surprise no one if his understudy, Shonn Greene (766 rushing yards), gets the bulk of the carries. Tomlinson is still a solid contributor but is no longer an elite player. He has excellent instincts and vision, but that deadly first-step quickness that made him so hard to contain is gone. The breakaway speed is gone, too. Greene is a powerful runner with strong, muscular legs who will bust through arm tacklers and over smaller defenders. Sanchez has struggled as the season has worn on. He has a good arm, but decision-making is not a strength. Braylon Edwards (904 receiving yards) is gifted physically but will take many plays off. Santonio Holmes has great speed, and clutch catches are a specialty.

Colts on defense: Indianapolis struggles against the run but sure can pressure the quarterback. Ends Dwight Freeney (still an amazing first step) and Robert Mathis (a million moves) have combined for 21 sacks. Active and instinctive middle linebacker Gary Brackett has great range. The secondary has been plagued by inconsistency.

Colts on offense: He won’t be MVP, but this has been one of Peyton Manning’s most impressive seasons considering the injuries the Colts have endured. Manning is among the most well-prepared players in NFL history and is a master at deciphering defenses and exploiting mismatches. Disguising your defense is only minimally effective against Manning because he seems to know what the defense is going to do. Manning’s top target is the explosive Reggie Wayne, a route-running demon with great hands and concentration. Pierre Garcon is both speedy and strong but will drop passes. Tight end Jacob Tamme is a solid threat down the seam. The Colts have struggled to run the ball, but a healthy Joseph Addai will help. A strong runner with good vision and patience, Addai is most effective pounding between the tackles.

Jets on defense: New York boasts one of the best cornerback tandems in the league in Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Revis is a true shutdown corner with excellent speed and quickness. He forces teams to stay away from him. Cromartie will jam receivers and use his freakishly long arms to bat down passes. Linebackers David Harris (good instincts and power) and Bart Scott (an explosive hitter) will terrorize ball carriers.

Special teams: The Colts have the NFL’s all-time clutch kicker in Adam Vinatieri. The four-time Super Bowl champ (that hurts!) has nailed 26 of his 28 field goal attempts this season, with a long of 48 yards. If the game is on the line, he isn’t missing . . . Pat McAfee averages 42 yards per punt and has landed 21 inside the 20 . . . Recently signed Dominic Rhodes has started returning kicks and is averaging 21 yards on 12 attempts . . . New York kicker Nick Folk has had his ups and downs but being indoors will boost his confidence. He has converted 30 of his 39 attempts, with a long of 56 . . . Brad Smith is one of the best kick returners in the game. He has 1,432 yards on 50 returns, including a pair of touchdowns . . . Kyle Wilson averages 7.4 yards on 15 punt returns.

Miscellany: This is a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game won by the Colts, 30-17 . . . Indianapolis has won 10 games nine straight years and this is its ninth straight trip to the postseason . . . The Jets are 13-6 on the road (including playoffs) under Rex Ryan . . . Manning has thrown for 5,164 yards in the playoffs — only Brett Favre (5,855) and Joe Montana (5,772) have more . . . Holmes averages 17.2 yards per catch in the postseason.

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