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For the ninth year in a row, the Indianapolis Colts will make an appearance in the National Football League playoffs … although this year Peyton Manning and company had to sweat it out.

The Colts officially qualified for the postseason on Sunday when the Jacksonville Jaguars were defeated by the Houston Texans – a loss that also delivered Indy its seventh AFC South title in the last eight years. Moments later, Adam Vinatieri hit a 43-yard field goal as time expired to give the Colts a 23-20 win over the Tennessee Titans.

Needing either a win or a Jacksonville loss to make the playoffs … the Colts ended up getting both. They are now the first team since the 1975-83 Dallas Cowboys to make the playoffs nine years in a row.

The win produced a slew of new benchmarks for Manning – arguably the best athlete of the past decade. First, he broke Gene Upshaw’s record for consecutive quarterback starts to open a career (208). Later in the game, he broke Drew Brees single-season record for completions (450), which Brees had set earlier Sunday.

Manning also finished the season with 4,700 yards passing – a new personal best. He’s now broken the 4,000-yard mark an NFL-record 11 times.

Needless to say our founding editor – a 24-year Colts fan and founder of the “Manning Man-Crush” fan club – was overjoyed, even though this year’s injury-plagued Colts team isn’t expected to go very far in this year’s playoffs.

Among the key personnel losses? Hard-hitting safety Bob Sanders, tight end Dallas Clark (Manning’s favorite target) and wide receivers Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez. All told, 17 Colts are on the injured reserve list.

Nonetheless,we’ve got at least one more week to cheer for our favorite team.

Incidentally, the Colts are 9-9 in playoff games during the Peyton Manning era, including a 1-1 mark in Super Bowls (winning XLI, losing XLIV).

Indianapolis will host the New York Jets on Saturday in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship. Kickoff is set for 8:00 p.m. EST with NBC televising the game nationally. In the other Saturday game, the Seattle Seahawks will host the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints.

That game, which kicks off at 4:30 p.m. EST, will also be televised by NBC.

Odds makers have installed the Colts as 2.5 point favorites, while the Saints are favored by 10.5 points over the Seahawks.

On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs host the Baltimore Ravens (1:00 p.m. EST, CBS) while Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles host the Green Bay Packers (4:30 p.m. EST, FOX).

Both the Chiefs and Eagles are 2.5 point favorites …

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