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Reading the early 2009 NFL Playoffs tea leaves

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When the Jets dispatched the Bengals yesterday afternoon, the playoff situation for the #1 seeded Colts got very simple. Both teams the Colts could play next week are teams they've faced already in the regular season. Later today, the Ravens will face the Patriots in Foxboro, and since Bill Belichick and his crew have never lost a home playoff game in the Wild Card round, I think the chances of the Jets facing the Colts in the playoffs are very strong.

If the Ravens lose, the set-up would feature the Patriot at the Chargers. The last time those two teams met in a playoff match-up, the Pats went to San Diego in 2007 (for the 2006 playoffs) and shocked the Chargers by beating them in their own house. A Ravens lose today would also re-acquaint the Colts and Jets, who so famously faced each other two weeks ago when Jim Caldwell sat his starters, giving up on a then-undefeated season. The Jets were the Colts first loss in 2009, and the Colts have yet to win another game since that loss.

After that Week Sixteen Jets game, I went on radio station XL-950's "The Zone" with Derek Schultz and DZ from 18to88. One of the items we discussed was the possibility of the Jets returning to Indianapolis to face the Colts in the playoffs. Needless to say, if that scenario plays out and the Jets are indeed the Colts next opponent, the pressure on the Colts to destroy the Jets and win the game will be immense. In fact, the pressure would be on par with what happened back in 2003, when the Broncos came to town for the playoffs after beating the Colts in the regular season.

But, we aren't there yet, and if the Ravens manage to pull off a pretty substantial upset by beating the Patriots, playing the Ravens in Indy is, by no means, a pressure-less game itself. The one positive we can take from the Bengals losing is that the remaining teams in the AFC playoffs are very familiar to the Colts. It was the Bengals who were the true Wild Card with a tough defense, excellent ground game, and seemingly strong team unity in the face of some serious adversity this season. Plus, the Colts had not played a Bengals team led by Carson Palmer since 2006, and that team was much different than the one that lost in the playoffs yesterday.

I'm interested in seeing how the Ravens will attack the Patriots, who are without Wes Welker and who have struggled on defense all season. As always, the playoffs are where all the emotion and intensity explode into a fury of (usually) great football. Today's match-ups should offer a lot of entertaining football, and by the end of the day we will know who the Colts opponent is for next week.