The Jets have handled some elite quarterbacks this year. This is the toughest test. Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in the NFL. It isn't even close at this point. That's not a knock on guys like Tom Brady or Drew Brees. For a time, there was legitimate debate as to whether Manning or Brady was better. These past two years have delivered a firm answer. While Brady's team used a guy who hadn't started a game since high school at quarterback to win 11 games a year ago, Manning battled through a serious knee injury to almost single handedly lift the Colts into the Playoffs without a running game. As the team has lost key cogs and rebuilt around him, Manning has the Colts 14-0 this year. There's not a ton of great talent on the roster. Indianapolis might not be on the level of the 2008 Lions with Jim Sorgi at Curtis Painter as the quarterback, but they probably would be picking in the top five. Manning is so good the only real question is whether he will go down as the greatest of all time. He has a terrific shot.
This might be a game for the Jets to readjust their philosophy. Normally they like to attack, attack, attack. Manning is a tough guy to hit. He's only been sacked 10 times all year. That's because Manning doesn't hold the ball long enough to get hit. He has an incredible sense of timing. He also has a great pass blocking back, Joseph Addai, who is very good at picking up blitzes. He's a very tough guy to get to. Peyton torched Rex Ryan's Ravens a year ago.
The model to slow down the Colts is the one Bill Belichick used to use. Use a lot of Cover 2 to keep everything in front. Force them to execute on ten plays in a row to score. Disguise coverages and blitzes when you do. He loves changing plays at the line if he can figure out what's coming. Mix things up. Manning is so smart that he'll find the weak point and exploit it if he sees the same coverage too often.
One thing that won't change is Darrelle Revis will stick on his man. Manning will likely have to look away from Reggie Wayne. His other favorite target is Dallas Clark. The Jets have had a lot of success covering tight ends this year. Kerry Rhodes is coming off a great game in coverage of Tony Gonzalez. Clark will be an even tougher test. He's built like a linebacker and runs like a receiver. The Jets need to make it a point to take Clark away. Indianapolis will be without speedy Pierre Garcon, which will likely put Austin Collie into the starting lineup. The way Lito Sheppard is playing, he's got a good shot to play Collie well.
The Jets should go back to the gameplan they used against the Saints. New York seemed to play things much more conservatively than they usually do against Drew Brees and focused on coverage. Like Brees, Manning is tough to hit. All he needs is the smallest window to hit his man. The Jets also can't sell out on the blitz as often because Addai is a receiving threat out of the backfield. He has 51 receptions this year. You have to go after Manning at times. You just need to time it well and disguise it well. This can't be an all out attack like Week 2 against the Pats. One of the strengths of this team is its secondary so this Jets team has as good of a chance as any to hold up and slow down this passing attack.