The Jets came out throwing in the first meeting. New York threw on the first three plays. I questioned the wisdom at the time. I still do. I know everybody expects the Jets to run the ball, and passing may catch a defense off guard. The problem is it failed to account what the Jets do well. Gang Green is a great running team and has a mediocre passing game. Offensive success for this team doesn't come from deception. It comes from execution. Opponents know what's coming. It's just the offensive line and backs are so good, it doesn't matter.
The Jets do not want Mark Sanchez to have to carry the load. He's going to have to make plays. The run game can make life easier on him. If Gang Green can pound it on Indianapolis' small front, we could see situations like in the Wild Card round where receivers ran wide open on play action because the Bengals had to sell out on the run. That would make life easy on Sanchez. He'll have to make plays one way or another. The Jets may have a great defense, but it's next to impossible to beat the Colts in Indianapolis without the offense putting up points or making any big plays in the passing game.
Sanchez needs to be careful. The Colts have excellent speed rushers at end, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. They had 24 combined sacks in the regular season. They don't just go for the sack. They try to strip the ball. A quick guy like Mathis in particular might present Damien Woody with some problems. I do have faith in D'Brickashaw Ferguson to take on Freeney. Let's hope he doesn't forget to block him twice like he did in the first game. Eric Foster, a rotational player at tackle, will see time on passing downs. He had 7 sacks during the regular season and 1 against Baltimore in the Divisional round. The starters at tackle, Antonio Johnson and Daniel Muir, don't offer a ton getting after the quarterback. If the interior line can't contain them, it may be a long day.
The Colts don't blitz much. They run a Tampa 2 style scheme, which means few blitzes and plenty of zone. When a blitz comes, it's likely to be from middle linebacker Gary Brackett. It's an execution based scheme (like the Jets' offense). They may get more aggressive than usual against a rookie, but I would be surprised to see too many exotic looks trying to confuse the youngster.
Indy does have a very good secondary. Kelvin Hayden and Jerraud Powers are the corners. Antoine Bethea and Melvin Bullitt are the safeties with Bob Sanders out. They're all good cover guys. So is Brackett, who will match up with Dustin Keller a lot. It will come down to protection, though. There are always going to be holes in the zone. If the offensive line gives Sanchez time and keeps him clean, Keller, Jerricho Cotchery, and Braylon Edwards can get open.
Avoiding turnovers and drops (I'm looking at you, Braylon) will be key. You can't give Peyton Manning presents. He's too good. The Jets also need to hit some big plays in the passing game. They may miss Leon Washington's breakaway speed and receiving skills out of the backfield in this one. Maybe Braylon can get loose and hold onto the ball. If all of this happens, the Jets have a chance to go to the Super Bowl.