Toronto, Canada – By Larry Fine
FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - The Indianapolis Colts may come to regret the decision to rest their regulars in a defeat to the then unthreatening New York Jets last month, the side that now stand in their way of a Super Bowl berth.
After romping to a 14-0 record in the regular season to ensure a playoff place, the NFL-best Colts turned away from pursuit of a perfect season by resting players and losing 29-15 to the Jets, then a 7-7 team, and the Buffalo Bills 30-7 .
"The big stage is every day in New York," Jets rookie coach Rex Ryan told reporters when asked whether his 9-7 team could handle the pressures of the big game against the 15-2 Colts.
"This will be as loose a team as you'll ever see going into an AFC Championship game. We're not afraid to compete against the Colts. We're excited to."
"It is something we addressed at the time, and we have truly moved on from it," Manning said Thursday on a conference call.
Indy's play-safe approach was taken to avoid injuries in the regular season's penultimate game. The move brought howls of protest from fans who thought the Colts could join the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only unbeaten Super Bowl champions.
While the 2006 Super Bowl winning Colts have continued a consistent run of success behind a passing game steered by Manning, Ryan has sparked the Jets with a blitz-happy defense and power running game he has termed "ground and pound."
"They are a talented group of guys that play extremely well together and right now they are on fire," Colts first-year coach Jim Caldwell said about New York's defense.
Ryan said his NFL-best defense got a positive jolt from three Baltimore Ravens players -- linebacker Bart Scott, safety Jim Leonhard and lineman/defensive end Marques Douglas -- he had coached as defensive coordinator before being hired by the Jets.
"They've had a huge impact, obviously," Ryan said.
"Marques Douglas coming in on the D-line. You had Bart at linebacker, and then you had Jim Leonhard in the back end. You had three guys that the players could lean on to try to learn this system. To let them know it's not overwhelming."
One other standout on the defense that could loom large against the Colts is cornerback Darrelle Revis, who has had an extraordinary season shutting down top receivers.
Revis has made it his goal to strand the opposition's best receiver on what he has jokingly called "Revis Island."
"We will never know what the outcome of that game would be," Wayne said about the first encounter. "One thing we do know is that we have this game here, and we are definitely playing a full game."
Given Manning's accuracy and ability to read coverages, Revis expects a busy day.
"It's going to be a lot of storms on Revis Island," he told reporters with a laugh. "It's going to be crazy."
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)