Five questions I have been asking myself about each of today’s games:
Jets (+7.5) at Colts
1. Will Sanchez’ weak play be a liability? I think that underwhelming play from Sanchez is a given – he hasn’t been particularly good in a long, long time. So far in the playoffs the coaching staff has been able to plan around is deficiencies. Can they keep that up?
2. Which Manning will show up? At his best, Manning is a record-setting playoff quarterback with records galore. At his worst he’s an interception factory who can be stunningly absent in big games.
3. Will Indy’s kick return defense come back to haunt them? The Jets are a top five kick returning team. The Colts are the second worst kick return defense in the league. If the Jets’ can score on special teams this could really get interesting.
4. How healthy is Dallas Clark? Clark is a very key part of anything that the Colts are going to accomplish. The problem is that he’s not as healthy as he would like to be – he’s been limited in practice this week and is only listed as probable. If Clark can’t go then that would put a pile of pressure on the two young receivers – something that makes me nervous even if Clark is okay.
5. Will people get hurt jumping off the Jets’ bandwagon? Every year there is a team that the media and the public fawn over far more than you would expect and than they probably deserve. A few weeks ago the Jets were struggling to get into the playoffs. Now, according to a lot of what you read, they are heading to Miami as the team of destiny. Color me skeptical, but we’ll see how it turns out.
Vikings (+3.5) at Saints
1. Which defense blinks first? Both of these teams have defenses that can be called underrated at times, but which can also be lousy from time to time. Really lousy. They are both going to be tested by offenses that know their stuff, so it seems unlikely that things will go well for both defenses. The pressure will especially be on New Orleans because they really haven’t shone against the pass
2. Can Minnesota finally remember how to play on the road? The Vikings are all but unbeatable at home in their ugly building. They lost their last three on the road, and are an entirely different. far less impressive team away from home. That won’t be good enough today.
3. Will Rice stay super-human? Sidney Rice has been unstoppable two weeks in a row. He’s not going to sneak up on the Saints this week, and you know that they have been preparing to face him. Rice has been a big part of what they have done recently, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt them if he could do it again.
4. What kind of day will Jared Allen have? Drew Brees doesn’t love being pressured, and Allen is pretty darned good at pressuring quarterbacks. Allen hasn’t been nearly as strong in the second half of the season, though, and the Saints are pretty good at protecting their pivot – Brees went sack-free six times this year. The Minnesota pass rush, and Allen especially, will be one to watch.
5. Was Bush a one-hit wonder? Reggie Bush was impressive last week, and he really keyed what the Saints accomplished. He hasn’t consistently been as good as that, though. Another game like that from Bush could be a death blow for the Vikings.