For all the talk about the importance of home-field advantage in the playoffs, the cruel truth for top-seeded teams is this: The last time both of them made the Super Bowl was 1993.
The Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints can’t like hearing that. Plus, both of them lost at home late in the season, albeit not in critical games.
Then again, there is the history – or lack thereof – for these franchises in conference title games. The Saints are 0-1, a 39-14 loss at Chicago three years ago. The Jets, going back to the AFL days, are 1-2, the last a 23-10 defeat at Denver in January 1999.
Minnesota has won four NFC championships, but also has lost four, and surely wants to forget the 2000 NFC title contest, a 41-0 rout at the hands of the Giants.
Indianapolis beat New England 38-34 in an AFC championship classic three years ago, then took the Bears to win the Super Bowl – in Miami, where this year’s big game will be played.
But since moving to Indy in 1984, the Colts are 1-2 in conference title games.
The oddsmakers believe the Jets have run out of miracles and made them 7-point underdogs, while the Vikings are 4½-point dogs at New Orleans.
NY Jets (plus 7) at Indianapolis
Rex Ryan has the Jets believing they can achieve anything, and so far they have. Since he mentioned they were out of playoff contention after a Game 14 loss to Atlanta, the Jets have won four straight, twice on the road in the post-season.
In their 29-15 win at Lucas Oil Stadium to snap the Colts’ record 23-game regular-season winning string – including the first 14 this season – they benefited greatly from Peyton Manning sitting out much of the second half. Ryan knows his top-ranked defence will see plenty of Manning on Sunday.