Jets have to keep Peyton Manning in his place

If the New York Jets can come back to Indianapolis and beat the Colts again they will be in the Super Bowl for the first time in 41 years.

If you believe in karma there is no way the Indianapolis Colts can beat the New York Jets today in the AFC Championship game. If you believe in odds, the Colts are a certainty. The Colts were leading the Jets 15-10 late in the third quarter when they met in the regular season on December 27.

Indianapolis were undefeated and within two games of becoming only the second team in history to go 16-0 in the NFL regular season, on top of which they would have eliminated the Jets from play-off contention. Then they decided to pull their starters to rest them and keep them injury-free for the play-offs. With the Colts' quarterback Peyton Manning and many of his teammates steaming on the sidelines, the Jets stormed back to victory over Indianapolis's second team, 29-15, thus beginning what has turned into an improbable run through the play-offs for the New Yorkers.

If the Jets can come back to Indianapolis and beat the Colts again they will be in the Super Bowl for the first time in 41 years. The possibility of them getting there by eliminating an Indianapolis team that chose not to dispatch them has been a major story all week. If the Jets win it will be because their old-school combination of the league's top-rated defence and top-rated running game succeeds in grinding down the Colts, who have lived all season on the strength of Manning's arm and an opportunistic defence that gives up yards but is in the top 10 in fewest points allowed.

Of course, the Jets are first in that category as well as first in pass defence, first in fewest yards allowed and first in running the ball, a fact that allows them to keep their offence on the field for long stretches without putting pressure on their rookie quarterback, Mark Sanchez, or on a defence that plays with the aggressive nature of Bengal tigers. They will have to do that again today because they are up against the No 1 quarterback in football. Manning was named the NFL's MVP for the fourth time earlier this month after passing for 4,500 yards and 33 touchdowns in the service of an offence that gave him little help.

The Colts finished last in the NFL in rushing so the Jets don't have to guess what Indianapolis will do with the ball. They will throw it. Often. The Jets, naturally enough, plan to go after Manning. Often. "We have a lot of things we're going to do to him," said the New York cornerback Darrelle Revis. "We hope to shake him up a little bit, to where we can make plays on defence." Many have tried to do that and not many have succeeded, but the Jets play an all-out aggressive style built around pressuring the quarterback with multiple blitzes and playing man to man defence in the secondary.

This can be a dangerous approach against as skilled a quarterback as Manning, but that is who the Jets are. "Man to man is what got us here," said their safety Jim Leonhard, who had a key interception last weekend in New York's upset of the San Diego Chargers, a team whose offensive approach is identical to that of the Colts. The Jets' offence want to limit Sanchez's throws to 15-20 to avoid costly turnovers. To do it they will attack the Colts' defence with their running backs Thomas Jones and the rookie Shonn Greene and one of the most physical offensive lines in football.

"Everybody who plays against them knows they are going to run the ball and they still run," the Colts' defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "It's important we stop that." That is critical because if the Jets run on the Colts the way they did on the Chargers (169 yards) they will limit the number of opportunities Manning has to go after them and minimise the likelihood of Sanchez being forced to throw too often.

"They're a team that likes to wear people down," the Colts linebacker Gary Brackett said. "That's our challenge."