Sunday, January 1, 2012

Week 17-A Little Help

As soon as the gun sounded on the Jets 29-14 loss to the Giants last Sunday, the speculation began as to how Woody Johnson would react to the latest disappointment involving his franchise. In the past, Johnson has reacted to poor performances before by picking a sacrificial lamb, whether it's Paul Hackett or Eric Mangini, and jettisoning that person from Florham Park. Conventional wisdom dictates that this year it will be Brian Schottenheimer, the embattled offensive coordinator who is every Jets fan's favorite whipping boy. Schottenhemier's offenses have been positively mediocre every season he's been with the club; the Jets offense have never finished in the top 10 in the NFL in offense during any season of his tenure. The Jets offense has regressed to the point where they have only had 2 plays of longer than 40 yards during the entire 2011 season.

Of course, there are plenty of us who feel that there's enough blame to go around. Mark Sanchez and his 59-throw checkdown party at MetLife Stadium opened enough eyes to the fact that he still does not appear to be the guy to direct and NFL-caliber offense. Our receiving corps lacks quickness, squeezing the windows through which Sanchez must fit the football ever smaller and smaller. Our offensive line has two guys going to the Pro Bowl, which speaks volumes about Wayne Hunter and Matt Slauson (and perhaps even Brandon Moore), since they have largely failed to establish the line of scrimmage all season long.

The game is to start in about 30 minutes, so I'm making this short. The Jets need plenty of help to get into the playoffs today. At 1 pm, they need to beat Miami, and they need Houston to beat Tennessee. At 4 pm, they need Baltimore to beat Cincinnati, and they need either Kansas City to beat Denver, or San Diego to beat Oakland. There convoluted formulas are far-fetched; at this point, I would settle for a Jets win, and that may be the hardest achievement in these scenarios. Miami has played solid football over the last half of the season.

After this one is over, I will have a larger postmortem on 2011 and look forward to the postseason for the rest of the league. It would be fantastic to get in the postseason in 2011, simply because I don't believe any of the potential #6 seeds are afraid of traveling to Houston to face the Texans during Wild Card weekend. Houston is playing a third string QB and has lost 2 straight. As the Jets have shown over the past 2 seasons, all you really need to do is get in to the postseason.

Once you're in, anything can happen.

Kickoff from Miami is at 1 pm today.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Week 16-For More Than Pride

Both the Giants and Jets had a chance to make this week's crosstown battle relatively meaningless as long as they could come through with victories in Week 15. Instead, both teams were hammered into submission, which makes tomorrow's Week 16 tilt a virtual elimination game. The Giants were in a position to win one of their last two to get into the playoffs, with the seemingly easier game against Washington, but they played poorly last Sunday in a 23-10 loss. The Jets had a chance to put a stranglehold on the #6 seed, but instead were blown out by Philadelphia, who almost dropped a 50-burger on the vaunted Jets defense.

Truth be told, I had written a rather long blog post on the Jets playoff prospects that was magically erased by the wonderful Blogger system, and I don't have the time or inclination to recant every brilliant word of it (sarcasm). Suffice it to say that the Jets must win tomorrow against the Giants and next week in Miami and they will find themselves in the postseason for the third straight year for the first time in franchise history. I have no illusions about the Jets being more than a one-and-done team, but it would be nice to find them in the postseason once again.

I truly believe that the Giants are a good matchup for the Jets. The strength of their team offensively is their skill at the receiver position, while the Jets strength defensively is being able to take away receivers with outstanding coverage. The Giants are missing their starting tight end, and the Jets have struggled with tight ends all season. The Jets run defense has been spotty, but the Giants have struggled to run the ball well all season. I think the game will come down to the Jets offensive line and their ability to keep the pressure away from Mark Sanchez. If they can keep the pocket clean, the Jets have an excellent chance to win.

Both teams have engaged in an inordinate amount of trash talk over the last few days, including the Giants receiving corps choosing to take on Darrelle Revis (of all people). Normally, this plays right into the Jets' hands, as the Jets seem to use trash talk to hype themselves to a level of intensity that their opponents struggle to match. Both the Jets and the Giants have been truly mediocre all season, so anyone who pretends to know exactly what we're going to get from either team is fooling themselves.

The Jets still control their destiny for the postseason; win this week against the Giants and next Sunday in Miami and the #6 seed is theirs. Virtually every other scenario that involves a loss to either team would leave the Jets needing so much help to get in that it would be highly unlikely to happen. The Giants are in the same position, needing a win against the Jets and a victory at home against Dallas in Week 17 to win the NFC East. The stakes are higher for this game than perhaps any game between the teams ever.

Kickoff tomorrow from MetLife Stadium is at 1 pm.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Week 15-A Trip Down The Road

The Jets won their third straight game last Sunday against Kansas City, 37-10, in a game that was not even as close as that score would indicate. This game was easily the Jets best performance of the season. The offense started (inexplicably) with a timeout, then proceeded to dominate both lines of scrimmage. The Jets broke to a 28-3 lead, holding the Chiefs to a total of four yards of offense in the first half. Mark Sanchez was efficient, scoring four touchdowns (two rushing, two passing) and playing mistake-free football, and Shonn Greene had a career-high 187 yards from scrimmage. The Jets played the way a good team is supposed to play, putting away a lesser opponent at home with a complete performance on both sides of the ball.

New York has picked the right time of year to be rounding into form. They were fortunate enough to get losses from both Tennessee and Cincinnati last week, which means that the Jets now control their playoff destiny. If they win out, they get the #6 seed and a trip to play the #3 seed during Wild Card weekend.

The first (or fourth, depending on how you look at it) step to that path is today in the late window against Mike Vick, Shady McCoy, and the rest of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have been disappointing, never living up to the hype generated by their rash of free agent signings before the season, but they did look pretty good last week in dispatching the Dolphins. The Eagles pass rush was able to generate nine sacks, disrupting Miami in an easy win. The ability (or inability) for the Jets to handle that pass rush will be the key to the game. When Sanchez has time and space to step up in the pocket, he is much better decision maker and a more accurate thrower.

If the Jets are able to protect Sanchez enough so that he can be efficient throwing the ball, the rest of the Jets offense flows like water. The Jets defense has to deal with a big play offense that leads the NFL in plays of over 20 yards. The Eagles will take chances to make big plays, which means there are opportunities to force turnovers for their opponents. The Jets lost Jim Leonhard for the rest of the season last week, which means for the second consecutive year, the back end of the defense will have to cope with different personnel during key late season matchups. I expect the Jets to handle the situation better than they did last season.

This will be a difficult test for the Jets, but will reveal much about who they are as a team. The Jets have struggled on the road all season, and, to advance in the playoffs (if they get there) they will need to prove to themselves that they can travel anywhere and win. There is no better time than now to begin teaching themselves that this, and all other things, are possible.

Kickoff from Philly is at 4 pm today.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Week 14-No Room For Error

I began to think this week that it's possible to qualify for the 2011 postseason without having a significant victory over a good team. Perhaps the best team they've beat all season is the Dallas Cowboys, who are as inconsistent as any team in the league. The Jets picked up a 34-19 victory over Washington last week by, once again, struggling to move the ball all day before putting together 21 points in the last 4:49 to come from behind for victory. Shonn Greene ran for 88 yards and 3 TD, although the last one should have been a kneel down, as Greene proved that he still doesn't really understand situational football.

We are four games from the conclusion of the regular season. The Jets last four opponents are Kansas City, at Philadelphia, New York Giants, and at Miami. The experts will have you believe that the Jets schedule leads to the easiest route to the final wild card in the AFC, but, when your team is inconsistent, there are no easy roads. The Jets haven't provided me with any indication that they will control the Chiefs today and provide a dominant win. Wherever the 2011 Jets wind up, it will be a struggle to get there.

Today, Kansas City pays a visit to MetLife Stadium with a 5-7 record and an inconsistent backup QB in Tyler Palko. The Chiefs lost their best offensive player (Jamaal Charles) and their best defensive player (Eric Berry) early in the season, and their grit is admirable considering how they've battled all season despite being undermanned. Their front seven is legit and it will be difficult to score against them using long drives.

The Jets secondary must take advantage of the opportunities they get (and they WILL get opportunities) to force turnovers. Tyler Palko has thrown 6 picks in 102 attempts, and looks lost against most defenses. The way the Jets mix coverages, I don't expect for the picture to suddenly clear up for the young QB. Kansas City should struggle to score against the Jets defense unless the offense coughs up multiple turnovers.

I expect the Jets to apply a conservative approach offensively, using the run to win time of possession, and keeping Sanchez on schedule to keep him out of difficult second and third and long. Sanchez won last week by avoiding mistakes. Even though he went through a stretch of the game where he completed about 3 out of 15 throws, he kept his head and avoided the big mistake. When Sanchez avoids the big mistake, the Jets are able to stay in the game against virtually everyone. But...when Sanchez has a big turnover, the offense isn't prolific enough to overcome it.

Rex Ryan seems pleased with the way his team has reacted to this very winnable stretch of games. The way things are breaking for the Jets, they will need to win all four of these games to get into the playoffs. If the Jets can handle their business today, they will be able to head to Philadelphia believing that they can continue the winning all the way to the postseason. A loss to the Chiefs, however, will effectively end the Jets hopes for the postseason. The Jets can ill afford another loss, much less another conference loss.

Kickoff from MetLife stadium is at 1 pm.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Week 13-On to Washington

The New York Jets were fortunate to escape MetLife Stadium with a 28-24 victory last Sunday. They lost the turnover battle, gave up an efficient game to Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, and survived yet another day of inaccuracy from Mark Sanchez. However, trailing by three with five minutes to play, Sanchez led the Jets on 12-play, 82-yard drive that he concluded with a bullet to Santonio Holmes for the game-winning TD. The defense held on Buffalo's final drive, preserving the victory.

There was an unsettling nature to the entire contest. The Jets decided to reward Stevie Johnson with a one-way ticket to Revis Island, and, for the first time in three years, an NFL receiver actually enjoyed his stay there. Buffalo must have seen that you can complete all manners of screens, crosses, and slants when Revis is not pressing the line of scrimmage, and also must have trusted Fitzpatrick enough to make those throws accurately. As a result, Johnson caught 8 passes for 75 yards and a TD.

Johnson's day wound up memorable not for his success against Revis, but because of his TD celebration and his drops in the fourth quarter. After scoring a touchdown to give Buffalo a 14-7 second quarter lead, Johnson decided to celebrate by fake-shooting himself in the leg and duplicating Santonio Holmes' airplane celebration, ending with crashing the airplane to the turf. The referee gave Johnson a perfect 15-yard score for his routine. The ensuing kickoff was mishit by Dave Rayner, and, after the now departed Emanuel Cook recovered, the Jets had the ball at the Buffalo 36. Four plays later, Plaxico Burress, the subject of Johnson's celebration joke, was in the end zone with a tying touchdown. Johnson would go on to drop a post route on Buffalo's last drive that would have put the Bills in the red zone with plenty of time to score, if not in the end zone with the winning touchdown. Johnson would eventually be fined $10K by the league for his poor taste.

As we collect more and more evidence of who the 2011 Jets are, the conclusion should be that they are an average team. This team looks destined for 8-8, or perhaps 9-7. There is no element of the game on which the Jets can truly rely. Their offense lacks the quickness and speed needed to score quickly, and Sanchez normally lacks the precision to sustain the big drives needed to score methodically. The defense has improved against the run, but their front seven features a lack of speed from sideline to sideline, and, while their pass defense is normally very solid, they lack the pass rush necessary to beat the best quarterbacks. They normally have to send five (or six) to get there. Any team that protects well will have plenty of time to carve us up.

Will the Jets ever be able to put all of the pieces together and play a complete game against a good team? Well, luckily for New York, the rest of their schedule lacks any really good teams. The Jets travel to Washington today to face the 4-7 Redskins, who lost six of seven after beginning the season 3-1 before beating Seattle last week. Washington has a pretty good defense and a solid pass rush, but their offense has been unsettled all season, as Head Coach Mike Shanahan vacillated between Rex Grossman and John Beck at QB, neither of which should really be starting for an NFL team. The Jets used to be pure money on the road, especially against a team that's under .500, but the hallmark of an average team is that you never know what to expect. New York may find success early against Washington, or they may struggle the entire game like they did two weeks ago in Denver. Anyone who pretends to know what to expect from the Jets, even people inside the organization, are fooling themselves.

It's not hard to imagine this lack of consistency eating away at the team's psyche. How the team reacts to their current situation will speak volumes about Rex Ryan and his coaching staff, especially that we are now in December with only five games left. The Jets are currently 6-5, one game behind Cincinnati for the final wild card, tied with Tennessee and Denver. The Jets have five conference losses, including losses to teams like Baltimore, Oakland, and Denver, so they are not likely to win any tiebreakers for playoff position, and most likely will have to win at least four of five to close the season to have a chance at a wild card. In order to achieve this goal, the Jets must find the consistency that they have lacked all season, and put together complete performances, 60 minutes at a time, beginning today in Washington. It will be difficult, but certainly not impossible.

Kickoff in suburban Washington is at 1 pm.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Week 12-Sad Sack

The picture on the left looks familiar, doesn't it?

Like any other Jets fan, I'm sick of the hangdog look that follows every crushing mistake. I fully understand that mistakes are unavoidable, I expect the quarterback to turn it over on occasion. I also expect him to make plays occasionally. Watching a quarterback make mistakes while failing to move the ball makes you feel like you're watching a rookie. This isn't what we were expecting as Jets fans when we took Mark Sanchez 5th overall in 2009. He is so tentative in the pocket, so absolutely flustered by the slightest bit of pressure, I've given up trying to defend him.

The whole offense is struggling. We're having problems maintaining a running game, keeping Sanchez from taking big hits, and getting separation on the outside. We're clearly worse on offense then we were last season. Always trying to bring in new skill people and thinking that everyone is going to coalesce and turn into the greatest show on turf is clearly folly. I used to believe that offensive line continuity was the most important part of offensive success, but, with the modern passing game relying mostly on a series of pre-snap adjustments, having receivers who are always on the same page with your QB is a big deal.

Just look at Green Bay. Watching the Packers school everyone they face speaks volumes about maintaining continuity with your offensive personnel. Aaron Rodgers is outstanding and crazy accurate with the football, but, their whole team is so crisp offensively, it's obvious that keeping the same core of skill people and developing them together is still the best way to succeed at the NFL level.

Anyway, the Jets limp back to MetLife at 5-5 after blowing the Broncos game, where they will face the also-collapsing Buffalo Bills, who are at 5-5 after being crushed the last 2 weeks by a combined score of 79-15. The Bills are facing a myriad of injuries to key people, including Fred Jackson, who was their most consistent offensive threat for most of the season. New York will need to finish at 5-1 in their last 6 to have a prayer at a postseason berth. The schedule over the last 6 games is not too difficult, but, when you're not playing well, every opponent is a tough game.

In the very least, we will know as a fanbase just how low we've sunk if we can not beat the Bills tomorrow. We've been able to control the line of scrimmage against Buffalo over the last few seasons. Having the ability to repeat this formula will be the key to the game. If the last few games are any indication, we won't be able to rely on Sanchez to fling it around the field. We must run the ball and stay in manageable distances for Sanchez, leaving him with easier throws to make. At this stage, I would be willing to accept any type of victory we can muster.

Kickoff tomorrow is at 1 pm.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Week 11-Not The Guy

Developing a young quarterback is not unlike raising a child. After a few years, you may not know what he or she is going to be when they get older, but you probably know what they're not going to be. Your child could attain any level of personal or professional success in life, of course, but you probably know, or at least have a feeling, as to whether or not they are gifted. If they have a chance to be Stephen Hawking, you probably have some idea already that they are capable of achieving great things academically.

We are on our third year of the Mark Sanchez experience, and, though he has a chance to be a solid QB in the league, everyone should know by now that we didn't draft Joe Montana or Otto Graham. Sanchez seems unable to see portions of the field at key times during the game, he seems to lock on to his primary receiver from the snap (think about the Buffalo interception on the first drive, among others), and the Jets offense goes through stretches of the game when they can't get first downs, can't take advantage of field position given to them by the defense thanks to stops and turnovers, and can't score. And it's mostly on Sanchez.

The Jets have been so concerned with Sanchez making a crushing mistake that they almost always take the most conservative approach. End of the half from your own 35 and less than 30 seconds? Sure, we'll take a knee. Third and 14 from our own end? We're running a screen or a draw and hoping LT can pick it up. If we don't get it, we'll punt.

This frustrating way of playing is necessitated far more because of Sanchez' inconsistency then because of trying to protect the defense, or trying to keep the game close and play the field position game, or whatever excuse we're coming up with this week. The owners and their benefactors at the networks have decided that they want the NFL to look more and more like a 7-on-7 drill, like an Arena league game. They want a ton of points, quarterbacks who never get hit as they fling it around the field 40 times a game, with fear and courage removed from the equation (at least, as much as possible). The NFL under Roger Goodell takes me for granted. Instead, he'd like to win over people who think football is far too dangerous. I really wish Goodell would stop trying to sanitize my violence. Or resign. One of the two.

As I watched some old NFL films on Hulu the other night as I fell asleep, taking in the highlights of the Super Bowl I Champion 1966 Green Bay Packers season, I began to realize just how much the game has changed. Imagine using a two-back set, but actually using both backs to handle the ball (and keeping the other on the field to block...which you almost never see today). Imagine seeing a receiver on a crossing route or a wheel route actually having to find the safety, or being genuinely concerned about getting his head taken off. I miss that game. A lot of other fans I talk to miss it as well. Points and yards that are easy to come by are of lesser value, just like anything else that gets handed to you easily. I believe that game is gone forever, as the modern NFL will continue to look more and more like flag football and less like the game where courage can be the great equalizer over talent.

In this modern game, you better have a guy in the pocket (or on the edge) who can test the perimeter of the defense with accuracy, or you will be far too easy to defend, with points always coming at a premium. Sanchez is not that guy now, and he most likely will never be that guy. Luckily, this week the Jets face another guy who will never be that guy in Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. Denver is 3-1 with Tebow starting, as Head Coach John Fox is trying just about anything to string first downs together with a QB who completes 45% of his throws. All signs point to a low scoring struggle that will test the Jets mettle as much as any on the schedule.

The Jets are playing on 3 days rest, flying halfway across the country to play at altitude against a spirited home crowd and a team playing their best football of the season. They would be well advised to come prepared, or they will find themselves at 5-5, and effectively out of the playoff race. If the Jets can string together a few wins, they can put themselves in solid position for a franchise-+record third consecutive playoff appearance. But, if they lose to Denver, the season will most likely end in the disappointment of failed expectations.

New York will be without Tomlinson and Kerley against Denver, so they will have to get contributions from unexpected sources, and the defense must wrap up and bring hats to the ball. If they lose contact, they will not be able to get off of the field. If I were Rex Ryan, I would hope to take the ball to start the game, move it down the field and get points, and put the pressure on Tebow to have to throw it. If they execute that plan, they should be able to get back on the winning track.

Kickoff tomorrow night from Mile High is at 8:20 pm.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week 10-The Pats Come Calling

The Jets handled the first half of their division showdown last Sunday, soundly beating the Buffalo Bills, 27-11. The Giants managed to travel to Foxborough and hand New England a defeat, meaning that Buffalo, New England, and the Jets are all tied at 5-3 on top of the AFC East. The second half of the showdown happens tonight, as the Jets host New England for a shot at sole possession of the lead in the division. The Jets won the ground game battle for the second consecutive week, outgaining the Bills on the ground 126-96, and QB Mark Sanchez completed 71.4% of his passes while playing one of his more efficient games throwing the football. Despite Sanchez' accuracy, he still managed to commit 2 costly turnovers, which contributed to the game remaining competitive during the first half. It's easy to forget that Sanchez is still a young quarterback (he turned 25 years old on Friday) who still has a lot to learn. He is on pace for a career high for TD passes, completion percentage, and QB rating, so, even though he may not be the player we all want him to be, there is evidence that he's moving in the right direction.

One of the keys to the Jets recent turnaround has been the play of our offensive line. All-Pro C Nick Mangold appears to be close to full strength, and the Jets have begun to take control of the line of scrimmage on offense and defense. New York is playing their best football of the season, just in time for New England to come for a nationally-televised visit.

Much has been made of the Pats recent struggles by the talking heads on TV. New England got off to a 5-1 start as everyone struggled to slow down Brady and his outstanding offense. The last 2 weeks have been a different story, as Brady has been unable to free his receivers down the field. The Patriots have lacked a true deep threat since Randy Moss left last season, which enables the defense to defend less territory, and contributes greatly to the defense being able to get off the field.

New England's defense is ranked dead last in the league, giving up 416 yards per game, including 314 yards through the air. With this track record, you would expect their opponents to throw the ball until the Pats prove they can make stops, but I would imagine that you're going to see more of the double teams at the point of attack and power running that has led the Jets to 3 consecutive victories.

It took 6 games, but the Jets have slowly regained the identity that helped them reach consecutive AFC Championship games over the last 2 seasons. New England is always dangerous even when they're not playing their best, but the Jets have been the better team recently, and should be able to beat the Pats at home as long as they can control the Patriots run game better than they did in Foxborough, and as long as Mark Sanchez avoids mistakes. The Jets have a chance to take control of the AFC East, as long as they play smart and play clean.

Kickoff from MetLife Stadium is at 8:30 tonight.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Week 9-Third Time's A Charm

The bye week has not been friendly to the Jets since the Rex Ryan era began. In each of his first two seasons as head coach of the New York Jets, his team has come out of the bye week completely flat. In 2009, the Jets followed the bye week with a home game against Jacksonville. Sitting at 4-4, they had every reason to be prepared to make a second half move for a playoff run. Instead, they gave up 123 yards on the ground to Maurice Jones-Drew and an efficient afternoon to David Garrard on their way to a 24-22 home loss, the famous game where MJD took a knee rather than score a TD, leaving the Jets without no time to respond. The Jets would lose the next week to the Pats at Foxborough before finishing the season with five wins out of six and a whole lot of help to get into the playoffs as a wild card.

In 2010, the Jets were riding high on a five-game winning streak and sitting tied atop the AFC East with the Pats at 5-1 when the eventual champion Green Bay Packers came to town. Despite outgaining the Packers 375-251, the offense turned it over three times and failed to score a point, losing 9-0. You may remember this game for the fake punt by current Giant Steve Weatherford, who decided to take off from deep in Jets territory on a 4th and 18. Great decision, Steve.

In both cases, the team seemed to sleep through the game the way many of us do on the Monday after a vacation. The tackling left something to be desired, and the Jets' offensive and defensive lines were unable to control the line of scrimmage. Now, in year three of Ryan's tenure, the Jets face the two game stretch that will determine whether or not they are really contenders for an AFC East title and that elusive home playoff game.

This Sunday, the Jets make the trip to Buffalo to face a fast improving Bills team that is off to a 5-2 start in 2011. The Bills have used the vastly underrated Fred Jackson, the accuracy of Ryan Fitzpatrick, and an opportunistic defense to get off to their best start in three years. The current Bills team doesn't seem like it will wilt like the 2008 version that collapsed to 7-9. They are 5th in the NFL in point differential. Fitzpatrick is on pace to throw for almost 4,000 yards and 28 TD. At his current pace of a little more than 153 yards a game from scrimmage, Fred Jackson would finish with the second-highest total from scrimmage in the history of the league.

Of course, the defense still gives up a ton of yards, ranking 26th in the league. The difference has been turnovers, where the defense has forced a league-leading 18 turnovers, with the team sitting at a +9 for the season. There is an element of fortune in the turnover game, and surviving through a whole season relying on turnovers can be difficult, it can be done. The 2009 Saints come to mind as a team that was able to get turnovers throughout the season, all the way to a championship.

I feel like there can (and quite possibly will) be a 10-win team that doesn't make the playoffs in the AFC in 2011. The Jets have a chance to position themselves nicely with a win on Sunday. If the team that showed up in the second half against the Chargers two weeks ago makes the trip upstate, the Jets should be able to handle their business in Buffalo.

Shonn Greene ran with a purpose against San Diego, cracking 100 yards for the the first time in 2011. Plaxico Burress made good in the red zone, rescuing yet another uneven performance from Mark Sanchez. I feel like the way Sanchez handles these next nine games will go a long way in determining his development and future with the franchise. Either he can develop in to the kind of accurate thrower that every team seeks, or we are looking at a 56 percent passer who will always hold the offense back. There are still times in the game where he struggles to see the whole field, and I don't know what else has to happen for this to improve. We are about 40 games into the Mark Sanchez experience, and at some point soon he will be close to a finished product. I like the 12 TD to 6 INT ratio, but his accuracy still keeps the Jets from being more efficient offensively.

Are we prepared, as Jets fans, to look back at this era feeling like we had a team that could have won championships if they had a better player at the QB position? Hopefully, Sanchez can develop to the point where we can truly use him as an asset, but he's not there yet. For now, we will all settle for someone who is judicious with the ball and gives his skill people a chance to excel. There will be plenty of opportunities this week against Buffalo (and next week against the Pats) for Sanchez to step forward and lead his team to lots of yards and points. Neither of those defenses are going to be mistaken for the Ravens anytime soon.

If both New York City teams win this weekend, we will have a three-way tie for first in the AFC East, which seemed impossible after the three-game losing streak a few weeks back. The team recognizes how important a win would be, not just for the standings, but for their confidence, as a team that hasn't won on the road yet in 2011, despite being one of the best road teams in the NFL over the last few years. If the defense can control Fred Jackson and continue to run the ball efficiently, they should be able to get a victory over the Bills.

Kickoff in Orchard Park is at 1 pm on Sunday.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Week 7-Revis Again

The Jets got what they needed on Monday night, a 24-6 victory over Miami that evened their record for the season at 3-3. Darrelle Revis came up with the kind of performance on national TV that will only enhance his reputation as the game's best cover man, and, at least for my money, the best defensive player in the NFL. Revis had three tackles, four passes defended, and two picks, including a 100-yard interception return that gave the Jets a lead they would never lose. Although the Jets needed a win more than anything else, their overall performance was nothing spectacular. The offense started out the game with four consecutive three and outs, playing at a snail's pace and with no sense of urgency. It took until the final possession of the first half before the offense was able to establish any kind of rhythm.

This continues to be an issue for the Jets, and I would imagine that it will be an issue for the rest of the season. The offense seems incapable of playing with any kind of pace or sense of urgency. Mark Sanchez gets to the line of scrimmage, and, whether his snap count includes legitimate instructions or dummy audibles, there is an endless stream of verbiage that usually concludes with Sanchez screaming, "Kill! Kill!" then rushing to get a snap off as the play clock strikes zero. As a result, the Jets offense always seems to be reacting instead of forcing the action. Until Sanchez settled down and made a few good throws to lead the Jets to a score at the end of the half, it seemed like a very real possibility that the Revis TD would have to hold up for the whole game.

It's hard to evaluate the Jets against a Dolphin team that looks like they are headed towards 2-14 or 3-13. New York's next 4 weeks can put the team in position for another playoff run, or effectively remove them from contention. This week, the San Diego Chargers pay a visit to MetLife Stadium, as the two teams face off for the first time since the Jets victory in the 2009 AFC Divisional Playoff game. The Chargers are a very talented team that always seems to underachieve, but, this year they're off to a solid 4-1 start and have a chance to assume control of the AFC West. Normally, it's a good thing for an east coast team like New York to face a west coast team like San Diego in the early window on Sunday, hoping that the team from the west will be a little sluggish at that hour. Of course, Rex Ryan made sure that the Chargers were paying attention in his weekly press conference, where he took some shots at Chargers Head Coach Norv Turner, stating that he would have a few rings already if he had gotten the Chargers gig back in 2007 when Turner took over.

By now, we're all used to this routine from Rex. It's a fairly simple plan; control the media narrative by making the game all about him, putting his team in position to have to back up the big talk, and keeping the attention off of his own team's struggles. Instead of talking about the non-existence of Plaxico Burress, the inaccuracies of Sanchez, or the disappointing performance of Shonn Greene, we're talking about Rex's mouth, which is just what he wants.

All I could think about on Monday night was how much better the Jets would have to play to beat San Diego. We're almost at midseason and the Jets have yet to be play a complete game on both sides of the ball. They will need a complete game against the Chargers, and the next 2 games at the Bills and home for the Patriots. It's almost November, when the better teams begin to separate themselves from the rest.

Kickoff on Sunday is at 1 pm.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Week 6-The Season

Since we kickoff in about 75 minutes, I'll be brief.

The season hangs in the balance tonight. If the Jets hope to be a playoff team in 2011, they must win tonight against the Dolphins. New York was fortunate yesterday, with Buffalo to the Giants, and the Raiders losing Jason Campbell most likely for the season. A 2-4 record heading into San Diego, BYE, at Buffalo, New England would not be good scenario for the Jets. I believe that the Jets must win 3 of the next 4 to be in any type of position for an AFC Wild Card berth. Miami has had success in our place for a few years now, but that must end tonight.

The way the offense has looked over the last several weeks, an early score would go a long way towards giving the starting unit some confidence that they can sustain drives. A total of 8 three and outs against New England has the offense busting apart at the seems, with a swarming media anxious to pick at the scabs of their fragile team chemistry. There are times when Rex Ryan's bluster is a valuable asset. Forcing his team to fully commit to cash the checks he is constantly writing with his mouth has been a unifying force for all 53 guys every Sunday since he took over in Florham Park.

With the team now seemingly moving in several different directions at once, Ryan has to begin to build his team's confidence starting tonight at home against a team that has clearly struggled all season. One game at a time and slowly climb back into this thing.

Kickoff is at 8:30 pm at MetLife Stadium.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Week 5-The Ballad of Blotchy Chad

Chad Pennington took over the Jets starting QB job in 2002, and, barring injury, held that job for the next 6 seasons, starting 61 regular season games and 5 more in the playoffs. For the most part, I felt confident with Pennington under center, however, if you hit Pennington enough, like in the playoff loss to Oakland after the 2002 season, he would develop large red spots on his neck, as if to visually signal that he was being rattled. Once Pennington turned into Blotchy Chad, it was a wrap for the Jets.

Mark Sanchez has adopted the visual tell as well, wearing the hangdog look of the beaten man when things start to go poorly. When Sanchez begins to pout like a child, there is no chance for him to perform well for the rest of the day. Last week against the Ravens, Sanchez made crushing mistake after mistake, committing 4 turnovers, 3 of which were returned for touchdowns in a 34-17 loss to the Ravens. The loss left the Jets at 2-2 at the quarter pole, mediocre in ever possible way, too buoyant of talent to sink, and too devoid of leadership and strength up front to swim.

The hardest part of success in the NFL is figuring out what type of team you have and figuring out which style best fits your personnel. The Jets gambled that the receiving corps they had acquired would be the strength of the team, and that Sanchez would be able to be accurate and wise enough to be efficient. Coupling Sanchez with a dominating defense would lead to success. At least, that was the plan.

Through 4 weeks, here's what we know about the Jets; their front seven is slow and unable to sustain a pass rush without a blitz. The defense can't set the edge, and a back with speed is going to cause a world of problems. Offensively, we can't run the ball, so we are left with Sanchez throwing 30-40 times a game, hoping he avoids a crushing mistake throwing to receivers who can't separate, in front of a line that can't protect. We are very fortunate to be 2-2. If not for the comedy stylings of Tony Romo, we would be 1-3, with the lone victory over a craptacular Jaguars team.

I spent a lot of time looking at Jets fan sites last Sunday night after the Ravens debacle, and, for the most part, the Jets fans were giving Sanchez a pass, blaming the horrible offensive line for his failings. Even if Sanchez is getting popped on every play, it's his responsibility not to turn it over. On the first play of the game, he took a three-step drop, looked at his first option, then tried to check to a second option. On a three step drop, the ball has to come out. Sanchez has to know this. On the only turnover that didn't result in a Ravens touchdown return, after an accurate snap bounced off of Sanchez' hands, he ambled after the ball like a man chasing loose pieces of paper in the wind, with no sense of urgency. He was a beaten man, and it showed in every aspect of his play.

If the Jets hope to succeed in Foxborough later today, they will need an excellent performance from Sanchez and the defense. They will need to avoid mistakes and find ways to hit Tom Brady. It's not an impossible task, but it will require much more than the Jets have shown this season so far. It's a chance to save their season, and keep alive the high hopes of August. A loss will send the Jets further into the abyss, searching for answers to turn the season around.

Kickoff from Foxborough is at 4 pm today.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Week 4-The Limits of Soft Power

For 2+ years, Rex Ryan has built a solid foundation with the Jets based on several tenets; the ability to run the ball, play solid special teams, tackle well, and stop the run. He has used this formula to record a 26-15 record in his tenure in Florham Park, using a veteran defense and a young QB, as well as one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Last week in Oakland, the veteran defense was exposed as slower and less physical than previously suspected in a 34-24 loss to the Raiders. The most disconcerting piece of news? The Jets gave up 234 yards rushing to the Oakland offense, even when they knew they had no real reason to respect their passing game.

The Jets are entering the most difficult stretch of the season. The next 4 weeks will likely determine whether or not the Jets are going to compete for a division title, fight for a wild card, or sit home in January; at Ravens on national TV, at Patriots in the late window, home to Miami on Monday Night, and home to San Diego before the bye. The Jets need to emerge from this portion of their schedule with a winning record if they hope to be a playoff team. They need to win at least three of these four games if they hope to compete for the AFC East title.

Normally, even a difficult portion of the schedule would not seem like such a daunting task, but the Jets are a team searching for an identity through the first three weeks of the season. The 2009 and 2010 Jets ran the ball first, but an inability to get a push at the point of attack has rendered the Jets a pass-first team. Rex Ryan hinted at this in the preseason, that the Jets strength was in their receiving corps, but perhaps he was aware that the Jets may struggle to run the ball, needing Mark Sanchez to pick them up and produce yards and points in the passing game.

Sanchez has been far from spectacular through three weeks, but he has been more accurate and far more prolific than usual. The problem for the Jets is that their power running game was such a benefit to the rest of the team; their ball control attack left their defense off of the field, and kept them fresh throughout the season. The Jets are throwing the ball on 62 percent of their offensive plays in 2011, meaning that the way the offense is playing, while more prolific, is not making life easier for the defense. The best teams in the NFL know who they are and always play to their strengths. The mediocre teams struggle to identify how they should attack, how they should defend, and are stuck reacting to their opponents, instead of dictating when and where the game will be decided. So far in 2011, the Jets fit into the second category, although the season is young, and there is plenty of time to turn it around.

The Jets are off to a 2-1 start, so there is no need for alarm, even though the hordes of Jets fans around the country may feel otherwise. The key for this team is to improve every week, and establish an identity that allows the team play their best football. The ground and pound days may be over for the Jets, especially with a young improving quarterback and the need to produce points quickly in today's game (the topic of the modern NFL looking like a glorified seven-on-seven game is one for another day).

Like most Jets fans, I love Rex Ryan, love what he's done for our team and our franchise's brand nationwide. Any opponent on the Jets schedule is not looking forward to the matchup, knowing the Jets bring their defense and a physical attitude to the game. Any way you slice it, the Jets got pushed around in Oakland as Darren McFadden ran over, around, and through the defense. I would imagine that every team on the Jets schedule took notice of the film, and will try to exploit what is now the league's 31st ranked run defense, at least until Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine get it fixed. The first team to try will be the Ravens with Ray Rice tonight, and, if the Jets fail again, we will see this every week until it's fixed. Not being able to stop the run is the most depressing way to lose. No team wants to feel physically overmatched at the line of scrimmage.

There has been a method to Rex's madness through the first 2+years of his tenure. He is bold to the media, thereby taking the pressure and focus off of his team and on to him. As a result, the team can focus away from the distracting, white-hot spotlight of the NY media. There have been times over the last several seasons where the Jets seemed to play with a desperation borne of not wanting to let their coach down, out of trying to prove that his belief is rooted in something real and tangible. There now seems to be limits of this type of co-option, as many in the media have began to dismiss Ryan's yearly Super Bowl predictions as Rex being Rex, and the effort of the team, especially the defense, seems to have waned to the extent that Mike Pettine actually talked about it to the media during the week.

Hopefully, the constant talk about the Jets spongy softness last Sunday will have enough of an effect to produce a win in Baltimore later tonight. The Ravens are a talented squad with perhaps four future Hall of Fame players patrolling their defense. Expect a tightly wound game similar to last season's 10-9 scrap to open the season. The Jets must force mistakes from the Ravens offense, and they must capitalize on those mistakes to produce points is they hope to move to 3-1, and not face another week of questions before heading to Foxborough.

Kickoff from Baltimore is at 8:20 pm EST tonight.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Week 3-The Road Trip Begins

The New York Jets handled their business Sunday, smothering the Jacksonville offense en route to a 32-3 victory. The win brings the Jets to 2-0 in the early season, with a trip to the Black Hole in Oakland looming in the late window Sunday. Perhaps the biggest story to emerge from the game was an injury to the Jets All-Pro center and notorious photo bomb specialist, Nick Mangold. Mangold suffered a high ankle sprain against the Jaguars; the team expects him to miss at least the next 2 weeks, which would mean that he would miss at least the Ravens game, and, quite possibly, the Patriots game on October 9.

Rookie free agent Colin Baxter filled in for Mangold, and, while he was effective in pass protection, the entire line suffered running the ball for the rest of the game without Mangold. In fact, through the first two games, none of the Jets' running backs are averaging three yards a carry. The game plan for our opposition thus far has been to try to take away the Jets' running game and force Mark Sanchez to make throws to move the ball. So far, Shonn Greene has been largely ineffective as the primary back, and our offensive line is not winning at the line of scrimmage the way they have been over the last several seasons.

Sanchez has improved his accuracy in the first two weeks, completing 63 percent of his passes so far in 2011. Only five of his passes hit the turf on Sunday, but he made two terrible decisions that led to interceptions. On the first pick, Sanchez tried to force a throw outside the numbers and appeared to never see the underneath CB in the zone coverage. The second pick was a classic Sanchez stare down, trying to squeeze a throw to Santonio Holmes, who was being double teamed. Plaxico Burress would finish without any catches against the Jaguars, although Rex Ryan's attempts to get him involved led to the second biggest story of the game, which was a seemingly unnecessary big hit on Sanchez once the game had already been decided.

The Jets were ahead 29-3 in the fourth quarter and were deep in Jacksonville territory. Ryan chose to throw twice in the red zone in an attempt to get Burress a catch, but the second of these throws resulted in Jaguars DE Matt Roth unloading on Sanchez after he had beaten Wayne Hunter (again). After the play, Sanchez got to his feet with his throwing arm limp at his side, an injury the Jets are calling a bruised throwing arm. No one wants to see their team's starting QB getting knocked around this early in the season, but it seems like as long as Wayne Hunter is playing RT, Sanchez is going to take some punishment and his health from week to week may be in jeopardy. Hunter has been a huge disappointment so far this season. He committed two penalties, gave up a sack, and allowed several hits on Sanchez against a Jacksonville defense that will not get mistaken for the 1985 Bears anytime soon.

There were several bright spots on Sunday. Antonio Cromartie followed up his shaky Week 1 with a stellar Week 2. He had two big kickoff returns, two interceptions, two passes defended, and three tackles. Cromartie even handled it on a reverse that only gained a yard. Since the Jets seem to lack a receiver who can pop the top off of the defense, don't be surprised to see Cromartie for a few more snaps on offense, quite possibly as a target for a nine route. His speed is so dangerous that he can be effectively deployed as a deep threat in certain situations.

Dustin Keller continues to progress into a primary weapon in the Jets offense. Keller had 101 yards on 6 catches against Jacksonville, and he has the effect of busting open the Cover 2 in each of the first two games by being a tough cover in the seam. The Jets offense runs best when Keller is heavily involved. His size makes him a matchup nightmare for the secondary, and he is too quick for a linebacker to cover. The Jets need to make a concerted effort to ensure that Keller gets at least eight to ten targets every week.

The Oakland Raiders were about fifteen seconds from starting 2-0 this season, and the game on Sunday will be a difficult challenge for the Jets. The Raiders philosophy over the last couple of seasons is to heavily involve Darren McFadden and to use their ground attack to control the flow of the game. Maurice Jones-Drew managed 4.9 yards a carry last week when the Jets knew he was going to be the primary offensive threat. They must improve on that number against Oakland. If they can keep the Oakland ground attack in check and Sanchez can play efficiently, the Jets should be able to win in Oakland.

Kickoff against Oakland is at 4 pm Sunday.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Week 2-Don't Fuck With The Revis

The New York Jets began their 2011 campaign with a heart-stopping 27-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night at MetLife Stadium. The game featured a 14-point fourth quarter comeback, which was the first time in the 50+ years of Cowboys franchise history that Dallas had surrendered a lead that large in the last 15 minutes.

The game will be remembered for its stirring tribute to the victims of 9/11 and the palpable emotion that accompanies such a life altering event, and not perhaps for the two costly mistakes by Dallas QB Tony Romo that eventually cost Dallas the game. What was most impressive about the victory from a fan's perspective is how the entire team kept fighting through stretches of the game when they were not playing well. The hallmark of a good team is being able to play your own inevitable mistakes and win when you're playing less that your best football. And the Jets certainly did that.

Kudos to several Jets who were difference makers on Sunday night...

LaDainian Tomlinson-LT's career is so decorated and he clearly is no longer the same back he once was, however, he has also found a niche as a third down back, and his seven receptions Sunday proved his worth to the Jets. Hopefully, Joe McKnight (or another shifty runner with good hands) may eventually be able to fulfill this role, but, for now, it's nice to have a future Hall of Fame player on the roster as a check down option. Sanchez found Tomlinson very useful against Dallas.

Joe McKnight-He has been most famous (or infamous) for throwing up in his first mini-camp when he reported out of shape, but McKnight has become a tremendous special teams player and earned his place on the squad with his efforts towards the end of the season last year and through training camp in 2011. McKnight's blocked punt was such an outstanding individual effort and highlighted what has become a calling card for Rex Ryan team; everyone has value, so be prepared to contribute.

Darrelle Revis-It's rare that a defensive back is so great that he can go almost a whole season slowly dying of boredom because other teams refuse to engage him, but Revis had that experience for most of the 2010 season. Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine started with Revis on Miles Austin and Antonio Cromartie on Dez Bryant, but after Bryant beat Cromartie for a TD on the Cowboys opening drive, the defensive brain trust decided to switch Revis to Bryant. Bryant caught a beautiful back shoulder pass over Revis for about 30 yards, then ran his mouth to Revis shortly after the catch.

Bad idea.

Revis spent the next 3 quarters inside of Bryant's jersey, not giving him an inch of space, and eventually picking Romo to setup Nick Folk's 50-yard game winning FG. Bryant is going to be an all-world player for the next decade provided he can stay out of trouble and remain healthy, but he learned a valuable lesson about letting sleeping dogs lie on Sunday, which is a lesson that, judging by their comments during the week, Jacksonville may need to learn as well...don't fuck with the Revis. He's still the best there is.

There were several other notables from Sunday night. Nick Folk was 2 of 2 on FG, and I'm sure it was particularly sweet to beat his old team with a 50-yard FG. Dustin Keller, Santonio Holmes, and Plaxico Burress were able to find holes in the Dallas secondary helping Mark Sanchez to throw for 335 yards and 2 TD. Sanchez was a little uneven, throwing a crucial pick and losing a fumble as the Dallas pressure affected his play, but he completed 59% of his passes and made several big throws in the win. Perhaps the biggest change in Sanchez was how active he was in changing plays at the line. He is clearly maturing and has such a better understanding that he seems much more comfortable directing the offense. Even when he checked into the wrong play, like he did on the Jets last possession, he didn't seem unsure of himself. Sanchez must have confidence in what he's doing at the line of scrimmage for the offense to succeed. He also took a beating in the pocket, meaning the pass protection must get better for the Jets in the coming weeks. Wayne Turner was a turnstile for large sections of the game, and Sanchez had to run for his life on several occasions. He took several huge shots, but hung in and delivered when he knew he was going to get popped.

This Sunday, the Jets face the Jacksonville Jaguars, fresh off of a win over Tennessee. Jacksonville is a team in transition, having drafted a QB at the top of the first round in April who is clearly not ready in Blaine Gabbert. Luke McCown directed Sunday's win and should be able to hold the starter's job for the next few months, especially considering how lost Gabbert looked in the preseason. The Jaguars still have the amazing Maurice Jones-Drew, so they will still be a threat on Sunday.

Rex Ryan was delivered a perfect scenario in Week 1. The Jets made plenty of errors, so there are a lot of teachable moments on game film, but the team didn't lose, so there was no price paid for the failures. The Jets were fortunate to get a victory in Week 1; they must play better in the weeks to come. They clearly don't want to cede ground to New England in the early season. If they get a better performance Sunday, they should be in good position to pick up a second victory.

Kickoff against Jacksonville from MetLife Stadium is at 1 pm Sunday.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The 2011 Season

Every year I find myself asking the same 2 questions about my team before the start of the season; "Is my team better this year than they were last year?" and "If so, will that translate into more victories and a deeper run in the playoffs?"

Before last season, I felt that the Jets had done enough before the season to better their roster to make them an improved team. The Jets added Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Jason Taylor, plus their core of Revis, Mangold, Ferguson, Harris, and Sanchez were ascending as NFL players and had the experience of a deep playoff run in 2009 to benefit their development. The Jets were 9-7 in 2009 and were fortunate to make the postseason. I figured in 2010, the Jets would win at least 10 games, although I thought they could be a better team without making it back to the AFC Championship Game.

As it turned out, the Jets won 11 games and made it back to the AFC Championship Game, vanquishing both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady along the way. Unfortunately, they came out flat against Pittsburgh, couldn't tackle Rashad Mendenhall, and had the same problem they had all season, which was an inability to score points early in the game. By the time the offense woke up, they were in a 24-point hole, and a furious comeback could not save them.

Now, 2011 is upon us, with the Jets opening their campaign at the newly minted MetLife Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys. The Jets are coming off a 2-2 preseason which saw some positive developments and raised a few questions for the coming season.

Perhaps the biggest question facing the Jets in the coming season is the depth of the offensive line. Backup OL Rob Turner broke his leg in the first preseason game, and the rest of the backup offensive line struggled to protect the passer throughout the preseason. The starting offensive line is intact from last year, with the exception of RT Wayne Hunter filling in for the retired Damien Woody. RG Brandon Moore is coming off of a hip injury and barely played in the preseason. The offensive line is the strength of the Jets offense, and the Jets have been fortunate enough to stay healthy on the O-line for the last few years. If they can stay healthy this year, the depth won't be an issue, but if any of our starters go down and we're having to play inexperienced backups like Vladimir Ducasse for extended periods, the Jets are in trouble. Ducasse has shown himself to be a solid run blocker in his limited action, but he truly struggles in pass protection (to put it mildly). It was a sack that Ducasse gave up against Houston that led to Turner's injury.

More than any other issue, the continuing development of Mark Sanchez will be the determining factor in deciding how far the Jets go this season. If you are to believe what Rex Ryan and the rest of the coaching staff are saying, Sanchez is ready to make the leap from game manager to weapon. Sanchez has shown flashes of solid play in the preseason, but his last start against the Giants was like a replay of the issues from last season. Sanchez struggled to convert on third down and missed a few easy throws against a depleted Giants secondary. Working against Sanchez, at least in the beginning of the season, will be the upheaval in the receiving corps.

Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery are gone (to San Francisco and Pittsburgh, respectively) and have been replaced with Derrick Mason and Plaxico Burress. Burress was excellent in the Cincinnati game, did not catch a pass against the Giants, and battled nagging injuries to his ankle and back in training camp. The injuries severely limited his reps for the first few weeks of training camp. Mason barely played in the preseason, dealing with his own injury concerns. Burress is 34, 2 1/2 years removed from his last regular action, and Mason is 37 and clearly on the downside of his career. The Jets are not counting on 1000 yards from either guy, but they need some production from these two if they are to improve as a team from 2010. Like most Jets fans, I'm excited about rookie WR Jeremy Kerley, but if we're counting on him for production right away, it will affect Sanchez.

There are a lot of qualities to love about Mark Sanchez, namely his poise and leadership and his ability to play well when the money is on the table. However, he absolutely has to be more accurate this season for the Jets to be considered serious contenders.

As for the defense, this is probably the least concerned I've been heading into a season about one side of the ball. The starting defense looked fantastic for most of the preseason, and, barring injury, I expect them to be outstanding all season. The Jets have finished within the top 3 overall during the first 2 seasons of the Rex Ryan era, and I expect them to match that level of performance, while forcing more turnovers than they did last season. It would not surprise me to see the defense double the amount of interceptions they recorded last season while maintaining the same standard as far as yards allowed per game and per play. I also expect the Jets D to be far better on third and long, which was a problem throughout 2010.

Returning to our original questions, I think the jury is still out as far as being a better team than we were in 2010. The Jets are counting on production from several new veterans and some young players, like Muhammad Wilkerson, who will start on Sunday against the Cowboys at Shaun Ellis' old position, and Kyle Wilson, our first round pick from 2010 who should see a lot of action anytime Tony Romo spreads the field. If they get that production, they will be better than the 2010 New York Jets. If not, they will struggle to make the postseason for a third straight year, which would be a first in the history of the franchise.

One thing is certain; the Jets will need to improve from last season to play in their first Super Bowl (and win it) since the 1968 season. Can they do it? Absolutely. It's a long season. The Jets don't have to be world beaters in September, but they can't expect to let New England run away and hide, settle for a wild card, then run the gauntlet in January on the road against 3 very good teams. We've seen how difficult that is over the last 2 postseasons.

Kickoff against Dallas on Sunday is at 8 pm.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The History of Pro Football

When I began this blog last year, I intended to mix commentary on what interests me, along with occasional simulations of both pro and college football using the great site During the bowl season last year, I ran a tournament featuring the top teams in college football in 2010 in an attempt to imagine a world without the crooked bowl system.

It didn't take long for people to ask me, "I didn't know that Wisconsin was playing Boise State last night." I soon realized that it may be better to have a separate blog for simulations, a site where I can replay NFL history from 1941 to the present day without interrupting the blog entries about real sports.

I began The History of Pro Football the other day, with the goal of replaying the postseason of every pro football season for the last 70 years. You can visit the site at or by clicking this link.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Week From Tomorrow

It's been forever since I've posted, but, now that the owners and players have signed a 10-year collective bargaining agreement, it's time to get back to brass tacks. I will say that I have enjoyed the unintended comedy of going over my last post from three and a half months ago. At that time, it looked like the players had cornered the owners and forced them in court to allow football to continue. It turned out we had to face three more months of lockout. Thankfully, we're done with talking about lawyers and litigation, since blocking and tackling is more exciting.

The Jets open their preseason schedule in Houston against the Texans next Monday with some significant additions and subtractions. So much has happened since the 32 NFL teams have been allowed to sign players that each team has faced multiple huge plot twists virtually every day. We'll start with the bad news...

Brad Smith, Buffalo

Brad Smith became a luxury from the moment the competition committee decided to move the kickoff to the 35-yard line. Expect touchbacks to greatly increase, which will diminish the impact of a big-play kick returner. Plus, Smith never developed as a receiver the way the Jets had hoped. I like Brad Smith a lot (like most Jet fans). He produced big plays for us, but, at 4 million a year, the cost was too steep.

Drew Coleman, Jacksonville

Drew Coleman has been a target of ridicule for many Jets fans over the last several years, as he has struggled to cover in our scheme. He found new life last year as a slot corner who could get to the QB in an overload blitz, but Mike T. was never going to pay Coleman what he wanted.

Braylon Edwards, San Francisco

Most Jets fans wanted to see Edwards back in green and white in 2011. Since his signing with San Francisco it has been revealed in several media outlets that he felt he deserved to be paid like Santonio Holmes. The NY media has had fun with the whole, "You could have had Braylon for $500,000 more than you paid Plaxico" meme, but that is pure BS. Edwards was never going to play for the Jets for $3.5 million a year. He felt he needed to be somewhere closer to the $10 million that Holmes got, and he wasn't going to take too much less from the team that knew him well. Braylon fits what we do so well, but, of all the knuckleheads we've taken on over the last few years, only Braylon continues to screw up regularly. There was the mid-season DWI last season, followed by one of his crew stabbing someone with a fork (or some other such nonsense) after he learned he wouldn't get the offer he wanted from Mike T. and Woody.

I hope we don't miss him too much, but he was a solid guy on the field while he was here.

Jerricho Cotchery, Pittsburgh

The biggest surprise of the offseason so far (at least to me) has been Cotchery asking for and getting his release from the squad. Jerricho managed to keep exactly how upset he was about his role with the team a secret through all of 2010. When the Jets elected to let Edwards go and decided to sign Burress, Cotchery told Tannenbaum and Ryan he wanted out, which they obliged (out of respect). It took onions for our front office to roll the dice this way without knowing who they could get to fill the void.

Shaun Ellis, New England

This one hurts to type. Shaun Ellis was the last piece left from the Jets four first round picks back in 2000 (John Abraham, Anthony Becht, and Chad Pennington were the other three). Ellis is 34 and his best days are probably behind him. He could have been a key guy in the rotation of DL for 2011, but Mike T. felt like he wasn't worth more than the $910,000 they were offering him. The details of the deal that Ellis signed with Belichick and the Pats haven't been released, but, since a substantial portion of the fan base will never look at him the same way again, I hope it was worth it for him.

Edit-It has since been revealed that the Pats are paying Ellis about $4 million for 2011. I think most people would choose $4 million over $910,000, so it's a little difficult to blame Ellis for taking the money.

I won't spend a paragraph on Steve Weatherford, Kellen Clemens, James Ihedigbo, and the rest of role guys who won't be back. I don't think that any one of these losses will hurt the Jets too much. On to the positives...

Santonio Holmes

Holmes was the main target of Mike Tannenbaum throughout the offseason, so it was a major relief when they locked him up for 5 years and $50 million. He supposedly left money on the table to stay with the Jets. Holmes is going to be the key receiver for the development of Mark Sanchez. He is an outstanding route runner and is a dangerous YAC guy. I'm very happy he's still a Jet.

Antonio Cromartie

After a torrid affair with Nnamdi Asomugha (which ended with Tannenbaum seduced and abandoned), the Jets convinced Cromartie to come back, giving him $32 million reasons to stay over the next four seasons. Cromartie has occasional lapses, but he is an elite athlete and can man cover as well as nearly everyone in the league. I've always felt that, of all the positions on the field, offensive line continuity is most important, with the secondary a close second. It should help our defense tremendously to have a full season of Revis and Cromartie.

Plaxico Burress

I'm still uncertain of the impact that Plexiglass is going to have in NMS this season. I've heard all of the interviews with Burress, both before and after the signing, and he seems genuinely sorry for what he did to himself and how he hung his teammates out to dry with his immaturity. There's no doubt that if Burress is healthy and still has his legs under him that he can help us, not just in the red zone, but all over the field. I thought it was very unusual for the Jets to guarantee him $3 million without even working him out. Since practice began Burress has been nursing a sore ankle, which has done nothing to build up my confidence in this particular transaction. I have faith in our braintrust that they've done the right thing, but I feel like if I heard about this scenario happening with another team, I wouldn't have that much confidence in everything working out well for the Jets and Burress.

Derrick Mason

Mason has been as consistent a WR as there is in the AFC over the last decade, and he should be a welcome addition to our WR corps. For young guys like Jeremy Kerley and Scotty McKnight, being able to see a veteran like Mason work and demonstrate what it takes to be a pro everyday in practice is great for their development. Mason was productive in Baltimore last year, and if he's healthy, he's a better player than Cotchery. The Jets rolled the dice with their receiving corps; if the moves pan out, this is a better group than the one they had last year.

Brodney Pool and Eric Smith

Pool played pretty well down the stretch last season after looking lost the first half of the season. He's a bargain at the price we paid for him. As for Eric Smith, any guy that can knock the Patriot off of Wes Welker's head is a guy I want to keep. Before free agency began, I thought that Dwight Lowery might get a chance at the starting job. I'm glad we were able to keep both guys without having to overpay. We also brought back role guys like Wayne Hunter to play RT, and Rob Turner to back up on the OL (and start a daily fight at training camp, apparently). Nick Folk will handle the kicking duties again for the Jets in 2011.

Here's a few more things to think about as the preseason opener approaches...Rex Ryan can talk up a rookie as well as anyone to the NY media, but he seems to have some faith in the progress of Kerley, Kenrick Ellis, and Muhammad Wilkerson. If the Jets make a deep run again in 2011, at least two, and probably all three of these rookies will have to play an important role. Westhoff has all but handed the PR and KR jobs to Kerley, and Wilkerson's progress made Shaun Ellis more expendable. This is a way of life in the NFL, as the next guy up has to be ready to contribute.

Much has been made of the upheaval in the Jets receiving corps, but the most important aspect of the passing game (in my eyes) will be the continued development of Dustin Keller. When Keller was playing well in the beginning of 2010, the Jets offense was most effective. When Santonio Holmes came back from his suspension last year, Keller seemed to get lost in the shuffle of an inexperienced Sanchez trying to keep everyone happy. Now entering his fourth season and facing a contract year, I expect Keller to make a leap forward in the quality of his play.

But...not as big a leap as I expect from the Sanchize. I can wax poetic about the Jets offseason from now until the cows come home, but the Jets will rise and fall with the progress of their third year signal caller. Sanchez has to be more efficient to avoid the problems the Jets have had scoring points over the last 2 seasons. I'm fairly certain that Brian Schottenheimer's job probably hinges on significant improvement from Sanchez in year three. Like most Jet fans, I have confidence in Mark Sanchez turning a corner in 2011 and becoming more of a playmaker and less of a game manager under center. If he's able to make the move from caretaker to weapon and the 2011 New York Jets can stay reasonably healthy, we will be in a much better position to host games in January in the postseason, with a trip to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl at stake.

Can't wait!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Lockout and the Draft

It's been awhile...

I've tried to keep only a marginal interest in the lockout, as it can be frustrating to watch wealthy people determine how to divide billions. In most cases, I am on the side of labor against management, and this situation is no exception. The lockout and it's eventual conclusion by legal ruling was predicted before negotiations had started. There was heavy speculation that the owners would want an additional billion before discussing the percentage of the remaining revenue split (which happened). Then, with negotiations going nowhere, the owners would proceed to lockout the players (happened). The players would then decertify and sue the NFL, with their biggest names on the lawsuit (Brady, Brees, Manning, etc.), the very players who would benefit the most if there were no free agency system in place, no cap, and lunatics like Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder free to pay them twice what they make now (happened...again).

Next in line...a federal judge places an injunction on the lockout, and it's business as usual again (happened). Through this mess, we are no closer to reaching an agreement between the NFLPA and the owners. The only people happy with the labor strife are the armies of attorneys who are making a ton of money in legal fees. Since the scenario that played out had already been predicted, it makes you wonder what the owners were thinking in the first place. Did they think the climate was right for a power grab? Did they think football fans were as moronic as the public at large when it comes to rewarding people who deserve it the least, in this case wealthy football team owners instead of just your average millionaires? There's always been plenty of money to go around in the NFL for everyone to be happy, from management to labor, including the NFL Alumni who made the game what it is today.

They have the most popular product in American professional sports, and there is no close second. There is no reason to believe that the NFL won't continue to be exponentially more profitable in the future. The owners could have gotten the extra billion from the players if they were able to prove they were losing money by opening their books. Instead, they want the players to take their word for it. I've never believed the reason they provided for not releasing detailed information. The owners would claim that no owner wants another owner to know how they conduct their business. I've always felt if they could prove they were losing money, they would. But, they can't, because the claim of poverty has always been garbage.

The players were willing to negotiate on most of the owners major points in the initial negotiation. The owners could have had a rookie salary cap early in this process, if they only would have committed to distributing the extra money to veteran players, but they wouldn't make that concession until months later. The owners have always acted as if they were going to take advantage of the players in this collective bargaining agreement. They now have to bank on the players willingness to accept the old arrangements. I don't believe an appeal of the injunction is going to work. Hopefully, the two sides will reach an equitable agreement that can make the game better, an agreement with fair revenue sharing, increased medical benefits for players and ex-players, a rookie cap that transfers money targeted for player salaries from unproven rookies to established veterans, and serious price controls for the middle class fan that still wants to go the game. Until that happens, at least we will have football in the meantime.

Considering that there hasn't been any free agency period, restricted or otherwise, the New York Jets head into this evening's first round of the NFL Draft with little idea whether or not they will be able to keep Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, or Antonio Cromartie. Some free agents during this offseason will have a tremendous amount of leverage due to the way the labor issue has played out. The Jets are in no position to replace 2 starters at receiver during the draft, so, once the draft concludes, the Jets will have to either sign Edwards or sign Holmes (or both). The Jets (and several other teams that are in the same position) will have to have a plan in place before they pick as to how they are going to retain or acquire talent in free agency. I trust GM Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan will make the right decisions this weekend and not leave the team with glaring holes before training camp begins this summer.

As for the local squad, it appears they are taking Cam Newton, who is one of the greatest athletes I've ever seen at the QB position, but has never had to call an audible before at the college level (RED FLAG). I'm not privy to the interview process that Newton and the rest of the draft class is put through prior to the draft, but if Carolina intends to take Newton, I hope they've determined that he can learn what he needs to in order to be successful at the pro level. If he pans out, it should be fun watching that team for the next decade. If he's a bust (which I'm leaning towards), it will torpedo the Panthers for the next 5 years.

I would be happy if the Jets wind up with a gigantic nose tackle like Phil Taylor from Baylor, or an edge playmaker like Akeem Ayers. I would be happy if they traded down and got an additional second or third round pick because I feel there's value in those rounds, especially specific needs the Jets have (youth in the front seven, a speedy receiver who can return kicks). I expect Rex to take another corner that can play press coverage.

I also think Patrick Peterson is the best player in the draft. I like Julio Jones more than A.J. Green. I think Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder are going to be decent starters in the league, with a chance at Pro Bowl status in the right system. I also think Ryan Mallett is going to fall like a stone, then play well when he gets a chance in the NFL. This draft class has gotten a bad rap, I think there's a lot of solid players in the top 20, guys who have All Pro potential.

The first round of the draft is tonight at 8pm.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

UFC 126

Last night was another fantastic night for MMA and the UFC. There were three main fights on the card, and each one delivered on the considerable hype of Super Bowl eve. In chronological order...

Jon Jones vs. Ryan Bader

Jon Jones has quickly developed into the biggest thing in MMA. He went into last night's light heavyweight with a record of 11-1, the lone defeat being a disqualification when he was battering Matt Hamill with a few 12 to 6 elbows. There is no one at 205 that can match his combination of athleticism and creativity.

Ryan Bader went into last night's fight unbeaten in his first 13 fights, looking like a future champion in several fights after winning The Ultimate Fighter. The UFC was billing this as a match to see who would control the future of the light heavyweight division. What the fight quickly became was a coronation.

From the time that Bader and Jones first engaged, it became readily apparent that Jones was much stronger than Bader. Bader would not be able to control Jones' posture, despite being a two-time NCAA wrestling champion. Jon Jones seems to surprise almost everyone he fights with his strength. Bader became so frustrated that he pulled guard in the second round and wound up setting himself up for a guillotine choke at 4:20 of the second round.

After the fight, Joe Rogan informed Jones that he was being tagged as a replacement for Rashad Evans and his damaged knee in a March 19 title shot against light heavyweight champ Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 128. Jon Jones now has 6 weeks to get ready for the biggest moment of his young career. For Bader, it's back to the drawing board.

Forrest Griffin vs. Rich Franklin

Like most fans of the UFC, I love Forrest Griffin. Griffin is a true blood and guts fighter that combines his desire to make all of his fights exciting with a wit and personality that stands out. Griffin has written two best selling books (the first one, Got Fight?, is hysterical...haven't read the second one), and is the poster boy for the UFC. Rich Franklin is also one of the good guys, having coached several times on the Ultimate Fighter and having represented himself well in the cage whenever he fights.

Griffin took Franklin down in the first round and proceeded to control Franklin with ground and pound, taking control of the fight. Most of the last 2 rounds was a stand-up battle, with both fighters landing consistently, but neither one taking control of the fight. Griffin had a number of unorthodox strikes, combining right kicks to the head with right crosses. Franklin was quicker on his feet, but never landed the punch or kick that would seize momentum. Griffin wound up winning a unanimous decision (29-28 on all 3 cards), and is now another quality win or two from another title shot. For Franklin, it's hard to imagine where this loss leaves him. He seemed much too small for Griffin. You have to wonder if he can compete at 205 against the best competition. If Jon Jones is the wave of the future, he may want to move back to 185.

Vitor Belfort vs. Anderson Silva

Anderson Silva is the most dynamic MMA fighter in the world, although his conduct in the ring hasn't always endeared himself to UFC fans. Anytime you watch a Silva fight in public, there's sure to be several people on site that don't mind telling you that Silva is a punk that doesn't represent the sport well. The fact that Silva's spectacular striking has helped to grow mixed martial arts around the world seems lost on these people, and it's always nice watching them hang their heads after another spectacular performance.

Vitor Belfort is a former UFC champion known for his quick hands and finishing skills. After Silva's fight with Chael Sonnen, it appeared that perhaps Silva was in decline, and that Belfort was tailor-made to take advantage of Silva. Both fighters seemed content to stare at each other for 90 seconds before engaging. Belfort got a takedown of Silva, but Silva quickly stood back up, then leveled Belfort with a left front kick that seemed like a video game shot. Mario Yamasaki could have stopped it right there, but Belfort ate two more punches before the fight was stopped at 3:29 of the first round.

After the fight, Dana White confirmed that Silva's next opponent will be Georges St. Pierre in a matchup between the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, provided that GSP can beat Jake Shields when they fight in April. It would seem that GSP has the perfect style to beat Anderson Silva, but Silva is the bigger fighter, and, as long as he doesn't spend the whole night on his back, Silva should be able to land strikes on GSP.

For now, Silva can bask in the glow of one of the most spectacular knockouts in the history of MMA, as he continues to build a legend that will last long after he has finished his career.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

UFC 126 recap tomorrow

I am pay-per-viewing the UFC 126 card tonight, which features 3 different bouts that could headline on any other evening. Dana White likes to put on a big show the night before the Super Bowl and tonight is no different. Light heavyweight contenders Ryan Bader and Jon Jones will battle for the mantle of supremacy over all other young contenders at 205. Perhaps the two most popular fighters in the promotion will clash when Forrest Griffin and Rich Franklin battle for relevance at 205, with the loser moving to the back of the pack. And, Anderson Silva, the middleweight champion, will enter the octagon for the first time since his late victory over the disgraced Chael Sonnen when he battles former champion Vitor Belfort for the title.

Sometime early tomorrow, I will have a recap of all of the televised festivities from Vegas. It should be a fun night.

Super Bowl Pick

I'm still in a period of mourning regarding the 2010 Jets, but I thought I should put in my 2 cents on tomorrow's big game...

*If I have to hear one more talking hair-do talk about the weather at the Super Bowl, I may get sick. Listen, no one cares that you might get snow on your shoes going from event to event, okay? A lot of people have to deal with the elements on their way to work. Nowhere is it written that the championship game has to be climate-controlled. Most fans I know would like to see a cold weather title game. The chance of weather being a factor is part of what separates pro football from other games. We want more of this, if possible.

*The Maurkice Pouncey injury is going to be a problem for the Steelers. Pittsburgh wasn't able to run the ball as well after they lost Pouncey against the Jets, and they'll need to be able to run tomorrow to have a chance to win. Green Bay can really get after the passer if they don't have to respect Pittsburgh's running game.

*I keep going back to the same issue when I think about tomorrow's game...I'm not sure how Pittsburgh is going to be able to cover Green Bay. In their last game, Pittsburgh knew that the Jets had to throw in the second half, yet they still were unable to keep Sanchez and company out of the end zone. The Jets are nowhere near as efficient as the Packers are in the passing game, so Aaron Rodgers should be able to pick them apart, as long as they can protect him.

*Green Bay has been decimated by injuries and they're working on their 3rd or 4th running back, but they're still able to produce points in a hurry. Green Bay will try to keep in Pittsburgh in nickel defenses no matter the down and distance, because, in the nickel, NT Casey Hampton comes off the field. With Hampton out of the game, the Packers will try to run it, and it wouldn't surprise me if they had some success on the ground. All they need is some semblance of balance, and the Steelers will be in trouble.

I expect this game to be close, but the Packers have a definite advantage. Of course, the Packers haven't been in this position before with this group, and the majority of the Steelers core group already have 2 rings. This may wind up meaning nothing, and it may wind up meaning a lot. I'm guessing it's going to mean very little. I think Aaron Rodgers is going to be able to make plays on the perimeter, and the Packers are going to win their 4th Super Bowl. Green Bay, 35-24.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Postmortem

Damn...that was a tough one.

It's going to take a little while to get over Sunday at Heinz Field. Normally, I can bounce back pretty quickly after a loss, but I had managed to convince myself that we were going to win on Sunday prior to the kickoff. There are a lot of ways to lose a football game, and in 34 years of following this team, I've seen just about all of them.

Easily the most depressing way to lose is by allowing the other team to take the ball and ram it down your throat with the running game. We didn't defend the run too well the first time we visited Pittsburgh in 2010 and we were even worse during the first 30 minutes on Sunday. There were even several times over the course of the first half when the Jets were in the right defense and had Rashard Mendenhall cornered in the backfield only to whiff on him and allow a positive play. It was so uncharacteristic of our defense that I felt like I was watching a different team.

Since I try to be a glass half-full type of fan, the most important positive result of the game for the Jets was the play of Mark Sanchez. Sanchez can be frustrating to watch at times, but he is learning and developing very quickly and was the best player on the field for large portions of the AFC Championship. I don't think there's a Jets fan anywhere who didn't believe that if the defense had risen up and stopped the Steelers on their last possession, Sanchez would have went right down the field and won the game. I would have bet my life on it.

But, it wasn't to be. This is my fourth trip to a championship game as a fan and we're now 0-4. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but I truly feel that the best is yet to come for this franchise. The Jets loaded up for a run this season, and they are probably going to lose a few key contributors for 2011 (the owners and the NFLPA willing). It wouldn't surprise me if the Jets struggled to adjust next season, but I feel like within the next few seasons, we will reach the mountain top. We are very close.

Next for the Jets (once the labor situation has settled) is to determine who we're keeping and who we're letting go. The front office has to make a decision on Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Antonio Cromartie, David Harris, Jason Taylor, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Nick Folk, just to name a few. We still don't know what the cap is going to look like for 2011, but once it's established, Mike Tannenbaum will have his work cut out for him. We also have the 2011 draft to prepare for, and the Jets can't afford to draft poorly. It's too early to judge the class of 2010, but the first year results were not too promising.

Luckily for the Jets, Rex Ryan has done an excellent job turning the Jets into a destination location for free agents, which should serve us well into the future. The Jets will have holes to fill, as most teams do in the offseason. If we can continue to attract talent and draft wisely, with the core of players we have now...I'm ready to kickoff 2011 already!!!

So, keep your head up Jets fans. Perhaps our boys have learned their lesson and will win the AFC East in 2011, so the road to the Super Bowl won't involve 3 straight road games. Perhaps 2011 or 2012 will be the year we finally win a championship. I just hope you share my optimism for the future with this group of players and coaches.

September can't come soon enough.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Ride to a Championship

I'm sitting here the night before the game watching a replay of the Week 15 matchup between the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers being replayed on the NFL network. The wild ride of the last month makes the most recent Jets-Steelers game feel like it was played years ago. It truly is fitting that a trip to the Super Bowl depends on a return visit to Pittsburgh, if only because Pittsburgh was where the Jets became serious contenders.

The victory over Pittsburgh on December 19 put an end to the only losing streak the Jets had all season, and, without the win over the Steelers, the Jets would have lost 4 straight games when you include the loss to Chicago in the post-Christmas game at Soldier Field. The Jets had never won in Pennsylvania before, and there isn't a long history of winning tough matchups against physical teams in December littering this franchise's history.

In fact, perhaps the most beautiful aspect of this second consecutive run to an AFC title game is watching all of the hardened Jets fans like myself come face-to-face with a team so confident that it boosts the morale of all of us collectively. If I had any remnants of a pessimistic Jets fan rattling around my subconscious, it appears that Rex Ryan has scared him away for good.

I won't rehash the last 34 years for you, except to say that I've always wanted my team to earn a spot in a Super Bowl. We have been close several times, but I feel like tomorrow's game at Heinz Field is the best chance we've had in about 28 years. Pittsburgh is a great team that is looking for a third ring in the last six years, but they are quite beatable. It will take a complete game on both sides of the ball. The Jets must be opportunistic and be ready for Pittsburgh to rally, whether it's early or late. The most impressive part of last week's magnificence in Foxborough was the response to the Crumpler TD that cut the lead to 14-11. Sanchez hit a big play to Cotchery, then threw a frozen rope to Holmes that was caught brilliantly, and the Jets never looked back.

Several things to look for tomorrow in Pittsburgh...the most important player on defense tomorrow for the Steelers is not Troy Polamalu, it's James Harrison. Harrison will mostly be locked up with D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and Ferguson must keep Harrison from changing the game with turnovers and sacks. Pittsburgh is a much better team with Polamalu, but he didn't look right last week against the Ravens, and he didn't spend as much time on the line of scrimmage.

There is a Steeler who missed the previous game against the Jets that can have an even bigger impact. Heath Miller is Roethlisberger's security blanket on broken plays and a nightmare potentially for the Jets. I didn't feel like we played that well defensively the last time we played Pittsburgh, we just made the plays we had to when it counted. I expect the run defense to be better, and if the Jets can generate the same type of pressure they got last week on Tom Brady, the Jets will be just fine.

Offensively, I feel like the Jets can throw on the Steelers, as long as Mother Nature will allow it. Sanchez was outstanding last week once he settled down, and there will be just as many opportunities this week if he's able to stand in and deliver. Pittsburgh takes so much pride on stuffing the run, and the 106 yards they gave up last time on the ground was about everything you could hope for against their front seven. I think at this point in the season, running the football is as much attitude and will as anything else. The Jets will attempt to use the run to remain on schedule with down and distance. If they are able to do that, then they will be able to throw, and they should be able to win.

If the Jets learned anything last season in Indianapolis, it should have been that these types of opportunities don't happen every day. It's difficult to make it to a conference championship, much less consecutive conference championships, especially when no one outside your locker room thought you could do it either time. Such has been the glory of the Rex Ryan era in New York.

Once again, our opponent is a solid favorite, with conventional wisdom stating that our ride ends tomorrow. I don't know why I feel like tomorrow is going to be different, I just do. I feel like it's time for the team I've followed my entire life to deliver a trip to the Super Bowl to all of us.

I feel like our time is now.

Kickoff is 6:30 pm tomorrow at Heinz Field