2011 AFC Wild-Card Predictions
#6 Jets @ #3 Colts (1/8/11, 8 p.m. ET, NBC)
Keys to the Game
- Time of Possession – the Jets have to be able to control the ball and sustain drives. This means that Shonn Greene and LT have to get it going on the ground against a porous Colts defense. This obviously limits Peyton Manning’s offensive snaps and makes the Colts more prone to becoming one-dimensional as they would lean more towards the pass to account for the lack of possessions.
- Pressuring Manning – the Jets have to overcome their lack of a pass rush from the D-line with some exotic blitz schemes to try to fluster #18. The Jets usually bring pressure from the edge or from DBs but I don’t think this will be effective against Manning because he is comfortable stepping up in the pocket. Instead, I think the Jets should bring their pressure from up the middle so Manning has to run out of the pocket and throw on the run.
- Run the Ball – the Colts have to run the ball against the Jets. They don’t have to run it effectively but they at least have to make the Jets respect the run just enough to utilize the play-action pass. This will suck the Jet’s LBs up to the line and allow Manning to throw the ball between the numbers to Tamme and hit Garcon and Wayne underneath on crossing routes. The Jets are very susceptible over the middle and Tamme is going to be a big factor in determining whether the Colts come away with a win.
- Keep the Jets in 3rd and Longs – in order for Freeney and Mathis to reek havoc, the Colts must keep the Jets out of manageable 3rd down situations. This will allow Freeney and Mathis to pin their ears back and attack Sanchez, potentially causing turnovers in the form of interceptions or sack/fumbles.
Prediction – the Jets will be able to run the ball effectively, and I look for Santonio Holmes to have a big game. I think Holmes will pick up some crucial 3rd down conversions and the Jets will win a fairly high-scoring game by a score of 29 – 24.
#5 Ravens @ #4 Chiefs (1/9/11, 1 p.m. ET, CBS)
Keys to the Game
- Give Ray Rice the Ball – that means both on the ground and through the air. Ray Rice is an elite combo-back and is just as dangerous when he’s catching screen passes and swing passes as he is running between the tackles. The Chiefs are pretty stout against the run, ranking 14th in the NFL, so Rice catching balls out of the backfield is going to be crucial in order for the Ravens to move the ball.
- Limit the Turnovers – particularly interceptions by way of Joe Flacco. Flacco has been very efficient this year, throwing only 10 interceptions this year, but he has 6 career post-season interceptions and only 1 career post-season TD pass.
- Dwayne Bowe – unlike former Raven’s defenses, this years defense ranks 21st in the NFL against the pass. Bowe led the NFL in TD receptions with 15 and is 7th in receiving yards this year. Bowe has to have a big game in order to open up the run game, which is KC’s bread and butter.
- Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones – the Chiefs average 183 yards rushing at home this season and their going to need all that and more if they want to beat the favored Ravens.
Prediction – the Chiefs are 7-1 at home this year, with their only loss coming last week against the Raiders in what was somewhat of an apparition. Arrowhead Stadium hasn’t hosted a home playoff game since the Chiefs last won the AFC West in 2003 so the fans are going to be loud, and we already know Chief fans are very passionate. I like the Chiefs in an ugly, low scoring game by a score of 17-14.