2012 Fantasy Football Preview: TE

The first wave of preseason games are in the books and fantasy football drafts are right around the corner. In the coming weeks, we will prepare you ready for the upcoming fantasy season by breaking every position. Today we’re talking the top-heavy tight end position.

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Indianapolis Colts-New York Jets Primer

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It sure has been a long week, but Wild Card Weekend is finally upon us.

After days of anticipating and listening to New York Jets coach Rex Ryan elaborate on his personal vendettas, the AFC playoffs get underway Saturday at 8 p.m. as the No. 3-seeded Indianapolis Colts (10-6) play host to Ryan’s No. 6-seeded Jets (11-5) at Lucas Oil Stadium in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game.

The Colts beat the Jets 30-17 last January to advance to Super Bowl XLIV, and the outspoken Jets coach let it be known earlier this week that he wants revenge, not only for last year’s loss but also for his history of suffering defeats at the hands of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning is 5-1 against Ryan’s defenses, dating back to when the New York head man served as defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens. The one victory came in Week 16 of 2009 when Indianapolis chose to pull its starters in the third quarter rather than continue to chase an undefeated season. Therefore, one might say Manning is perfect against Ryan’s defenses in meaningful games.

That certainly explains why Ryan wants this win Saturday. But will the Jets be able to pull off the road upset, or will the Colts continue their mastery of Ryan’s teams? A few key areas of interest clear the picture a bit.

The quarterbacks

Not much explanation is needed on the Colts’ side. Manning, one of the most prolific passers in NFL history, is coming off a regular season in which he completed a league-record 450 passes for a career-high 4,700 yards. He is 9-9 all-time in the playoffs but has beaten Ryan’s defenses both times he’s faced such units in the postseason (2006 AFC Divisional contest against the Baltimore Ravens and last year’s AFC title game). Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez played extremely well in the first half when the two teams last met in Indianapolis, but he couldn’t keep up with Manning and the Colts’ offense once they rallied. Sanchez has thrown for 3,291 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, but on the whole, he hasn’t shown much improvement from his rookie campaign. Whether he can throw with Manning will go a long way to determine New York’s chances.

Other key matchups

  • The Jets’ offensive line vs. the Colts’ defensive front seven. It’s become quite clear what the Jets like to do on offense: run the ball. However, New York’s rushing attack has seemed to regress down the stretch. One can point to running back LaDainian Tomlinson’s wearing down midseason, but fellow rusher Shonn Greene also has struggled to gain yards on the ground. Indy’s run defense, on the other hand, has improved dramatically in the last month of play, holding Jacksonville, Oakland and Tennessee, all teams with heralded running games, to less than 100 yards rushing. If the Colts’ defensive unit can contain the Jets’ ground attack and force Sanchez to make plays with his arm, the key matchup becomes New York’s tackles against Indy’s speedy pass-rushers, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Stopping the run will be the first order of business for the Colts on defense.
  • Colts receiver Pierre Garcon vs. Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie. I’ve been hearing a lot of commentary on how the Jets were “one corner away” from avoiding the onslaught that Manning and the Colts’ offense executed in the second half of last year’s AFC Championship game. Well, they’ve got another one in Cromartie, who has a favorable history against Manning. He intercepted the Colts quarterback three times in a regular-season contest in 2007 and then once in a rematch in the playoffs following that season. Garcon has big-play ability but tends to drop passes when covered tightly. While New York’s No. 1 corner, Darrelle Revis, figures to spell Indy’s Reggie Wayne, keep an eye on the Garcon-Cromartie battle on the other side. It could go a long way in determining Manning’s — or Cromartie’s — ability to break the game wide open.
  • Colts’ Jacob Tamme and Blair White vs. Jets’ linebackers. Manning did much of his damage in last year’s meeting in the middle of the field with tight end Dallas Clark and receiver Austin Collie. Both are lost for the season, and Tamme and White, respectively, take their positions. Both have done well in general, but can they be as effective against a strong group of Jets linebackers? Watch Tamme in particular. Manning has developed a trust in the third-year tight end as his play is quite similar to that of Clark. Tamme has quietly ranked among the league-leading tight ends in receptions.

Colts Lose Another Game-Changer in Austin Collie

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The Indianapolis Colts can’t seem to catch a break on the injury front in 2010.

The team’s latest casualty is wide receiver Austin Collie, who on Wednesday was placed on injured reserve after suffering a concussion Sunday in the second quarter of the Colts’ 34-24 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium. It was the third time this season that Collie was knocked out of a game with concussion-like symptoms.

Collie’s placement on IR is the 17th such roster move Indianapolis has made in 2010. Six regular Colts starters, Collie included, have received the season-ending sanction with injury.

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