Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ravens give permission for Jets to interview DC Rex Ryan

After rampant offseason rumors about Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan becoming the Jets' defensive coordinator, the Jets are now calling on his brother Rex to be the next head coach.

According to Rich Cimini, the Jets have perceived permission to speak to Rex Ryan about the vacant head coaching job. Since Baltimore is still in the playoffs, no interview can be scheduled, but once the Ravens are eliminated, Ryan will be given an opportunity to win over Mike Tannenbaum and Woody Johnson.

Ryan joins Steve Spagnuolo, Marty Schottenheimer, Brian Schottenheimer, and Bill Callahan as confirmed candidates.

And with that, I will sign off this blog for the 2008 calendar year. It's been fun, and thanks for reading everybody! I look forward to bringing Jets news and opinion well into the new year and beyond, so happy 2009 everyone!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Final update of the day. Schefter: Cowher will not coach

Adam Schefter reports that Bill Cowher will not coach the Jets or anyone else in the 2009 season. It's as simple as that.Schefter is usually right on these things, and he is emphatic that there is no way he will coach any team. So that leaves Spagnuolo and Schottenheimer as the two rumored frontrunners.

Still, Cowher and the Jets will meet, and ESPN says that the two sides have shown "mutual interest." The facts are that http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

*In other news, Brett Favre had a partial muscle tear in his shoulder, but he might not need arthroscopic surgery to fix it. So there was something there, but the coaches don't think it bothered him. Whether or not it affects him playing next year, I haven't the foggiest idea. Everything Favre says is honest but cryptic and interpretable.

*Favre's struggles at the end of this year are consistent with his play in previous seasons. Second half declines are evident in most years, including last season culminating in the ugly ending to the NFC Championship game.

*Well, well, well, someone else wants to give Eric Mangini a job. He's interviewing with the Browns later this week. I think he's going to be a good coach someday, but not many coaches can survive collapses like that. Look at Mike Shanahan!

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that New England personnel guru Scott Pioli is the leading candidate to be their general manager. When Spygate happened in 2007, many speculated Mangini would be ostracized by some in the coaching community, or at least by those in the Bill Bellichick coaching tree. This could be something to watch.

*Rich Cimini reports that Brian Schottenheimer and Bill Callahan will be given interviews for the head coaching job. Not surprising here at all. Both are in-house and deserve a chance to see if they blow Johnson and Tannenbaum away. I'd be surprised if either got the job though.

The latest on Brett Favre

According to Mike Francesa, the Jets are giving Favre until the NFL Combine to make his decision. This year's event takes place from February 18 through February 24, so that gives Favre little more than a month and a half to make his decision.

There are also rumors that Favre does not require major muscle surgery, and he just has a minor muscle tear. It's only on a message board right now, so it might be unsubstantiated, but the poster says he read it on 1010 AM. Here's the link.

The first list and what it means to the Jets

With Eric Mangini gone the search for a new head coach begins. According to Mike Francesa of WFAN and numerous other sources, the three names to surface as the Jets' top choices are Bill Cowher, Marty Schottenheimer, and Steve Spagnuolo. Let's take a preliminary look at these and other rumored candidates.

Bill Cowher

Cowher is the Jets' first choice, but will he want to come out of retirement to coach this team, especially with the Favre situation looming?

Francesa reports that the Jets have contacted the former Pittsburgh Steelers coach's agent, and Cowher is not making any demands of the Jets. ESPN's John Clayton had reported that Cowher wanted to name his own GM if he were going to come back, but WFAN says that is not the case.

In his 15 seasons in Pittsburgh, he made the playoffs ten times, winning the Super Bowl in his second to last season in 2005. He compiled a 149-90-1 overall record in the regular season and was 12-9 in the postseason.

Considering his experience and winning pedigree, Cowher is obviously a hot commodity. What makes him particularly appealing to the Jets is his history running the 3-4 defense. He runs a more aggressive 3-4 blitzing defense than what Mangini and Bob Sutton used, and offensively he uses the run to set up the pass in a more traditional manner.

Don't believe that Cowher is super conservative though. He's known for throwing some wrinkles in the offense. After all, this guy drafted Kordell Stewart, Hines Ward, and Antwaan Randle-El, all slash type players. The Jets actually have Brad Smith to use in a similar fashion, though that experiment has not worked nearly as well.

However, don't overestimate Cowher's coaching ability. He's a very, very good coach, but for the first 13 years of his career, he did not win a title, and his teams had often been known for disappointing in the playoffs.

Still, by the end of his career, his record includes ten playoff appearances, eight division titles, six AFC Championship appearances, two Super Bowl appearances, and one title. That is the type of success the Jets yearn for, and Cowher would bring respect to the head coach position.

Marty Schottenheimer

Speaking of disappointing in the playoffs...

Marty Schottenheimer, in many ways, is Cowher without the Super Bowl appearances. His regular season record is 200-126-1, but he has always been the victim of expectations. His teams are always very good, but they never get over the hump, and a 5-13 postseason record is the proof.

Look at his last season as a head coach. He led the Chargers to a 14-2 record, but they lost in their first playoff game to the New England Patriots, and he was let go.

After looking at Cowher, Schottenheimer is a much less alluring candidate, but while the Jets will need to wine and dine Cowher to get him to be their coach, Marty will likely jump at the chance to get back in the game.

He's known for Marty-ball: running as much as possible on first and second downs, and not throwing a whole lot. His coaching tree is vast, including Cowher and, brace yourselves, Herman Edwards. The former Jets coach is probably most similar philosophically to Schottenheimer, which I'm sure many Jets fans will hate to read.

But if the Jets hire Marty Schottenheimer, the offense probably will not change that much because of the presence of Brian Schottenheimer, who is still under contract and would certainly remain the offensive coordinator under his father.

If the Jets are sold on bringing back Brett Favre, thinking he'll play better next year, they'll probably want to keep a similar offense in place. This scenario would definitely allow that.

He has also run the 3-4 at many points in his career, so the Jets would not need to overhaul their personnel.

It comes down to this. Would you sign up for being one of the perennial best teams in the AFC in the regular season but not making the Super Bowl? That's what Schottenheimer has been his entire career, so if the pattern holds true, that's what you would get from him as coach.

Steve Spagnuolo

If the Jets ran a 4-3 defense, Spagnuolo would be my guy. As appealing as bringing back an experienced coach is, unless Cowher is coming in, every other coach available would seem to be a retread. After the success of John Harbaugh, Mike Smith, and Tony Sparano in their first seasons, I would prefer to handpick our own guy.

The Giants coach is the highest paid defensive coordinator in football and for good reason. He's beloved and respected by his players, and his defenses have been phenomenal. Don't believe me? Watch last year's Super Bowl again and see Tom Brady get smacked around for seemingly the first time in his career.

He's a fiery, aggressive coach, and his defense reflects that. He's a former Eagles assistant, and Jim Johnson's influences are clear. His two seasons with the Giants completely revamped the defense.

The biggest knock on Spagnuolo is experience. He has never been a head coach at any level. But in his 26 years of coaching football, he has spent time coaching each defensive unit, and he is a lot more qualified than Eric Mangini was.

The other question would be how his 4-3 defense would translate to New York. After three seasons of finally getting the personnel for the 3-4, is switching back really prudent?

In this system it might be. Spagnuolo's defense was predicated on pass rushers, as his Super Bowl winning defense had Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Matthias Kiwanuka. The Jets have Bryan Thomas, Calvin Pace, Shaun Ellis, and Vernon Gholston. All of those guys were drafted or acquired to rush the passer, and all could play defensive end in a 4-3 defense.

Are they as effective as the guys the Giants had? Absolutely not, but Tuck, Kiwanuka, and to a lesser extent Umenyiora all flourished under Spags's defense.

Will the Jets have the courage to go for a coach with just two years as defensive coordinator after how the Mangini era ended? It remains to be seen, but Spagnuolo is a very intriguing candidate.

Other Possibilities

Here's a list of some names that I've seen rumors for.

Leslie Frazier: Vikings defensive coordinator for past two seasons.

Mike Tice: Jaguars assistant coach. Great offensive line coach, but his first term as a head coach was unsuccessful.

Brian Schottenheimer: Jets offensive coordinator. It might appease Favre, but this would infuriate me.

Bill Callahan: Jets offensive line coach. Failed in Oakland and in Nebraska, but looking back on the Raiders situation, will anyone ever be able to succeed there?



The first three names are definitely going to be interviewed. The "other possibilities" were taken from the Star Ledger.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bloody Monday: Mangini Scapegoated for Favre's Failures

Link to article on BleacherReport.com

The morning after the Jets' collapse culminated in a 24-17 loss to Chad Pennington and the Miami Dolphins, owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum fired head coach Eric Mangini.

Mangini leaves with a 23-25 overall record and two winning seasons in his three years as coach. But after leading his team to an 8-3 start, a 1-4 finish against the likes of Denver, San Francisco, Buffalo, Seattle, and Miami was unacceptable, and someone had to be axed.

And, as usually is the case in professional sports, the head coach is the easiest position to fix.

Did Mangini deserve to be fired? Maybe, maybe not. The offensive and defensive play calls have been very suspect at times, and the buck stops with the head coach. Many fans want both coordinators Brian Schottenheimer and Bob Sutton gone. That is an indictment of Mangini.

But he got fired because of the last five games.

And if you want to pinpoint one single reason for the collapse, look no further than No. 4.

Brett Favre was a farce down the stretch. In the last five games, he threw nine interceptions to just two touchdowns. He did not have a quarterback rating above 62 in any of those games, and for the entire season, he led the NFL in interceptions.

The arm strength was there, but the accuracy was not. The intermediate-to-long routes were non-existent for the season as Favre constantly missed his targets.

Even though the season was already over, his final performance of 20-for-40 for 233 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions still was not indicative of how poorly he played.

And seeing the quarterback of the past outplaying the quarterback of the present was just a slap in the face. Pennington didn't play that well, but he played well enough to win, something Favre has not done lately.

The other performance-based reason for the Jets' downfall was the decline of Kris Jenkins. For 11 games, he was the best nose tackle in the NFL, including Albert Haynesworth. For the last five, the Jets might as well have had DeWayne Robertson out there manning the nose.

As a result, the once stout Jets' run defense faltered against the likes of Peyton Hillis and Maurice Morris.

Was their slumping play Eric Mangini's fault? No.

But the Jets need Jenkins, and Woody Johnson and Mike Tannenbaum chose Favre over Mangini.

The Patriots and Dolphins both finished with better records with more talent. But the main difference between those two teams and the Jets is that Matt Cassel and Pennington outplayed Favre.

Pennington won more games with a 1-15 Dolphins team than he did in any of his seasons with New York, and Cassel hadn't started a game since high school, but he threw for more yards than Favre with half of the interceptions

Was the coaching a factor? Of course it was. Clearly, Tony Sparano and Bill Bellichick outcoached Mangini. And as a fan, I'm glad he is gone because I wanted to see blood for the deplorable finish.

But until the Jets fix the quarterback, they are not getting to the root of the problem. Judging by Woody Johnson at the press conference, the front office really wants Favre to come back with a full offseason with the team

A full offseason of preparation and immersing himself further in the offense would have likely lead to a better season from No. 4.

His shoulder was also a constant source of speculation, and if an MRI Monday reveals something, then there is a tailor-made excuse for his struggles. He was also victimized at times by drops from several of his receivers, particularly rookie tight end Dustin Keller.

But when Pennington is succeeding with Ted Ginn Jr., Davone Bess, and Anthony Fasano as his leading pass-catchers, that excuse evaporates.

Now we enter the offseason, and Favre's will-he, won't-he retire charade begins. He is on record saying he will make the decision more quickly this offseason, but actions are much stronger than words.

And if Favre struggles the way he did this year, the Jets will fall short again next season, and the blame will shift to Tannenbaum.

Because if the Jets allow Favre to hamstring this talented football team again, there is no more head coach to fire.

Jets Fire Eric Mangini!

More news and reaction later, but Eric Mangini has been fired.

They needed to either give him an extension or fire him, since he had just one year left on his contract. Apparently Woody Johnson and Mike Tannenbaum opted for a new coach.

I have to say I am very surprised, not just at the firing, but at how quickly the firing was made.

No news on possible replacements, but you can bet the Jets will make a run at Bill Cowher.

UPDATE (12:17 PM): Sutton and Schottenheimer are gone, too!

UPDATE (1:22 PM):
Newsday reported the above information about the coordinators. I haven't heard it anywhere else yet, so I don't know just how confirmed this information is. I imagine they will both be gone with a new coach, but this hasn't been confirmed elsewhere yet.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Brett Farce! Season Culminates in 24-17 Loss to Dolphins

The collapse is complete!

Blame Eric Mangini or the defense all you want, but if you want the most simple answer for the dramatic collapse, look no further than #4.

Brett Favre completely fell apart down the stretch. In the last five games, he managed just two touchdown passes with nine interceptions. His quarterback rating did not exceed 61.4 in those games.

The question from a Jets' perspective should not be "Will Brett return?" It should be "Should Brett return?" And the answer to that question is a resounding no.

Of course there is a caveat. His shoulder has been a constant source of speculation this season. Without a full offseason of preparation, he probably isn't in the pinnacle physical shape that a quarterback needs to be in to succeed, especially at 39 years of age.

Until an MRI clears the air though, the shoulder cannot be an excuse for his poor play.

In what turned out to be a meaningless football game after Patriots and Ravens wins, Favre completed 20 of his 40 passes for 233 yards, but for just one touchdown and three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown.

He's just been completely inaccurate lately, and his deep ball has rarely found its targets. At one point in this game, he was just 12-31 before rallying on a couple short passes to get up to 50%.

If I am Mike Tannenbaum, I tell Favre that if he does not decide by March 1st whether or not he wants to quarterback the Jets next year, he can find a new home. It's tough love for one of the best players in the history of the sport, but the Jets owe him nothing the way he's played this season.

They cannot afford to go through what Green Bay went through this offseason. They need to either have a fully committed Favre for the entire offseason or a new quarterback next year.

Personally, I would prefer the latter at this point.

Favre led the NFL in interceptions with 22, four more than his closest "competitor." His completion percentage was 65.7%, but his 6.7 yards-per-attempt was below average.

And at 39 years old, how much better can he get? Sure, a full offseason in the system would help him immensely, but how much longer can he play before his performance drops even further?

This isn't to say Favre hasn't had his moments. He brought an energy and a confidence to this team that it hasn't seen in years. But when the team needed him most, he simply could not deliver. Whether it's because he's washed up, injured, or just slumping isn't completely known, but the Jets can't afford to invest too much of their future in a guy who very well could be facing the end of his career.

This team is too good for that.

Look at the talent around him. Runningback Thomas Jones struggled against Miami, but he set three team touchdown records this season, and Leon Washington, who was finally given the ball a decent amount Sunday, is an electric playmaker.

Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery are not elite receivers by any stretch, but there are a lot of teams that would love to have either one. The same goes for Dustin Keller and Chris Baker, and the rookie Keller has the potential to be a very good tight end down the road.

Not to mention the offensive line has become one of the better units in the NFL. Clearly, the offensive talent is there.

The defense also has a lot of talent, though its struggles at times have been well-documented. Cornerback Darrelle Revis, safety Kerry Rhodes, and linebackers Calvin Pace and David Harris are all good building blocks. Bryan Thomas, Eric Barton, Shaun Ellis, and Kenyon Coleman could also start for many teams.

But the biggest piece in every way is nose tackle Kris Jenkins. When he was dominant, the entire defense played well as a result. However, he wore down significantly down the stretch, which is a major concern. He is the key to the entire defense, and the Jets need to do whatever it takes to keep him in shape because as he goes, the defense goes.

The team is far from perfect. There aren't many impact players on either side of the ball, and the linebackers are slow and have been abused in coverage. There is no player that teams need to gameplan against besides Jenkins. However, the team needs to be tweaked, not overhauled.

As for the coaching, that's something I haven't yet made my mind up on. Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is probably about 50-50 to come back, and I'm waffling on my personal opinion on him. I've had a lot of problems with his playcalling at times, but the execution by the players has not made his plays look that much better. I wouldn't mind if he came back.

Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton should and probably will be fired. The 3-4 defense is completely unimaginative, and the blitz packages have been completely ineffective for three years now.

The big question about the defense is how much input does Eric Mangini have on it? He's a defensive coach by trade, and firing Sutton might just be scapegoating him more than anything else. Mangini likes to play by the percentages, but rarely does he adjust to the flow of the game.

I like Mangini. I like his overall temperament to the game, and I think he's a smart young coach who has a bright future in the NFL. But something has to give for this collapse.

I don't want to hear that the Jets were 4-12 last year. That's irrelevant. That team was 4-12 because the offensive line was a sieve and the front seven could be run all over. Alan Faneca, Damien Woody, Calvin Pace, and Kris Jenkins filled those holes beautifully.

This team was 8-3 and one of the healthiest in the NFL. They controlled its own destiny for the division, and facing five teams down the stretch that they were more talented than in games they were favored in. It's inexcusable and deplorable the way they choked.

Mangini deserves credit for the start of the season, and the decline in play from Favre and Jenkins was the primary cause for the collapse.

But when the New England Patriots can go 11-5 despite losing half of their team to injuries and starting a quarterback who hadn't played since high school, how much confidence can I have in Mangini and the Jets to beat the Patriots when they are healthy?

Week 17 - Let's close out the year with some NFL Picks!

26-19-3 on the season, 1-2 last week. Funny how I hit the New England vs Arizona over just by Patriots points, but the other two were way off.

I have three picks once again, and I really like all three.

Bills +6 over Patriots
I'm not so confident about a straight up win, but the Bills are going to be motivated, and 6 points is too much the way Buffalo has been playing lately. At last notice, the wind was 40-50 miles-per-hour, which should benefit the Bills and level the playing field a little bit. LT Jason Peters and RB Marshawn Lynch will both miss the game for Buffalo, but so will DE Richard Seymour. The only thing I'm worried about is that the wind might stop any field goals from being made, so it might be a battle of 7's, but I'm confident that Buffalo will play hard again.
Patriots 24, Bills 21 (OT)

49ers -3 over Redskins
Washington beat Philadelphia last week, in a game which had to mean a lot to them, ruining the Eagles' playoff hopes. This week, they're traveling out west in a game that means nothing for them. Mike Singletary just earned himself the coaching job next season, and I really like the way they have played over the past month. Even last week, the Rams had them beat all day, but San Francisco came back late to steal that game. This one will be a little easier, especially since Frank Gore appears like he will play.
49ers 24, Redskins 14

Vikings -7 over Giants

You have to love week 17 lines. The defending champs will play a lot of David Carr and Derrick Ward, while Minnesota desperately needs this game. And let's be honest. David Carr is horrible. The Giants want Ward to get 1000 yards, and he needs just 52 yards for that. I can't see an unmotivated backup Giants team keeping this one really close when this means the Vikings' season.
Vikings 27, Giants 13

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dolphins vs Jets Preview:


Week 17 here at last, and what an anti-climactic end this could shape up to be for the New York Jets.

For weeks now, it had been clear that if the Jets and Miami Dolphins took care of business, this game could mean the division. Unfortunately, the Jets choked down the stretch, so they are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture for the first time in months.

Jets fans, root like hell for the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars. If the Bills beat the New England Patriots at 1:00, the winner of the Dolphins-Jets game will take the division. If the Patriots beat Buffalo as they have done in 15 of their last 16 meetings, then you face the nightmare scenario of either winning the division for the Patriots or the Dolphins. But if Jacksonville upsets the Baltimore Ravens at 4:15, the Jets will sneak into the playoffs as the #6 seed, with a date against the Patriots in New England upcoming. Since the Ravens game is the same time as the Jets game, there is no way Gang Green will be eliminated by gametime.

Even if the Jets get unlikely help, they will need to beat Miami, and the way they have played in the past month, it will be a tall order. Miami is a far better team than Denver, San Francisco, Buffalo, and Seattle, the Jets' last four opponents who have all outplayed them.

The key to Miami's season has been ball control. Chad Pennington leads an offense that has committed just 12 turnovers all season long. If they don't turn the ball over in Sunday's game, they will tie the single-season low set by the 1982 Kansas City Chiefs. That has enabled Miami to win a lot of close games this season, including their last four and eight of their last nine.

This is not the same Dolphins team that the Jets faced in week one. It's not the same Jets team either; who knows what Jets team will come out on Sunday. Looking back at the week one game, the Jets scored two of their three touchdowns on blown coverages. Those mental errors simply do not happen anymore for Miami in their recent hot streak.

Pennington is the biggest change personnel-wise for the offense, and he has been everything Miami could have asked for. Comparisons with Brett Favre are inevitable, and the former Jet has clearly outplayed Favre this season, especially when you look at the receivers he has to throw to.

Ted Ginn Jr. and Davone Bess are the starting wide receivers now that Greg Camarillo is out for the season. Ginn was the Dolphins' first-round pick last year, and while he has made some big plays this season both running and receiving, he is not a well-rounded receiver yet. Bess is an undrafted rookie from Hawaii who has emerged as the number one threat. Anthony Fasano and David Martin also see plenty of looks from the tight end position.

Miami's offense became famous for popularizing the wildcat offense, and while it's still there in packages, they run a more conventional offense now. The running game is still the bread and butter though. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams split the carries, and both have been very effective. The two have combined for 1468 yards on the ground, and both are threats out of the backfield in the passing game as well.

For the Jets to be able to stop the Dolphins' offense, they will need to stop the run. After being one of the elite run-stopping units for 11 games, they have really fallen off in the last quarter of the season. Kris Jenkins hasn't been nearly the dominant force he was at the beginning of the season, probably as a result of the constant pounding his body takes at the 3-4 nose tackle.

The pass-defense has been mediocre at best all season long, and while the Dolphins don't have many big-name weapons, Pennington has been able to use the short-passing game to his advantage, spreading the ball around to whatever receiver happens to be open. The Jets leave plenty of receivers open, though they did play better last week against a bad Seattle offense. Turnovers will likely be few and far between, so the Jets will simply need to outplay the Miami offense if they will want to make some stops.

On the other side of the ball, Favre may be making the last start of his career. Of course, people have said this many games before, but that's far from most Jets fans' minds. If he doesn't play better this week, fans might not even want him back. His receivers and tight ends haven't helped him a whole lot recently, but there have been far too many poorly thrown passes. The underthrown deep ball to an open David Clowney that fell incomplete last week may have been the most important play in last week's game.

Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery need to step up their play and gain some separation. Cotchery had 80 yards in the first matchup, including a 56-yard touchdown, but Coles had just one catch for five yards.

Their task could be made a little easier as Dolphins' starting cornerback Will Allen is listed as questionable and may not play. The Dolphins are 27th in the NFL in pass-defense, so they are vulnerable through the air. If the Jets want to win this game, they need to take advantage with their passing game. There are no excuses anymore.

Thomas Jones and Leon Washington (in far too limited touches) have both had great seasons, and most of the offensive success Gang Green has had has come on the ground. Jones had over 100 yards in the first matchup, but Miami only allows 4.2 yards-per-carry. Starting middle linebacker Channing Crowder is also questionable and might miss the game, so that may hurt the defense. As a result, Jones and Washington will likely receive heavy work, trying to take pressure off Favre.

But the other reason the Jets will try to establish the run is the presence of one of the most dominant pass-rushers in football. Joey Porter has had a resurgent season, posting a jaw-dropping 18 sacks with four forced fumbles. The Jets will try a number of different ways to stop Porter, but an effective running game is the best medicine.

Predicting this game is extremely difficult. Judging by the last month of play, you would be hard-pressed to come up with a reason why the Jets will win. But New York owns the Dolphins, and the Jets will surely want to end their fairy tale in Giants Stadium.

However, they should have been motivated in Seattle. And in San Francisco. And at home against Denver and Buffalo.

But no one knows Pennington like the Jets. And no one knows how to beat Miami like the Jets. I just can't bring myself to pick Pennington and the Dolphins to win this game. Call it a hunch, call it my Jets bias, or whatever you want, but I say the Jets pull this one out.

Jets 20, Dolphins 17

But will it matter? Only if New England or Baltimore loses.

The Patriots completely own the Bills, but the quarterback in most of the recent matchups has been Tom Brady. This is the most pressurized situation Matt Cassel has ever played in, and the Bills are still playing hard. They should have beaten the Jets two weeks ago, and they upset the Broncos in a game that Denver needed to have to prevent a do-or-die week 17. I think Buffalo will give New England everything it's got, but at the end of the day, I think New England comes up with just enough to put itself in position to make the playoffs. 24-21 Patriots.

Ravens' quarterback Joe Flacco and head coach John Harbaugh are also going into their biggest NFL games. However, the key to the Ravens has always been their defense. The Jaguars haven't shown up to play every week, and Baltimore will punch them in the mouth. The Jaguars almost played spoiler to the Colts last Thursday night, but the Ravens are an entirely different animal. One thing that goes in Jacksonville's favor is that they have three extra days to prepare for this game, but with their season in the tank, it might not matter. Rest won't stop Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, and LeRon McClain. If Jacksonville can get a lead early, they have a chance, but if not, the Ravens could pour it on and M&T Bank Stadium could be one massive celebration. 28-17 Ravens.

So at the end of the day, I don't think the Jets will make it. A legitimate case can be made for a Buffalo upset, but would you bet against Bill Bellichick with his season on the line? I certainly wouldn't.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Perfect Jets Christmas

Santa, I know I haven't written to you ever since I realized you don't exist. But my team needs you more than ever, and I'm willing to sacrifice my own gifts for the Jets to win the AFC East.

You're welcome.

But Santa, here's my wish list for Christmas 2008.

*I want a defense that punches Chad Pennington in the mouth repeatedly and shows some swagger, stopping the run like they did early in the year, and getting to the quarterback.

*I want the Bills, who have lost 15 of their last 16 games to the Patriots, to finally get their revenge, knocking New England out of the playoffs in front of their home fans.

*I want Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh to finally realize that they are rookies at their respective jobs, and that Jacksonville plays for pride, making enough plays to upset the Ravens.

*I want a 6'4" 220 lb receiver with 4.3 speed and impeccable hands.

*If my previous wish is a pipe dream, please let David Clowney receive more opportunities to make some plays.

*I want either Brett Ratliff or Kellen Clemens to transform into a starting quarterback in case Brett Favre plays the will-he, won't-he game all offseason.

*Please give Favre the gift of decisiveness this offseason.

*Give Eric Mangini his aggressiveness back.

*And finally, please giftwrap a Jets victory and improbable playoff berth this season.

Oh, and I know you don't normally bring negative gifts, but a quick heads up: Bob Sutton and Brian Schottenheimer have been very naughty this year.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Same Old Jets.


Same old Jets.

Three words I've heard since I was younger by older Jets fans any time the Jets lose a game late in the season. Whether it's blowing a halftime lead in the 1998 AFC championship, missing two field goals in the final two minutes in the 2004 AFC divisional playoffs, or losing late season games to various inferior opponents over the years, that mantra has been repeated and passed on for generations since the team's Super Bowl win 40 years ago.

2008 was supposed to be different. Brett Favre was the quarterback. The coach had been dubbed the "ManGenius" in his first year and was endorsed by the likes of Tony Soprano.

The season began unfolding magically. Their greatest nemesis, Tom Brady, had befallen a season-ending injury. The door was open, and the Jets jumped at the chance after a slow start, beating the Patriots and Titans in their own buildngs, in what appeared to be the two ultimate measuring stick games.

But S.O.J reared its ugly head that next week at home against Denver. At the time, it looked like a simple letdown and not a foreshadow of things to come. But then San Francisco removed the cushion the previous two road games had given them.

The 2008 Jets still had a chance to convince us all that this edition was different. However, now they needed to win the last three games. One loss, and the team would be another in a long line of disappointments.

Nevertheless, S.O.J. was here to stay. It was there for the Bills game, but Dick Jauron failed to take advantage of it, and the team was saved by a miracle strip-sack-touchdown by Abram Elam and Shaun Ellis.

That gave the Jets another chance. However, as so many previous editions of the team have done, they squandered that chance.

Didn't you know it was coming when you saw snow teeming from the skies in Seattle of all places?

Sunday's 13-3 loss to the Seahawks had all the elements of S.O.J. The strange weather conditions. The anonymous, ignominious opponent. The underthrown passes. The mental mistakes. The coaching blunders. The boring offense. The sloppy defense.

The centerpiece of this loss and of this season is Brett Favre. Eric Mangini can claim the core of the team is great, and he isn't wrong, but once Favre came in, he was the focus.

All season, excuses have been made for him, and many have been valid. All signs pointed to the team coming together to play better as the season went on. But the offense and defense looked worse than they did back in week one, which is astounding considering how well they played less than one month ago at Tennessee.

The numbers say it all in this game. 18-31, 187 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT. He is the coached down version of the quarterback he was in 2005 and 2006. Rather than risking errant interceptions like he did then, now he just checks the ball down, helping move the chains a little, but nullifying any chance of making the error.

This was the downside of getting Favre. If the Jets were getting the 2007 version, they would have clinched the AFC East by now. But they didn't. What were we to expect from a 39-year old who didn't decide to play football until late July, who had to learn a new playbook, and who had to adjust to new teammates, coaches, media, and home.

In this game his inaccuracy came to the forefront. The worst of it was an underthrown pass to David Clowney on a deep ball. After years of Chad Pennington's weak arm, Jets fans were excited for a quarterback they thought could finally throw the ball deep. Little did they know that by week 17, they would be wishing they had their former first rounder and that Pennington, not Favre, would be controlling his own destiny.

The sad part is that now the Jets actually have a rushing game. The last Jet team to make the playoffs, Mangini's first effort in 2006, and they had no rushing game. They were led by Kevan Barlow, Derrick Blaylock, and young rookie Leon Washington. Yet now the passing game has failed them.

Thomas Jones did not have his best game, managing 67 yards on 17 carries. Fullback Tony Richardson added 34 yards on five carries, his best rushing game this season. Leon Washington again had just three touches, but on a sloppy field, his cutting ability was severely hampered. Still, three touches is not enough.

For once, the defense wasn't to blame. While they certainly did not shut down the Seahawks, they held them to just 2-12 on third downs and allowed just 13 points. They made more than enough stops to give the offense a chance to win.

But that had as much to do with the elements as anything else. Tackling was poor, and Maurice Morris gained 116 yards on 29 carries. Seneca Wallace also was not sacked all game, though he was pressured a few times.

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer deserves much of the blame. While the Jets are usually successful on the first drive of games, after the scripted plays end, the offense usually sputters. The playcalling has been at best erratic, but the players' lack of execution certainly has not helped.

And yet again, Eric Mangini lays up and kicks a field goal on 4th and 1 close to the goal line, rather than go for a touchdown with his offense finally moving the ball like it was designed to.

That's S.O.J. for you. Playing not to lose. That's the irony of Herman Edwards's infamous "You play to win the game" tirade. He rarely coached according to his own edict, and that's plagued the "ManGenius" since his first season.

Isn't it just sick irony that Eric Mangini now can clinch a playoff berth for his nemesis Bill Bellichick and the Patriots with a win?

I've defended to the death that "Same Old Jets" is gone. But I now understand a lot of what older fans see when they watch the Jets play. The collapse this season is high in the pantheon in great Jet disappointments.

Oh wait. It's not over? Not on paper, but is there any way this Jets team can beat a motivated and well-coached Miami Dolphins squad? I never thought I would say that, but the Jets have shown few signs of life, and the entire team is in a state of disarray.

Plus, the New England Patriots need to lose with their season on the line in Buffalo. The Bills were able to ruin the Denver Broncos' hopes of clinching the AFC West this week, upsetting them 30-23 in Denver. The Bills played well against the Jets the week before, and they have talent.

But let's get serious. Bill Bellichick losing with the season on the line to a team he usually owns? I'll probably try to make a case for it by Thursday or Friday, but don't get your hopes up.

The Jets need to hope Dick Jauron can hand them a miracle again. And that the Jets can actually win a game. Because the team they've played like recently has been closer to the team that lost 12 games last year than the one that beat Tennessee just 28 days prior.

Blame Eric Mangini. Blame Brett Favre. The Jets are back and as disappointing as ever.

NFL Picks: Week 16

25-17-3 on the season, and with that one win last week, I have clinched a winning season. Thank goodness. First year I put some picks on record, at least I started off well. But I want to get to at least 10 over .500 by the end of the year. I'm confident with these picks, and I'm hoping to go 3-0.

Lions +7 over Saints
I didn't have the stones to take the disaster that is the Detroit Lions last week, and I wish I did. Last week I didn't think they could win straight up, so I passed. This week, Detroit will WIN straight up. This game means nothing for New Orleans; their season is over. The Lions will want to win in front of their home crowd. How are the Saints giving 7 points on the road to any team in the NFL with that defense and their road record? Even if the Lions find another way to lose, they should cover the spread.
Detroit 38, New Orleans 37

Buccaneers -3.5 over Chargers
So a last second road win against the Chiefs is supposed to impress me? This line says that the Bucs are a slightly better team than the Chargers. Are you kidding me? Tampa is 9-5 and going to the playoffs if they take care of business in their last two games. San Diego has an outside chance at the playoffs, but they can't stop the pass, and they can't run the ball with LaDainian Tomlinson. This line is simply a gift. And did I mention it's a 1:00 game for a West Coast team?
Bucs 24, Chargers 13

Patriots vs Cardinals over 43
So one 9-5 playoff contender is facing a 6-8 Chargers team and another is facing an 8-6 division champion Cardinals team, yet the first team is favored by 4.5 more points. Strange. But I'm going to go with the total here because I don't totally trust Kurt Warner in bad weather. An Arizona game hasn't gone under 44 since week 4, and the Cardinals will throw all day against an average at best Patriots secondary. New England should be able to score at will, too. The weather could be a factor, but I'm not nearly as worried as many. Besides, if Warner struggles, he'll probably turn the ball over, giving the Pats some easy points.
Patriots 28, Cardinals 21

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Can the Jets Finally Win in the West?

Among the many themes to the New York Jets' season has been the inability to capitalize on opportunities. Eric Mangini's squad has failed on numerous times to take advantage of chances to secure a place in the postseason.

But the Jets know the story now. Their backs are against the wall, yet they control their own destiny. Travel to Seattle and beat the 3-11 Seahawks, and then come back home and face the Dolphins, in what could be the biggest regular season game in their history.

Think about it. Chad Pennington, dismissed as the Jets' quarterback because the front office felt that he couldn't win a championship, coming back to face his former squad with everything on the line.

But before they get there, they must take care of business in Seattle.

It's Mike Holmgren's last home game as coach of the Seahawks, so even at an injury-ravaged 3-11, his team should be motivated. They are coming off a win, albeit against St. Louis, and they'll want to send their coach out with a win in what could be the final home game of a great coaching career.

Offensively, Seneca Wallace will again replace the injured Matt Hasselbeck. Wallace is mobile and has played a lot better the last two weeks, including a 3 touchdown performance against the Patriots two weeks ago without throwing an interception.

The injury bug hit the receiving corps the worst, but both Deion Branch and Bobby Engram are healthy and playing again, so Wallace has some weapons to throw to. Branch particularly has 164 yards in his last two games.

Still, the weapon the Jets will most worry about is tight end John Carlson. The rookie has led all first-year tight ends in receiving yards and touchdowns. The Jets have been prone to allowing big games from tight ends, so Carlson must be a priority, especially on third downs.

Maurice Morris has received the bulk of the carries the last two weeks ahead of former starter Julius Jones. Morris has waited a long time for his chance, and his slight emergence has eliminated the possibility of the Jones brothers (Thomas and Julius) starting against each other. The Jets' run defense has been surprisingly lax recently. Kris Jenkins claims he is healthier and more well-rested, and that could mean good things for New York.

The Seahawks offense as a whole has awful numbers, and their offensive line suffered yet another blow last week as starting left tackle Sean Locklear will miss this week's game. On paper, this would seem like a game the Jets could get back on track against. After all, they are one of the worst teams in the NFL.

But traveling across the country has been a problem for the Jets all season. On their three previous trips out to the other coast, they lost to Oakland, San Diego, and San Francisco. Losing to Seattle suddenly does not look out of the question the way they have been playing.

Brett Favre needs to pick apart a secondary that has struggled to stop the pass for most of the season. They have improved in recent weeks, but if the Jets want to be a playoff team, they need to be able to put points up on the Hawks.

Jerricho Cotchery, Laveranues Coles, and Dustin Keller have not all put it together in the same game with Favre. This is the final tune up before the Miami game, so there are no more excuses for this receiving corps. They need to get open, and Favre needs to deliver them the ball. Both sides of that exchange have faltered too often.

The bread and butter for the Jets all season has been their running game. Thomas Jones has had a career year with 13 touchdowns and 1222 yards. He receives the vast majority of the carries, and while he is productive with him, Leon Washington must touch the ball more often. Every time the team needs a big play, they turn to the 5'9" sparkplug. But he needs more than two touches, which is all he received against Buffalo on offense.

The Jets need this football game. There is no doubt about that. Baltimore's win over Dallas Saturday night all but assures that. Seattle is a bad football team. Luckily, this is probably the last time Gang Green travels west, but they must solve that curse. Expect the Jets to start off strong, but not put the clamp down on a fired up Seahawks squad. The Jets will sweat it out, but they will come out ahead.

Jets 24, Seahawks 20

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

NFL Playoff Scenario: Week 16

By now, every Jets fan knows that wins against Seattle and Miami lock up the division and also the #3 seed in the AFC. But the Jets can also win the division even if they lose to Seattle next week. The Miami game is vital though.

As far as the division is concerned, this week's game against Seattle is meaningless if New England loses a game. It matters in seeding with Denver, but if the Patriots lose once, the Jets lose to Seattle, and the Jets beat Miami, regardless of what the Dolphins do this week, the division is theirs.

But what about a wild card berth?

Root against Baltimore and Indianapolis. A Baltimore loss against week 17 would be enough if the Jets' loss was to Seattle. A Baltimore loss this week would pin the tiebreaker on strength of victory, which I imagine the Jets would be sitting pretty in. Indianapolis would require a major collapse though, as they are a game ahead of the Jets right now, so they would need to lose twice.

However, clearly the goal is the division. Two more wins, and they are in, likely facing the Ravens or Patriots round one in the Meadowlands before a trip to the loser of this week's Tennessee-Pittsburgh game.

But without any further ado because I am really tired right now, here is who you should root for in week 16.

1. New York Jets over Seattle Seahawks (just in case you weren't sure, Jets -4.5)
2. Arizona Cardinals over New England Patriots (Cardinals +8)
3. Dallas Cowboys over Baltimore Ravens (Ravens +4)
4. Buffalo Bills over Denver Broncos (Bills +7)
5. Jacksonville Jaguars over Indianapolis Colts (Jaguars +6.5)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Seven Jets Make Pro Bowl

I would have been happy with four Jets. But seven? Let's look at the names. Asterisks next to starters.

QB: Brett Favre (obviously, there was no way he wasn't making it based on his popularity)
*RB: Thomas Jones (good for him, he truly deserved it, and I'm impressed he's starting)
*G: Alan Faneca (no surprise, big name, and he deserves it)
C: Nick Mangold (Kevin Mawae gets the start)
*DT: Kris Jenkins (absolutely deserves it)
CB: Darrelle Revis (deserves it, should be first in a long line of Pro Bowls)
*KR: Leon Washington (dynamic runner and return man. GIVE THE MAN THE BALL!)

Monday, December 15, 2008

What we learned from this game

This defense is not ready for primetime
The Bills scored 3 points against San Francisco and 3 points against Miami. They travel on the road, and they put up 27 on the Jets.

I was prepared to make some excuses. After all, their two 2nd quarter touchdowns started at midfield and the Jet 24-yard line in each case. But there was NO excuse for their putrid performance on the Bills final scoring drive.

Here's the scenario: you're up by 4, 8:45 to go. The Bills have the ball on their own 36. Keep them out of the end zone and get the ball back to the offense, and you probably win the game, or at least you take control of it.

What happened? Here's the Yahoo play-by-play.

1st-10, BUF36 8:45 J. Losman passed to D. Fine to the right for 11 yard gain
1st-10, BUF47 8:20 J. Losman passed to J. Reed to the left for 14 yard gain
1st-10, NYJ39 7:43 J. Losman passed to J. Reed to the right for 11 yard gain
1st-10, NYJ28 6:59 J. Losman passed to L. Evans to the left for 8 yard gain
2nd-2, NYJ20 6:27 M. Lynch rushed to the left for 9 yard gain
1st-10, NYJ11 5:30 F. Jackson rushed to the left for 11 yard touchdown. R. Lindell made PAT

The Bills methodically moved the ball down the field, with every play being very positive. The Jets offered NO resistance, and the Bills scored a touchdown with ease. The tackling on the final Jackson run was simply atrocious, as it had been all day, and as it had been in the past two games.

The inability to even force a 2nd and long or one 3rd down on the biggest drive of the season to this point was pathetic. Four turnovers in the fourth quarter was beautiful, but one was on a Hail Mary, and I give J.P. Losman and the Bills playcalling more discredit than I give the Jets credit for the strip-sack and the Revis pick.

Yes, the defense made plays, but throwing the ball in that situation was just STUPID, and Losman has always been turnover-prone, especially in a situation where the Jets know they will be throwing. As encouraging as those plays were, they do not come close to making up for making the Bills look like an NFL team.

Laveranues Coles is not dead yet.
They went away from him a little after he bobbled the ball that ended up staying in the air long enough for a fluky Bills interception. 5 catches for 82 yards does prove that LC may finally be breaking out of his slump. Jerricho Cotchery added 34 yards and a touchdown.

Leon Washington needs the ball!
1 carry. 47 yards. Touchdown. I know that with Thomas Jones, Coles, Cotchery, and Dustin Keller all needing the ball, not to mention David Clowney (what a catch he made) and Chansi Stuckey, but when the Jets need a big play, it's Leon who has to make it.

If Jones can get 20 carries and 2 receptions, Washington can get at least 5-7 touches. This was another game where the Jets failed to control the time of possession after being so good in that category earlier, so they didn't have enough plays to get everyone as involved as they'd like, but give this guy a hole and a cutting lane, and he is GONE.

The run defense can no longer be considered elite.
J.P. Losman was limited to very short passes all day long, as his yards-per-attempt stat was abysmal all game (3.8), but Marshawn Lynch ran for 127 and Fred Jackson added another 32.

The main problem has been the lack of speed as the linebackers. The 3-4 is built on size, not speed, and Brian Thomas and Calvin Pace have been exploited at times on outside runs. The Jets are a great north-south defense, but spread them out, and good things happen for opponents.

The other problem has been missed tackles. This hasn't been a problem with Eric Mangini's defenses for the most part, but recently, it's been a major issue. Look at Lynch and Jackson's biggest runs for proof.

Brett Favre is not Chad Pennington
That play-action bootleg was beautiful to watch, and pretty much any other player on the Jets would have scored that play, but 27 yards rushing from Brett Favre is about 26 yards longer than I expect him to run.

So why isn't he Chad Pennington? Watching Favre's run again, you can see him try a little stutter-step shoulder fake to get past the tackler. When Pennington tried it against Buffalo, he broke Eddie Robinson's ankles. Favre? Not so much.

"El' Play" Stuns Bills! Jets Win!

What a win! Forget the negative aspects. This was essentially a playoff game for the Jets, especially with New England and Miami winning their respective games. And no matter how they got there, the important thing is that Gang Green escaped with a win 31-27 over the Buffalo Bills.

Maybe, El Play isn't the best nickname. Listening to people's suggestions for play nicknames on 1050 ESPN Radio's postgame show got me trying to think of some. Ellis and Elam both start with the letters "El," so it's not horrendous...

Okay, nevermind.

That play was the most exciting play I have ever seen at a live Jets game though.

Consider.

The magnitude of the game
Lose, and the Jets' playoff chances may slip away, putting them in 3rd.

The randomness of the play
Hank Poteat did have an interception in the 4th quarter, but other than that, did the defense show ANY signs of stopping the Bills until that point? The fans were far too quiet for such an important play, seeing as the game was not yet over. Most fans had given up all hope, and the way the defense was playing at that point, can you blame them?


The play itself

Watching an unblocked safety or cornerback blitzing from the blindside is one of the most exhilarating moments during a game. You could see a bonejarring hit, a forced fumble, interception, or incompletion, or nothing if the quarterback recognizes it and gets rid of the football.

Then the hit came. Then Elam ripped the ball out. Then the ball came loose. Then it squirted loose again. Then Shaun Ellis grabs it, breaks a tackle, and scores!

A sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown in the most critical and dire of moments. That, my friends, was a miracle.

My great view
20th row, 3-yard line, it occurred right in front of me on the opposite side of the field. I jumped up and down, hugging my dad, while the rest of the section was in a state of euphoric bliss like I can't recall ever seeing.

There were a lot of negatives in this game, the vast majority of which lie with the defense, and I will elaborate on that soon, but right now, who cares? Worry about that tomorrow.

The bottom line is the Jets needed to win this game and they did. One down, two to go, and the #3 seed is theirs with Denver's loss.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jets vs Bills Preview

In what can now be considered a must-win, the slumping Buffalo Bills come in to Giants Stadium to take on a Jets team coming off two straight disappointing losses.

Buffalo scored three points in each of their last two games at home (and one in Toronto), while you all know the Jets' plight by this point.

J.P. Losman is going to start at quarterback for the Bills in this one, so the Jets will look to create some turnovers from Losman, who is prone to them. That was a theme in each of their last two losses, and the Jets have made more big plays defensively at home, so this will be an area the Jets will try to exploit by trying to pressure Losman. Or so you would think.

With an unimpressive passing game, except for Lee Evans, who is a phenomenal downfield threat, Marshawn Lynch will carry the brunt of the responsibility for moving the offense. Kris Jenkins and the Jets' run defense should be up for the task, as Lynch and his replacement Fred Jackson had trouble getting going in the first game on the ground.

On paper, the Jets match up superbly with the Bills offense. They don't throw to the tight end all that often, and they only really have one prominent downfield weapon in Evans. This means that the Bills will have trouble taking advantage of the Jets' defensive weaknesses.

Offensively, the Jets will likely try to run the ball down Buffalo's throat. Of course, you said that each of the last two weeks, and they just didn't get enough carries, but they will probably control the time of possession better.

Thomas Jones and Leon Washington have run the ball well all season long, and the Bills allow 4.0 yards-per-carry. The entire offense has lost its stride recently, but an effective running game will cure a lot of what ails the Jets' offense.

Brett Favre is on pace to throw for the fewest yards since 2003 even though his completion percentage is the highest its been in years. The short passing game has frustrated Jets fans for a while now, especially now with a quarterback who can in theory throw the ball down the field, and Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery's numbers have not taken off as many expected. Jabari Greer and Terrence McGee are a pretty solid pair of quarterbacks, so this probably won't be resurgent games for them, but the Jets might not need that.

What to watch for
The Jets defense has been torn apart through the air for a lot of the year, especially in the past two games. Buffalo should be a team the defense can take out their frustrations on, as they are in worse shape right now than the 49ers, and the game is in the somewhat-friendly confines of Giants Stadium. If the Bills move the ball the way the 49ers and Broncos could, then the problem has officially reached crisis mode.

Also, watch for receiver David Clowney, who very well might make his debut. The former Virginia Tech Hokie impressed in preseason and training camp, but an injury closed his chances at getting early playing time. He's been healthy for weeks, but the numbers game has prevented him from playing. Brad Smith may not be able to play, so the door may finally be open for the speedy Clowney to maybe make an impact.

Prediction
With the stakes as high as they are, the Jets will simply have all the motivation in the world. Any possible hangover after the Patriots and Titans games are gone, as there is no excuse anymore for them to lose to an inferior team, especially at home. The Bills should be perfect medicine, as their offense has struggled and is downright inept without Trent Edwards. As long as Brett Favre takes care of the football and makes enough plays through the air, the defense and running game should win this game.

Jets 27, Bills 10 (final prediction)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

NFL Picks: Week 15

2-1 last week. Hit the two NFC South games, lost my other game which I picked stupidly.
24-15-3 on the season still.

Jets -7.5 over Bills

This is a giveaway of how I think the game is going to go in my preview, but the Bills are completely lost right now. J.P. Losman is starting at quarterback for the second straight week, and that makes the Bills a much worse football team. After putting up 54 points on Kansas City, they came home (well, one in Buffalo, one in Toronto) and put up 3 points each in games against the 49ers and Dolphins. The Jets are going to be angry for this one, and the pressure is on. This is a must-win, and the Bills are a very weak team right now.
Jets 27, Bills 13

Arizona -3 over Minnesota
Arizona at home is usually money, and I expect that to be the case here. Minnesota is a team that does one thing great on defense and that is stopping the run. Unfortunately for them, Arizona won't be running the ball that much. The Cardinals will come out throwing to Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, and Steve Breaston all day, and Minnesota may not be able to answer, especially with Tarvaris Jackson back at quarterback. I don't think that he's much worse than Gus Frerotte, but I don't trust him on the road. The Cardinals want better seeding. This game should help.
Cardinals 31, Vikings 22

Redskins vs Bengals under 36.5
I thought hard about taking Cincinnati, but I see them at +6.5, and I would need to get the full touchdown to take them here. Still, I don't see a whole lot of offense. Washington hasn't put up 30 points in a game all season long, and they've scored 10 or less in four of their last five games. The Bengals have gotten embarrassed for two straight weeks, but before that, they weren't playing badly, especially at home. I expect Clinton Portis to receive a heavy workload, but the Bengals run defense isn't that horrible (4.0 YPC allowed). I don't expect the Bengals to score more than 14, and I don't expect the Redskins to score more than 20.
Redskins 20, Bengals 14

Jets Playoff Primer

Playoffs? Playoffs???

Yes, even after the last two games, the Jets still control their own destiny. Beat Buffalo, Seattle, and Miami, three teams the Jets are certainly better than on paper, and the division is theirs.

However, this is the Jets. As we saw in San Francisco and at home against Denver, nothing can be taken for granted, and nothing is ever easy.

So what if the Jets lose one of their last three games? For the Jets' sake, they better hope it's against Seattle because if they beat Miami and Buffalo, they will still be 10-6 overall with an 8-4 conference record. There's no guarantee that would get them in, but it would put them one New England loss away from an AFC East title.

So let's look at a few scenarios. Let's assume the Jets go 2-1 because if they go 1-2 in the last three, let's face it, they'll need nothing short of a major miracle.

First, here's each team's remaining schedule.

NYJ: vs BUF, at SEA, vs MIA
MIA: vs SF, at KC, at NYJ
NE: at OAK, vs ARI, at BUF

Now I'll post a few different scenarios. Wins are in bold.

NYJ: vs BUF, at SEA, vs MIA
MIA: vs SF, at KC, at NYJ
NE: at OAK, vs ARI, at BUF

In this scenario, the Jets win the AFC East, and they head to the playoffs, likely as a #4 seed unless Denver loses twice (at CAR, vs BUF, at SD).

NYJ: vs BUF, at SEA, vs MIA
MIA: vs SF, at KC, at NYJ
NE: at OAK, vs ARI, at BUF

Again, the Jets make the playoffs here.

However, let's look at it if the Jets lose to Miami.

NYJ: vs BUF, at SEA, vs MIA
MIA: vs SF, at KC, at NYJ
NE: at OAK, vs ARI, at BUF

Here, the Jets MISS the playoffs.

Bottom line: if the Jets and Dolphins win their next two games, the winner of their week 17 game wins the AFC East. No matter what happens, that game is going to probably be life or death to one of those teams. If the Jets' loss is to Seattle, it is irrelevant who New England loses to. If the Jets lose to Buffalo this week, the Jets will really need the Bills to upset the Patriots week 17.

As for the wild card, it will not be easy, since the Colts and Ravens are both a game ahead at 9-4. Here are their schedules just for reference.

IND: vs DET, at JAC, vs TEN
BAL: vs PIT, at DAL, vs JAC

The Jets can sneak in with a six seed if Baltimore were to lose twice and the Jets only loss was to the Seahawks. I don't see two losses for Indianapolis, but if they somehow lose to both Jacksonville and Tennessee, the Jets would pass them, too, if the only loss was to Seattle.

So basically, if the Jets plan on making the playoffs, they MUST win this week and week 17, or they will be hoping for a lot of help. Obviously, all three wins is the ideal, as that would give the Jets the #3 seed unless Denver runs the table.

So with all this in mind, here are your week 15 rooting interests, in order of importance.

1. Jets over Bills (obviously, 1:00)
2. Raiders over Patriots (4:15)
3. 49ers over Dolphins (1:00)
4. Steelers over Ravens (4:15)
5. Panthers over Broncos (4:15)
6. Lions over Colts (1:00)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jets sign S JR Reed to active roster


The man who replaces Marcus Mason was a defensive back after all.

Former Eagle JR Reed was signed to the active roster. The 26-year old from South Florida was released on October 21st. He's known primarily as a special teamer and is listed at 5'11" 202.

He has 63 career tackles and 4 passes defensed.

And no, not that JR Reid.

Jets Waive HB Marcus Mason

An actual news item to report: the Jets have released runningback Marcus Mason. He was signed off the Ravens practice squad but was inactive for all five games with the Jets. When the Jets fill the roster spot, I will let you know.

speculates (sort of) that they might be interested in Brian Kelly, the veteran cornerback who was just released by Detroit, and he could certainly be a possibility as the secondary is a mess, but do the Jets really need a reject from the Lions?http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

Or maybe it's time for Jehuu Caulcrick?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jets Lose Again: 24-14 to 49ers

Two weeks ago, the Jets sat at 8-3, off back to back wins against New England and Tennessee, both on the road. The Jets looked to be a force in not just the AFC but in the entire NFL. The last five games looked prime for a 4-1 finish.

Denver
at San Francisco
Buffalo
at Seattle
Miami

The Jets are favorites in each of the last five games, including spreads of 8.5 and 4 in their last two games. But sadly the Jets did not show up either week, and any cushion the Jets once had is gone.

It is not time to panic. Denver is a playoff team, and San Francisco is improving and all the way across the country. But to lose the way they did in each game is worrisome.

The defense has completely turned 180 degrees. The pass defense, never a strength for this team this year, has completely collapsed. They were able to cover up their secondary problems with a good pass rush early, but that, too, has evaporated.

That lack of a pass rush killed any hope of salvaging a pass defense that looked confused all game. Hill is a pretty good QB, but the Jets made him look better than he should be and he hit his receivers all game when he needed to.

However, the ineptitude of the offense was just as much the story of the game. Whatever happened to Brett Favre? I'm not putting all the blame on him as the receivers get no separation, and the playcalling doesn't help, but how does the most prolific quarterback of all time only get 137 yards on 20 completions? The last time Favre threw for as few yards in a game that he fully participated in? September 14, 2002 against Detroit.

This team is quite simply an enigma. When they run the ball well to set up the passing game, stop the other team's run, and get some pressure on the quarterback, like they've done in several games this year, they look great. Other times, like in the last two games, teams can throw the ball all over the field, opening up the running game against them, and the Jets offensively struggle to get 10 yards.

I'm still confident this team can win three games and win the division. But they've lost their cushion, and they aren't the only AFC East team to control its own destiny anymore. Chad Pennington and the Dolphins will come to town in week 17 for what shapes up to be one of the biggest regular season games in recent memory.

That is, unless they let the free fall continue.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Jets vs 49ers Thoughts

First half thoughts

Well, the third 4:00 game of the year, and the third time the Jets come out flat. A 14-7 halftime deficit certainly isn't too large, but the 49ers get the ball first in the second half, and it doesn't appear like they can stop this 49ers. San Francisco is spreading the ball out and throwing all over the Jets. San Francisco is 5-7 on third down and 1-1 on fourth down, and Shaun Hill has 169 yards.

The two keys I mentioned have been irrelevant. The Jets have won the turnover battle (and San Francisco fumbled three other times that they were able to recover), and they even recovered a San Francisco failed onsides kick to open the game, but they have only been able to have one drive produce anything.

The defense is the issue. The pass rush got to Hill once, but the next two plays he had all day to throw. The 49ers throw the ball down the field, and their receivers are talented enough to make plays against a secondary if they have enough time to run around.

The Jets need to find a way to generate some pressure and get some stops on 3rd down. I don't understand why they don't jam the receivers within five yards to try to disrupt the 49ers rhythm.

To win this game, they need to stop San Francisco on their first drive and set the tone. If they can do that and come back and score, they will get confidence and take away momentum. The 49ers are far too comfortable right now, and the Jets are lucky to only be down by seven.

Week 14 NFL Picks!

22-14-3 on the year, 1-2 last week

Carolina -3 over Tampa Bay
Have you paid any attention to the NFC South? That division is one of the most fun in the NFL, with every team still in the playoff race except for maybe New Orleans. Here's all you need to know about the division: Carolina and Tampa are 6-0 at home with Atlanta and New Orleans sitting at 5-1 at home. That being the case, give me the home Panthers against Tampa Bay, with Carolina needing revenge and having, in my opinion, the better football team.
Panthers 24, Bucs 16

New Orleans -3 over Atlanta

Remember how I just said NFC South teams don't lose at home? Well, here's another golden opportunity. The Saints on the fast track desperately need this game and will throw all over Atlanta. The Falcons have been surprising and are no doubt for real. But I'm taking the home team blindly.
Green Bay 20, Houston 17

Jacksonville at Chicago over 40
The Bears desperately need to win, and a struggling Jacksonville team is a good elixir for what ails them. The Jaguars' defense has been vulnerable, and without star CB Rashean Mathis, Chicago should make a few big plays down the field. Chicago's defense is usually solid, but they have been beatable through the air. David Garrard and co. should put up at least 17, sending this game over.
Bears 28, Jaguars 17

Jets vs 49ers Preview

After a disastrous home loss to the Denver Broncos, the New York Jets are back in action 3000 miles away. The San Francisco 49ers will play host to Gang Green, but the way they have played in recent weeks, don't expect them to be very hospitable.

Interim coach Mike Singletary and new quarterback Shaun Hill are playing for their jobs next year. Singletary is 2-3 in his five games as coach, while Hill is 2-2, but it is clear that they are a much better team than they were with J.T. O'Sullivan.

With Hill at quarterback, the 49ers do not turn the ball over every play. Their offense is really run by Frank Gore, one of the best runningbacks in the game. Gore has run well at home this year, and he will look to take Peyton Hillis's lead and actually run well against a Jets run defense that had been stout all year.

As far as their passing game goes, Mike Martz is their offensive coordinator, so you can expect their top few weapons to see a lot of looks in the passing game. Martz has been pass-happy in the past, but Singletary has calmed him down a little. However, in this matchup, he might take a page out of the Broncos playbook and pass to set up the run, exploiting a Jets secondary that has struggled at times.

Defensively, the 49ers are pretty average. Patrick Willis is a star young linebacker in the middle, leading an underrated run defense. Still, they are a little undersized, and the Jets should be able to run the ball pretty well. Marshawn Lynch ran for 130 yards last week against this defense, so yards are available.

The pass defense was torched by Terrell Owens two weeks ago, and it is where most teams have been able to generate their yards against the 49ers. Nate Clements was given a big contract to be a shutdown cornerback, and while he has normally played fairly well, he certainly has not lived up to his contract.

The Jets can't afford to take this team lightly. They should beat them, but they should have beaten Denver. The Jets need to prove to the NFL that they are for real. Back to back losses against Denver and San Francisco will cancel out wins against New England and Pittsburgh. Traveling 3000 miles is never easy, but the 49ers are making the same trip, coming back from Buffalo.

Look for the Jets to come out throwing early with more success than they managed against Denver. They should be able to move the ball on the 49ers. They just can't turn the ball over, and they have to convert in the redzone. If they do both of those things, the Jets should come home victorious. If they struggle, the 49ers will gain confidence and give the Jets all they can handle.

Jets 28, 49ers 20

Thursday, December 4, 2008

DE Shaun Ellis Arrested for Marijuana Possession

Just what the Jets needed.

Their leading sacker, Shaun Ellis, has been arrested after a traffic stop in Hanover Township, NJ.

He was charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, but he was also issued summonses for driving without insurance, speeding, failure to keep right, and failure to produce a valid registration card.

No word on any suspension that might come, but I would bet he would still play this Sunday. At least he didn't shoot himself...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jets Embarrassed by Rejuvenated Broncos 34-17

So much for that 10-0 finish.

After back to back impressive road victories, the Jets fell back to earth in a big way, falling 34-17 at home to the Denver Broncos.

It isn't as bad a loss as many Jets fans think (TGG, please stop falling apart on me, the season is not over), but it's definitely a shot to the gut.

The Jets are not an elite football team. There's no shame in that, and there is no reason to panic because they weren't heading into that game either. It's become painfully obvious that teams can throw on the Jets. A team like Denver, with a strong-armed quarterback, more than one playmaking receiver, and a good tight end, can score on the Jets.

However, this year there are no elite football teams. The Jets have a very good run defense, a balanced offense, and a couple playmakers in the secondary, even if they do allow a lot of big plays.

The question now becomes what was the mirage? The New England and Tennessee games? Or the Denver game?

The fact that Peyton Hillis was able to have a 129-yard performance is disturbing, but that performance leads me to believe that the whole defense went flat. The effort just was not there like it had been in previous weeks, and Hillis was able to break some tackles that the Jets usually make.

It's a disappointing loss, no doubt about it, but the Jets can certainly come back from it. The #2 seed in the AFC is in serious doubt, but they are still in line for the #3 seed. The Jets still control their own destiny in four games they will be favored in. Two home AFC East games and two west coast NFC games. The first two will determine the division. The last two will determine the seed.

The Jets are still a game ahead of both New England and Miami, with a home game to go against the Dolphins. New England's schedule isn't difficult, but if the Jets win the two home games against Miami and Buffalo, they just need one of the NFC games to clinch the division.

The #2 seed is another story. First, the Jets have to go 4-0. They are a game behind and the Steelers won't lose more than twice. Let's look at their schedule.

vs Dallas
at Baltimore
at Tennessee
vs Cleveland

They're not losing to Cleveland, not with Ken Dorsey leading them. But the other three games are far from easy. The other three teams can beat them though. Root for the Cowboys, Jets fans. A Steelers loss combined with a Jets win and you can start dreaming of a first round bye again. Otherwise, it's a longshot.

Of course, all this assumes the Jets turn it around. San Francisco is on the docket this Sunday. The Jets have lost both their games on the Left Coast so far, to San Diego and Oakland, both in ugly fashion. San Francisco is coming off a big win at Buffalo, and Mike Singletary and Shaun Hill are trying to win jobs next year, so they are motivated.

The Jets are better than the 49ers, but the travel and Mike Martz's offense could give them trouble. I'll have a detailed preview before the game, but I could easily see Martz spreading out the offense, with Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan, Jason Hill, Vernon Davis, and of course Frank Gore on the field at the same time and try to expose the Jets the way Denver did.

It was a lot to ask for this team to go 10-0 down the stretch. A loss to Denver will be forgotten if Gang Green takes care of business in the last four games. Back-to-back losses will make thins interesting, and not in a good way.

Crazy travel schedule though. From East Rutherford to San Francisco to East Rutherford to Seattle and back to East Rutherford. For this game, at least, the 49ers are traveling back from Buffalo.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

NFL Picks: Week 13

Last week: 2-0-1
Season: 21-12-3

Pretty impressed with my percentage of picks. I've been on fire the past few weeks. Have been very busy this week with work and Thanksgiving stuff, but I expect another plus week.

Panthers +3 over Packers
Sometimes you just have to look at the matchups. At 8-3 Carolina has had a great year, led by four straight 100+ yard games by DeAngelo Williams. This week Williams must be salivating to go against an awful Packers run D allowing 4.8 yards-per-carry. Carolina has been a little sketchy on the road, but while Green Bay needs this game to stay in the playoff hunt, the Panthers need this game to keep pace with Tampa Bay and Atlanta. Fresh off an extesion, I look for Chris Gamble to do a good job on Greg Jennings, and the Panthers can run the ball enough to win.
Carolina 24, Green Bay 21

Steelers and Patriots over 39
Pittsburgh will try to attack an overrated Patriot secondary with Santonio Holmes deep. New England has been vulnerable to a deep ball, and Holmes or Nate Washington could benefit. Matt Cassel has been on fire in this one, and he will be able to put up enough points to put this over. It's foolish to expect a pure shootout, but they should be able to put this over, and both teams really need this game.
Steelers 27, Patriots 20

Bills -7 over 49ers
San Francisco looked horrible last week, and now they travel to the East Coast for a 1:00 game, which have been money all year for the home teams. At 6-5 Buffalo needs to keep winning to stay in the Wild Card race, and if they jump out to an early lead, San Francisco might fold early. Still, on a cold day where there might be some bad weather, I'd much prefer to back the team used to the conditions. The 49ers will have trouble scoring points with big Marcus Stroud in the middle for Buffalo.
Bills 20, 49ers 9

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cutler and Broncos look to upset red hot Jets

First off, happy Thanksgiving everyone! I had a good time with my family, eating some stuffing, turkey, casserole, and bread all drenched in as much gravy as I could pour.

Hopefully Kris Jenkins doesn't show up Sunday having gained 25 pounds on Thursday. If not, it's hard to see the Broncos being able to generate much of a running attack Sunday.

The Jets come in as 7.5 point favorites against the 6-5 Broncos. Denver is coming off a horrific 31-10 loss at home to the Oakland Raiders. Their defense has largely been a sieve for much of the year, as only six teams have allowed more yards than the Broncos, and only four teams have allowed more points.

Thomas Jones and Leon Washington should be primed for a field day. Both backs have been on fire lately, as the offensive line has been an immovable force for the last few weeks. Denver allows 4.8 yards-per-carry, so the two should be salivating.

As bad as Denver's run defense has been, their pass defense may even be worse. Champ Bailey has been hurt, as he is questionable for this game, but even if he's back, they should struggle. Denver allows quarterbacks to complete almost 70% of their passes, worst in the NFL, so the short passing game should once again be extremely effective. Teams haven't thrown deep on them a ton, but they haven't needed to.

That is good news for Brett Favre. The Jets have sliced and diced opponents with short passes to Laveranues Coles, Dustin Keller, and Jerricho Cotchery. Keller has added another dimension to this offense that a lot of defenses simply cannot deal with. No matter how you look at it, the Jets should be able to put up a lot of points, especially at home.

But there is a reason why the Broncos are 6-5. Part of it is the ineptitude of the AFC West, which they lead by two games with their weak defense. But the main reason they have been able to win games is their deep passing game. Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal are one of the most prolific receiving tandems in the NFL, and Jay Cutler knows how to throw the ball down the field.

Marshall is clearly the number one option, and Darrelle Revis will surely match up with him. The Bronco star hasn't had a 100-yard game since tearing up the Chargers and Saints to start the year, and Revis will likely contain him. The matchup to watch is the rookie Royal against the veteran Ty Law. Royal is a very fluid athlete who could give the older Law some trouble, but you know that the former Patriot will not want to let a rookie beat him. He will play the rookie physically and try to take him out of his game.

Cutler against the Jets' pass defense will likely be the matchup that determines the game. It's hard to imagine rookie fullback Peyton Hillis, pressed into action because of injuries to the top four runningbacks, doing much against the Jets' dominant pass defense. Mike Shanahan will have Cutler air it out to Marshall, Royal, and tight end Tony Scheffler because if they are clicking, they may be the most dominant passing offense in the AFC.

But the Jets know this, too. They know that the Broncos will likely be one-dimensional, and it will be interesting to see how the Jets attack them defensively. One thing they will try to do is knock the ball loose. In four of Denver's losses, they've fumbled eight times, and the Jets are second in the NFL in forced fumbles (17).

In this game, there are two assumptions that can be made. First, the Jets should be able to put up points on the Broncos defense. Second, the Broncos won't be able to run the ball. Shanahan might abandon the run early and attack a secondary which at times has been vulnerable. If Denver can force Favre to throw a couple interceptions, they will be difficult because Denver's offense can be dangerous.

Both teams really want this game. Despite all the hype, the Jets are only one game ahead of the Patriots, so a loss combined with a Patriots win, and the Jets will be right in the thick of the playoff race. A win, and the Jets will be able to smell the playoffs.

Denver is two games clear of San Diego in their division, but the Chargers have so much talent that they can't be counted out just yet, especially the way Denver has proven they can lose to anybody. The AFC West title is their only ticket to the playoffs, so they can ill-afford to keep giving the Chargers chances.

Still, this is a game the Jets should be able to win. They are the better team on both sides of the football. Denver has the firepower to make it interesting, but hopefully the Jets can prove they can beat a one-dimensional football team and not let down after two big road wins.

Jets 38, Broncos 27

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Entire NFL is on Notice: Jets 34, Titans 13

The Jets proved they were a playoff contender last week, conquering the Patriots and finally taking control of the AFC East for the first time in years. But blowing an 18 point first half lead and allowing the Patriots to tie the game on the last play of the game ruined many people's perceptions of who the Jets are and what they can be.

Now those doubters are all gone. The Jets have now won back-to-back games on the road against New England and Tennessee, after dominating the previously undefeated Titans 34-13.

But more impressive than the victory itself was the way the Jets shoved around the Titans. They led 10-3 at halftime despite two turnovers as the defense simply could not move the ball against a stout Jet defense on a consistent basis, and they certainly did not help themselves out with several early drops.

The key to this game was time of possession. It has been an area of the game that both teams had been able to dominate in recent games. Something had to give, and to the surprise of many, it was the Titans' defense. Brett Favre was able to convert on third down 7/13 times, while Tennessee was just 4/11. As a result, the Jets held the ball for 40:30, over two-thirds of the game.

This dominance of the football allowed for the Jets' defense to stay fresh and the Titans' defense to stay on the field. As the game went on, Nick Mangold, Alan Faneca, and co. were able to physically overpower what had been the best defense in football more and more.

There is simply no category that Jeff Fisher can say his team won the football game in. Favre picked apart the Titans with quick, precise passes to the tune of 25-32 for 224 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT. Thomas Jones and Leon Washington ran for 96 and 82 yards apiece, with Washington gaining his yards on just eight carries. In the second half, both players were able to find holes and break consistent runs. Even seldom-used blocking back Tony Richardson had a 14-yard run.

Laveranues Coles had his best game in a few weeks with seven catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller, and Thomas Jones all had over 20 yards receiving.

On the other side, Kerry Collins was held to well under 50% passing for most of the game. He ended up 21-39 for 243 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions, but until the fourth quarter, those numbers looked much worse. His leading receiver was former Jet Justin McCareins with 43 yards, but he dropped a pass in the game, much to the delight of his former fans. Bo Scaife, Quinton Ganther, and Brandon Jones each had 40 yards receiving, and Justin Gage had one big catch for 37 yards.

Their two-headed rushing attack was pretty non-existent. The Titans were never on the field, and when they were, they were usually behind. As a result, Lendale White received just one carry, losing a yard. Rookie Chris Johnson fared better with 10 carries for 46 yards, but at the end of his best run, Abram Elam forced the ball out, giving the Jets a key turnover leading to a three-score game.

Elam was one of a number of defensive stars for the Jets in this game. Darrelle Revis and Ty Law pretty much shut down the Titans' top two receivers, and the front seven played very well.

But the key to this game was time of possession. When you're not on the field, it's hard to score. The Jets had realized that lately, as they had time-consuming drives in each of the last two games that pretty much used up the entire fourth quarter. This time, they had three drives over 6:49, whereas the Titans two best drives were 3:05 and 5:06. Tennessee punted on their first five possessions, even after two Jets turnovers, one in the red zone, putting their defense on the field a lot early, and the Jets made sure it stayed that way.

Now the entire NFL has to take notice. The Jets will come in, shove you around, give the ball to Coles, Cotchery, Keller, Jones, and Washington, with all five having the ability to be a number one target, giving the Jets fantastic balance on offense. The defense will make you throw the ball to beat them, and when the weather gets colder, that will only become a bigger advantage.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

NFL Picks: Week 12

Another 2-1 week, putting me at 19-12-2 on the year. I like these three picks this week, so I should at least break 20 wins on the season. So here we go!

Jets +5.5 against Tennessee

I love the Jets in this game to at least keep it close. I would be much happier if this were +6, but if the Jets win, who cares what the spread is?

Jets 23, Titans 17 (I know I changed this)

Redskins -3 over Seattle

This looks like a sucker bet, with the Seahawks at home with their leader having returned, but the Skins need this game, and they are just a much better team. 3 points doesn't scare me from taking the far superior team.
Redskins 24, Seahawks 14

Dallas -9.5 over San Francisco
This is when the Cowboys get their swagger back.
Cowboys 31, 49ers 17

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Jets visit undefeated Titans: A preview


Not having internet for a few days really gets me more behind than I'd like to on posts here. But I have it back (for now) and here's a preview for the big game tomorrow!



Last week the talk was of the Jets visit to Foxboro to face the New England Patriots being the game of the year for the Jets. New York won an exhilarating game, one that might have been the best game the NFL has seen all year.

But for the Jets, there is no break on the schedule, as they now must travel to Tennessee to face the undefeated Titans. At 10-0 they are just six games away from an undefeated season, but the Jets might be the best competition they have faced all year.

Gang Green can afford a loss here, as they will likely be favored in their last five games, but that would give the winner of the Patriots-Miami Dolphins game a share of the division lead. A win validates the Jets as not just a favorite in the AFC East but as one of the best teams in the NFL.

The Oakland debacle will be history if the Jets can pull off the upset here. No longer can analysts dismiss this team, and people will have to take notice of players not named Brett Favre.

But even for Favre, a win this Sunday will be validation, not just for him but the entire organization as well. A win virtually assures the team of a playoff spot barring a total collapse down the stretch, and that was the minimum this year. Anything else would have been a failure for this team with their nemesis Tom Brady on the sidelines this year.

To get to that point, however, the Jets need to win this week, and that will be a tall order. The Titans did not start 10-0 because of smoke and mirrors: they can both run the ball and stop the run, and they rarely lose games in the trenches.

The Titans will almost certainly try to establish the run first, even against the Jets stout front seven. Chris Johnson is a dynamic rookie with the speed to break open any run. Lendale White is the thunder to his partner’s lightning, and the Titan offensive line has opened holes almost all season.

When teams sell out to stop the two backs, Kerry Collins has been able to burn teams down the field to number one target Justin Gage. Brandon Jones and Bo Scaife handle the underneath balls.

Most importantly, Collins hasn’t been able to make mistakes. And nothing has contributed more to the Titans start than turnovers. They are number one in the league in turnover ratio, a stat that the Jets must take note of. Favre hasn’t thrown an interception in three weeks, and Jones rarely fumbles. If the Jets can stay mistake-free, they will have a good chance to win, but Tennessee won’t be giving out gift turnovers.

Defensively, the Jets actually match up quite well with Tennessee. When healthy, Gage has been Collins’s clear number one weapon, especially down the field. Darrelle Revis will almost surely be following his every move, with Ty Law guarding the sure-handed Jones. Law is expected to start in place of Dwight Lowery in just his second game back in the NFL, but he should match up well with Jones. Scaife will be dangerous at tight end as the Jets had trouble with Ben Watson last week, but the secondary matches up well.

More intriguing than that however will be the matchup of strengths in the trenches. Ex-Jet Kevin Mawae will have his hands full with Kris Jenkins, and the Jets have a good chance of slowing the Titans’ running game. Two weeks ago, Chicago was able to stop them, but Collins was able to use Gage down the field en route to a victory. If the Jets can stop the run without putting eight in the box all the time, the Titans could have trouble scoring.

However, while the Titans might not put up that many points, the Jets may struggle as well. Cortland Finnegan leads a good secondary while Albert Haynesworth is as dominant as Jenkins on the inside. Thomas Jones will not find running lanes as easily as he has in previous weeks. He was able to take a lot of pressure off Favre recently, but the Titans are very difficult to run on.

Like Tennessee, the Jets will likely try to attack the Titans with their tight end. Dustin Keller has emerged with back-to-back 100-yard games, and the Titans have allowed the eighth most yards to opposing tight ends. Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery have been somewhat quiet lately, and that may continue this week, as this appears to have all the makings of a pretty low scoring game.

Eric Mangini must have drilled the idea of turnovers in his team’s head. It’s how Tennessee is 10-0: they run the ball, they stop the run, and they don’t make mistakes. If you win the battle of the trenches and don’t make mistakes, it’s very difficult to lose. The Jets are somewhat similar to the Titans in style of play as that’s what the Jets have done in their recent run.

Special teams could be an x-factor. Jay Feely and Reggie Hodges seem to have shored up the kicking game (though Mike Nugent might return), but it’s hard to have full confidence in both right now. Leon Washington has been a dynamo in the return game, and if he can make a big play like he did in the New England game, it might push the Jets over the top. Bottom line, the special teams have the potential to either win or lose the game for the Jets.

On the other side, Tennessee has a formidable kicking duo with kicker Rob Bironas and veteran punter Craig Hentrich. Chris Carr is a steady return man who handles both kicks and punts and rarely makes mistakes, so this is yet another area where the Titans are solid.

This game should be close. Unless Favre self-destructs, the game should be pretty tight and low-scoring, and whoever makes the least mistakes and the most big plays should win. Red zone efficiency will also be a key, as the Jets will need to take advantage of every opportunity they get.

The Jets do have more confidence now than they have had all season, and the Thursday night game against the Patriots gives them an extra three days of preparation. That certainly couldn’t hurt, as the Jets will look to piece together some of what has worked this year against Tennessee and apply it to their own strengths and weaknesses.

The Titans are 10-0 and formidable. But they are not elite in any particular area, and a team like the Jets who could battle with them in the trenches might be able to defeat them. Kerry Collins has proven me wrong all season, but at some point, he’s going to lose a game for the Titans. That loss will come this week.

20-16 Jets.