AFC Old East rivals renew their series in playoff opener
The Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets are familiar with each other.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- It's almost like a midseason game between division rivals.
Not since the 1969 Super Bowl have the Colts and Jets met in a game as important as today's first-round AFC matchup at the Meadowlands. It seems fitting that the longtime division rivals from the AFC East would collide in the playoffs of their first season apart.
Indianapolis switched to the AFC South in the 2002 realignment, then earned a wild-card berth with a 10-6 record. New York stayed put and rallied from the depths of the East to win the division at 9-7.
"They know us, we know them," said Curtis Martin, the Jets' star running back. "And the thing is that both teams have gotten better. So it is going to be a war."
In addition, the two coaches are close friends. Tony Dungy, who was fired by Tampa Bay a year ago and then hired by the Colts, has known Herman Edwards since 1977, when both played in a college all-star game. Dungy hired Edwards as his assistant head coach and defensive backfield coach in 1996 with the Bucs, and Edwards spent five years there before taking over the Jets.
"Well, we know them," Edwards said, referring to the Colts. "We know them on offense. Their offense really has not changed. Their defense is similar to Tampa's defense. I think I know the coach down there."
The Colts hold a 38-26 edge over the Jets since the NFL-AFL merger. But this will be the first time Dungy has faced off with Edwards as head coaches -- and the first time two black head coaches worked against each other in a playoff game.
"We're both old school, and we have the same philosophy and believe in the same things," Dungy said. "We both believe in fundamental football and winning in a simple kind of way. We both believe in how you do things, rather than the end result, because things will come if you do things right."
The Colts did a lot of things correctly on defense this season, surging from near the bottom of the league to eighth overall, second against the pass.
While Dungy says those rankings can be misleading, he has overseen a renaissance that should make the Colts a championship contender for a while -- particularly if the Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison-Edgerrin James offense remains intact.
But the Jets won't be intimidated. They've seen it all from the teams' time together in the AFC East and have had moderate success against the Colts in recent years.
Some of New York's players also know Dungy well from playing for him in Tampa Bay.
"Tony is the kind of guy who for the better part of a game will follow the rules of coaching, doing it by the coaching book," said Jets defensive tackle Steve White, who left the Bucs as a free agent last year. "But there are times he will go for it on fourth down and stuff like that. But Herman will do it more.
"They remind me of each other."