Thursday, January 10, 2008

NFL Divisional Playoffs Pre-Game Analysis: San Diego at Indianapolis

Indianapolis Do’s and Don’t’s:

Do lean on the passing game. When the teams met earlier this year, the Colts were without Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark. According to John Clayton, Harrison has been looking great. A Marvin Harrison with some spring back in his step is just what the doctor ordered for the Colts to succeed.

Do stack the line while on defense. The Colts DBs outmatch the Bolts receivers on paper. This allows the 8 men in the box to key in on LT and take the Bolts out where they usually succeed, in the run game. This will force the Bolts into a passing game, where the defense can take advantage of a mistake prone Rivers.

Don’t let the Chargers special teams beat you again. Darren Sproles returned a kick off and a punt for TDs last time, crippling the offensive gameplan. As much as the team should lean on the pass, they should also get Joseph Addai and Kenton Keith some carries. If Manning throws 50+ times again, it’s probably because Indy is playing catch-up again.

Don’t get scared if it comes down to a Vinetieri kick to win the game. He will not miss again.

Don’t play that stupid simulated crowd noise. Let the fans show up, if they truly are fans.

San Diego Do’s and Don’t’s:

Do feed a steady diet of LT to the Colts front seven. They’re a little light in the bread-basket. Norv Turner couldn’t have a more simple plan for this game. LT is the key to winning (as in most games). If the Bolts get behind, their receivers don’t match up favorably with the Colts and NFL Defensive MVP, Bob Sanders will make it a long day for Rivers.

Do find a way to get Antonio Gates involved, which will take Bob Sanders and Antoine Bethea somewhat out of their game. If the Colts even think of putting a linebacker on Gates, Rivers will have a field day.

Don’t break away from the defensive plan if it doesn’t work early. The Merriman and Phillips need to be cut loose and go after Manning. The Colts have a system on offense that has been solidified over many years. Not many teams are successful at rushing Manning, but teams that do succeed have had positive results with the final score.

Don’t expect Peyton to throw 6 picks again.

Key Matchups:

When Indianapolis has the ball

RB Peyton Manning vs. CBs Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie
Several variables stand out here. Manning will most likely not have another 6 INT game. Quentin Jammer was out last time these teams faced each other. Peyton didn’t have two of his favorite targets available (Harrison & Clark).

When San Diego has the ball

OT Marcus McNeil vs. DE Robert Mathis
Last time these teams faced, Mathis had a sack against McNeil. McNeil has to keep Mathis out of the backfield. If the Bolts are forced to play catch-up, Mathis can make short work of the offense as Rivers will be forced to find an open receiver, giving Mathis more time to get to him.


Can Norv Turner beat a solid team in the playoffs?
I hate to make this about Norv Turner, but the theme works for me. Last week, the question was: “Can Norv Turner win a playoff game?” Now that coached his team to a victory against a Titans team that was a little banged up on offense, they face a tougher challenge. If the Bolts can knock out the defending Super Bowl champs, they may pose the biggest threat to the Patriots this season. But, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.

Special Teams
Going back to their regular season match up, the special teams are what dictated the game early on. Two return TDs and a field goal put the Bolts ahead 16-0, forcing Manning to throw the ball the rest of the game. The return game will be key again, on a fast field in Indianapolis. Whomever wins the field position game will win the game (barring that more important stat of turnovers).

Final Score Prediction:

Indianapolis wins, 29-22

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