Because there are only two games to focus on, these two games usually are the most talked about and dissected games of the year. So let the talking and dissecting begin â¦
New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts
The Jets' 29-15, come-from-behind win in Week 16 helped them make the playoffs with a 9-7 record. This game is yet another chapter in a rivalry that began when the Jets shocked the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. From 1970-2001, with the exception of 1982, these teams met twice a year as AFC East rivals. The Colts have won 40 of 66 regular-season games. In addition to the Super Bowl III win, the Jets trounced the Colts in a 2002 playoff game, 41-0.
N.Y. Jets CB Darrelle Revis
vs. Indianapolis WR Reggie Wayne
Revis, selected as a starter for the Pro Bowl (if he's not in the Super Bowl), had six interceptions and 31 passes defended in the regular season. He's had two more picks in the playoffs, including an incredible one last week in San Diego. The interesting thing about last week's win against the chargers is that Revis was not man-up against Vincent Jackson all game long, as expected. The Jets switched him around a bit, which is unusual compared to the way Revis took out the opposition's best receiver throughout the season. Receivers have a hard time getting separation on him. He plays with lots of toughness, and he is the best cornerback in the NFL.
Wayne is the Colts' leading receiver with 100 regular-season catches for 10 touchdowns. He is the go-to guy for Peyton Manning. He makes every catch - crossing routes, slants, comebacks. He loves the double move in the red zone.
After seeing Revis move around more last week, we should also expect to see him covering tight end Dallas Clark - who is a big matchup problem because of his size and speed. Clark, who has great hands, was selected to his first Pro Bowl this year after catching 100 passes. He has amazing ability to be in sync with Manning, does good job blocking on the edge, and is smooth in and out of cuts.
N.Y. Jets RBs Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene
vs. Indianapolis S Antoine Bethea and LB Gary Brackett
The Jets run the ball almost 63 percent of the time. Jones and Greene had a combined 445 carries this season. Both are strong inside runners who can also bounce it outside. They benefit from running behind three offensive linemen who were selected for the Pro Bowl.
Bethea is a very explosive player and the Colts' leading tackler. He will need to step up to help stop the run game. Brackett is an every-down linebacker who is a very good tackler. He is very aware of his fits and can cover in space.
Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
Minnesota has won 18 of 25 regular-season games in this matchup, and has won three straight played in New Orleans since 2002. Minnesota also has a 2-0 record in the playoffs against the Saints. Both teams are coming off big wins in the divisional playoffs. In addition to the action on the field, look for the Superdome crowd to make more noise than the Vikings crowd made last week vs. Dallas.
Minnesota QB Brett Favre
vs. New Orleans S Darren Sharper
Brett Favre had a career game last week, throwing four TD passes against the Cowboys. He beat the zone and he beat man coverage, throwing phenomenal passes and putting the ball in the hands of receivers who were blanketed. In his previous nine playoff games, Favre had thrown 18 interceptions; last week he wasnât even close to getting picked off. He no longer moves like he once did, but still has a rocket arm and still is accurate on short, medium, and long passes. You have to make him move around. No matter what is called, he can change the play at any time. He likes to double-count to check the coverages and identify blitzes. When he uses a quick count, itâs usually a running play. Favre is not playing like a 40-year-old.
Sharper is a classic free safety who will get the Saintsâ defensive backs lined up correctly. He knows Favre well, having played eight years with him in Green Bay. Sharper has good hands, and he will intercept anything he gets his hands on. He also has good instincts and awareness. Sharper had nine interceptions this year -â the third time in his career heâs had at least nine interceptions in a season â- and returned three of them for touchdowns.
Minnesota LB Chad Greenway
vs. New Orleans RB Reggie Bush
Greenway is the leading tackler on Minnesotaâs sixth-ranked defense, a unit that allowed 305 yards per game in the regular season. He is an active player who has been very productive for the Vikings, with great ability to key and diagnose. He is good underneath in zone coverage and has play-making ability. Heâs at his best covering running backs who look to go vertical â which makes his role in covering Reggie Bush vital.
Bush had a career day last week with 217 all-purpose yards on 12 touches. He ran aggressively last week vs. Arizona. Injuries have slowed him in the past, but Bush has a lot of quickness to go with his outstanding burst. He has great vision and can break a long return from the inside or outside at any time. He has good hands and good route-running ability. Knowing Saints coach Sean Payton, I would think heâll have some type of special packages for Bush, who can change a game quickly. And donât forget, in 2008 Bush returned two punts for touchdowns against Minnesota â and he would have had a third if he didn't trip.