Thursday, December 30, 2010

Boise State-56, LSU-20

Boise, ID-The Broncos welcomed the LSU Tigers to their blue field, then hammered them relentlessly in all phases to advance to the NCAA Semifinals by a score of 56-20. Boise State jumped out to a 28-0 lead by scoring 4 of the first 5 times they touched the ball. They were led by QB Kellen Moore, who completed 32 of 38 for 370 yards and 4 scores. Running back Doug Martin ran for 129 yards and 2 TD, adding a third TD on a pass from Moore. Boise State outgained the Tigers 598-323.

Stevan Ridley ran for 109 yards for LSU. Jordan Jefferson threw for 203 yards and 2 TD for the Tigers. LSU trailed 42-7 before adding several scores in garbage time. Boise's victory guarantees a non-BCS conference will be represented in the semifinals.

LSU Tigers -0-7-3-10-20
Boise State Broncos-7-28-14-7-56

BSU-Martin 19 run (Brotzman Kick)
BSU-Martin 7 pass from Moore (Brotzman Kick)
BSU-Shoemaker 33 pass from Moore (Brotzman Kick)
BSU-Gallarda 1 pass from Moore (Brotzman Kick)
LSU-Boone 23 pass from Jefferson (Jasper Kick)
BSU-Hodge 11 run (Brotzman Kick)
BSU-Martin 1 run (Brotzman Kick)
LSU-Jasper 37 FG
BSU-Avery 64 run (Brotzman Kick)
LSU-Jasper 36 FG
BSU-Gallarda 1 pass from Moore (Brotzman Kick)
LSU-Joseph 16 pass from Jefferson (Jasper Kick)

Rushing-LSU-Ridley-22-109-0, Shepard-2-14-0, Ford-6-3-0, Murphy-1-3-0, Jefferson-12(-9)-0
BSU-Martin-22-129-2, Avery-11-84-1, Hodge-4-15-1
Receiving-LSU-Toliver-4-24-0, Shepard-4-21-0, Randle-3-47-0, Boone-3-46-1, Peterson-2-10-0, Tolliver-1-25-0, Joseph-1-16-1, Wright-1-14-0
BSU-Young-6-75-0, Pettis-5-52-0, Shoemaker-4-77-1, Martin-4-35-1, Efaw-4-33-0, Hiwat-3-41-0, Avery-3-41-0, Gallarda-3-16-2
Sacks-BSU-Root 2, Hout

Michigan State-48, Virginia Tech-13

East Lansing, MI-Michigan State's offense rolled up 618 yards against Virginia Tech, leading the way to a 48-13 victory and a berth in the NCAA Semifinals. Spartans QB Kirk Cousins threw for 384 yards and 4 TD. Edwin Baker ran for 154 yards and 2 TD for Michigan State, who scored 34 straight points after Virginia Tech tied the score at 7.

The Spartans scored 5 touchdowns of at least 34 yards as Michigan State dropped big play after big play all over the Hokies. Tyrod Taylor threw for 264 yards in a losing effort for Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech Hokies -7-0-0-6-13
Michigan State Spartans-20-7-14-7-48

MSU-Baker 2 run (Conroy Kick)
VT-Wilson 4 run (Hazley Kick)
MSU-Baker 71 run (Conroy Kick)
MSU-Cunningham 34 pass from Cousins (Kick Missed)
MSU-Cunningham 58 pass from Cousins (Conroy Kick)
MSU-Dell 77 pass from Cousins (Conroy Kick)
MSU-Bell 8 run (Conroy Kick)
VT-Hazley 31 FG
VT-Hazley 30 FG
MSU-Caper 51 pass from Cousins (Conroy Kick)

Rushing-VT-Evans-15-51-0, Taylor-15-50-0, Wilson-14-48-1, Williams-2-4-0, Thomas-1(-6)-0
MSU-Baker-20-154-2, Bell-11-83-1, Cousins-8(-3)-0
Receiving-VT-Roberts-5-88-0, Coale-4-60-0, Boykin-4-53-0, Smith-3-26-0, Evans-2-30-0, Parker-2-2-0, Davis-1-13-0, Dunn-1-7-0
MSU-Dell-4-107-1, Cunningham-3-98-2, Nichol-2-38-0, Gantt-2-36-0, Martin-2-26-0, Caper-1-51-1, Fowler-1-23-0, Bell-1-5-0
Passing-VT-Taylor-21-39-264-0-0, Thomas-1-6-15-0-0
MSU-Neely, Gardiner, Bullough

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

NCAA Quarterfinals

As you may have noticed, I fell behind running the college football tournament with my trip out of town last weekend. I'm not going to call the quarterfinals the Elite Eight, as college basketball has already patented the catch phrases. Only 2 of the 8 home teams were able to survive the first round. Here are the matchups for the quarterfinals...

2010 NCAA Football Tournament Quarterfinals

Friday, December 24, 2010
4:30pm EST-#13 Virginia Tech (12-2) at #9 Michigan State (12-1)
8:00pm EST-#11 LSU (11-2) at #10 Boise State (12-1)

Saturday, December 25, 2010
12:30pm EST-#15 Nevada (13-1) at #1 Auburn (14-0)
4:00 pm EST-#14 Oklahoma State (11-2) at #5 Wisconsin (12-1)

Since these games have already been played (technically), I'll have results as soon as they become available. ;)

Nevada-41, Oregon-36

Eugene, OR-Nevada stunned Oregon 41-36 to claim the last quarterfinal berth in the NCAA Football Tournament. Nevada scored 4 touchdowns in 7:39 during the second and third quarters to turn a 20-7 deficit into a 34-20 lead that they would never relinquish. Nevada RB Vai Taua ran for 232 yards and scored 2 TD for the Wolf Pack. Colin Kaepernick threw for 192 yards and 3 TD and added a fourth TD on the ground for Nevada.

LaMichael James ran for 230 yards for the Ducks in a losing cause. Oregon was able to run the ball effectively, and QB Darron Thomas threw for 262 yards and 3 TD, but their leaky defense surrendered points in bunches, and they were not able to get it done in this one.

Nevada Wolf Pack-7-13-14-7-41
Oregon Ducks -13-7-3-13-36

Ore-Beard 45 FG
Ore-Huff 25 pass from Thomas (Beard Kick)
Nev-Ball 6 pass from Kaepernick (Martinez Kick)
Ore-Beard 31 FG
Ore-Maehl 7 pass from Thomas (Beard Kick)
Nev-Taua 21 run (Martinez Kick)
Nev-Taua 59 run (Martinez Kick)
Nev-Kaepernick 47 run (Martinez Kick)
Nev-Green 51 pass from Kaepernick (Martinez Kick)
Ore-Beard 20 FG
Ore-James 8 run (Pass Failed)
Nev-Matthews 28 pass from Kaepernick (Martinez Kick)
Ore-Williams 14 pass from Thomas (Beard Kick)

Rushing-Nev-Taua-29-232-2, Kaepernick-13-62-1, Randall-2-3-0, Ball-7-3-0
Ore-James-26-230-1, Barner-8-22-0, Alston-2-3-0, Thomas-10(-34)-0
Receiving-Nev-Matthews-3-43-1, Wimberly-3-23-0, Shepherd-2-35-0, Taua-2-34-0, Green-1-51-1, Ball-1-6-1
Ore-Maehl-5-106-1, Paulson-3-58-0, Huff-2-32-1, James-2-29-0, Williams-2-26-1, Tuinei-1-11-0, Davis-1-0-0
Sacks-Nev-Roy 2, Marshall, Johnson, Coulson

Oklahoma State-38, TCU-31

Fort Worth, TX-Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden threw for 510 yards and 4 TD to lead the Cowboys over previously unbeaten TCU. The Horned Frogs received a high seed in the tourney despite being from a non-BCS conference due to their unbeaten record, but their defense was no match for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys gained 565 yards of offense, as both teams combined for over 1,000 yards of offense.

TCU QB Andy Dalton threw for 226 yards and 3 TD, but was picked 3 times, including a pick 6 from Shaun Lewis. TCU tied the score at 31 in the fourth quarter on a TD pass from Dalton to Josh Boyce, but Weeden brought the Cowboys 83 yards in 14 plays to the winning score with 36 seconds remaining.

Oklahoma State Cowboys-14-7-7-10-38
TCU Horned Frogs -7-17-0-7-31

TCU-Wesley 2 run (Evans Kick)
OK St-Blackmon 18 pass from Weeden (Bailey Kick)
OK St-Hunter 21 pass from Weeden (Bailey Kick)
TCU-Evans 23 FG
OK St-Anderson 9 pass from Weeden (Bailey Kick)
TCU-Brock 11 pass from Dalton (Evans Kick)
TCU-Boyce 24 pass from Dalton (Evans Kick)
OK St-Lewis 27 interception return (Bailey Kick)
OK St-Bailey 36 FG
TCU-Boyce 19 pass from Dalton (Evans Kick)
OK St-Moore 1 pass from Weeden (Bailey Kick)

Rushing-OK St-Hunter-23-50-0, Randle-4-18-0, Smith-2-10-0, Weeden-3(-23)-0
TCU-Tucker-12-127-0, Wesley-17-55-1, Dalton-9-54-0, James-4-20-0
Receiving-OK St-Blackmon-12-214-1, Cooper-6-63-0, Bowling-5-31-0, Moore-4-72-1, Hunter-3-43-1, Harrison-3-26-0, Anderson-2-30-1, Horton-2-7-0, Chelf-1-24-0
TCU-Boyce-4-80-2, Kerley-3-29-0, Young-2-34-0, Johnson-2-31-0, Brock-2-20-1, Frosch-1-19-0, Tucker-1-13-0
Passing-OK St-Weeden-38-55-510-4-0
Sacks-TCU-Luttrell, Coleman, Yendrey
Interceptions-OK St-Martin 2, Lewis

Wisconsin-38, Missouri-28

Madison, WI-Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien threw for 268 yards and 3 TD to lead the Badgers to a 38-28 victory and a berth in an NCAA Quarterfinal. Wisconsin used a balanced attack to roll up 511 yards of offense. Montee Ball ran for 128 yards and 2 scores, and John Clay added 112 more on the ground.

The Tigers tried to keep pace on offense but fell short. Blaine Gabbert threw for 334 yards, but was sacked 5 times and faced constant pressure all day. Missouri also had to cope with temperatures in the teens and a stiff wind that limited the deep passing game.

Missouri Tigers -10-10-0-8-28
Wisconsin Badgers-7-14-10-7-38

Mis-Josey 2 run (Ressel Kick)
Wis-Ball 64 run (Welch Kick)
Mis-Ressel 49 FG
Wis-Ball 1 run (Welch Kick)
Mis-Josey 3 run (Ressel Kick)
Wis-Kendricks 15 pass from Tolzien (Welch Kick)
Mis-Ressel 19 FG
Wis-Welch 28 FG
Wis-Gilreath 44 pass from Tolzien (Welch Kick)
Mis-Moore 2 run (McGaffie Catch)
Wis-Kendricks 36 pass from Tolzien (Welch Kick)

Rushing-Mis-Josey-12-57-2, Moore-9-47-1, Lawrence-6-31-0, Gabbert-18(-4)-0
Wis-Ball-15-128-2, Clay-24-112-0, White-3-11-0, Tolzien-6(-8)-0
Receiving-Mis-Moe-7-95-0, Egnew-5-33-0, Jackson-4-34-0, Kemp-3-84-0, Gerau-2-31-0, Washington-2-25-0, Josey-1-21-0, Moore-1-11-0
Wis-Toon-4-59-0, Gilreath-3-69-1, Anderson-3-48-0, Ball-3-22-0, Kendricks-2-51-2, Abbrederis-1-19-0
Sacks-Mis-Jackson, Sam
Wis-Borland, Nzegwu, Allen, Watt, St. Jean
Wis-St. Jean

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Blueprint

The New York Jets rallied with one their most complete performances of the season against Pittsburgh, winning 22-17 and moving a rather large step closer to their second consecutive playoff appearance under Rex Ryan. With a win this week against Chicago (or an Indianapolis or Jacksonville loss), the Jets are in. More importantly for Jets fans, the whole team, especially the offense seemed to re-establish the physical identity that carried them through the 2009 playoffs.

Since the start of the 2010 season, the Jets have gradually become more of a passing team. Mark Sanchez has already thrown 100 passes more than last season with 2 games remaining. As LaDainian Tomlinson started to wear down after his hot start, the Jets increasingly relied on Sanchez to produce points and big plays. This shift in philosophy, however, hasn't produced positive results on the field. The Jets would need to score 53 total points in the last 2 games to match the amount from last season's team, which was no offensive juggernaut. The 2010 Jets are outgaining the 2009 version in terms of yards, but they're leaving points on the field in the red zone every week. The combination of Sanchez's inaccuracy coupled with a lack of production in the red zone from the running game have led to many more 3's than 7's.

The Jets went into Heinz Field last week without having scored an offensive touchdown since Thanksgiving night against Cincinnati. Knowing they would need to control the clock to have a chance to beat the Steelers, the Jets pounded out 106 yards on the ground while Mark Sanchez took a week off from completing half of his passes to go 19 of 29 without a pick. Most of his throws were easy throws designed to move the chains and give the talented receiver corps a chance to make a play after the catch. Braylon Edwards played his best game in months, finishing with 8 grabs for 100.

When the Jets offense received a few shiny new toys in the offseason (namely Santonio Holmes and Tomlinson), the conventional wisdom was that the additions alone would make the Jets a more effective team. With their already stout defense, the Jets would be able to contend right away. At 10-4, it hasn't happened the way anyone expected. The Jets were fortunate to win several of their midseason games against lesser opponents, and the offense has been completely ineffective in every loss.

Most changes in the NFL come from necessity, and the blueprint from last week was no different. Being able to run and play the field position game is a weatherproof formula as long as you can bring your defense with you every week. The Jets stayed committed to the ground against the Steelers a week after throwing it 44 times in a loss to Miami. The defense gave ground but didn't give up any huge plays, and, in the end, survived.

Expecting more snow, wind, and bitter cold in Chicago, and nursing Sanchez and his damaged wing, I expect the Jets to again attempt to establish the run against a good run defense. If they are successful, the Jets will have gained back all of the confidence they lost in back-to-back division losses. They have been at their best under Rex Ryan in exactly this situation. They're on the road and many of the experts have chalked up last week's win to a lack of Polamalu. If they can win running the football on the road against two solid teams like Pittsburgh and Chicago in bad weather, then there's no reason not to be brimming with confidence heading towards January football.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Kickoff is tomorrow at 1.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Auburn-40, Alabama-38

Auburn, AL-Auburn didn't need a fantastic comeback in their rematch with Alabama. Instead, they pounded the Crimson Tide with 349 yards on the ground, seizing control of their first-round matchup with their biggest rivals shortly before halftime before hanging on at the end to advance, 40-38. Auburn running backs Onterio McCalebb and Michael Dyer combined for 300 yards and 4 TDs on just 23 carries, and Cam Newton completed 11 of 12 passes for 161 yards and a TD.

The two teams combined for 985 yards of total offense in the shootout. Alabama QB Greg McElroy completed 28 of 32 with 4 73 TD as the Crimson Tide threw for 402 yards in an attempt to keep up with the Tigers. Auburn's stout interior defense held Alabama to just 73 yards on the ground.

Alabama Crimson Tide-14-0-10-14-38
Auburn Tigers -7-13-13-7-40

Ala-Alexander 2 pass from McElroy (Shelley Kick)
Ala-Lacy 8 pass from McElroy (Shelley Kick)3
Aub-Blake 25 pass from Newton (Byrum Kick)
Aub-Byrum 39 FG
Aub-Byrum 29 FG
Aub-McCalebb 36 run (Byrum Kick)
Aub-Dyer 55 run (Kick Missed)
Ala-Shelley 46 FG
Aub-McCalebb 64 run (Byrum Kick)
Ala-Hanks 20 pass from McElroy (Shelley Kick)
Ala-Richardson 34 pass from McCarron (Shelley Kick)
Aub-McCalebb 2 run (Byrum Kick)
Ala-Jones 8 pass from McElroy (Shelley Kick)

Rushing-Ala-Ingram 20-73-0, Richardson-7-23-0, Lacy-1-2-0, McElroy-9(-25)-0
Aub-McCalebb-9-152-3, Dyer-14-148-1, Newton-24-28-0, Fannin-7-21-0
Receiving-Ala-Jones-7-80-1, Hanks-5-76-1, Richardson-4-51-1, Alexander-3-60-1, Maze-3-45-0, Dial-3-33-0, Ingram-3-28-0, Williams-1-13-0, Norwood-1-8-0, Lacy-1-8-1
Aub-Blake-3-56-1, Adams-2-32-0, Fannin-2-24-0, Lutzenkirchen-2-21-0, Burns-1-19-0, Zachery-1-9-0
Passing-Ala-McElroy-28-32-344-4-0, McCarron-3-4-58-1-0
Sacks-Ala-Sentimore, Moore, Murphy
Aub-Gaston, Fairley, Lykes, Humphries

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I was going to spend this column going off like a dental drill, but I decided against it in the end. The problem for me, and a lot of other long-time fans of the team, is that we've seen this movie many times before. Being a New York Jets fan often means being seduced and abandoned in December.

You won't find a lot of sympathy around the NFL. In the market where I reside the local fans are subjected to Carolina Panthers football, which makes the Jets look like the 70s Steelers. I had the great joy of witnessing last weeks abomination courtesy of some tickets from my friend Bob, and Atlanta made the Panthers look like a high-school team. Carolina can't win any matchups in their front seven, and their receivers are unable to separate and get open. It's hard to believe that they won a game this year.

Much like an NFL version of Scared Straight, watching the Panthers made me appreciate the Jets. At least there seems to be a foundation at key positions on the field that will allow the franchise to compete into the future provided that they have better drafts than they had in 2009. Young players like Nick Mangold, Darrelle Revis, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and David Harris form the cornerstones of the foundation. You may notice that I've left Mark Sanchez out of this equation, simply because I still have no idea what the end product is going to look like with this kid.

To say I've been disappointed with the way that Mark Sanchez has reacted to the situations he's been placed in the last 2 weeks would be a vast understatement. Sanchez has been wildly inaccurate, which is usually followed by the same hang-dog look you would see on a 9-year old who strikes out with men on base in a Little League game. He has not delivered, but even worse, he looks defeated. Rex Ryan admitted during the week that he considered pulling Sanchez in the second half against Miami, and it's hard to blame him. In the Jets 4 losses, they've scored a total of 18 points. If you can't score, you can't win.

I'm not going to go into the gory details of the last few weeks. If you've been watching, I'm sure you're as frustrated by all of it as I am. Most NFL players are able to move on to the next week, even if the fans are looking for a larger meaning in every poor performance. The facts are that the Jets are 9-4, regardless of how they've gotten there. They are still in the position that if they win this week in Pittsburgh and get some help, they can qualify for the postseason by the end of the day.

Here's a stat you may see today...the Jets have never won a game in Pennsylvania. I believe we're 0-6 lifetime in Pittsburgh. The Steelers will be without Troy Polamalu, his injured ankle, and his luxurious hair. Ben Roethlisberger has been battling multiple injuries and his offensive line is patchwork at best. But, they still have a devastating defense that is able to force mistakes and limit scoring opportunities. This isn't exactly the defense that you get well against.

For the Jets to have a chance to win, they will have to run the football against a team that only allows about 60 yards a game on the ground. They will have to avoid mistakes and recognize that punting the ball and playing the field position game while trying to force mistakes may be their best opportunity to win.

Young fans of the Jets deride the Same Old Jets fans, the people who have witnessed the horrors of seasons past and seem to be waiting for the other shoe to drop, hedging their emotional bets to protect against the psychological damage of another unhappy ending. I don't consider myself a SOJ fan, but I feel their pain. It's hard to get up week after week when you know your team may not have what it takes to win it all, much less this Sunday's game. All it takes is one solid performance to have the whole fan base and the New York media singing a different tune on Monday morning.

Kickoff is 4:15 today at Heinz Field.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Virginia Tech-23, Stanford-17

Stanford, CA-Virginia Tech received a big assist from Mother Nature, as a driving rain and steady wind helped ground Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal, 23-17. The Hokies victory capped off a wild Friday that saw all 4 road teams come up victorious and advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals. Virginia Tech ran for 230 yards against Stanford and controlled both sides of the line of scrimmage offensively and defensively.

The Hokies unleashed a season worth of hurt on Andrew Luck in one evening, sacking him 7 times and hurrying him on virtually every throw. Tyrod Taylor had an efficient game, completing 14 of 22 for 228 yards, including a number of big throws on third down to keep drives alive. Virginia Tech jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first 6 minutes in the game, then survived a late Stanford rally that tied it at 17. Two field goals from Chris Hazley was the difference for the Hokies.

Virginia Tech Hokies-14-3-3-3-23
Stanford Cardinal -7-3-7-0-17

VT-Evans 15 run (Hazley Kick)
VT-Wilson 5 run (Hazley Kick)
Stan-Baldwin 16 pass from Luck (Whitaker Kick)
VT-Hazley 40 FG
Stan-Whitaker 26 FG
Stan-Taylor 2 run (Whitaker Kick)
VT-Hazley 24 FG
VT-Hazley 26 FG

Rushing-VT-Evans-16-90-1, Williams-13-71-0, Wilson-12-57-1, Taylor-11-12-0
Stan-Taylor-21-72-1, Wilkerson-6-38-0, Luck-13-(-4)-0
Receiving-VT-Coale-5-79-0, Boykin-3-31-0, Roberts-2-28-0, Smith-2-12-0, Wilson-1-61-0, Davis-1-17-0
Stan-Fleener-4-45-0, Baldwin-4-41-1, Whalen-4-39-0, Owusu-3-60-0, Taylor-3-25-0, Reuland-1-10-0
Sacks-VT-Drager-2, Taylor-1, A.Hopkins-1, Gibson-1, D.Hopkins-1, Exum-1

Friday, December 17, 2010

Boise State-34, Oklahoma-26

Norman, OK-Boise State scored the first three times they touched the ball in the second half to turn a 16-13 deficit into a 34-16 lead, then held on to win 34-26 to advance to the NCAA quarterfinals. The Broncos win meant that the road teams started 3 for 3 in the first round of the tournament. Oklahoma outgained Boise State 527 to 417, but they failed to produce touchdowns on multiple trips to the red zone. Out of 5 different red zone opportunities, the Sooners could only produce 1 touchdown.

Landry Jones passed for 441 yards in a losing effort for Oklahoma. Boise State QB Kellen Moore passed for 215 yards and 3 TD, throwing a touchdown on each of the Broncos first three second half possessions. Boise State also ran for 202 yards, while the Sooners failed to generate any kind of running game.

Boise St Broncos-3-10-14-7-34
Oklahoma Sooners-6-10-0-10-26

OU-Stevens 22 FG
BSU-Brotzman 36 FG
OU-Stevens 30 FG
OU-Miller 23 pass from Jones (Stevens Kick)
BSU-Martin 11 run (Brotzman Kick)
OU-Stevens 32 FG
BSU-Brotzman 37 FG
BSU-Young 3 pass from Moore (Brotzman Kick)
BSU-Martin 4 pass from Moore (Brotzman Kick)
BSU-Efaw 1 pass from Moore (Brotzman Kick)
OU-Murray 2 run (Stevens Kick)
OU-Stevens 23 FG

Rushing-BSU-Avery-9-92-0, Martin-20-81-1, Hodge-6-34-0, Moore-1-(-5)-0
OU-Murray-16-65-1, Finch-8-30-0, Millard-2(-2)-0, Jones-8-(-7)-0
Receiving-BSU-Pettis-4-60-0, Young-4-33-1, Shoemaker-3-51-0, Hiwat-3-42-0, Martin-2-9-1, Avery-2-8-0, Efaw-2-3-1, Potter-1-9-0
OU-Broyles-10-127-0, Murray-7-45-0, Stills-5-99-0, Kenney-4-64-0, Hanna-3-68-0, Miller-2-32-1, Franks-1-6-0
OU-Lewis-1, Nelson-1

Michigan State-40, Arkansas-27

Fayetteville, AR-Michigan State running back Edwin Baker ran for 227 yards and 2 TD as the Spartans beat the Razorbacks 40-27 to advance to the NCAA quaterfinals. Michigan State rolled up 587 yards of total offense as Arkansas struggled to get off the field on defense. Spartan QB Kirk Cousins threw for 267 yards and a TD. Dan Conroy kicked 4 field goals for Michigan State.

Arkansas scored TDs the first two times they touched the ball on offense to take a 14-7 lead before surrendering a 30-7 run from Michigan State. Ryan Mallett threw for 282 yards and 3 TD, but threw 2 crucial picks in the second half which the Spartans converted into points. Knile Davis ran for 177 yards for Arkansas.

Michigan St Spartans-10-10-10-10-40
Arkansas Razorbacks -14-0-7-6-27

Ark-Davis 9 pass from Mallett (Hocker Kick)
MSU-Baker 37 run (Conroy Kick)
Ark-Wright 9 pass from Mallett (Hocker Kick)
MSU-Conroy 26 FG
MSU-Conroy 43 FG
MSU-Cunningham 34 pass from Cousins (Conroy Kick)
MSU-Conroy 38 FG
Ark-Davis 43 run (Hocker Kick)
MSU-Bell 3 run (Conroy Kick)
MSU-Baker 8 run (Conroy Kick)
Ark-Williams 9 pass from Mallett (Hocker Kick)
MSU-Conroy 28 FG

Rushing-MSU-Baker-25-227-2, Bell-13-99-1, Caper-1-(-1)-0, Cousins-6-(-5)-0
Ark-Davis-20-177-1, Green-9-25-0, Mallett-9-(-6)-0
Receiving-MSU-Dell-4-47-0, Cunningham-3-86-1, Nichol-3-34-0, Gantt-3-31-0, Linthicum-2-22-0, Bell-2-14-0, Caper-1-21-0, Martin-1-8-0, Baker-1-4-0
Ark-Williams-4-75-1, Adams-4-61-0, Wright-4-53-1, Hamilton-3-36-0, Davis-3-16-1, Tucker-2-25-0, Gragg-1-13-0, Green-1-3-0
Sacks-MSU-Norman-1, Drone-1, Johnson-1, Allen-1
Ark-Stadther-1, Thomas-1, Barnett-1
Interceptions-MSU-Robinson-1, Gordon-1

LSU-19, Ohio State-6

Columbus, OH-The LSU Tigers used a stifling defense and a ball control offense to defeat the Ohio State Buckeyes 19-6 Friday afternoon and advance to a quarterfinal game next weekend. Temperatures dipped into the 20s at kickoff with a light snow falling, and both teams attempted to use the ground game to move the ball. LSU held Ohio State to 209 yards of total offense and only 1 of 15 on third down conversions. LSU also controlled the clock, keeping possession for over 34 minutes.

LSU was led by Stevan Ridley, who ran for 105 yards and pounded out crucial first downs in the second half. Jordan Jefferson was only 10 of 21 throwing the football, but he avoided turnovers and threw the only touchdown of the game, a 23-yard pass to Terrence Toliver. Terrelle Pryor had a miserable day for the Buckeyes, only completing 4 of 15 passes and never mounting a serious threat after halftime. Daniel Herron was held to just 40 yards on the ground for Ohio State. Josh Jasper kicked 4 field goals for the Tigers.

LSU Tigers -3-10-3-3-19
Ohio State Buckeyes-3-3-0-0-6

Ohio St-Barclay 49 FG
LSU-Jasper 28 FG
LSU-Toliver 23 pass from Jefferson (Jasper Kick)
Ohio St-Barclay 43 FG
LSU-Jasper 44 FG
LSU-Jasper 32 FG
LSU-Jasper 33 FG

Rushing-LSU-Ridley-29-105-0, Ford 9-31-0, Jefferson 11-20-0, Shepard 5-17-0, Murphy 6-15-0, Blue 1-4-0
Ohio St-Saine-8-56-0, Herron-18-40-0, Hall 5-29-0, Pryor 12-8-0, Berry 2-8-0
Receiving-LSU-Randle-3-55-0, Toliver-3-40-1, Tolliver-1-20-0, Joseph-1-11-0, Peterson-1-6-0, Ridley 1-2-0
Ohio St-Posey-1-34-0, Sanzenbacher-1-18-0, Brown-1-13-0, Stoneburner-1-3-0
Ohio St-Pryor-4-15-68-0-1
Sacks-LSU-Levingston-1, Jones-1
Ohio St-Moeller-1

2010 NCAA Football Tournament

I'm a firm believer that if the NCAA had a playoff at the end of the football season, it would be the most popular event on the sports calendar every year, even bigger than the NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl. I love and prefer pro football, but giant schools like Ohio State and Texas churn out thousands of graduates every year, alumni with a greater connection to their school than they would ever have with a pro franchise.

The hollow argument that a playoff system will somehow overwork the student-athletes involved doesn't hold any water for me. If the NCAA were to run a 16-team playoff, beginning this weekend, they would still be able to schedule a national championship game for Monday, January 10, the date of this year's BCS title game. The NCAA could even keep the bowl games if they wanted, filling the spots with teams that didn't qualify for the tournament, or with teams that have already been eliminated from the tournament.

Thanks to, we can play the tournament that the NCAA refuses to let happen. We can use the BCS to seed the top 16 teams, then begin with the first-round matchups today and tomorrow. Over the next 2 days, I will be reporting the game results from all 8 first round matchups in the fictitious 2010 NCAA Football Tournament. Here is the schedule for the first round...

2010 NCAA Football Tournament

Friday, December 17, 2010
12pm EST-#11 LSU (10-2) at #6 Ohio State (11-1)
3pm EST-#9 Michigan State (11-1) at #8 Arkansas (10-2)
6pm EST-#10 Boise State (11-1) at #7 Oklahoma (11-2)
9pm EST-#13 Virginia Tech (11-2) at #4 Stanford (11-1)

Saturday, December 18, 2010
12pm EST-#16 Alabama (9-3) at #1 Auburn (13-0)
3pm EST-#12 Missouri (10-2) at #5 Wisconsin (11-1)
6pm EST-#14 Oklahoma State (10-2) at #3 TCU (12-0)
9pm EST-#15 Nevada (12-1) at #2 Oregon (12-0)

A few notes on the tournament...I am not a fan of neutral site games. The home field advantage, especially at the college level, is a great reward for the teams with the highest seeds. This will be the case all the way through the national title game. Auburn has home field advantage throughout the tournament. I would much rather see the fans of the higher seeds get a chance to watch playoff games rather than a bunch of corporate suits and locals with no stake in the outcome. Also, we will re-seed after every round. There are no brackets in this tournament, so the best teams will have the advantage of playing the lowest available seeds. If Auburn advances past the first round, they will face the lowest surviving seed in the next round.

As you can see, 4 conferences received 12 of the 16 spots in the tournament. The SEC received 4 bids, followed by the Big 12 and Big 10 with 3 each, and the Pac 10 with 2. The ACC received 1 bid, and 3 non-BCS conference teams received bids as well. Only the Big East was left out (rightfully so, I might add).

I will have results as the games go final. :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hearts and Minds


It's not often that a 9-3 team has to spend the week before their Week 14 game trying to prove they're legitimate. But, this is the position the New York Jets find themselves in after last week's misery in Foxborough.

Without rehashing the abomination, the Jets failed in every phase of the game. There were portions of the second half where the defense appeared to quit, which was somehow a better performance than the offense had. The offense appeared to quit sometime after the first possession.

There is far too much football remaining in the regular season to let last week's 45-3 loss destroy what had been built in the first 11 games. The Jets secondary looked completely lost without injured safety Jim Leonhard, and they have 4 games left to find a solution for the total breakdowns that took place Monday Night. The primary concern for the team for the rest of the regular season is to fix the glaring issues they're having and be playing the best football they can by wild card weekend.

This week, the Dolphins come to town clinging to their playoff lives. Chad Henne always seems to play well against New York, although the Jets were without Darrelle Revis in the first meeting of 2010. If Brandon Marshall's hamstring is healthy enough for him to go for Miami, he will have to cope with Revis outside, and should have a more difficult time on Sunday. The confidence of the entire offensive team, particularly Mark Sanchez, hangs in the balance this week. In their 3 losses this season, the Jets have scored a total of 12 points. Against New England, Sanchez missed even the easiest throws, badly missing short passes designed to gain yards after the catch. If Sanchez struggles with these types of throws, it makes you wonder if he'll be able to handle downfield passing if there is wind and cold in January.

If Sanchez continues to struggle, Jets fans may see a repeat of last January's game plan, with Sanchez throwing about 20 passes per game as the Jets try to run the ball down everyone's throat. It's a solid gameplan, as long as you don't fall way behind early. The running game was effective for most of the first half, but it wasn't enough to avoid a 3 TD deficit at halftime.

Which Jets team will we see on Sunday? Will it be the confident team that won 9 of 10 before last week? Or will it be the team that failed to show up last week, suffering the franchise's worst defeat in 24 years? The truth lies somewhere in between. I believe this team is not ready to be the best team in the league yet, but it certainly is better than losing by 6 touchdowns on national television. The weather forecast is calling for rain at the NMS, so the Jets will attempt to play caveman football and control the clock. This may be the way they have to play to compete the rest of the season, as Sanchez has regressed over the past few weeks.

There are multiple collapses littering the New York Jets history. They have become rites of passage for a battered fan base that has been led down the primrose path before. Waiting for the other shoe to drop has become too common a custom for Jets fans. The fans deserve a far better effort than they got last week. If the Jets want to be taken seriously as a football team, they must get a victory against Miami. After Miami comes Pittsburgh and Chicago on the road, so the opportunities don't get any easier. Step one in saving the Jets season kicks off at 4:15 pm on Sunday.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Where The Rubber Meets The Road

The New York Jets face New England on Monday Night in the most-hyped regular season game the Jets have played in recent memory. Both ESPN and the NFL Network have been all over this matchup since Thanksgiving Night, devoting portions of each night's coverage of the league to the myriad of subplots. It's a rare occasion when two divisional rivals arrive at the December portion of the schedule with matching 9-2 records, each knowing that a victory will give them the inside track to home field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs.

Despite the importance of tonight's game, this is only Week 13. There are four games left for each team after tonight, and the winner will have only provided themselves an easier path. There is still a lot of regular season football to play. It was only two years ago when the Jets left Nashville with a huge victory over the previously unbeaten Titans and an 8-3 record, only to collapse down the stretch, finishing 9-7 and missing the postseason. Regardless of what happens tonight, both the Jets and the Pats will have a lot of work left in order to be humming by the second weekend in January.

The most interesting part of the game should be watching Rex Ryan attempt to confuse and frustrate Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots offense. Whoever wins this matchup should win the game. For the first time this season, Ryan, the notorious talker, has tried to be cagey about where Darrelle Revis will line up. Ryan's hope is that remaining silent will provide the Jets an advantage in Foxborough.

When the Jets acquired Antonio Cromartie in the offseason, I expected Ryan to take this approach each week, or at least against the best quarterbacks. The Jets would like to overload blitz on every play, or at least on most obvious passing situations. Forcing Brady (or a Manning, Brees, or Rivers) to locate Revis and Cromartie every play gives a quarterback a lot more to process when the play clock is winding down. Against a mediocre QB, you can throw Revis on the best receiver and remove him from the gameplan. Few teams even have that luxury, and it's a solid strategy. Against a great QB, if you remove his best receiver (or even his second best with Cromartie) he can still light you up with his third and fourth options. Anyone who watched last year's AFC Title game can confirm this, unfortunately. With two outstanding man-to-man corners, Ryan can attempt to use Revis on either Wes Welker or Deion Branch. He can use Cromartie on a tight end, like he did last week against Jermaine Gresham from Cincinnati. I expect Rex Ryan to attempt to do anything and everything in an attempt to disrupt Brady.

The Jets took a severe blow last week when they lost Jim Leonhard for the season with a broken leg. Leonhard is the Jets signal caller on defense and their punt returner. As is always the case in the NFL, someone will have to step forward and assume those responsibilities. I would imagine you may see Kyle Wilson or Jerricho Cotchery fielding punts, with an outside chance of Cromartie or Holmes returning punts as well. Hopefully, Leonhard's injury won't cause too much of a disruption with communication in the secondary. If the Jets were going to lose a key man for the rest of the season, at least they will have five games to work out the problems that will be caused by Leonhard's absence.

Rex Ryan has had tremendous success on the road, mostly because running the ball and playing solid defense works in any location. I expect the Jets to try to take a page from Cleveland's gameplan several weeks ago and try to pound the ball at New England and use play action to try to take advantage of one-on-one matchups outside. One of the startling revelations from the early season game against New England was just how much the Pats struggled matching up outside against Braylon Edwards and inside against Dustin Keller. Mark Sanchez had one of his most efficient performances of the season in Week 2 against what has been an Achilles heel for the Pats defense. The passing yardage they've given up this season is misleading, mostly because they've been ahead so much that the other team becomes one dimensional against them. Any Patriots fan will mention that their secondary is different than the one from Week 2, and they're right, they do have different personnel outside. But, if New England has trouble against the run Monday Night, the Pats could see a repeat from Week 2, as Edwards, Keller, and Santonio Holmes can take advantage all over the field.

As far as Mark Sanchez is concerned, he needs to make the easy throws this week, the very throws he passed up last week on his way to his poorest outing in over a month. The interception he threw last week against the Bengals looked like 2009 Sanchez, the indecisive rookie trying to make a big play with every throw, even if it's a big play for the other team. Unlike most New England games over the past decade, the Jets enjoy advantages in many areas of this matchup, and there's no reason not to stay aggressive when the opportunity presents itself downfield, but Sanchez shouldn't have to be heroic if the rest of the team shows up to play.

The New York Jets enter December with the best opportunity they've had to clinch home field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs in 25 years. Only once during that period have the Jets even managed a bye during the playoffs, which was in 1998 when the Jets beat Jacksonville at home before losing to eventual champion Denver in the AFC Title game. To say that, historically, the franchise doesn't usually find itself in this position is fairly accurate. We don't normally handle prosperity very well. Tonight, a golden opportunity to seize control of the division awaits the Jets if they show up to play in Foxborough.

It should be a fun Monday Night.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

For Fans of The Big Kovalsky...

I'm happy to announce that these posts are now also being linked on The Sports Blog Network at Feel free to visit the site, as there are many interesting articles written from the fan's perspective. Here is a link to last week's article on that site.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Treat for Jets Fans

The New York Jets are off to their best start in 24 years. The past few weeks have been a roller coaster ride, as young Mark Sanchez has been forced each week to lead the team to crucial scores to win. Last week against the Texans, he took the Jets 72 yards in five plays using 39 seconds with no timeouts to score. Santonio Holmes scored the game-winner with 10 seconds left, making yet another huge play in crunch time.

By all accounts, Sanchez is a playbook nerd, the kind of steady and driven pro that succeeds on Sunday. He is the first to arrive at the complex and the last to leave, and takes his leadership responsibilities with the rest of the offense seriously. When the moment arrives to make plays in crucial times of the game, he has been well prepared by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, quarterback coach Matt Cavanaugh, and ancient backup QB Mark Brunell to constantly assess and process key information, like who's on the field for the defense, which two plays he wants to start with, which matchup is most advantageous, where does he need to get to for a FG, and so on. It's easy for a young quarterback to be consumed by the big moment, but Sanchez seems to embrace it. He seems to prefer the frenetic pace of the two-minute drill, where he can force the defense to react to him, instead of having to react to the defense.

When Sanchez was a rookie and suffered through a terrible stretch in the middle of the season, Schotteheimer simplified the game for him. There were more bootlegs off of play action where Sanchez would have one primary read and an easy decision. The Jets used this look repeatedly in the postseason, especially against the Bengals in the wild card round. He wasn't put in a position to drop straight back and manipulate the safeties with his eyes. In the closing drive against the Texans, Sanchez hit a big play down the sideline to Braylon Edwards to set up the TD by moving the safety to the slot with his eyes, then throwing a perfect ball outside the numbers to Edwards. He couldn't make that play last year.

As Jets fans, we have a lot to be thankful for on turkey day. This team could easily be 5-5, so most of us will gladly take 8-2. There are plenty of things to address moving forward, troubling tendencies that will ruin this great start if they are not fixed quickly. For two consecutive weeks, the defense has been given an opportunity to close out in the fourth quarter and has proceeded to give up chunks of yardage and the lead. The Houston game was quite troubling, as the defense totally blew multiple assignments on the Texans two fourth-quarter TD drives. Following Shonn Greene's fumble, the Texans needed only one play to run a corner route with TE Joel Dreessen and cut the lead to 23-17. After the game, the coaching staff revealed that it was Jason Taylor's assignment to drop into the short zone and pick up Dreessen. Of course, it's a little unclear why you would be asking Jason Taylor to cover a pass catching tight end in crunch time when he is primarily a pass rusher at this stage of his career.

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has taken a greater responsibility over the playcalling duties for the defense, but no one has come forward and claimed this gaffe from last week. Recognizing what you're asking your personnel to do from play to play is coaching 101, and if Ryan has acquiesced this part of his coaching duties, he needs to take it back. If he hasn't, he needs to pay greater attention to who is out there every play. The defense was outstanding for three quarters last week before they completely fell apart. Rex Ryan wants this team to be a defensive team first, but if this trend continues it won't be long before even the weakest of opponents that the Jets face will feel like they're never out of the game.

The Jets look like they may be without RT Damien Woody after Woody sprained his MCL against the Texans. A totally overmatched Wayne Hunter came in to battle with the frightening Mario Williams, and Williams wound up being a pain in the ass for the rest of the game. If you get me talking about football long enough, I will tell you at some point that one of the most important ingredients to consistent offensive success is offensive line continuity. Every job the offensive line has is a group assignment. With solid communication, they can cover for each other and never leave their backs and receivers in the types of bad situations that lead to negative plays and turnovers. If Woody can't go this week against the Bengals, I expect Wayne Hunter to see overload blitzes to his side. The Jets may have to help Hunter by using a back to chip or by leaving a tight end in, or by moving Sanchez around. The Jets running game is nowhere near where it was last season, but they've kept a fairly clean pocket all season. The Bengals don't have a Mario Williams rushing the passer on the strong side, so if Woody is held out for the Patriots in 11 days, the offensive line should survive. It may even help down the road that Hunter is getting these reps now.

So...are we lucky or are we good? That seems to be the $64,000 question this week in the media. There is a fair amount of fortune involved when a team is put in a position to make plays at the end of games and is consistently successful, however, those who would say it's pure luck are foolish. Most often in the NFL, those who are most prepared are the fortunate ones. Since the same teams always seem to be lucky, it should be obvious by now that most teams make their own luck. It's a game of inches and no team is going to get the breaks every week. The best you can hope for is that when your team is given a chance to make plays, they are prepared and ready. The Jets certainly seem to be prepared and ready, especially when the game is on the line.

This week, Cincinnati comes to town riding a long losing streak, including losing a 28-7 lead against the Bills last week at home on their way to a 49-31 loss (Yikes!). The Bengals have the ability to score, but their defense has been a mess and they are nicked up in the secondary. With the short week, the challenge for the Jets will be to remain focused on the task at hand, especially with a trip to Foxborough looming in the distance. With the AFC East race so tight, the Jets can't afford a lapse in concentration.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Strengths and Questions

We're nine games into the 2010 season and New York Jets stand at seven and two, tied for the best record in the NFL. The Jets lack glaring weaknesses but have a few question marks that will help determine the rest of the regular season. Before we get to the questions, let's go over a few strengths.

The Offensive Line-The Jets have mostly been winning because of their strength up front. Damien Woody, Brandon Moore, Nick Mangold, Matt Slauson, and D'Brickashaw Ferguson have been the primary reason why the Jets have a top five running game, and have been able to keep Mark Sanchez clean through the first nine games. Any potential opponent of the Jets knows that they have to have an outside chance of bringing pressure and controlling the ground game to have a chance to win. So far, few opponents have been able to win this matchup. Today against the Texans, I expect the ball to come out of Sanchez' hand quickly to limit his exposure to hits, especially considering the problems the Texans have had in coverage.

Run Defense-The Jets adjusted well when Kris Jenkins went out in 2009 with season-ending knee surgery, and they were prepared for the same scenario this season. Just like 2009, Mike DeVito and Sione Pouha have stepped in and occupied offensive lineman to allow David Harris and Bart Scott to control the middle of the field. The Jets have yet to allow a hundred yard rusher this season, and the unsung play of the interior line is the primary reason. Last week against Cleveland, Peyton Hillis had a big first half, then was neutralized in the second half and overtime.

Pass Defense Outside the Numbers-There was a feeling among the Jets fan base at the start of the season that Darrelle Revis' absence from camp and the uneven play of CB Dwight Lowery and perennial whipping boy CB Drew Coleman, as well as the inexperience of CB Kyle Wilson was going to cost the Jets' pass defense. By and large, the fan base was correct for the first few weeks of the season, as Revis struggled to overcome a nagging hamstring injury, and the weak links in coverage, primarily Wilson, were being exposed weekly by every QB the Jets faced. As the season has progressed, Revis has returned to the form that made him the most effective defensive player in the NFL in 2009, and Coleman, Lowery, and Wilson are all improving quickly and have made huge plays in victory.

Somewhat lost in the shuffle has been the stellar play of Antonio Cromartie. The Jets threw Cromartie to the wolves early in the season, forcing him to handle Randy Moss by himself in the second half against New England, and for the entire Minnesota game. Cromartie responded tremendously well to the challenge, and he looks like a serious candidate to be offered a deal for 2011 and beyond, especially if he can continue to conduct himself professionally on and off the field. He has been a perfect fit for the bump and run scheme that Rex Ryan prefers.

There have been several areas of the team that have been inconsistent, and how they play the rest of the second half can be the difference between seven and nine and fourteen and two, and all the records in between.

Mark Sanchez-Through the first season and a half of Mark Sanchez' career, he has shown the normal growing pains of any young QB, especially one who started for only one full season at USC. Being a young quarterback is one of the toughest jobs in sports, as professional coaches and defenses expose your weaknesses every week, and your ability to adjust and learn, as well as the physical tools you bring to the table determine your success. The best friend of a young QB is not just a solid running game, but a solid team in all phases, which the Jets are. What should make the Jets excited is Sanchez' composure and improvisation. Poise and pocket presence are hard to quantify, and are therefore often discounted by the myriad of analysts we're exposed to as fans. So far, even with his struggles to remain efficient, Sanchez passes the smell test. His teammates trust him as a leader. When he is forced to make plays with the game on the line, he does so. It's not always pretty, but Sanchez is excellent on the move, and is already adept at identifying where pressure is coming from, then moving in the pocket and delivering a catchable ball. Last season, Sanchez through almost twice as many picks as TDs. This season, those numbers have been reversed. The jury must still be out on Sanchez until he shows he can be consistent, but anyone who doesn't notice the improvement isn't paying attention.

Pass Defense in the Middle of the Field-When the Patriots jettisoned Randy Moss early in the season, conventional wisdom was that the Patriots were hoping for addition by subtraction, but it was hard to imagine they would be more difficult to defend. Moss gave the Patriots an extra gear, a way to stretch the field against what most teams in today's game have difficulty with, which is a vertical threat that can find seams in a zone defense.

The problem for Belichick and company was that the Jets were built to handle Moss. Belichick recognized that the 2010 Jets had not just one, but two corners they could use on Moss to neutralize him. Since Tom Brady excels at small ball (hitting receivers short and letting them run after the catch) and since the Pats have several options at receiver and tight end that allow them to play this way, Belichick sent Moss packing. After watching the Jets dominate the Pats play after play in Week 2, it's hard to argue with his theory. Belichick knew he couldn't beat New York with the 2010 Pats, so he's trying the 2001 Pats instead. I'll give it to Belichick, he's pretty crafty. The idea of trying to cover the Patriots' tight ends with Eric Smith, or Brodney Pool, or Jim Leonhard is a little scary. The Jets haven't been able to handle tight ends all season. The game in Foxborough in two weeks should be much tougher than the first one.

The Running Game-The most important part of the 2009 Jets identity has been inconsistent of late. Using LaDainian Tomlinson like he's twenty-five instead of thirty-one with three thousand touches under his belt is starting to take a toll on his efficiency. LT hasn't been as effective over the last month, and Shonn Greene hasn't really been a factor until last week in Cleveland. When the Jets sent Alan Faneca packing last offseason, the effectiveness of the run game, especially to the weak side of the formation, took a hit. Matt Slauson has played fairly well as a replacement, and he's been pretty effective in pass protection, but he's not the run blocker Faneca was. Rex Ryan wants to pound the ball when the weather grows cold, and the running game's usage should increase as the regular season winds down. If the Jets can become more efficient in the run game, they will control the clock and the pace of the game. If the Jets want to win a title, the running game has to operate at a level approaching last season.

The Pass Rush-The Jets array of blitz packages have been nowhere near as effective this season. It seems every team we face is more prepared to slide protection towards the overloaded side. Bringing five and six people on third and long has been the wrong strategy thus far. Full credit must go to Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine for adjusting on the fly and dropping seven and eight DBs in third and long out of necessity. The key to success in the NFL is recognizing when a philosophy doesn't fit your personnel, and making the necessary adjustments. It must burn Ryan to take a more passive approach, but, as he says, he's in the results business. Whatever works should be the plan. Mike Tannenbaum should be looking at pass rushing options for 2011, so Rex can go back to being Rex on third and long.

Keeping the Receivers Happy-The Jets have more talent at the receiver position that they've had in about twenty-five years. Not since the days of Al Toon and Wesley Walker have the Jets had an ability to win outside like they can with Holmes, Edwards, Cotchery, and Keller. The fact of the matter is that the Jets don't have enough footballs to keep everyone happy. The Jets want to run the ball and keep Sanchez around thirty attempts. The only way to keep all this talent happy is to win.

The play that Jerricho Cotchery made in OT against Cleveland just may make him a legend for life with Jets fans. You can't ask for more as a fan that to see an obviously injured player sell out his body to make a play. If I tore my groin, I would most likely be in the fetal position, not laying out to convert a crucial third down. As important as Cotchery is in the Jets scheme, his injury may have come at the right time. The Jets passing game seemed more effective early in the season without Holmes. It isn't Holmes fault, of course, as he has been huge at the end of the last three victories. Sanchez is more effective when he isn't as concerned about spreading the football evenly. Having four main options (when you include LT as a receiver out of the backfield) has served better than having five options for Sanchez. Until Sanchez fully trusts that he doesn't have to ensure that everyone has enough footballs to play with, less may turn out to be more. It will be interesting to see how he responds Sunday against Houston without Cotchery.

The Kicking Game-Nick Folk had been outstanding until last week. I would imagine if he struggles this week against the Texans, he may be competing for his job on Monday. The life of a kicker must be awfully tough. You're always a few misses from unemployment. I imagine there are antacids involved with your day to day life. Lots of them.

That's enough for now. Let's hope we come to play at home today. The Texans will be ready.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Having An Old Friend For Dinner

I won't spend too much time dwelling on last week's come from behind victory over the Lions. The game left far more questions than answers as to what's to come in 2010. The New York Jets have now had four consecutive uneven performances, with no portion of the team playing consistently well, except for Mike Westhoff's special teams and our run defense. The offense has not been able to break any big plays in the run game, and QB Mark Sanchez has struggled to complete passes, with a percentage of 50.3% combined against Minnesota, Denver, Green Bay, and Detroit. LaDainian Tomlinson seems to be slowing down. The defense has been unable to get pressure on the QB, which means they're not forcing any mistakes by opposing offenses. After briefly leading the NFL in turnover margin a few weeks ago, the defense hasn't forced a turnover in two straight games. The Jets are a minus six over the last three games, and they've been very fortunate to win two of these games.

The inconsistency that the Jets have shown over the last few weeks is a common occurrence in the modern game. Even the best of teams often have to play from behind, and rarely look great for every moment of every game. New York stands at 6-2 heading into the the second half of the regular season, tied for the best record in football with a few other midseason contenders. If the Jets can feel good about any one thing coming out of the first half, it's that they've had a chance to win every week this season, and they look like they can play with anyone in the league.

That may sound like I'm justifying the uneven play, but, in the modern NFL, it's hard to expect perfection, or even consistent performance by any one unit. This week, the running game may get going and the passing game may be inefficient. That trend may reverse the following week. At the end of the day, the W is what counts.

For the first time since being fired after the 2008 collapse, former Jet head coach Eric Mangini faces his old team in Cleveland later this afternoon. Judging by the way he treated another ex-employer last Sunday, the Jets will have their hands full. The Browns are coming off two huge victories, including a 20-point victory over the Patriots that wasn't as close as the final score. Cleveland wins by pounding the ball with the gigantic Peyton Hillis, and by stopping the run and forcing mistakes in the passing game in obvious passing situations, namely third and long.

Cleveland is a well-coached team, but they lack big play talent on the outside, and they are likely starting a rookie QB in Colt McCoy. McCoy has been solid in his first few starts, although they aren't asking very much of him at this point. The job of the defense will be to stuff Hillis and force McCoy to attempt to make decisions about where the football should go, and make those throws outside the numbers, where Revis and Cromarite have a chance at a big play.

While the pass defense has been fairly efficient in recent weeks as far as limiting big plays, it's hard to win when you aren't forcing any mistakes by your opposition. If the Jets hope to have the kind of big second half that can propel them to the postseason, this is an area that must improve in the weeks to come. The Jets face the Browns today before coming home to face Houston and Cincinnati. After this stretch New York goes into the most important part of the season, which is at the Patriots, home for Miami, then at Pittsburgh and at Chicago.

The best thing about the 2010 season so far is that the Jets haven't had to pay a heavy price to learn valuable lessons about themselves so far. The Jets could very easily be 4-4. It's always better to find out your weaknesses without having to lose football games. The Jets may have to play the frantic style they've exhibited the last few weeks in order to win football games for the rest of the season, for all we know.

For now, this game should be an interesting test to see where the Jets are at heading into the second half. A solid performance in all phases is enough to beat the Browns, but it will take a complete game playing against a team with their confidence at a season-high. If they have to count on coming back from ten down in the last few minutes each week, it's going to be a long second half.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Fork In The Road

The New York Jets face an interesting dilemma entering Week 9. This isn't the first time that they've been in this situation as an organization. All it takes is a slow three or four week patch in the middle of November, and you can go from on top of the division, to needing help to get in as a wild card.

The Jets had a taste of how difficult it can be to win three consecutive games on the road in January last season. As Jets fans, we were all hoping to avoid that route this season by winning the AFC East. At first glance, the Jets appear to be a superior team personnel wise to the their immediate rivals in Miami and New England.

What is going to determine what happens next is the following three weeks. For the Jets, it's at Detroit, at Cleveland, Houston. The Jets are superior to their next three opponents. A division champion has to win these games.

Last week's blanking at the hands of the Packers was humiliating enough. With the talent on the Jets offense, there is simply no excuse for not being able to stay on the field and score points. There is plenty of blame to go around. Mark Sanchez suffered through a third consecutive sub-par performance, completing just 16 of 38 in windy NMS. Putting up points and winning football games are a QBs two primary concerns every Sunday. Sanchez has had issues when the wind picks up, and he has been having issues finding the third and fourth option, especially on third down. The Jets receivers did him no favors either, as they dropped six passes and allowed both Sanchez interceptions to be ripped out of their hands.

The offense also turned it over three times, and the Jets committed forty yards more in penalties than their opponents. Despite outgaining Green Bay 360-237, the Jets wound up losing by nine at home. So far this season, the new stadium hasn't been kind to the home team, whether it's the Jets or the Giants. How surprising that when the working class fans who really care about being the 12th man are priced out of the market, your home crowd has a mausoleum like dreariness. Impossible to imagine, right?

But that's a different discussion for a different time.

This week we have the Detroit Lions, who are an improved bunch over the last few years, and are fully capable of defending their home turf against a suddenly offensively challenged unit like the Jets. If there is readily apparent weakness for Detroit, it's their run defense, which means both Schottenheimer and Ryan have to remain committed to the run, even if it only works sporadically at first.

With the assorted receivers the Jets have at their disposal, it's easy to forget what got them to this point. For the Jets to be effective on offense, at least during this phase of Sanchez' career, they must run the ball and make big plays off of play action. Unless Sanchez can prove that he can distribute the ball to all of the weapons at his disposal, Ryan and Schottenheimer have to manage not just the amount of plays available to Sanchez, but the options within those plays.

And, above all else, OC Brian Schottenheimer must avoid getting cute with his playcalling. For three consecutive games, the Jets have been a pass first team with a little too much cuteness for their own good. For one week, I'd like to see less Wildcat and less reverses. Just line up and hit the man in front of you. And for God sakes, get Shonn Greene involved in the game. Six carries for him is not enough. We're on pace to wear LT out by Week 14.

It was nice to see that Rex Ryan is a fan of the Big Kovalsky (well...not really, but he must be a reader since he's blitzing less often the last two weeks, per my suggestion). It may be a time to confuse the young Matthew Stafford with a few odd fronts and blitz packages. He's not Aaron Rodgers yet, so there may be opportunities there to force mistakes.

I don't know how much of Charles Johnson is going to wind up being Darrelle Revis' responsibility, but I hope both he and Antonio Cromartie play well, and perhaps even catch an errant Stafford throw. The defense was great last week, but Stafford likes to take chances, especially in the middle of the field, which means there are opportunities for turnovers.

It's up to you, Jets. New England is on a roll (better now than in January), and the division will get away from us quickly over the next month unless you correct last week's mistakes right now. It's been more than a month since the Jets played well for four quarters. They've been fortunate to escape from the last three games at two and one, when they could have easily lost all three. If they can turn it around today, there's plenty of time to sharpen their skills for the postseason. For now, we'll ignore the alternatives. Let's just say they involve a quiet January.

Monday, October 18, 2010

No One Here Gets Out Alive

Unlike seasons past, the 2010 New York Jets have shown a resiliency and an ability to face down adversity, regardless of the opponent. Yesterday's 24-20 victory over the Denver Broncos was the first come from behind victory of the Rex Ryan/Mark Sanchez era, and it came in a game where the Jets did not play their best. Often during the regular season in the NFL a team will be called upon to get a result when they haven't played that well, and the best teams find ways to get these victories. It's the difference between a 9-7 or 10-6 team becoming a 12-4 or 13-3 team.

The Jets played an uneven game yesterday, getting the first two turnovers of the season from Sanchez, which could have easily been three or four if the Broncos defensive backs had managed to come up with several easy picks on the game's first possession. The Jets running game, which has chewed up yardage and helped to control the line of scrimmage thus far this season, managed just 129 yards. In fact, the Jets gained fewer yards, had fewer first downs, and lost the time of possession battle.

The defense gave up 145 yards on the ground to one of the worst running games in the league, which was a function of the Jets focus on stopping Denver's freewheeling passing game. Bronco QB Kyle Orton was held to just 209 yards on 14 of 34, and Denver never really got the big plays they've grown accustomed to this season. Darrelle Revis started and played the whole game despite the temperamental hamstring that's given him problems all season.

The conventional wisdom heading into Week 6 was to sit Revis, since he would have 2 weeks to rest if he were given the day off, and Revis seemed to think he could only be effective if he were 100 % ready to go. I loved the way Rex Ryan handled the Revis situation all week. After willingly taking the blame for allowing Revis to determine whether or not he was ready for Minnesota, Ryan said he would make the ultimate decision regarding Revis. Ryan seemed to say all week that Revis would play, that he had received assurances from the Jets medical staff that the hamstring was healthy and that it was mostly a matter of Revis being able to play through whatever discomfort he would feel on gameday.

Throughout the week, I couldn't help but feel that Revis' discomfort was not going to bother Ryan at all. Ryan knew that Revis at 80 or 90 % was better than any alternative the Jets could have going for them. While Revis gave up 4 catches yesterday including a TD, he played better than against Minnesota, and revealed after the game that the discomfort was nowhere near as bad as it had been after the Vikings game. Even the TD that Revis allowed looked like it was bogus, as Demaryius Thomas' second foot looked clearly out-of-bounds. The call against Revis for the TD that gave the Broncos a 17-10 lead was one of four or five shaky calls against the Jets in the second half.

I am a firm believer that calls have a way of evening themselves out over time, so I rarely have issue with a specific call, since I feel like it's only a matter of time until the pendulum swings back in my team's direction. The pass interference call against Renaldo Hill on Santonio Holmes was a nice piece of good fortune, but it wasn't a bad call. No matter who you root for, when your receiver goes up to make a catch and is grabbed by the facemask, that's pass interference. The down and distance or game situation is of no consequence. The story of whether or not this was a good call by the refs, as well as the validity of pass interference as a spot-of-the-foul penalty has been debated throughout the media today, which my paranoia takes as a sign that the national media really wanted to see the Jets go down yesterday. I would imagine if the same situation had happened with the Saints or, heaven forbid, the Patriots, we'd be hearing a lot about the nerve of Drew Brees or Tom Brady today, rather than the luck of Mark Sanchez and the 5-1 New York Jets.

Any Jets fan will tell you that the Jets would have lost this game in the past, which makes two consecutive weeks that New York has made the best of a shaky circumstance. For a championship caliber team, it's not going to pretty week in and week out. There are going to be days like yesterday when you have to grind out a victory on the road against a tough opponent. This situation will certainly come up again, whether it's later in the season in Foxborough, or in Pittsburgh, or even Chicago. The Jets may even lose a game like this before the season is over.

A championship caliber team is going to learn lessons about itself over the course of the season. As a fan, you hope these lessons can come in victory. The Jets were fortunate yesterday, but they were also good when they had to be good. They now have two weeks to prepare for Green Bay, a 3-3 team that has lost back to back overtime games, a team that had great expectations heading into 2010. They have a home date on national TV against the Vikings before they play the Jets, so they could even be 3-4 before the Jet game. Either way, they would seem to be a desperate team searching for a rhythm, so the Jets will need to come with a superior effort and execute at a high level to move to 6-1.

The margin between success and failure is ever narrowing in the modern NFL. To remain successful, the Jets will need to improve in virtually every area. Luckily for Rex Ryan, there is much to address during the bye week. There is no better time to apply pressure to a successful team than when things are going well. The New York media market will bend over backwards to congratulate the Jets over the next two weeks. It will be Ryan's job to keep this team from believing the hype. This is the next challenge for the 2010 Jets in the weeks to to deal with success. If they are able to make the playoffs, how they handle the success they're experiencing right now will determine whether the Jets play at home or on the road in January.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Third Down Dilemma

The Jets held on Monday Night against the Minnesota Vikings for a 29-20 victory after dominating the first half. New York led 9-0 at the break, but the score very easily could have been a 3 TD difference. Minnesota's defense has thrived in the red zone for the last few seasons, and the opportunities the Jets had in the first half couldn't be converted, which allowed the Vikings to stay in the game when they should have been put away.

When Brett Favre finally started to hit a few big plays, it highlighted the Jets' biggest weakness thus far in 2010; the defense's inability to get off of the field on third and long. When you remove the Buffalo game from the equation, the Jets defense has been terrible in obvious passing situations. On third down and 8 yards or longer, the defense is giving up a QB rating of 124.6 to Flacco, Brady, Henne, and Favre.

On Monday night, the first two Minnesota TDs came in situations like this one, first a 37-yard TD to Randy Moss on third and seventeen, then a 34-yard TD to Percy Harvin on third and nineteen. The TD passes gave the Vikings new life in a game they had no business winning. To the Jets credit, their last game was a game they most likely would have lost last season, and in most situations in the past. Losing a huge lead at home is one of the most deflating experiences a team can go through, but the Jets were able to make a huge play on defense when Favre and company had an opportunity to win the game. Dwight Lowery picked Favre and took it 26 yards to the house, clinching a four game winning streak for Gang Green.

After the game, Favre surprised onlookers by screaming, "Look at my penis!!! LOOK AT IT, DAMMIT!!!" He really didn't, but maybe Favre is developing into the wacky sexual predator we always though he could be. Brett Favre is indicative of the modern athlete's sense of entitlement, so it seems fitting that he's in the mess he's seemed to create for himself. I don't think most Jets fans will be shedding tears for Favre anytime soon.

Anyway, back to the Jets third down troubles...the reason for the Jets' failings on third down goes back to their very identity as a football team. The Jets leave their cornerbacks in man-to-man defense more than any other team, as Rex Ryan dials up more and more exotic blitzes. Ryan's problem is that he's no George Allen. Ryan has invited anyone who's interested to observe the Jets in practice, and many of their closest rivals are becoming outstanding at sliding their protection schemes towards the blitz, giving their QBs the time they need to pick us apart downfield.

The question becomes, does Rex Ryan abandon who he is and who he wants this team to be in order to fix the problem, or does he continue to bring pressure in all situations, even when it would be more prudent to play a little more conservatively? It seems like the least he should do is go back to the drawing board and see if there's a way to re-invent some of the schemes that have been so effective in the past, or, taking a page from the offense, blitzing more on first and second down, and dropping six and seven when the opposing offense is in an obvious passing situation.

Either way, it's hard to imagine that the Jets can continue to win, week in and week out, when their defense can't get off of the field when they desperately need to. Eventually, you'll run into a quarterback talented enough to bury you when you give them that many opportunities. This week, the Jets travel to Denver to face the Broncos before the bye week. If the Jets can win a fifth straight game, it will match the longest streak they've had in a decade, and they'll go into the bye knowing that all of their regular season goals are still on the table, including Rex Ryan's much ballyhooed goal of "leading the league in fucking wins."

Kickoff is at 4:05 pm today.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What Rex Ryan Meant

Rex Ryan caught a lot of heat about his training camp opening speech, which was filled with enough expletives to draw cringes from league officials. This impassioned assessment of what the Jets are capable of has been the primary cause of the mass media narrative that has dominated coverage of the team in 2010. The boasting of Ryan was so uncommon for an NFL head coach that it's changed the perception of the entire team, although the majority of the Jets players are not big talkers.

The past 3 games have been a virtual demonstration of that speech, as the Jets have mowed down the AFC East with the most consistent offensive display the franchise has shown in a decade. The questions for the 2010 Jets have become can they keep this up and just how well can they play? Last week in Buffalo, the defense didn't yield a third down conversion and the running game featured two 100-yard performances, while Mark Sanchez went another start without a turnover.

Rex Ryan feels that the Jets' best game is the best game there is in the league, and he may be right. The Jets get another chance to showcase their talent against the Vikings this evening. Great players and great teams look at every competitive contest as a new opportunity to not just succeed, but to be spectacular. There is no bigger stage in the regular season than Monday night in the NFL.

When you add in the subplots of Randy Moss returning to face off against Darrelle Revis, whether or not Minnesota can make the best use of Moss right away and help the Vikings avoid a 1-3 start, the 2010 debut of both Calvin Pace and Santonio Holmes for the Jets, and the return of both Brett Favre and Brett Favre's newly famous penis to the tri-state area, and there's almost too much going on in this one to speak of clearly.

This game isn't as big as the folks at ESPN will have you believe, but the Jets won't want to surrender the momentum they've built in the first month of the season. You only get so many chances to make an impression on the entire league on national television. It will be interesting to see how the Jets respond tonight in the new Meadowlands Stadium.

Jerry Richardson...Master Thief

I just wanted to give a shout-out to the Carolina Panthers fans I know (this means you, Jamaal) and apologize for the abomination you are witnessing this season. I have lived through many a pathetic Jets season and can empathize fully with what you're going through. Although, I don't know if I've seen quite the circumstance that Carolina fans are dealing with currently.

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson gained notoriety this offseason with an impassioned speech at the owners meeting. The speech outlined how the owners had been screwed by the players during the last collective bargaining agreement and how they weren't going to pay a lot for this muffler during the collective bargaining negotiations to come. He then proceeded to act like he had no money in the offseason, letting his best player, perennial All-Pro defensive end Julius Peppers, walk to Chicago without any compensation in return. He also refrained from buying any pieces that would actually help the team win in 2010.

Richardson then had the audacity to raise ticket prices on the season ticket holders, making them pay more for an inferior product. To top it all off, he traded a future second round pick to move up in the third round (huh?) during the draft to take Appalachian St. QB Armanti Edwards, who had no chance at being a pro QB, but rather a converted receiver.

The third round is no place to draft a project, but this is how stupid Richardson thinks you are, Panther fans. He must have figured, "Edwards is a local guy, my ignorant fans will show up to cheer on their college hero even if it takes 3 or 4 years to develop him, if it even works out at all. I can afford to burn this high a pick on a marketing scam, putting additional pressure on a long shot at paying off." I can't even begin to describe the pure hatred he must have for Carolina fans as a whole. For Richardson to figure he can placate the local fans by taking a local guy, even if he has no chance to contribute to the team's success for years to come, takes enormous stones. Onions, even. This is the same type of reasoning that allowed the Charlotte Hornets to draft J.R. Reid 5th overall, thinking it will draw in the college fans who aren't sold on the pro game.

As long as the Charlotte-area owners think like this, there are no local pro teams with a chance at success. pissed Panthers fans. And don't spend any money on this team if you can help it. I feel like a dumbass for picking this team to have success this year. If I were you, I wouldn't spend a dollar on this team. If Richardson won't, why should you?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Avoiding The Trap Game

First, a belated postmortem on Miami...

Last Sunday's nationally televised spectacular in South Florida had a little of everything. The Jets exploded out of the gate as if it was the 5th quarter of the New England game, building a 14-0 lead out of the continuing maturation of young Mark Sanchez. Sanchez would finish with 256 yards and 3 more TD through the air, as he continues to be the main story of the team through 3 weeks. Even the most optimistic Jet fan was not counting on Sanchez to look this poised this quickly. His improved decision making has turned the season around. I would imagine that there will be further bumps in the road as the season progresses, but Sanchez' performance should allow everyone to breathe a little regarding whether or not we have the right guy under center. He's the right guy.

As for the rest of the squad, as quickly as we got the lead, we gave it right back. Miami started to turn the tide when they completed a questionable catch on the sidelines. The replay looked like Davone Bess only had one foot down, but Rex Ryan refused to challenge the catch. On the next play, Ricky Williams laid one on the turf, then miraculously was able to wrestle the ball from people much larger than him on the ground. The power of weed, I guess.

These two plays shifted the momentum of the game, and the Dolphins ran off 17 consecutive points. Miami could not stand prosperity, and promptly gave up the lead they had worked so hard to get. They were ahead for exactly 18 seconds.

That's when recent Jet pariah Braylon Edwards did an old school turn and burn, like Otis Taylor in Super Bowl IV (am I dating myself?). Edwards would have only 2 catches on the day, this 67-yard TD and a huge 3rd down conversion on the Jets clinching drive in the 4th quarter. He also played large on the ground, helping to spring Ladainian Tomlinson twice around the outside. Edwards may have been a fool during the week, but he played well Sunday night. As for the moralists who thought he should have sat the whole game, please find me another example of a player having to sit for a DUI and I'll gladly agree. The Jets are under no obligation to sit Edwards in this situation, especially without the results of the case still pending. The Jets get Santonio Holmes back from suspension for the Minnesota game, so the importance of Edwards will change as the season develops. I hope he has some success with the personal demons he seems to battle every season. Rock bottom is different for each person. I hope Edwards hit rock bottom in a squad car on the west side of Manhattan.

The Jets defense took some lumps during the week as the pass defense gave up 363 yards to Chad Henne, and Brandon Marshall ran loose through our Revis-less secondary. The defense definitely has issues with big, physical receivers without Darrelle Revis on the field. He won't be back for Buffalo, and the word on the street is that he might not be ready for 2 or 3 games. You have to hope that the defense will be well served in the long term by having to learn to cover without Revis. You would also have to think that that Rex Ryan is a little upset by what he saw in the secondary last week, and that they will have more success with Buffalo.

Aaahhhhh...the Buffalo Bills. The classic trap game. For the uninitiated, a trap game is a contest against a lesser opponent that usually comes immediately after or immediately before a more anticipated game against a much more competitive opponent. The worst kind of trap game is a road division game against a rival, like we have this week. Buffalo has been mostly terrible in the first 3 weeks, although they looked better with Fitzpatrick driving last week against the Pats. Their run defense has been abysmal, so this is a perfect week for Shonn Greene to get his confidence back, and for the ground and pound identity of the 2009 Jets to re-assert itself.

There is no reason for Schottenheimer to get too cute this week. The Jets can win the man-on-man battle up front, and they should do as little as possible to deviate from what will work best. It's almost time for kickoff in Buffalo. I should be back later today with the highs and lows.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How Quickly Things Turn

Last Sunday, we were treated to exactly what the hype was supposed to be about.

The Jets set aside their myriad of distractions long enough to whip New England 28-14, demonstrating for the fanbase just what the 2010 version of the Jets is capable of for the rest of the season. Since the Tom Brady era began in Foxboro nine years ago, there hasn't been a whole lot of success for the Jets. The victories we've managed over that period were normally of the three or seven point variety and more a product of good fortune than good football.

Last Sunday was a different story. Play after play during the second half, the Jets offense moved the ball up and down the field, through the accuracy of Mark Sanchez (21 for 30, 3 TD) and the fresh legs of Greene and LT (136 yards on the ground). Meanwhile, the defense held Brady and company scoreless in the second half without the injured Darrelle Revis. Brady made multiple mistakes, failing to sustain anything useful for the last 30 minutes while sporting Matt Dillon's haircut from My Bodyguard. Not a very good day for Boston.

What was interesting about the defense's effort in the second half was how galvanized the effort was, especially the pass defense. After having to listen to the local and national media question the ability of the defense to operate at an optimal level without Revis during the whole preseason, the entire unit played with a chip on their shoulder, as if to prove that no one piece is greater than the whole.

Also, Revis, who gave up a highlight reel TD to Randy Moss on his last play of the game, showed a revealing bit about his character in that moment. As Moss hauled in Brady's throw with one-handed flair, Revis reached down and grabbed his hamstring, as if clinging to a ready-made excuse for his failure. In the postgame, Rex Ryan said that Revis was expecting help over the top on the post route, so the TD wasn't entirely his fault, but I thought it was interesting that Revis was so prepared with a visual cue for an excuse. It reminded me of the made-for-TV match race between Donovan Bailey and Michael Johnson after the 1996 Olympics. When Johnson couldn't catch Bailey on the turn, he grimaced in pain. The fragile ego at work, I would assume.

But, I digress.

After the misery of the Monday night against the Ravens, the big performance couldn't have come at a better time. LaDainian Tomlinson has looked like a second year back. Running with purpose and enthusiasm, he has earned the lion's share of the touches in the first 2 weeks, and been a steal so far. Mark Sanchez proved to the coaching staff that he can make throws and must be trusted with the gameplan. In Week 1, the only opportunities that Sanchez had to throw were in obvious passing situations, which is when the defense is most prepared to defend the pass. Against the Pats, the Jet's brain trust decided to give Sanchez chances to throw on first and second down, and Dustin Keller found enough soft spots in Cover 2 to rack up a career-high 115 yards.

The powers that be at the NFL league office love to schedule the Jets next opponent, the divisional rival Miami Dolphins, for national television when the Jets come to town. That's unfortunate for the Jets, because the Miami "fans" are as fair-weather as they come. If this game is a 1 pm Sunday game, then the stands would be half-filled with Jets fans. Since the game is a national TV night game, the crappy Dolphin fanbase will show up, giving their team a much-needed boost. The Jets should be flying high coming into the game, but Braylon Edwards took care of that shit in mid-week.

I hate what's been happening with the Jets, as I've mentioned numerous times. I want to see good football, and I think the whole sideshow element to the team does us no good. Braylon Edwards has been a fairly solid addition prior to his DUI this week, working hard in the meeting room, and not being overly critical when the ball didn't find him on Sunday. With his irresponsible crap this week, he has essentially ensured he won't be offered a long-term deal following this season. I don't know why any player would risk his financial future and his chance to be relevant historically with a solid franchise. The money is green wherever you go, but you don't have many chances to play for a successful franchise. With the core the Jets have in place, they have a chance to contend for the next several years. It makes you wonder what's going through his head. If the Jets lay an egg on Sunday night in Miami, he will catch the blame.

We've lost 3 straight to the Dolphins, and a victory in Week 3 won't just snap that streak. A victory will give the Jets early control of the division, and give both of the potential threats for divisional supremacy in the East a wake-up call as to which team truly is the team to beat.

It will be interesting to see how the whole organization responds to this latest unrest. All it takes is a solid effort on the field against Miami to get the public's mind off of the sideshow and back onto one of the teams to beat in 2010.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Over Before It Started?

I had a bit of a rough time with my prognostications last weekend, so I may refrain from too many predictions for the time being, which I'm sure all of you will understand. Unfortunately for the Jets growing fan base, I didn't corner the market on disappointment.

The Jets suffered one of the most lopsided one-point losses in the history of organized sports on Monday night. From the start of the game, they never seriously mounted an offensive threat, or demonstrated an ability to play disciplined football. Like John Madden said, in response to his team's relaxed dress code back in the 70's, "You can wear a coat and tie on your way to the stadium, but, no matter how you look, if you jump offsides on 3rd and 3, you're an undisciplined football player." The Jets racked up 14 penalties on Monday night. Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson were the worst offenders, as Wilson looked overmatched at times, while Cromartie seemed to lose his sense of where he was on the field anytime he had to turn and chase the route.

As for the offense, the Jets treated Mark Sanchez like he was an explosive that they were afraid might detonate at any time. Despite the fact that the Ravens secondary had been decimated by injuries, Jets OC Brian Schottenheimer never put Sanchez in a position to test Baltimore downfield. The whole fanbase watched Sanchez make poor decisions with the football last year, and the coaching staff has stressed that they won't place the same pressure on Sanchez to be successful downfield to win games.

The problem is, of course, you can't allow the defense to only defend a small section of the field and hope to be successful. The defense has to respect your ability to test them vertically. Also, the book on Baltimore has always been that you're not going to make a living making high-percentage throws on their defense. You need to go deep and get the big play in order to score points. Second year RB Shonn Greene lost a key fumble in the second quarter and never had another carry. Apparently, the Jet coaching staff, after a rash of preseason fumbles, made a deal with the skill position players that if they fumbled in any game, they were coming out of the game. So, the Jets best running back was pulled in the second quarter after coughing one up.

After all, we're so dripping with talent to the extent that we can afford to have our best players sit, just to prove a point.

The worst part of the whole experience was watching the Jets larger-than-life head coach, the bombastic Rex Ryan, shrink before our eyes on the sidelines. I've been following this franchise so closely over the last 34 years that it would appear to an outsider that my life depended on it. I've watched quite a few head coaches come and go, but none of them have had quite the same effect that Ryan has had, especially in so short a time span.

If you look through the pantheon of sports legends on the New York landscape, there seems to be a special place for the silent, classy, consistent professional, the Joe DiMaggio/Derek Jeter type. The kind of guy who shows up to work every day and does his job, supports his teammates, leads by example, and plays his best when the big money is on the table. Even our hot dog types like Joe Namath became beloved because, when the stakes were the highest, they came up with the best performance.

The worst sin you can commit to a New York sports fan is to talk big and not be able to back it up. Rex Ryan spent 8 months predicting Super Bowl level success to whoever would listen, placing the bull's-eye directly on the Jets back when it came time to lace them up in September. In all actuality, no one who understands football on the most basic level, especially someone who is both a fan of the team and a realist, would overstate who the Jets were prior to the season.

The Jets went 9-7 last year, finishing at 11-8 after the postseason run. We were handed a late season win in Indianapolis when Jim Caldwell decided to pull Peyton Manning and the rest of the Colts starters in the third quarter of Week 16. We also threw several games away last year, including home games against Buffalo, Miami, and Atlanta. We could have easily won any one, or all three of those games. When all was said and done, the record we finished with was the record we deserved. We won a couple we should have lost, and lost a couple we should have won.

Coming into this season, there was every reason to believe we'd be improved, but certainly no reason to claim that we were the best team in football, especially when we had proved nothing yet in 2010, except a distinct talent at drawing attention to ourselves. I have no issue with demonstrating your confidence in the team, especially if your the head coach. But, if you don't believe it and you say it anyway, you're not only a fool, but you think we're all fools, too.

Rex Ryan proved it the other night. With a 4th and 1 on the Baltimore 10-yard line in the first half, he elected to kick a field goal rather than try to gain a yard on the ground. He essentially said to his team, "I know you can't gain a yard when you have to." The entire game, he and his coaching staff demonstrated no confidence in his offense to make plays, choosing to go three and out rather than take even the smallest risk in order to score touchdowns.

Again, Rex Ryan is within his rights as head coach to play conservatively and minimize risk. But, don't spend the whole offseason telling me and the rest of the NFL how great you are when you don't even believe it yourself. When it was nut-cutting time, you coached scared. At this point, you should probably shut up. The fastest way to get run out of town in New York is to talk large and not be able to back it up. After 4 decades of humiliation, the Jet fan base won't suffer fools gladly. From perusing the New York Jets fan message boards, the young fans love the bravado and think Rex Ryan is undoing the "Same Old Jets" defeatism of the past. But, if he runs his mouth for months and then runs and punts his way to 6-10, he'll be on the first plane out of town in no time.

There's plenty of time to right the ship, 15 regular season games to be exact. It begins this Sunday afternoon at 4:15 against the fucking Patriots. If I have to watch Tom Brady with his Justin Bieber haircut running up and down the field, I'm going to want to break my own TV. If the Jets can get a win and the Dolphins lose against the Vikings, everything will be even in the AFC East, and we can start over again. However, if the Jets take the pipe against New England, they'll be two games down and 0-1 in the division.

Things can unravel pretty quickly in the NFL, Rex. Time to put up or shut up.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Like Christmas Morning

I've always enjoyed the opening day of the season. The league office, sensing that there are millions like me, has made the opening weekend a special weekend, with a Thursday night game featuring the defending champs at home, and a Monday night doubleheader. The opening tilt of this year's Monday night doubleheader features the Jets and the Baltimore Ravens.

Normally, I temper my expectations for the Jets, knowing that what I see on opening day will go a long way towards determining what to expect for the coming season. Who wins or loses is not necessarily that important. What's more important are general things you take away from the game, thinks like...can we run the ball on third and short? Can we protect the passer up the middle? When we blitz, do our corners look overmatched? Can our QB make good decisions in obvious passing situations? The answers to these questions will go a long way towards determining the long-term success of any team, certainly more than whether or not your team wins their first game.

The Ravens are a tough matchup for the Jets, mostly because their defense is a carbon copy of ours, which makes sense given that Rex Ryan was running their defense for several years before joining our organization. The Ravens have added some receivers through free agency and trades, they have a outstanding young RB in Ray Rice, and a developing young QB in Joe Flacco. Sound familiar?

The Jets are in much better shape than they were several weeks ago now that Darrelle Revis has been paid to his liking and has joined the team. For the uninitiated, Revis is probably the most important piece on our defense. Most defenses take their best cornerback and place him on the offense's second best receiver, then double-team the offense's best receiver with a corner and a safety over the top. Revis is so solid in coverage that he can single team the other team's best WR and take him out of the game, which allows the Jets to play zone defense on the other side of the field, and free up other defensive backs for the overload blitzes that have become Rex Ryan's calling card.

Before Revis came back, I had started to believe that the pundits might be right, that the Jets might be a 6-10 or 7-9 team. With Revis back, as long as Sanchez avoids mistakes and continues to improve, the Jets should be a 10-win team at least. I wouldn't be surprised if they got off to a slow start and were hovering around .500 at midseason, but I expect them to be one of the best team's in the league by January, the proverbial team that no one wants to play in the postseason. If we can get there, that is.

As for the local team, I think the Carolina Panthers are going to be better than most people expect, and I expect them to play well and win today. First of all, their opponent today, the New York Giants, are still a mess on defense. Provided that the Panthers are fully healthy up front, they should be able to control the line of scrimmage and control the clock. The Panthers lack playmakers on defense besides the excellent Jon Beason, but John Fox knows how to coach team defense, and the Panthers should block and tackle well enough to win 9 or 10 games this year.

Whatever your plans today, enjoy the wings and copious amounts of cheese in various forms, and, more importantly, enjoy the next 5 or so months of pro football. Given the present labor situation, next year's offseason may be longer than normal.

Also, sometime during the season, I hope to launch my NFL history project using I'm having a hard time finding the time (as you may have guessed after witnessing my non-prolific posting style as of late), but once I crank it up, it's going to be totally hot. Especially if you're into stats simulation (and I know that you are!). I hope to have a recap of what we've learned today sometime this evening. Enjoy the action!