1. The elite NFL teams are built to pass. The Saints, Colts, Chargers, Patriots, and Vikings (even though they have Adrian Peterson), all feature excellent pass-based offenses and lackluster running games. Running is out of style (somewhat justifiably so).
2. Because elite teams expect to face other elite teams, they tend to focus on pass defense. Some have good run defenses as well, but pass defense is viewed as more important. The Packers melt down is a good example as to why this is so. The Colts (Freeney) and Cowboys (Ware) are based on pass-rushing defensive lines. The Saints are famously much better at stopping the pass, and are vulnerable to running up the middle. Minnesota is excellent at run-stuffing due too the Williams Wall, but is also good against the pass due to Jared Allen and Antoine Winfield. Their raw stats against the pass look worse because teams tend to abandon the run against them.
3. Because much of the NFL is focused on stopping the pass, more teams will be vulnerable to a strong running attack.
4. According to conventional stats the Jets were second last in the league in passing. According to DVOA, they were 28th in the league in passing. Of the 11 other playoff teams, most ranked in the top 10 in passing. By advanced stats, no one was lower than 16 (the Bengals) except the Jets.
It is difficult to get into the playoffs with a terrible passing game, but once the Jets managed to do so they became a matchup nightmare for every other playoff team. They play all-around great defense, and Darrelle Revis automatically removes the other team’s best receiver from the game. The Jets are also fundamentally a power running team, and can capitalize on smaller, quicker defenses while minimizing the chances that they will commit turnovers.
I’m not sure if they will manage to beat the Colts next week, but I think there is a decent chance for them to pull an upset. Of course, the Jets wouldn’t even be here if not for a few things…
The Luck Of The Jets
1. The Jets played in the infamous “Curtis Painter Bowl” in week 16 at Indianapolis, a game in which the Colts rested all of their starters, allowing the Jets to pick up an easy 29-15 win.
2. The Jets played a Bengals team that was allegedly resting up for the playoffs in week 17. This both allowed the Jets entry into the playoffs, and matched them up with the Bengals in the first round. The Bengals were, in my opinion, the worst team to make the playoffs, and a great matchup for the Jets.
3. No one has managed to make a Field Goal against the Jets so far in the post season. Kickers are a combined 0-5 against them.
I believe the Colts will win this weekend; however it’s hard to see how the Colts are much different than the Bolts (except for Norv Turner, which is admittedly a big factor). The Colts, like the Chargers, have a diverse passing game featuring a superior receiver (Jackson/Wayne), and superior TE (Gates/Clark), and a strong support cast. Both feature excellent quarterbacks. Neither is very good at stopping the run (SD was 26th according to DVOA, Indy was 20th, and Indy allowed Ray Rice to rush for 5.1 yards per carry on Saturday, though the Ravens only gave it to him 13 times).
It is still true that if Nate Kaeding just makes a few makeable field goals, the Jets are done, and that kind of lucky is likely to run out. Still, it looks like the biggest mistake that the AFC playoff teams made was allowing the Jets into the playoffs in the first place.
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