**A Capsule Look at the Colts' AFC Championship Showdown Against the Jets
Indianapolis Colts (15-2) vs. New York Jets (11-7)
Sunday, January 24, 2010 (3:00 p.m. EST)
Lucas Oil Stadium (63,000 capacity) – Indianapolis, Ind.
Television/Radio: CBS Sports and 1070-The Fan/HANK-FM 97.1
With a Super Bowl berth on the line, the Indianapolis Colts host the New York Jets this Sunday in a pivotal AFC Championship game.
Sunday's matchup marks the second meeting between the Colts and Jets in four weeks. Should the Colts prevail, it would give the franchise its second Super Bowl appearance in four years.
But to do that, the Colts must defeat a physical Jets team, which possesses the NFL's top-ranked defense and the league's best rushing attack.
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said despite facing the Jets in Week 16, each team may be a little different than it was four weeks ago.
"Everything changes, it really does," he said. "I think teams get better and better. Hopefully, we're a little bit better team than we were at that time, and I don't have any question in my mind that they are a better football team than they were."
To advance to this round, the Colts notched a 20-3 victory over Baltimore last Saturday. The Jets, meanwhile, defeated San Diego on the road, 17-14, earning a trip back to Lucas Oil Stadium for the second time in a month.
Colts center Jeff Saturday said the team's game against the Ravens should help it prepare for the Jets, a team with many of the same strengths and one that had its defense coordinated by Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan up until last year.
"They are not exactly the same, but they do have general philosophies that are similar," Saturday said. "They give you a lot of different looks and they try to move a lot of guys."
Sunday's game also pits two of the NFL's most successful rookie head coaches in history, Caldwell and Ryan, against one another.
Defensive end Dwight Freeney said the Colts coach has done a great job of preparing the team all season for big games, and this week has been no different.
With one game to go until "the big one," Caldwell has instructed the team to go about their preparation like any other week.
"Obviously, this is a big game, the AFC Championship, but if we keep on doing the things that we do on a consistent basis, we should be fine," Freeney said.
The winner of Sunday's conference championship showdown advances to Super Bowl XLIV in Miami Gardens, Fla., the same site of the Super Bowl XLI, in which the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears, 29-17.
But nothing in the past – whether it was last year, last month or last week – will have much affect on Sunday. All that matters, according to the Colts, is what happens on the field this weekend.
Said Colts linebacker Gary Brackett, "Sunday at 3 o'clock we are going to see what happens."
It's been over five months since the Colts started their season under a hot sun in Terre Haute, Ind.
The team was amidst training camp at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and working diligently through two-a-days under the watch of Head Coach Jim Caldwell for the first time.
Many in the media wondered if the club would be able to pick up where it left off under former head coach Tony Dungy.
But the horde of questioning never threw off the Colts or the team's first-year coach one bit. Throughout the season, the Colts stuck to their plan and Caldwell stuck to the same cool, calm demeanor as his predecessor.
Now, the team is one game away from reaching the Super Bowl.
"I think guys responded well," tight end Dallas Clark said. "There are different coaching philosophies around the league. Wherever you are as a player, you adjust. Throughout your career, you come across a lot of different personalities, a lot of different coaches and a lot of different styles.
"But you adjust. The transition from Coach Dungy to Coach Caldwell was pretty easy for us."
Utilizing the second-best passing offense in the league (282.2 yards per game) and an opportunistic pass defense that ranked ninth in the NFL (212.7 ypg), the Colts ran through the regular season in dominant fashion and began the post-season on the same note, with a 20-3 victory over the Ravens.
Earlier this week, quarterback Peyton Manning said that while it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of an AFC Championship game, the team is focused on its preparation, thanks much in part to Caldwell.
"The more familiar you are with (your opponent), the better chance it gives you to win," Manning said. "It doesn't guarantee anything; it does give you a better chance. That's the focus right now: trying to get prepared mentally and physically to play a good game."
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE JETS
The Jets' post-season success has been driven by the NFL's top-ranked defense and number one rushing offense.
Much of Sunday's game could come down to the battle in the trenches between the Colts' offensive line, which allowed the fewest sacks in the league during the regular season (13), and the Jets' defensive line, one of the fiercest in the NFL.
The Colts' front line will have to be at its best Sunday as it takes on a Jets defense that ranks first in overall defense, first in pass defense and eighth in run defense.
"They are aggressive and they are fast," rookie wide receiver Austin Collie said. "The last time we played them they were fast, they were quick and they swarmed to the ball. They are a great defense and they showed that all year."
On offense, the Jets are led by the two-pronged rushing attack of Thomas Jones and rookie Shonn Greene, who lead a rushing attack that averaged 172.3 yards per game during the regular season. Greene, a rookie out of Iowa, leads the NFL in rushing this post-season with 262 yards, including a 128-yard effort last week.
"Shonn Greene is maybe one of the most powerful runners that we've seen," Caldwell said.
The Jets feature a rookie quarterback under center in Mark Sanchez, who completed 12-of-23 passes last week for 100 yards, one touchdown and one interception in leading the Jets to a 17-14 victory at San Diego.
But like the Colts' first-year players, cornerback Kelvin Hayden said Sanchez is no longer viewed as a rookie at this point in the season.
"Once the playoffs start, you are not a rookie anymore," Hayden said. "He has stepped up and played well. We just want to cause confusion and do our job as a defense."
With wide receivers Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery and tight end Dustin Keller, Sanchez has plenty of weapons at his disposal.
In addition, the Jets also could run plays out of the Wildcat formation, using wide receiver Brad Smith as the triggerman. Before being drafted by the Jets in 2006, Smith played quarterback at Missouri and finished his collegiate career as one of the top rushing quarterbacks in NCAA history.
"Smith is a weapon unto himself, so they do give you a few problems there," Caldwell added.
Colts players credited the Jets' play on both sides of the ball as a reason to winning two consecutive road playoff games.
"They are playing in the AFC Championship for a reason," safety Antoine Bethea said. "They are a good team, good defense, good running team. You can't take that for granted. When they come in here, we'll get their best shot and most definitely they are going to get our best shot."
The Colts issued the game status/injury report on Friday with the following players listed as probable for Sunday's game: RB-Joseph Addai (shoulder), DEs-Ervin Baldwin (shin), Dwight Freeney (foot) and Robert Mathis (knee), DBs-Antoine Bethea (back) and Melvin Bullitt (shoulder), LBs-Gary Brackett (calf) and Cody Glenn (back), TEs-Dallas Clark (illness) and Jacob Tamme (ankle), OTs-Ryan Diem (elbow), Charlie Johnson (foot) and Tony Ugoh (knee/rested), DT-Antonio Johnson (shoulder), OG-Jamey Richard (shoulder), K-Adam Vinatieri (right hip) and WR-Reggie Wayne (knee). DB-Jerraud Powers (foot) is listed as doubtful.
All players listed on the injury report were listed as full participation for Friday's practice except Powers and Ugoh, who did not participate.
• "I definitely have an image in my mind. Obviously the last play, the interception by (CB Marlin) Jackson. Marlin Jackson intercepting the ball, and we were moving on to the Super Bowl. Hopefully, that's what type of feeling we have at the end of this one." – Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney on his lasting image from the team's 2006 AFC Championship victory over the New England Patriots
• "For whatever reason, it always seems to be one of the most underrated units in the entire National Football League, and I think that has to do with Peyton Manning more than anything else because Peyton is obviously, and deservedly so, the focus of most everyone's attention, what he can do offensively to you; the way he plays the position of quarterback, there is none better. Really, that defense is pretty impressive. I'd still put ours ahead of them, but I certainly respect the heck out of what they do defensively." – Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan on the Colts' defense
• "Our fans are the best. They're phenomenal. It was a great atmosphere. It was loud and they had our backs. We definitely feed off that as players. We just try to keep doing things to keep them excited and keep them into it. They did their part on giving the (Ravens') offense a lot of noise to deal with. We appreciate that. " – Colts tight end Dallas Clark on the atmosphere at Lucas Oil Stadium last week
STORYLINES TO WATCH FOR…
1) WAYNE VERSUS REVIS
Simply put, wide receiver Reggie Wayne versus cornerback Darrelle Revis is as good as it gets.
Both were Pro Bowl selections this season and ranked near the top of the league in every statistical category for their respective positions.
"It was an adventure on Revis Island," Wayne said of facing Revis in the two teams' first meeting on December 27 game in Indianapolis.
"One thing about Revis is he's going to challenge you," Wayne added. "He's going to make you play your best. That's all you can ask for. I accept that challenge. I feel like he's one of the best. He's going to make me play at my best, so it's going to be exciting. Now, we've got a whole game to play each other. May the best man win."
Colts linebacker Clint Session, who was a teammate of Revis in college at Pittsburgh, said the Jets cornerback is a confident player, but for a reason.
"He's a straight-up guy who backs up what he says," Session said.
Revis led the NFL with 37 pass deflections during the regular season and ranked fifth in interceptions with six.
When asked about going against Wayne, Revis sounded equally as excited about the matchup as his offensive counterpart.
"This is a guy that has year-in and year-out been to numerous Pro Bowls and always been a primary receiver," Revis said of Wayne. "I have gotten to watch the first game that we played in the regular season, and I thought it was a good matchup, two of the best guys going against each other and trying to compete."
2) ROOKIE CONTRIBUTIONS
The Colts know they will need a team effort Sunday to defeat the Jets. That means the team's rookie class, which has stepped up all season, will need to continue its significant contributions.
Caldwell said he has instructed his younger players to go about their preparation just like any other week. The Colts coach said he is trying to keep things as normal as possible this week, but is aware there is only so much you can do the week of an AFC Championship game.
"I have them focused in on the process instead of the outcome, opposed to the big game," he said. "Let's get where we're supposed to get, in terms of our techniques and fundamentals and assignments down. Then we'll certainly be able to handle it once we're in the fray."
One of the team's rookies, wide receiver Austin Collie, said the week is made easier by the team's veteran leadership in the locker room, which has paved the way for the team's young players all season.
"You have to try and take the same attitude you have had all year in terms of preparation and try not to let the pressure of the situation or the magnitude of the game get to you," he said.
3) LOOKING TO RUN
Despite their struggles this season, Caldwell is confident the Colts can run the ball with success.
The team's ground game is still continuing to try to improve, and Caldwell said the team has identified some correctable mistakes from last week.
"That's the thing about it. It's without question correctable," he said. "So, we will work at getting that done. The problems we had can be corrected, and they can be corrected quickly."
Center Jeff Saturday said he thought the Colts ran the ball well in the first half against the Ravens and thinks the team has rushed the ball with success this season when necessary.
"You have to know what your offense is," he said. "Our offense is not built to run the ball 35 times. That's not what we are. I know whose hand I want it in if the game's on the line. It's No. 18. So we do what we do to win the game."
Running back Joseph Addai said last week was bit of a struggle, but added the team never panics.
Instead, like Caldwell, Addai thinks the Colts' ground woes are "fixable."
"The way I look at is it if I walk off the field and I felt like I did everything that I had to do, I'm pretty much good," he said. "When you have a great quarterback like Peyton (Manning), you want to have him make decisions, so you have to respect that and understand the situation… It's whatever we are supposed to do for the team to try to win the game.
"It got us this far, so obviously it's working."