Familiar foes meet again

Published: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 3:21 a.m.
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Edgerrin James and the Colts meet the Jets this afternoon at the Meadowlands.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun


Tim Sullivan's picks: Wild-card Saturday

  • WHO: Indianapolis Colts (10-6) at New York Jets (9-7).
  • WHEN: 4:30 p.m., ABC.
  • THE LINE: Jets by 6.
  • LAST WEEK: Indianapolis defeated Jacksonville 20-13. The Jets handled Green Bay 42-17.
  • THE GAME: Colts finished No. 2 in the league in pass defense, but they certainly didn't close with authority. In their last four games, they allowed 1,025 yards and seven touchdowns through the air. The Jets will look to extend their misery. QB Chad Pennington (3,120 yards, 22 TDs) will work out of a lot of three-wide sets, utilizing Laveranues Coles (1,264, 5), Wayne Chrebet (691, 9) and Santana Moss (433, 4). That should open some room for RB Curtis Martin (1,094, 7). It should be cold and windy at the Meadowlands, where the Jets have won four straight, and the dome-friendly Colts have yet to play this season. Indianapolis' backfield has been inconsistent. Edgerrin James averages just 3.5 yards a carry, and backup James Mungro just 3.4. The Colts haven't had a 100-yard individual effort in seven weeks.
  • THE PREDICTION: Jets 28, Colts 21.
  • WHO: Atlanta Falcons (9-6-1) at Green Bay Packers (12-4).
  • WHEN: 8 p.m., ABC.
  • THE LINE: Packers by 6.
  • LAST WEEK: Cleveland defeated Atlanta 24-16. The Jets defeated Green Bay 42-17.
  • THE GAME: Packers went from having home-field throughout the playoffs to hosting a first-round game. Green Bay is not playing well. They barely beat Buffalo 10-0 Dec. 22, and were handled last week in New York. But, they've never lost a home playoff game (11-0), and it's hard to believe that streak is in danger tonight. QB Brett Favre (3,658 yards, 27 TDs) sat most of the second half last week, should be well rested and faces a defense that has allowed 25.4 points over the last four games. Falcons QB Mike Vick (2,936 yards, 16 TDs) has had a great year. But it's about to end. Atlanta has lost three of four and has already fallen at Lambeau Field this season. Favre is 35-0 in games played in temperatures below 34 degrees. Game-time temperatures are expected to be in the 20s, with snow possible.
  • THE PREDICTION: Packers 30, Falcons 10. Nothing shocking
  • Postseason is finally here, and it's important to remember not to be too bold these days. Upsets happen in the playoffs, yes, but they are rare. In the last two wild-card weekends, for instance, home teams were 7-1 straight up and against the spread. The numbers slightly favor the underdog as the playoffs progress, but this first weekend - at least in the recent past - has gone according to plan. How that plays out this weekend remains to be seen. In Week 17, we went 11-5 straight up, 7-9 against the spread. Good luck today. Final regular season records: Straight up: 151-104-1; Against the spread: 124-124-8.
    You can reach Tim Sullivan by calling 374-5050 or by email at

  • EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.- It's almost like a midseason game between division rivals. Almost. Not since the 1969 Super Bowl have the Colts and Jets met in a game as important as today's first-round AFC matchup at the Meadowlands. It seems fitting that the longtime division rivals from the AFC East would collide in the playoffs of their first season apart.
    Indianapolis switched to the AFC South in the 2002 realignment, then earned a wild-card berth with a 10-6 record. New York stayed put and rallied from the depths of the East to win the division at 9-7.
    "They know us, we know them," said Curtis Martin, the Jets' star running back. "And the thing is that both teams have gotten better. So it is going to be a war."
    In addition, the two coaches are close friends. Tony Dungy, who was fired by Tampa Bay a year ago and then hired by the Colts, has known Herman Edwards since 1977, when both played in a college all-star game. Dungy hired Edwards as his assistant head coach and defensive backfield coach in 1996 with the Bucs, and Edwards spent five years there before taking over the Jets.
    "Well, we know them," Edwards said, referring to the Colts. "We know them on offense. Their offense really has not changed. Their defense is similar to Tampa's defense.
    "I think I know the coach down there." The Colts hold a 38-26 edge over the Jets since the NFL-AFL merger. But this will be the first time Dungy has faced off with Edwards as head coaches - and the first time two black head coaches worked against each other in a playoff game.
    "We're both old school, and we have the same philosophy and believe in the same things," Dungy said. "We both believe in fundamental football and winning in a simple kind of way. We both believe in how you do things, rather than the end result, because things will come if you do things right."
    The Colts did a lot of things correctly on defense this season, surging from near the bottom of the league to eighth overall, second against the pass. While Dungy says those rankings can be misleading, he has overseen a renaissance that should make the Colts a contender for a while.
    The Colts have won some big games on the road, most notably against the Eagles and Broncos while going 5-3 away from Indianapolis.

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