Will Mark Sanchez become a factor this Sunday?

Know what the best thing about the Jets is? No, it’s not the fact that they’ve taken on the role of Cinderella (a brash, cocky Cinderella for that matter) for this year’s playoffs, although that has certainly made them fun to watch. It’s always easy to root for an underdog, especially when that underdog is led by a walking sound bite in Rex Ryan.

Actually, the best thing about the Jets is that they know exactly who they are and they don’t hide from it. They’re a team that relies on running the ball and playing good defense, much like the Ravens did in 2000, the Buccaneers did in 2002, the Steelers did in 2005, the Bears did in 2006 and the Giants did in 2007. The formula works.

That said, is this the weekend that rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez will have to take on more responsibility in order to take the Jets to the Super Bowl? Because at some point, an opponent will be able to take away New York’s running game and force Sanchez to beat them through the air. And that opponent may be the Colts, who happen to be the Jets’ counterpart in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

Peyton Manning has had a fair amount of success against Rex Ryan-led defenses over the past couple years and if the Colts can build a lead, they may force the Jets to abandon the run in order to win. Granted, this might not happen until the second half or even in the fourth quarter, but the key is that it may happen.

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Lucky? Yes, but Jets are good, too.

Following an ugly Week 15 loss at home to the Falcons, a game in which they botched three field goal attempts and had their head coach mistakenly announce that they were out of the playoffs, the Jets’ season appeared to be over.

The Jets needed several things to happen over the final two weeks of the season to keep their postseason hopes alive, one of which was to beat the 14-0 Colts in Indianapolis. Then they had to hope that the Jaguars would lose to the Patriots and the Dolphins to lose to the Texans.

Well wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what happened.

Jim Caldwell decided to pull his starters in the second half and the Jets cruised to a 29-15 victory over the Colts in Week 16. The Jaguars and Dolphins both lost, meaning a win over the Bengals in Week 17 meant that the Jets would make the postseason as the fifth seed.

With little to play for, Cincinnati gave a pathetic effort in a blowout loss to New York in Week 17, which allowed a once dead team a chance at a second life. And with that second life, Rex Ryan’s Jets have taken full advantage of their opportunities.

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2010 NFC & AFC Championship Odds

Odds makers have released the point spreads for the NFC and AFC Championship games, with the Saints and Colts opening as the favorites.

According to theSpread.com, Drew Brees and the Saints have opened as a 4.5-point favorite over the Vikings for the NFC title game. Both teams covered in the Divisional Round, with New Orleans winning as a 7-point favorite over Arizona, and Minnesota easily covering as a 3-point favorite over Dallas.

In the AFC, the Colts are an 8-point favorite over the Jets after beating the Ravens 20-3 in a Divisional Round matchup on Saturday night. New York pulled off an upset Sunday evening in San Diego, beating the Chargers 17-14.

Kickoff for the AFC Championship Game is set for 3:00PM ET on Sunday, while the NFC title matchup will start at 6:40PM ET.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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