Newyorkjets.com will profile each playoff game in this NFL postseason, with a special eye on Jets angles in each of the matchups. Today: the AFC Wild Card Game being played Saturday night:
(5) INDIANAPOLIS (12-4) at (4) SAN DIEGO (8-8), 8 p.m. EST, NBC
The Colts, led by quarterback Peyton Manning, are riding into the playoffs on the NFL's longest current win streak, a nine-game run that includes a 23-20 win at San Diego on Nov. 23.
The Chargers ended the season in an impressive fashion with their own four-game win streak, capped by a win-and-you're-in-lose-and-you're out Sunday night rout of the Denver Broncos to win the AFC West.
"It's been a rollercoaster ride," quarterback Philip Rivers said of the Chargers' season.
But Indianapolis, despite a record that's four games better than its home opponent — an NFL wild-card-round record — won't be taking San Diego lightly.
"It means absolutely nothing," Colts center Jeff Saturday said of the Chargers' record. "You have to understand, everybody got here. We're all playing. It's a one-and-done type deal, so you have to go out and play good football. As good as they're playing, you can tell their team is very confident in what they can do and we have to be the same way."
Manning had an unusually quiet start to his season due to late-developing knee issues. But he's entering the postseason as you like to — on fire — having thrown eight TD passes and no INTs in his last four starts.
While favorite pitch-and-catch partner Marvin Harrison has slowed, Reggie Wayne remains smokin' with 82 catches for 1,145 yards, and only Tony Gonzalez caught more passes among AFC tight ends than Dallas Clark (77-848).
Robert Mathis (11.5 sacks) and Dwight Freeney (10.5) continue to perform their pincer movement from the ends and the Colts defense has totaled 10 strip sacks for the season.
Adam Vinatieri has gone a tame 20-for-25 on his field goal tries this season, but the Chargers shouldn't test him by leaving him with a last-minute game-winner.
Rivers is the NFL's only A-plus QB this season, meaning the only qualifying passer with a 100 rating — 105.5 to be precise. He was also led the league with 8.39 yards per attempt and his 34 TD passes tied Drew Brees for the league lead.
LaDainian Tomlinson was the target of Rivers' passes and handoffs as usual, and despite a slow start and a down rushing year (1,110 yards at 3.8 per carry), LT still finished eighth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,536, or 96 yards a game). Rivers' favorite pass-catchers were TE Antonio Gates (60 receptions) and WR Vincent Jackson (1,098 yards).
But both Tomlinson (groin) and Gates (ankle) have been limited at practices this week with injuries.
LB Shaun Phillips with 7.5 sacks tried to pick up the slack when the lights went out on Shawne Merriman's season before it even started.
Darren Sproles is one of the NFL's top kick returners this season, averaging 11.3 yards on punt returns and 26.0 on kickoffs. Normally reliable K Nate Kaeding struggled from 40 and longer.
Indianapolis finished the regular season with NFL top-10 rankings in pass offense (5th), pass defense (6th) and scoring defense (7th) and bottom-10 rankings in run offense (31st) and run defense (24th).
San Diego finished with top-10 rankings in pass offense (7th) and scoring offense (2nd) and with bottom-10 rankings in total defense (25th) and pass defense (31st).
The Colts have a plus-9 turnover margin (but a margin of zero on the road) while the Chargers have a plus-4 margin (plus-9 at home).
Indy and SD will be meeting for the third time in postseason history. Last year the third-seeded Chargers visited the second-seeded Colts in the AFC Divisional Round and came away with a 28-24 upset win as backup QB Billy Volek scored on a sneak with 4:50 to play and the Chargers' defense made two fourth-down stops in the final 2:01. The other meeting was in a 1995 AFC Wild Card Game at San Diego, won by the Colts, 35-20.
The Colts are 17-17 all-time in the postseason, including wins as the Baltimore Colts in the NFL Championship Games in 1958 (over the Giants in "the Greatest Game Ever Played") and 1959 and a loss for the title in 1964, plus the famous loss to the Jets in Super Bowl III, the win over Dallas in SBV and the 29-17 SBXLI win over Chicago. Since moving to Indy, the Colts are 9-10 all-time in the postseason.
The Chargers are 9-14 all-time, including the 49-26 loss to San Francisco in SBXXIX. Their last home playoff game was a 17-6 triumph over the Tennessee Titans last year in an AFC Wild Card Game.
There are no players with Jets ties on either team. Green & White fans may remember a coach who was a player during a season they'd prefer to forget. Frank Reich, now a Colts offensive assistant, started seven games at QB for the Jets, including their only 1996 win, at Arizona. He was also the QB for Buffalo's classic 1992 playoff comeback from 32 points down to a 41-38 OT win over the Houston Oilers in the AFC Wild Card Game.
The Jets played the Chargers in Week 3 this season at San Diego on Monday Night Football and lost, 48-29. They also lost at home in '05. The meeting before that was the only time the Jets played the Chargers in the playoffs — and they won at Qualcomm Stadium, 20-17 in overtime in their 2004 Wild Card Game.
Similarly, the Jets have lost their last two to Indianapolis, 31-28 in 2006 at the Meadowlands and 38-31 at Indy in 2003, then the game before that they beat the Colts by that delightful 41-0 whitewash in the 2002 AFC Wild Card Game at the Meadowlands.