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AFC CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: Reliving History

joe-namath (courtesy of sportsillustrated.com)

What’s a better scenario then a Colts-Jets matchup for the AFC Championship game? Some would argue the Chargers would be a better team, or a Patriots-Colts showdown would be a perfect way to kick start a new decade of football, but honestly, there is not greater matchup then the one presented to us.

This season celebrated the 50th anniversary of the AFL. The original teams wore their classic uniforms, even the referees donned the old orange stripes. So, the NFL is fortunate for a rematch of the greatest game in AFL history. This Sunday, greatness is relived as we get to witness a rematch of Super Bowl III.

This is not the first time these two teams have met in the playoffs since their encounter in 1969. In 2002, the Jets handed Peyton Manning his worst playoff loss ever in a 41-0 rout. However, that game did not have the ramifications this one will have. This Sunday, both teams will fight for a chance to play in Miami. The same site for Super Bowl III. That is one of the many eerie similarities that can be found in the clash of the top two AFC teams.

THE EFFECT OF SUPER BOWL III:

A little jeopardy knowledge: The third championship game between the AFL and NFL was the first time the name Super Bowl was coined. Before that, Football fans were treated to the NFL-AFL Championship Game, which was not as catchy.

When the game took place, the NFL was in the middle of acquiring the AFL and it’s ten members. An annual championship game took place between the champions of each league. For two straight years, the Green Bay Packers proved the NFL was superior by rolling over the AFL’s greatest team, the Kansas City Chiefs, and rising franchise, the Oakland Raiders. 1969 was supposed to be no different and really made NFL owners question bringing in the AFL, which was deemed a “minor league”.

The Baltimore Colts came into the game an NFL best 13-1, including a ten game winning streak within that season. Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas was riding the bench, a full eleven years removed from playing in the greatest game ever played, the 1958 NFL Championship. Still, they had the best offense in football and were at the top of every statistical category in the league. They crushed the Cleveland Browns in the NFL championship game, 34-0, to make the Super Bowl and were dubbed by the media, “The Greatest Team in Pro Football”.

The New York Jets were an inconsistent squad led by a young, flashy quarterback in Joe Namath. He went through the AFL season throwing more interceptions (17) then touchdowns (15). He was surrounded by play making receivers, a strong running game and a better then average defense, (featuring linebacker coach Buddy Ryan, you know, Rex’s dad.) They survived the Raiders in the AFL championship becoming the third AFL team to make the “Super Bowl” in as many years.

Before the game, something funny happened. Joe Namath was poolside in Miami when he told reporters that the Jets were going to win the game. HE GUARANTEED IT. To the surprise of everyone, the Jets played strong defense and controlled the game to become the first AFL team to win the battle of the best, proving the AFL was no second fiddle to the NFL. The win changed the foundation of professional football and allowed a smooth merger between the leagues which built the structure for modern football.

When the merger finalized, the Colts joined the same division as the Jets in the AFC, never allowing the two teams to meet in the Super Bowl again. This is the closest we will get.

THEN AND NOW:

There are some funny coincidences in this game, more then just the connection with Miami. The Colts will be the favorite this week, much like they were in 1969. They will also have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time on their team, Johnny Unitas then, Peyton Manning now. Both went against young quarterbacks on the rise, Joe Namath then, Mark Sanchez now. Both Jets teams featured Ryan’s in coaching positions, Buddy Ryan as linebacker coach then and his son Rex Ryan and Jets head coach now. However, it’s the differences between then and now that could change the outcome of this matchup.

Defensively, the Jets are fantastic. It’s not just Darrelle Revis being a shutdown corner. It’s a complete team effort that was able to manhandle the Bengals and Changers in the playoffs. Kerry Rhodes, Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, Shaun Ellis, David Harris and Calvin Pace are some of the players that have stepped up their game when it has mattered most. The old formula of a strong defense and a powerful running game has not worked this well since the Ravens in 2001. Mark Sanchez might get credit, but Thomas Jones, and especially Shonn Greene, have made the offensive plays that have kept the Jets dreams alive. The Colts do not have an excellent rush defense, so the Jets running attack will make this game more intriguing.

Offensively, the Colts are one of the greatest. They have the second best passing offense in the league and Peyton Manning has a plethora of weapons in his arsenal. Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark are both over 100 receptions. Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Joseph Addai are all over 50. They might not be the best rushing team, but they can beat you in numerous ways through the air. They are very much like the Colts of 1969, they are the best. And they will remain so until they are beaten.

WILL HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF?

If there is one thing you can learn from the NFL postseason so far it’s this: never count out the Jets. They were supposed to lose to the Bengals in Cincinnati. A blowout was expected in San Diego. They have defied expectations and have won with great defense and a reliable running game. Mark Sanchez has done everything to not lose a game, and so far it’s working. Rex Ryan may be the most exciting personality remaining in the playoffs and he has his team poised for a Super Bowl appearance.

However, if there was one person who is the opposite of Ryan, it’s Colts head coach Jim Caldwell. He is quiet and shows little emotion. What Tony Dungy had perfected, Caldwell has kept it chugging along. He unleashes Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis on defense and lets Manning run the offense. So far it has been the most effective game plan in the NFL. It also has them looking for this second Super Bowl shot in four years.

So in the end it’s simple, you go with the best team. The Colts are a lock for a Super Bowl appearance and are just waiting for the winner of the Saints and Vikings. See you in Miami…

…really? After this whole article did you forget the main argument? NEVER COUNT OUT THE JETS. This week, the regular season does not matter. The fact that the Colts rested it’s starters in week 16, which allowed the Jets to make the playoffs, plays absolutely no factor. The Jets defense is great. Great defenses will always factor out great offenses, always! That is why history will repeat itself and the Jets will be going to Miami. I guarantee it. (Namath pun intended). New York 17 – Indianapolis 13.

About Teddy

Was born in Queens, NY, but moved up to New Hampshire around 12, when my interest in sports really began to boom. A huge fan of the Boston sports scene, especially the Sox, Celts, Bruins and Pats. Went to Keene State College where I majored in Journalism and went around covering the college teams. Not just a bandwagon fan... i tend to follow everything from the Draft to Championships. Love to write and look forward to bringing a fun, interesting style... hopefully...

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Discussion

2 comments for “AFC CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: Reliving History”

  1. who did the stillers beat to go to superbowl 14?

    Posted by Rod Mcclanahan | July 19, 2010, 3:32 pm
  2. The Houston Oilers… which featured the running back showdown of Earl Campbell vs. Franco Harris

    Posted by Teddy | July 20, 2010, 10:39 am

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