AFC: Offensive keys in the playoffs

Eric Allen dissects the offensive keys of each AFC playoff team – and how to defense them.

Updated: January 10, 2005, 1:20 AM ET
By Eric Allen | ESPN Insider
If defense wins championships, here is what AFC defenses ought to be studying as the playoffs get under way:

Key To The Offense: This is it for the Colts because the records don't matter anymore. All that matters is if the Colts can maintain their high level of play in the playoffs. Manning does a wonderful job using his knowledge to destroy defenses, but he couldn't do it without the legs of RB Edgerrin James. Enough can't be said about James and his ability to apply pressure with his legs and his ability to catch the ball and make plays.

James even makes the most dangerous receiving corps in the league (WRs Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley) that much more dangerous. Wayne has emerged as a dominant football player in a complementary role to Harrison, but the key to the receiver's success has been the play of Stokley. His presence is what makes this team reminiscent of the Rams in the late 90's.

Key To Defending It: Just try and keep up and throw caution to the wind offensively. Whatever your forte as a offense is what you have to bank on. The Colts' offense has to be outscored to be beaten, and there aren't many offenses that can keep up with them. Teams must score quickly and hope to get some hurries and sacks on Manning.

Eric Allen

NFL studio analyst
Eric Allen, a 14-year NFL veteran and was one of the NFL's premier defensive backs, joined ESPN in August 2002 as an NFL studio analyst. His primary role is providing analysis for ESPNEWS' Monday Quarterback.