I asked Ken Moll, Doug Kretz and Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. to give me one, non-obvious, key matchup in the AFC Championship Game and to tell me how they envision things panning out in that area. (You can find biographical in fo on these three fine men here.)
Here’s what they said:
"Here is something that I thought was very subtle in last week’s game that the Jet were trying to do. Get the old man Tony Richardson more involved only early downs. Not so much in the running game (though he did average over 6 yards per carry this year/ regular season, only seven attempts) but as a receiver out of the backfield. Obviously the Colts will stack the line of scrimmage (eight in the box, etc. especially on early downs) and slipping Tony out of the backfield off of play action will likely put him WIDE OPEN in the flat where he can turn up field. They (Brian Schottenheimer) tried to get him the ball versus the Chargers (two catches and he dropped at least one) where he only had three catches all of the regular season."
"I don't think this will be a BIG part of the game but I do think he could play a part in giving the Jets young quarterback some easy throws on early downs in a hostile environment."
"Tony only has four catches in the two seasons but he does have good hands and usually is reliable as a receiver out of the backfield (career catches 205-- and nine TDs). "
"Again not a big part of the game (though he will blocking a bunch) but this matchup between the oldest man on the field (Tony Richardson) and the Colts linebackers (both in the running game as well as defending him off of play action) could be a factor in keeping the Colts defense off balance."
“I’d look at the play of the two interior lines. A lot of attention is being focused (and rightly so) on New York’s two offensive tackles being able to contain Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney and their ferocious pass rush. New York NEEDs to establish a strong ground game, especially up the middle. Center Nick Mangold and guards Alan Faneca and Brandon Moore allow the Jets to do a lot of running between the two tackles an area that has traditionally been a weakness for the Colts’ defensive front."
"The play of DTs Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson has been a huge lift to Indianapolis’ defense. If the Colts can’t contain New York on the ground and force them into a lot of obvious passing situations (third and long) all that speed on Indianapolis’ defense will be negated. In years past the Colts were extremely undersized up the middle, on defense, but both Muir and Johnson are legitimate 300 pounders and have done a lot to improve the Colts’ run defense."
"Look for the Colts to focus a lot of their attention to stopping Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene before they can get to the second level and produce explosive run plays or simply keep moving the chains. I’d expect the Jets to struggle with their ground game."
[Side note: Stay tuned for a column by yours truly on those defensive tackles in just a bit.]
"I fully expect Darrelle Revis to matchup with Reggie Wayne for the majority of this game. It should be noted that Revis did usually line up over Antonio Gates last week when Vincent Jackson went to the slot and Indy might try similar tactics to free up Wayne. But all in all, the Colts do what they do and they do it extremely well."
"They will not differ much from their norm -- nor should they. So, that will often leave Pierre Garcon on Lito Sheppard. Sheppard has more big-game experience and is probably the bigger named player, but I tend to give this advantage to Garcon -- if Peyton Manning isn't under too much duress.
"Also, the further that Indy goes into their wide receiver corps, namely Austin Collie, the harder and harder time New York will have matching up with their cover men. Many thought this was the case last week. But while Malcolm Floyd is extremely talented, he is also inconsistent and often just misses on big plays. I expect Garcon to convert."