Monday, January 18, 2010

What If The Colts Lose? Part 2: The Return of Rex

Back around Christmas time Rex Ryan had one wish; For the Colts to rest their starters. As the week 16 game kicked off, Jim Caldwell's team looked poised to pick up win number 15, as his Colts squad went up 15-10 after Peyton Manning easily moved the ball down the field in his first drive of the second half.

Then, needing to fulfil his Holiday-Cheer quota, Jim Caldwell decided to hand the Jets a gift. Out of the game came Peyton and Reggie, Freeney, Mathis, Jeff, Joseph, Dallas, and all the other Colt stars. Curtis Painter would enter the game and put on a display that would make JaMarcus Russell proud, and the Jets would go on to win.

The next week was media mayhem. Fortunately, I was privileged enough to be in New England that Monday through Wednesday to hear all the "unbiased" opinions of their local sports media. I heard callers and hosts call the Colts and their front office every name in the book. Patriots fans called the Colts tactic of choosing health over perfection, and I quote, "the dumbest thing eva" (no "r") and began to pencil the Patriots in for yet another Super Bowl appearance.

Then Wes Welker and Anquan Boldin got hurt in week 17 and all of a sudden Patriots fans, and the rest of the national media shut up.

Meanwhile, the Colts week 16 opponent, the New York Jets, otherwise known as the team the Colts and Bengals allowed into the playoffs to prevent the Steelers and Texans from getting in, surged into the playoffs and upset the Cincinnati Bengals at home.

The Colts came out strong against the Ravens in their first game "trying" since week 15, and earned the opportunity to host the AFC Championship game, their goal when they rested starters in week 16.

What the Colts didn't expect during that week 16 game was to be hosting the Jets in that game. Now, the Colts are getting exactly what the wished for. They wanted to see the Jets over Houston, Pittsburgh, New England, and San Diego. If the Colts had any fear of seeing the Jets in the playoffs they would have gone all out and prevented them from getting into the playoffs. This is exactly what Polian, Caldwell, and Irsay wanted.

So what if they lose? Over the weekend I explored the fall out of being one-and-done for the Colts. Fortunately for the Colts they came out strong and beat the Ravens 20-3. The defense benefited from the extra rest, and the Colts offense was in rhythm (as much as you can be against a stout Ravens D) from the getgo.

If the Colts lose to the Jets the irony will add an extra sting that will make the loss almost worse than losing in the divisional round. Having "let" the Jets into the playoffs, the Colts now set themselves up for yet another pressure filled game.

I sense the Colts are prepared though. The Colts really lucked out by facing the Ravens last week. It allowed the Colts to face an identical opponent, and have a solid game plan to build off of all week. The Jets won't do anything the Ravens didn't try to do. Yes, the Jets offensive line and running game are better than the Ravens, but not by much; and as much as he's improved this playoffs, Mark Sanchez is not better than Joe Flacco.

The Colts also benefit from putting a game away early on Saturday night, while the Jets played a brutal, physical game for four quarters against the Chargers on Sunday. The Jets now have to travel all the way back to New Jersey, only another three hours to Indianapolis.

All of this adds more pressure to the Colts. There is no reason the Colts shouldn't win on Sunday, and if they don't it's hard to imagine what may actually happen. Jobs may not be lost, but legacies will definitely be tarnished.

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