It seems like yesterday for many Jets’ fans. Much like this year’s season, the Jets were soaring on their own wings and living the improbable dream.
They entered last year’s AFC Championship game as the fifth seed at 11-5, and many believed they were destined for a Super Bowl appearance.
As the battle ensued, that assumption began to look like reality as the Jets had the Colts painted in a corner. Indianapolis was trailing by nearly two full scores as they headed to the locker room, and the Jets looked poised for yet another improbable win.
The chant could be heard all up and down the East coast: J-E-T-S, jets, jets, jets!
But as any military General will tell you, losing the battle doesn’t mean anything so long as you win the war.
Enter in Peyton Manning.
The battle tested field General guided his team onto the field in the second half, and schooled the upstart Jets by outscoring them by 17 points in the second half in route to one helluva upset that crushed the Cinderella run the Jets were on.
The Colts had won the war!
Now another year has passed and the upstart Jets have maturated into a viable Super Bowl bound team, while the Colts are still…well, the Colts.
But ironically enough, this is more than just another playoff game, this is a matter of redemption—for both teams in two very different ways.
The win over the Jets meant nothing to the Colts as they went on to lose the big show to the New Orleans Saints (Who Dat!), while the Jets—and head coach Rex Ryan—haven’t forgotten the sting of last year’s defeat.
“We are not going to Indianapolis to lose,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “We are going there to win. This is about this year, and I’ve waited a full year for this.”
The stage is an all-too-familiar one with the Colts at 10-6 and the Jets again at 11-5. But the Jets have seemingly regressed in their play in the last four games of the season, while the Colts enter the contest on a four game winning streak.
Peyton Manning enters the contest with many believing he had a down year despite throwing for 4,700 passing yards and a 66.3 completion rate—second in the league to the Saints’ Drew Brees, who threw for 4,710 yards while completing 68.1 completion rate.
Mark Sanchez enters the contest as the guy who silenced his critics about not being NFL material, improving upon nearly every stat line from a year ago:
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg:
- Indy is 6-2 at home; the Jets are 6-2 on the road.
- The Jets have an elite secondary worthy of being called the new “Gang Green”; the Colts have one of the most explosive offenses in all of the AFC.
- The Colts want another crack at the big show; the Jets just want to get there.
Doesn’t get much better than this, does it?
Tonight’s matchup will ask both teams to answer to the call of desired redemption. It will solicit the proverbial question: who wants it more.
For Peyton Manning, it’s about getting back to the big show and reversing the outcome of a year ago; for Rex Ryan and his Jets it’s about showing themselves who they really are, and taking care of some unfinished business.
Redemption is a bitter-sweet thing, and there can be only one team who will share a suckling of the sweet, while the other inevitably will experience another familiar feeling:
The sour taste of defeat.
The Jets-Colts matchup will kickoff: 8:00 pm EST Sat Jan 8, 2011 in Indianapolis.