When the Jets take the field tonight, fans are going to be excited. This is because the Jets are playing and have a chance to start the season 2-0. It will not be the same kind of excitement that comes from playing against a rival. It's funny when you think about it because on paper the Colts seem like a rival for the Jets.
The greatest moment in Jets history came against the Colts, the team's lone Super Bowl win. New York's 16-7 triumph in Super Bowl III was also one of the most famous and important games in the history of professional football. It was the first time an American Football League team beat a National Football League team in the Super Bowl. With the merger between the leagues looming one year later, the game showed the AFL was not the second rate league many thought it was.
That was the first time these franchises met. Tonight will be their 72nd meeting. The Jets have only played the Patriots, Bills, and Dolphins more frequently. This is because the Colts were a division rival for 32 seasons. The merger put the two teams in the AFC East, where both remained until realignment in 2002 moved the Colts to the AFC South.
What happened since then? The teams have met in the Playoffs three times. That is the most frequent Jets Playoff opponent in that stretch. They played for the AFC Championship in 2009 and then staged a thrilling Wild Card game a year later.
There is further lore between the two teams. Back in 1997, the Jets were coming off a 1-15 season and owned the top pick in the Draft. The consensus top prospect was Peyton Manning. Manning decided to not enter the Draft and instead return to the University of Tennessee for his senior season. One year later, the Colts got him with the first overall pick. Think about how Manning's decision swung the balance of power in the NFL for close to two decades. Arguably the greatest quarterback in the history of the game could have ended up in New York.
When these teams play tonight, that history will not mean much. I will not be fired up to see the Jets try and beat the Colts more than I get fired up to see the Jets try and beat the Jaguars. I guess rivalries are built more on emotion than logic because I just can't get that worked up about playing the Colts, even if they seem like a rival on paper.