Be careful what you wish for, they say.
The Jets are a team of destiny, I’ve heard.
The Football God’s are angered, Week 16 was no fluke, Rex Ryan eats horse for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…
As an Indianapolis Colts fan, I’ve read it all this week. Despite a nearly perfect regular season and an impressive beat down of the “hot” Ravens in the Divisional Round, the commentary and analysis regarding the AFC Championship game hasn’t exactly been the Colts love-fest I anticipated. Whether it’s Jets fans, ESPN analysts, or members of the Indianapolis media, there’s a groundswell of support behind New York that I have trouble coming to grips with.
Sure, they’ve won seven of their last eight games, but other than last Sunday’s upset over the Chargers — made possible by Nate Kaeding’s three missed field goals — who have they really beaten? The Panthers, the Buccaneers and the Bills? Way to go. A Curtis Painter led Colts team? Impressive. A depleted Cincinnati squad that limped into the playoffs? Nobody’s reading that letter sent home.
What Rex Ryan’s done in his first season, with a rookie quarterback no less, is a great story. He has the Jets in contention for a Super Bowl for the first time since 1998, and his entertaining press conferences, proven track record, and NFL bloodlines have made him, and his team, media darlings. Channeling their underdog past — the Jets shocking victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III is still considered one of the NFL’s defining moments — New York has given pundits an excuse to stray from the stale story of Indy and their unprecedented success, and allowed them to embrace their inner David.
I can’t blame them, really. Under any other circumstance, I’d be right there with them, championing the cause of the team who shouldn’t be here. But this isn’t any other circumstance. This is a 9-7 Jets team, a team who couldn’t even muster a first down until midway through the second quarter last week, attempting to beat one of the most capable, and confident, units in league history. And they have to do it at Lucas Oil Stadium, not only an incredibly loud and weather free environment, but a venue the Colts haven’t lost a meaningful game at since Week Three of 2008. So ignore all the butt-slapping and laudatory comments directed the Jets way this week, and hear me when I say; there’s no chance — zero — that New York’s leaving the Circle City with a Super Bowl bid in hand.
Be careful what you wish for? I don’t subscribe to that theory. From Jim Irsay down to the dude who paints his entire head like a football helmet and screams inaudible words for 90 percent of the game, a matchup with the Jets is exactly what everyone involved with the Colts wanted.
Sure, no defense blitzes more frequently, or with more potency, than a Rex Ryan squad, but then again, no quarterback handles blitzing pressure quite like Peyton Manning. For as successful as Ryan’s been as a defensive game planner during his career, he’s never found a recipe to stop Number 18. Not counting this year’s 2 1/2 quarter performance in which he went 14-of-21 for 192 yards and left with a 15-10 lead, Manning’s faced off against Ryan seven times in his career. He’s 6-1 in those meetings, completing 62 percent of his passes and averaging over 250 yards a game. He’s thrown 13 touchdowns against only four interceptions, and most importantly, in the last six meetings — including this year — Ryan’s ferocious, sacking defense has grounded Manning a grand total of three times.
Some people want to talk about the impact of Darrelle Revis, and you’ll get no argument from me that Revis should have won NFL Defensive Player of the Year, but his presence on the field isn’t nearly as significant when a team — cough, cough Indianapolis — can spread the ball around to numerous options. Want to stick Revis in Reggie Wayne‘s jock all afternoon? That’s fine, Manning will look elsewhere. But he won’t completely forget about Wayne. He’ll bide his time, dinking here, dunking there, just waiting for Revis to stray just a tad, and then BOOM! Deep ball to Wayne. They did it in the first meeting with the Jets. Barely missed two touchdowns. Manning won’t miss this time around.
Go ahead, call me an overconfident, corn-fed, Colts homer. Tell me that I shouldn’t be provoking the Football Gods like this. Ask me if I’ve ever heard of a jinx. No really, have at it. They’re all valid points. Honestly, I hate making such unequivocal proclamations, and I generally like to avoid using statements like “no chance” when assessing a team’s potential to win a game. Especially when I’m talking Colts.
You see, I believe in appeasing the Football Gods. I believe in jinxes, and I definitely believe that the collective thoughts of a fan base can affect the outcome of a game. But I also believe in Peyton Manning. And Dwight Freeney. And Jeff Saturday, Gary Brackett, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Raheem Brock, Ryan Diem, and Robert Mathis. I believe in the players — the leaders of this team — who were there when Indy fell short against the Patriots in the 2003 AFC title game. Who suffered through a miserable 20-3 defeat in snowy New England the next year. Who were ousted by Pittsburgh and San Diego (twice) in the first round when they were clearly the better team. And, of course, who brought the Lombardi Trophy to Indianapolis in 2006.
My belief in those players, the guys who provide the leadership, experience and know-how of the 2009 Colts is so strong, that even though I probably should, I don’t feel the slightest misgivings about giving a middle finger to karma, the Football Gods, and all those other superstitions you’re not supposed to taunt.
When I settle in with a frosty beverage and a plate full of nachos at 3 P.M Sunday afternoon, I’ll do so with the calm confidence of a man watching a pre-recorded event that he already knows the outcome to. And so should you. There’s no need to get nervous, no need to fret. The Colts WILL beat the Jets. Believe that.
For a wrap-up of the Colts game against the Ravens, check out Mark Cline’s article from earlier in the week. And for you Indianapolis sports fans who can’t get enough Colts talk, be sure to check back with funcityfinder.com later this week for Mark’s in-depth preview of the upcoming matchup with the Jets.