Newyorkjets.com is profiling 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 to be played Sunday afternoon:
(5) INDIANAPOLIS (11-5) at (4) BALTIMORE (10-6), 1: p.m. ET, CBS
The new Peyton Manning faces the old Ray Lewis.
Rookie QB Andrew Luck took over the reins of the Colts' offense from Manning this year. What controversy? Luck made all the Horseshoes almost forget about their former franchise signalcaller by leading them to wins in nine of their last 11 games for an 11-5 record that was good for the team's 12th playoff berth in the past 14 seasons.
Yet will his magic be enough to stand up to the indomitable No. 52?
Lewis and Baltimore opened the season 5-1. Then he tore his triceps and the Ravens struggled home with a 5-5 record — and three losses in their last four games — for the AFC's fourth seed and the Ravens' fifth consecutive postseason berth. The 37-year-old LB has announced this is it for him as a player, so Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium will either be his final game as a pro or the start of the Ray Lewis Victory Tour.
"Everything that starts has to end," Lewis said he told his teammates on Wednesday. "I'll make my last run with this team and I'll give them everything I've got."
"Emotions will be flying high," said S Ed Reed, Lewis' longtime superstar defensive partner.
Another major storyline for Indy is Pagano. After undergoing leukemia treatments for most of the season, he returned to coach the Colts to their regular-season capper, the 28-16 win over the Texans.
"Just stick with the process," he told himself and his players this week as the playoff prep began. "It's another week. We know the stakes are higher. The energy, the excitement and all that stuff is higher. Don't get caught up n all that stuff. Do what you've been doing for the last 16 weeks and it will be good enough."
QB comparison: Joe Flacco completed 59.7% of his passes for 22 TDs, 10 INTs and an 87.8 passer rating. Luck's line: 54.1% accuracy, 23 TDs, 18 INTs and a 76.5 rating.
Luck has teamed up fine with Manning's ol' reliable, WR Reggie Wayne, who assembled a 106-catch, 1,355-yard year.
Ray Rice had a fine season for Baltimore with 1,143 rushing yards, plus 478 more on 61 receptions for a 1,621-yard scrimmage season, plus 10 touchdowns. Flacco's top targets have been WR Anquan Boldin (65 receptions, 921 yards, 14.2 avg., 4 TDs) and TE Dennis Pitta (61-669-11.0-7).
For Baltimore, Jacoby Jones has had an excellent return season with a 30.7-yard average and two TDs on kickoffs and a 9.2 average and one TD on punts. For Indianapolis, Deji Karim has a KO-return TD and T.Y. Hilton has a punt-return score.
When it comes to kickers, Adam Vinatieri of the Colts (26-for-33, 13-of-17 from 40 yards or longer) has seen it all and done it all in the playoffs. Rookie Justin Tucker's been a machine for the Ravens, hitting 30 of 33 FG tries, including 14 of 17 from 40-plus.
The Colts haven't been perfect on the road. They're 4-4, not bad, but also minus-12 in turnover margin in those eight away games, tied for last in the NFL with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
The Indianapolis Colts, née Baltimore Colts, are 19-20 alltime in the postseason and 11-13 in Indy. In fact, the Colts beat the Ravens in each of their Peyton Manning Super Bowl seasons, 15-6 at Baltimore when they won SBXLI after the '06 season, then 20-3 at Indy before they lost SBXLIV after the '09 season.
The Ravens are 10-7 in the playoffs since 2000, the year they beat the Giants in SBXXXV. They are the only NFL team to have won at least one game in each of the last four postseasons.
One small element working in the Ravens' favor is that this is one of those games that have cropped up regularly recently in which the road team has a better record than the home team. The division-winning home teams have won eight of the 13 games of this nature since the '02 playoff realignment to four division winners and two wild cards.
The most impressive victory of the Jets' just-concluded season was their 35-9 Week 6 triumph over the Colts. It was the Jets' only win over a team with a winning record in the past two years, and that day Mark Sanchez had two touchdown passes and no giveaways to Luck's no TDs and three turnovers. It was the only game the Colts didn't reach double digits in points and didn't score a touchdown.
Drew Stanton was Luck's non-playing backup this season. He was of course a Jet for seven days in March, arriving as a free agent on March 16, then requesting a trade after Tim Tebow was acquired and getting it on March 23, going to Indy with a Jets seventh-round pick in exchange for a Colts sixth-round pick.
The Colts also have two former Jets defenders on their roster. NT Martin Tevaseu was acquired on waivers by Indianapolis after he was a final cut by the Jets on Aug. 31 and played in 13 games this season, even starting two. LB Jamaal Westerman was signed Dec. 4 after being cut by the Cardinals and played in four games in December.
S James Ihedigbo left the Jets for the Patriots last August and stayed the season. The Pats made him a final cut this year, so he moved over to the Ravens, for whom he played in all 16 games this season with three starts. Another former Jets S, Emanuel Cook, is on Baltimore's IR. Ravens WRs coach Jim Hostler was the Jets' QBs and WRs coach in 2003-04.