Thursday, December 31, 2009

10 Worst Losses of the Decade

I admit, this list could be changed on Sunday if the Jets fail to beat the Bengals. It would be technically the new year, but it's still this season, so it would have to be on here.

This is a completely subjective list based on how important the game is, how devastating the loss was, and a whole other group of factors that I can't really explain. Just take it for what it is, and if you disagree, send some comments with your choices and relive the heartbreak that has defined being a Jets fan for so long.

10. December 26, 2004. Week 16: Patriots 23, Jets 7
Throughout most of the decade, the Patriots dominated this series, and it's hard to choose just one game to go on here. But the 2004 season summarized this rivalry. The Jets and Pats squared off at 5-0 in week 7 that year, with the Patriots coming out victorious. The Jets had a chance to get revenge in week 16. The Patriots were coming off a loss on Monday night against a bad Dolphins team, which dropped them to 12-2. The Jets were two games behind, but they had a chance to make a statement, but instead, they came out flat, falling behind 23-0 early as the Jets could get little going offensively. The Jets never won more than 10 games in a single season this decade, and this would have given them the chance for more, and it would have been a big moral victory.

9. January 12, 2003. Divisional Round: Raiders 30, Jets 10
Oakland was the Jets' nemesis early in the decade. The Jets had won their last two games by a total of 83-17, but the Raiders didn't let Chad Pennington and the Jets' offense get on track. Did Oakland expose Pennington, as many asserted after the game? Or did his preseason injury in 2003 and the numerous other injuries in the following years derail his career? Nobody knows, but this might have been the best Jets' team of the decade, so ending the season out in Oakland as anticlimactically as it was, was extremely disappointing.

8. December 21, 2008. Week 16: Seahawks 13, Jets 3
The difference between the 2008 and the 2009 Jets is that the 2009 Jets outplayed their opponents in many of their losses. The 2008 Jets simply didn't show up half the time late. This started with a home loss to Denver, but at least the Broncos were a decent team. Losing to San Francisco one week after that was bad, too, but after a miraculous home win against Buffalo, the Jets had a road game against an awful 3-11 Seahawks team that would have given them a huge lift into the playoffs. Seneca Wallace was quarterbacking the Seahawks, yet he outplayed Brett Favre, and the Jets only managed 3 points in the biggest game of their season. Down 10-3 the Jets had one last chance. On a 4th and 2 at their own 20 yardline, Favre threw a deep ball to Laveranues Coles, which went in and out of his hands, a microcosm of the season slipping away right between their fingers.

7. December 20, 2009. Week 15: Falcons 10, Jets 7
2009 has brought us a litany of potential games to go on here. And just when it appeared the Jets couldn't top themselves, they brought us this shot to the gut that led everybody, including the coach, saying the Jets were out of the playoffs. As it turns out, that wasn't at all the case, but the heartbreak after the game was just as real as any of these other games. Gang Green dominated this football game from the start, but they botched three field goals, with the holder, kicker, and long snapper each taking the blame for one. The Jets were in Falcons territory five times but came away with no points, and the #1 ranked defense, which had been stout all game and all season, let Matt Ryan go right down the field on the Jets to set up a 1st and goal. The defense held on the first three plays, but a coverage breakdown let Tony Gonzalez slip open in the endzone. Ryan found him, and everyone was stunned.

6. December 28, 2008. Week 17: Dolphins 24, Jets 17
Any number of games from 2008 can belong on this list, and either Dolphins game in 2009 could make this list. In fact by the time this game was played, the Jets' playoff chances were almost sealed shut. But this game was unbearable as a Jets fan. It was the culmination of a late season collapse that saw the Jets lose four of their last five games and miss the playoffs after an 8-3 start. This was especially bad because the Miami Dolphins completed a comeback from 1-15 to the playoffs, and the quarterback whom the Jets deemed not good enough to lead the Jets into the promised land was now winning the division for the rival Dolphins in the Jets' home stadium. Nobody knew exactly what went wrong, but the Jets rightfully cleaned house after the year, firing Eric Mangini, and cutting ties with Brett Favre. Mangini is probably going one-and-done in Cleveland, while Favre's Vikings have lost three straight after looking like world-beaters earlier. Maybe the Jets made the right decisions dumping them.

5. December 30, 2001. Week 16: Bills 14, Jets 9
One year after their horrendous collapse in 2000 (explained below), the Jets had a chance to clinch a playoff spot at home against an awful 2-12 Buffalo Bills squad playing their backup quarterback Alex Van Pelt. But it never is that easy with this team. Shawn Bryson and the Bills ran for 192 yards and the Jets fell behind early in a cold, blustery day at Giants Stadium. This would be higher on the list, but John Hall, the goat of 2000, drilled a 52-yard field goal to send the Jets into the playoffs the next week, so much was forgiven.

4. December 15, 2002. Week 15: Bears 20, Jets 13
The 2002 Jets' squad holds a special place in most Jets fans' hearts after the way they recovered from a 2-5 start to make the playoffs, but they almost choked it all away in week 15. The 3-10 Bears were led by Chris Chandler and they had touchdown runs by the other Adrian Peterson and former Jet Leon Johnson just to twist the knife in Jets fans hearts a little bit. Gang Green trailed 10-0 at halftime. Chad Morton returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, but wait, there was a penalty. The Jets trailed 20-13 and Pennington had one last chance. The Jets were moving the ball in for a chance at the game-tying score, when Wayne Chrebet opted to try to hurdle the entire Bears' defense. He fumbled the football, and the Bears won the game, sending the Jets to 7-7, where they would need everything to fall into place to make the playoffs. Sound familiar?

3. December 17, 2000. Week 16: Lions 10, Jets 7
In 2000 the Jets started 4-0 and then went to 6-1 before it all fell apart. The Monday Night Miracle and the famous Wayne Chrebet-Keyshawn Johnson game were wasted in Al Groh's first year. The Jets lost three straight to fall to 6-4, but then they bounced back with three straight wins to get to 9-4 and the precipice of the playoffs. All they needed was one more win. But the AFC West Champion Raiders destroyed the Jets in week 15 31-7, and with Ray Lewis and the future Super Bowl Champion 2000 Baltimore Ravens on deck, the home tilt with Detroit was the game the Jets needed to win the playoffs. The weather was just as bad as the team that day, but the Jets still led 7-3 most of the game. A late touchdown on a fumble recovery by Jeff Hartings, the Lions' left guard almost killed the Jets, but they had one last chance to send the game into overtime. John Hall then shanked a 35-yard field goal, leaving the Jets needing to beat the Ravens to get into the playoffs, bringing us to our number two game.

2. December 24, 2000. Week 17: Ravens 34, Jets 20
Despite back-to-back losses to the Raiders and Lions, the Jets had one last chance. Beat Ray Lewis, Chris McAllister, and the Ravens, and the playoffs were still there. Vinny Testaverde and company rolled up 524 yards, 382 more than Baltimore could manage, but it wasn't enough. Jermaine Lewis returned two punts for touchdowns, and McAllister intercepted Testaverde for a 98-yard touchdown near the end of the first half. The Jets had a game effort against one of the best defenses in the history of the NFL, but inexcusable mistakes once again cost the Jets a chance at the playoffs.

1. January 15, 2005. Divisional Round: Steelers 20, Jets 17
You knew this would be number one. The biggest heartbreak of the decade bar none. The Jets came off a game they did everything they could to try to lose the week before at San Diego to set up a showdown with the 15-1 Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger was a rookie sensation, but the Jets harassed him all game. Eventually, Doug Brien had a 47-yard attempt to take the lead with 2 minutes to go, which he just barely missed. However, David Barrett gave Brien a chance at redemption, intercepting Roethlisberger on the very next play, giving the Jets the ball at the Steeler 36. After getting one first down, Herman Edwards reigned in the offense, running the ball twice, and then having Pennington take a knee in the middle of the field rather than try to get a few more yards. As every Jets fan expected, Brien shanked the kick, and Pittsburgh won in overtime. The Jets reacted by drafting the best kicking prospect in years in the 2nd round the next year, and in typical Jets-fashion, he was a bust. The Jets haven't reached the divisional round since, much less the AFC Championship, which they were just a field goal away from.

Honorable mention: Too many to count.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top 10 Jets Moments of the Past 10 Years

The end of the decade is coming, so everybody's doing their end-of-decade lists. Time to jump into the fray with my list of the top 10 Jets moments of the past 10 years.

10. New York Jets trade for Brett Favre
Nobody knew how the end would turn out, but bringing one of the best quarterbacks in the history of football, especially one known for his arm strength, was a welcome change after years of dinking and dunking with Chad Pennington. The move made the Jets the story of the NFL, and when Tom Brady got hurt, it looked like the Jets finally had the best quarterback in the division.

9. Jets annihilate Titans to move to 8-3 in 2008.
Sure, the end was bitter. But how great did you feel beating New England and previously unbeaten Tennessee in back-to-back weeks? It felt like the Jets were the best team in the AFC, right? They could throw the ball, they could run the ball, and they played stout defense, especially against the run. What could possibly go wrong?

8. Jets' 3-0 start in 2009
Another head coach off to a great start, this one stressing an aggressive defense and a smash mouth offense. He beats the Patriots in Giants Stadium for the only time this decade as well as two feared teams in Houston and Tennessee, and it looks like the Jets are on their way back, with a flashy new quarterback and head coach to lead the way. Several heartbreaks and lucky breaks later, and it looks like the Jets are on their way back to the playoffs.

7. "You play to win the game!"
Herman Edwards's famous speech will forever live in history as one of the most memorable rants in sports history. However, what makes this a great moment is how the Jets responded. Herm's speech gave the Jets something to laugh about after an ugly home loss to the Browns dropped the Jets to 2-5. But whether provoked by the speech or other reasons, the Jets walloped the previously 6-1 Chargers on the road 44-13, sending San Diego into a tailspin where they finished 8-8. What happened to the Jets? Read down a little more to find out.

6. Mangenius takes down Patriots in New England.
The Jets-Patriots rivalry was intensified when Patriots' defensive coordinator Eric Mangini went to New York to coach the rival Jets despite Bill Bellichick's wishes. Nobody gave the Jets much of a chance to do anything in Mangini's first year. A 4-3 start gave fans some hope, but a disappointing loss to Cleveland, memorable because of Chris Baker's last second near-touchdown pass where he was forced out of bounds, but the referees called him incomplete. Nevertheless, after a bye week, the Jets went up to New England on a muddy field and beat the hated Patriots, knocking around Tom Brady in the process. Bellichick's post-game handshake, or lack thereof, said it all.

5. Monday Night Miracle and the Cardiac 2000 Jets.
It was hard to gauge the 2000 Jets. In 1999 they were AFC favorites until Vinny Testaverde went down. Testaverde was back, but Bill Parcells was gone and Al Groh was in. Nevertheless, the Jets jumped out to a great start featuring two great Jets moments. First, in week four the Jets got revenge against Keyshawn Johnson. Johnson had derogatively called Wayne Chrebet "flashlight" heading into the game, but it was Chrebet having the last laugh, catching a late touchdown pass on a halfback option pass from Curtis Martin to win it. Four weeks later, the 5-1 Jets took on the Miami Dolphins on Monday night, falling behind 30-7 heading into the 4th quarter. Yet, the Jets came all the way back in the 4th quarter, with Laveranues Coles and Jermaine Wiggins catching their first career touchdown passes. Chrebet tied it, but then Leslie Shepherd broke free for a 46-yard touchdown to give Miami the 37-30 lead. Then offensive tackle Jumbo Elliot became the unlikeliest hero, catching a touchdown to send the game into overtime, where the Jets won 40-37. Clearly feeling the momentum from that game, the Jets lost their next three games and then their last three games to fall out of the playoffs at 9-7.

4. John Hall's 52-yard field goal sends Jets into 2001 playoffs.
As bad as the Oakland Raiders have been for the past several years, it's hard to think that Jets vs Raiders was one of the bigger non-divisional rivalries in the NFL at the beginning of the decade. The two teams always seemed to match up in Oakland, especially come playoff time. This wasn't a playoff game, but it was for the Jets, and after a hard-fought game, Testaverde and the Jets set up John Hall for a 52-yard field goal to send the Jets into the playoffs. He made it, and Herman Edwards was able to find his way into the playoffs in year one.

3. Beating San Diego on the road in 2004 in the first round of the playoffs.
The 2004 Jets jumped out to a 5-0 start only to barely make the playoffs. Chad Pennington's arm was hanging on by a thread, but in the first round of the playoffs, Pennington played well, including silencing doubters of his arm strength temporarily with a deep touchdown pass to Santana Moss. Of course, the Jets needed to make their fans needlessly sweat late. On a 4th down play, when it looked like the Jets had finally won, Eric Barton was called for roughing the passer with a forearm shiver to Drew Brees's head. The Chargers scored to send the game into overtime, but Doug Brien kicked a game winner in overtime to send the Jets to Pittsburgh. That was Brien's last good moment as a Jet.

2. Beating Favre and the Packers week 17 of 2002.
This set off by far the most exciting three week period in recent Jets' history. Similar to this year, the Jets blew an NFC game against the Bears in week 15. They came back to beat the Patriots in Foxboro in week 16, setting up an epic final week of the season. New York needed either New England to beat Miami or Atlanta to beat Cleveland at 1:00 for the Jets' game at 4:15 against Green Bay to matter. When the Browns won, it was looking bleak for the Jets because Miami led 24-13 with just five minutes to go. Then the Dolphins simply choked. The defense gave a pass interference penalty to set up a Tom Brady touchdown. Then the Dolphins went three-and-out, taking little time off the clock as coach Dave Wannstedt opted to throw the ball. Adam Vinatieri sent the game into overtime and then won it in the extra session. Jets fans in the stadium were crowded around those with radios who were relaying what was going on in the Dolphins-Patriots game, and when New England won, the stadium erupted. The players seemed confused at the crowd's reaction since nothing was going on at the field, but they got the message. The game, which was 0-0 at the time, ended up in a 42-17 rout.

1. Beating Peyton Manning and the Colts 41-0 at home in 2002.
The #2 moment set up the only Jets' home playoff game this decade, and boy, did they make it count. The field was still grass at that point, and Manning's Colts, who still had the reputation of being soft, could not handle it. The Jets manhandled the Colts 41-0. Manning went 14-31 for 137 yards, throwing two interceptions in the process. This game was vintage Pennington, while he was still healthy and before the Raider meltdown the following week, as he threw for three touchdowns on 19-25 passing for 222 yards.

Honorable mention: Jets trade for Mark Sanchez. Spygate. Beating Oakland in 2006 to get into the playoffs. 5-0 start in 2004.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ochocinco Starts Trash Talk, But Will Bengals Actually Play?

Chad Ochocinco is known for making wild statements and playful trash talk on Twitter. He and Jets CB Darrelle Revis are friends, and have tweeted at each other in the past, and Ochocinco is starting the trash talk early, when he sent this message to Revis.

"I'm coming to the big apple to give NY what they've never seen, an escape inmate gone wild on Revis Island."

Revis is coming off arguably one of his worst games of the season when Reggie Wayne got open a few times on him, even if his final stats weren't that gaudy. Still, Revis has set a high standard for himself, and Ochocinco gives him yet another difficult #1 receiver to match up against.

The big question, just like the one with Wayne, will be how much will Ochocinco play? The Bengals have very little to play for: just the difference between the #3 and #4 seeds, which is essentially meaningless. Their best case scenario might be to rest their players, treat this week a a combination bye week/practice, and let the Jets go all out while the Bengals literally practice against the team they will face in the first round of the playoffs, assuming the Jets are able to win.

Las Vegas is pretty confident in the Jets' chances, as the Jets are currently installed as 10 point favorites. Clearly, Vegas thinks the Bengals will not play this game hard at all, and why would they? This is a franchise that has already seen its quarterback Carson Palmer suffer a devastating knee injury last time they went to the playoffs. With starting rookie linebacker Rey Maualuga suffering a season-ending injury last week, that's even more motivation to treat this week as a virtual scrimmage to try to stay healthy.

Expect the Bengals to treat this game like the Colts treated last week, except even more extreme. The Jets struggle to beat teams by double digits, but if turnover-prone backup QB J.T. O'Sullivan sees a lot of time, the Jets' defense might be able to put up a score for the 2nd straight week.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Paint it Green: The Jets Control Their Own Destiny

The New York Jets control their own destiny with just one game to go. Yes, that's right. Beat the Cincinnati Bengals at home next week, and the New York Jets, who were left for dead even by their own coach, just seven days ago, make the playoffs.

With Miami, Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Denver all losing, the Jets are now the #5 seed in the AFC, in line for a rematch against the Bengals in the playoffs. How did this happen? The Jets stopped perfection, beating the 14-0 Colts 29-15 in their own building.

Critics will look at the fact that the Jets outscored the Colts 19-0 when Peyton Manning left and dismiss what the Jets did, but it does not matter one bit. The Jets can only play who is out on the field. And in a 15-10 ballgame, the Colts took out Manning and put in backup Curtis Painter who simply could not lead the offense.

Not only that, but the Colts took out a number of defensive starters as well. The offensive line stayed in, and some defensive guys played, but the Colts pretty much gave up in the 2nd half, which kind of makes a football fan feel a little betrayed.

But as a Jets fan, who cares? The Jets control their own destiny, and like I said, they can only play who is on the field. Painter was atrocious, and his presence directly led to the Jets go-ahead touchdown on a Calvin Pace strip-sack recovered by Marques Douglas in the endzone.

Offensively, it wasn't really pretty, but the Jets' running game got into a groove late, and Shonn Greene and Thomas Jones were both great. Greene had 95 yards on 16 carries and Jones crossed the century mark with 105 on 23 carries.

Mark Sanchez only managed 106 yards through the air, but that was okay. The Colts' pass defense is very tough, and he did not turn the ball over. He was 12-19 and converted five first downs, so he did what the team needed him to do.

Speaking of 106, that was the amount of yards Brad Smith covered on the new longest play in Jets' history. Every kickoff from the Colts went about 5-6 yards deep into the endzone. Smith returned one back, and he made it count, going the distance to stun the Colts coming out of the 2nd half. He broke a few tackles on the way, and the special teams unit, which has been much maligned this season, gave the team a huge spark coming into the 2nd half, helping propel the team to victory.

The offensive line of the Jets deserves a ton of credit as well. Sanchez only had pressure on him twice when Dwight Freeney was inexcusably not blocked, but other than that, Sanchez had all day to throw, and the line created big holes for the backs to run through.

Defensively, they did a decent job against Manning and company in the first half. 9 first half points has to be a victory, but the Colts barely missed a couple of big plays that would have made that bigger. The Jets also blocked an extra point on the Colts' first touchdown, making the Colts chase points all game, and they converted on two two point conversions.

Would the Jets have beaten the Colts' starters? New York was losing when they came out, but they were right in the game. It feels a little cheap knowing that the Jets beat a paper Colts team in the 2nd half, but that is not their fault. Rex Ryan's team did what it had to do and shocked the world.

One more victory, and the Jets are going to the playoffs. And oh by the way, the Bengals probably will have nothing to play for either. I think there's a good chance the game gets flexed back to be the Sunday night game, given that it will no doubt be an impactful game in terms of the playoffs. The Bengals are locked into the #4 seed if New England wins, so if the Patriots win, Cincinnati will probably treat it as a bye week and not give the Jets an opportunity to scout. In that case, Jets' detractors will be out in full force, but they'll have an opportunity to beat that same Bengals team a week later.

NFL Picks - Week 16

24-21 overall after a 2-1 week last week. Seattle lost outright, which was ugly, but my two underdogs both covered. One more winning week clinches a winning regular season.

Jacksonville +10 over New England
I leaned Jacksonville when it was at 7.5. I was planning on picking Jacksonville when it was at 8.5. Now it's at 10, and how can I resist? Are people watching the same Patriots team I am? Sure, they could explode on the Jaguars' passing defense, but that offense hasn't really clicked all year, and the defense isn't that good. Jacksonville has the offensive weapons to give New England trouble, and while they'll have trouble stopping Tom Brady, it's hard for me not to take a desperate team to be getting 10 points. Not to mention, Jacksonville has some extra rest.
New England 28, Jacksonville 21

Washington +7.5 over Dallas

The Cowboys get a big win in September, and now they're great again? I'm not buying it. Washington was just embarrassed last week, and this is their Super Bowl. The team is bickering, and there are certainly issues, but players still want to play, and they're a divisional home underdog. They have a big showing at home against the Cowboys before laying an egg out west against the Chargers.
Cowboys 24, Redskins 21

New York Jets +6 over Indianapolis

If Curtis Painter gets in this ballgame, the Jets will make him pay. Either way, the defense should be good enough to keep the Jets in it early, and then who knows? New York is desperate, and they play a lot of close games, win or lose. The Jets' defense is a big reason why, and it's why it's hard to predict a blowout, so getting almost a touchdown is a good deal.
Jets 16, Colts 7

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sunday Viewing Schedule

Here is your viewing schedule for tomorrow. With the Jets on at 4:15, there's plenty of reasons to be excited early. The Jets could control their own destiny by the time they take the field if three of the early games go the right way.

The hardest part of the playoff picture has always been the Jets winning out, and that remains the case. But with the showdown with the 14-0 Colts having a late kickoff, there's three more hours for Jets fans to dream of more January football.

1:00 Games
Houston at Miami
Root for: HOUSTON
Why? The Texans, Jets, and Dolphins all sit at 7-7, but the Jets beat Houston and got swept by Miami, so it's vital that the Dolphins lose in the next two games. If the Jets win out, Houston is irrelevant as far as they are concerned. Miami has Pittsburgh at home next week, so it's feasible they lose next week if they win this week.
Vegas says: Miami by 3
I say: A lot of people seem to like Houston this week, and on paper, it makes sense. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson lead a fearsome passing attack against a Dolphins' secondary that can be picked apart. However, the Dolphins have the edge in the trenches on both sides, and the Texans have a tendency to be soft.
Miami 27, Houston 24

Jacksonville at New England
Why? As much as it stinks to root for the Patriots, Jacksonville is 7-7 and has the tiebreaker on the Jets. New England means nothing to New York in terms of the standings, and Jacksonville needs to lose to either the Patriots or Browns on the road for the Jets to pass them, so this is a huge game because Eric Mangini can only help the Jets so much.
Vegas says: New England by 10
I say: Jacksonville is bad on the road. New England is good at home. Jacksonville has no pass defense. New England has Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker. Jacksonville has all the motivation to try to keep it close and win, but the Patriots should be too much for the Jaguars.
New England 28, Jacksonville 21

Baltimore at Pittsburgh
Why? Simple. Baltimore and Denver lead the two Wild Card spots at 8-6. Pittsburgh can knock the Ravens into a tie with the Jets if they win. Gang Green has the tiebreaker over both squads.
Vegas says: Pittsburgh by 2.5
I say: This is a tough one to figure out. Baltimore and Pittsburgh are used to smash mouth football, and fans would see one of the most physical games of the year. The hate is still there, but the defenses are not, as both secondaries have been vulnerable. Pittsburgh's defense has a lot to prove, but they're at home, and they have the better offensive weapons, so look for the Steelers to win a tight one.
Pittsburgh 27, Baltimore 24

Kansas City at Cincinnati
The Bengals looked like a lock just a few weeks ago, and if they win this game, they're in. But if they lose and the Ravens win, they're just another playoff contender, and a Bengals loss could make next week's Jets-Bengals game an opportunity for the Jets to directly leapfrog the Bengals in the standings.
Vegas says: Cincinnati by 13
I say: The Bengals are clearly the better team, and they should be able to run all over the Chiefs. However, the Bengals' mental state is a question mark right now after the unfortunate death of Chris Henry, and they've already had a letdown against the Raiders earlier this season. Cincinnati should win, but the Chiefs could make it closer than Bengals fans will want to see.
Cincinnati 27, Kansas City 20

4:15 game (besides the Jets, of course)
Denver at Philadelphia
Why? Denver is in the AFC, Philly is in the NFC. The Broncos lead one AFC wild card spot, and if they lose, the Jets would tie them in the standings and beat them in the tiebreaker. They play the Chiefs at home next week, so this may be the Broncos' one chance to lose.
Vegas says: Philadelphia by 7.5
I say: The Eagles get back Brian Westbrook this week, but this game is more about Denver than anything else. Brian Dawkins makes his return to Philadelphia in a huge game. Will the Broncos finally stand up and make a statement that they won't choke down the stretch? Or will they yet again falter, and continue their late season free fall, as they have been so prone to do? I think they give a game effort, but they simply aren't as good as the Eagles, so Philly pulls it out.
Philadelphia 20, Denver 13

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Jets-Colts Preview

Can the Jets actually make the playoffs?

If you asked me at 4:15 on Sunday, I would have laughed at you. If you asked Rex Ryan, he would have laughed at you, as he admitted after Sunday's game that the Jets "were obviously out of the playoffs."

As it turns out, the only thing obvious is that the Jets will find a way to shoot themselves in the foot if the game means something and if it's close late. Need proof? The Jets are 0-5 in games decided by five points or less. Still, the team is still very much alive, and if the Dolphins and two of the Broncos, Ravens, and Jaguars lose.

But forget all the playoff scenarios. If other teams lose and help the Jets, that's great, but the team is past worrying about that. The number one key for the Jets has always been to take care of their own business and win, something they've proven time and time again they haven't been able to do.

And their first task couldn't be much more difficult. There's only one undefeated team in the NFL, and they play in Indianapolis. That is where the Jets are heading Sunday, facing a Colts team that has 10 days of rest after helping New York out by beating Jacksonville last Thursday.

On paper, the notion that Mark Sanchez can outduel Peyton Manning at this stage is laughable. But will Manning and his pals play? Even though the Colts are just two games away from going 16-0, for weeks, the signs have pointed to the Colts starting to rest players in week 16. They played hard last Thursday, and they might want to give the home crowd one last time to cheer before the playoffs.

Vegas has to think that the Colts will rest some starters because Indianapolis is only installed as a 5-point favorite at home. A 14-0 team playing against a team with a rookie quarterback that struggles in close games should be a bigger favorite.

So why are they such comparatively small underdogs? Part of it has to do with the Colts potentially resting their starters, but more of it has to do with the Jets' defense. As mentioned before, the Jets are 0-5 in games decided by 5 points or less, meaning that they have been in almost every game until the end.

That's because the Jets have the #1 defense against the pass, in total yards, and in points allowed. They haven't faced Manning and company, but they do match up well. Darrelle Revis will blanket Reggie Wayne all game and force Manning to go to Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, and Dallas Clark. Clark is going to be a tough matchup, as he may be the premier pass-catching tight end in the NFL.

The secondary will be tested all game long, but they've been up to the task almost all season long, despite a consistent lack of pressure from the Jets' blitz-happy defense. It's hard to see how they get pressure on Manning, but the pass defense has been effective without it. Imagine what they can do if they got a pass rusher in the draft or free agency.

Running the ball, the Colts haven't done a whole lot all season. Joseph Addai is a JAG (just another guy), and rookie Donald Brown is banged up. The Jets are better against the pass than the run, but they've been good against the run all season, and as good as the Colts are offensively, there's a reason why Peyton Manning is going to be the MVP, and not Addai.

The biggest question will be how the Jets can score enough points to win. Braylon Edwards called the offense "embarrassing" and "irritating," questioning the offense's desire to get into the playoffs. Edwards is coming off one of his first 100-yard game as a Jet and has helped, but Mark Sanchez has been an enigma, and the red zone offense has been atrocious.

Despite that, the Jets actually match up pretty well against the Colts, and they might be able to run the football. Throughout the Colts' reign in the AFC, their main weakness has been run defense. They're in the middle of the pack of the team defense stats against the run. Still, the Jets might be able to control the clock, as the Colts have only allowed 3 20+ yard rushes all season, tied for the league's best.

Because of that, the Jets will need to grind out drives, not relying on the big play as they have for a lot of the season. This is also true in the passing game, as the Colts have allowed the least amount of 20+ yard pass plays in the league with 25 (Jets are 2nd with 27). With the Jets' only points last week coming on a 65-yard pass play, the Jets will surely need to find a new way to get on the board. Brian Schottenheimer, time to earn your money (and your reputation, and maybe your job).

One of the biggest questions surrounding this game is just how long the Colts will play their starters. It had been hinted at for weeks that the Colts would start to pull guys out week 16 and then treat week 17 like a preseason game. Nobody knows for sure, but the Colts signed a 3rd QB from their practice squad in former Buffalo Bulls (not Bills) QB Drew Willy. Most teams do carry three quarterbacks -- the Jets carry four -- but the timing is very interesting.

I expect the Colts to pretty much be playing their backups by the time the fourth quarter comes around. If I am Rex Ryan, I blitz the heck out of the Colts early and often, trying to get some hits on Peyton Manning, and trying to show Caldwell that keeping his quarterback in is risky. Manning will not want to let up an undefeated season go that easily, so as long as he is in the game, you can expect he's trying to put as many points on the board as he can.

The Jets' pass defense is number one in the NFL, but the pass rush really hasn't been that great all year. Sure, they hurry some throws, but the stellar play of the secondary and linebackers have been key in stopping opposing teams' quarterbacks. The Jets did hold Drew Brees down for most of the game.

Most of the previews I do talk about what team has the edge at what position. But this game is so hard to figure out in those terms because nobody knows for sure who will play. If the Colts play their starters throughout, it's hard to give the Jets the edge anywhere. If they don't, the Jets' defense should be able to harass a young quarterback, and the offense should be able to move the ball.

If/when Manning doesn't play, Curtis Painter will take the snaps under center. Painter hasn't gotten a snap all season in his rookie year, but an injury to Manning's regular backup Jim Sorgi has thrust Painter into semi-active duty.

So in the end, what wins out, the Jets' desperation or the Colts' pure talent and drive for a perfect season? Well, it's hard to say desperation is that big of a factor because they've blown many opportunities so far.

Call it a hunch, but I think the Jets come out hard and play as if they have nothing to lose. Rex Ryan and the coaches thought last week was a must-win, so this is like a reprieve, and against an undefeated football team, the pressure actually isn't primarily on the Jets.

The defense is always good, and the team does match up well with the Colts. Mark Sanchez just needs to be careful with the football against an aggressive Indy defense, and the Jets could upset the mighty Colts. Sound familiar?
Jets 16, Colts 7

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Jets Choke to Atlanta 10-7, But Playoff Hopes Still Alive?

Just when you thought they couldn't find another way to lose...

3 missed field goals. A 4th down conversion. Numerous stupid penalties. The Jets did everything they could to shoot themselves in the foot, and it ended up costing them the game. The Jets took a shot to the gut, losing another heartbreaker, this time 10-7 to the Atlanta Falcons.

The Jets held the Falcons offense down the entire game, stuffing Atlanta's running game throughout and holding Matt Ryan to a putrid completion percentage.

Until the final drive, that is, where Ryan converted two third downs and a fourth down. The Jets were one play away from all but sealing victory, but they could not stop Tony Gonzalez on a quick curl. Rex Ryan was livid at his defense, as he said they had practiced for that play, and they did not execute. He did not name names.

The focal point of the loss is the defensive lapse, but overall, they played very well. The big plays; interceptions, fumbles, even sacks weren't there, but 10 points allowed is more than good enough for an offense to win.

The Jets' only points came on a 65-yard touchdown bomb to Braylon Edwards. It was a well-thrown ball and Edwards gained separation (and actually made the catch), but that was it. The running game struggled all game, as again the Jets went the conservative route. Brian Schottenheimer played not to lose, which isn't the worst thing with a rookie quarterback.

Mark Sanchez did not have one of his better days. 18-32 for 226 yards and a touchdown is fine, but three interceptions are not. His first and last drives ended in picks, and he was very up and down, with more downs than ups. Braylon Edwards helped him out a lot, and Jerricho Cotchery was an effective possession receiver, but Sanchez's decision making must continue to improve if the Jets have any hope the next two weeks. The Colts and Bengals will feast on his mistakes.

Still, you could even argue that he put the Jets in position to win. While 7 is an ugly total, he set the offense up for three makeable field goals, all of which were blown by the James Dearth-Kellen Clemens-Jay Feely troika. If they make one, the game is probably in overtime, and if they make two, they probably win. Instead, the Jets are again saying woulda-coulda-shoulda, which seems to be the story of the season so far.

But once you get past the loss, and you look at the standings, it's not as unrealistic as you might think to make the playoffs.

Here's the simplest form of what must happen for the Jets to get into the playoffs.

Must happen
Jets win out.
Miami loses once (HOU, PIT)

2 of these 3 scenarios must happen
Denver loses once (at PHI, KC)
Baltimore loses once (at PIT, at OAK)
Jacksonville loses once (at NE, at CLE)

The Jets have the tiebreakers over Houston, Tennessee, and Pittsburgh, so those teams are irrelevant as far as the Jets are concerned. I'd say the most unlikely event of all those scenarios happening is the Jets winning out, so if they do take care of business, everything else could actually fall into place.

Sound like 2002? An ugly loss to an NFC team in week 15 seemingly eliminating all hope, followed by an improbable run to the playoffs at 9-7? It's possible, and they will have to defeat the unbeaten Colts in their home building with an extra few days of rest. They may not play their starters as much, but would you trust this defense against Peyton Manning with the game on the line? Based on what we've seen so far, the answer cannot be yes.

Week 15 NFL Picks Plus Who To Root For Sunday

Another 2-1 week last week puts me at 22-20 overall on the season.

Buffalo +7.5 over New England
The Patriots have yet to win a true road game all season, so I'll take the divisional dog to cover. Buffalo's played more spirited ball recently. If the Bills were to win, it would have huge implications on the Jets' divisional chances, as a Patriots loss and a Jets win would tie the two teams in first.
Patriots 20, Bills 14

Detroit +15 over Arizona
I know the Lions are terrible, but the Cardinals are an enigma, and Larry Fitzgerald's status is up in the air. I can't pass up a 15 point home underdog. Arizona isn't that good.
Cardinals 31, Lions 20

Seattle -7 over Tampa Bay
The Seahawks have a weak offensive line and a mediocre secondary, so good teams destroy them, but they're good enough to beat up bad teams. Tampa Bay is a bad team, and Seattle is tough at Qwest Field. Jim Mora Jr is trying to save his job; the Seahawks win this one big.
Seahawks 28, Bucs 14

Jets' Playoff implications

Jacksonville lost Thursday, so the Jets are now tied with Baltimore and Miami for the last playoff spot. New York needs to win out and hope both of those two teams at some point.

Miami is a 4.5 point underdog in Tennessee.

Baltimore is an 11 point favorite against Chicago at home.

Root for the Titans and Bears. And also root for the Bills to bring the divisional race back into the picture. But first and foremost, root for the Jets, because if they lose, none of this matters.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Falcons at Jets Preview

Atlanta Falcons (6-7) at New York Jets (7-6)
Sunday December 20, 1:00: CBS.

A day after a vicious nor'easter, the New York Jets will hope to grind out a victory against the reeling Atlanta Falcons. Mark Sanchez will make his return from a one game absence in what will likely be snowy circumstances. Both Matt Ryan and Michael Turner are questionable for the Falcons. Dallas's win Saturday night officially eliminated the Falcons from playoff contention, so they might lean on the side of caution. The Jets need this win in the worst way, and a team that wants to have the smash mouth attitude on offense and defense and be an all-weather team needs to take care of business.

When the Falcons have the ball...

Both Matt Ryan and Michael Turner are listed as game-time decisions, so whatever happens to them will have a big difference on both their gameplan on offense and the Jets attack on defense. Turner seems less likely to play than Ryan, but if the weather is really that bad, they could choose to hold both out. My guess is Ryan starts, and Turner doesn't, so I'll go with that assumption.

Turner is a bruising workhorse. His backups, Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood, have different skillsets. Norwood is a home run threat every time he touches the ball, whereas Snelling is more versatile, as he can run inside, outside, catch the ball, and block. Their offensive line is getting healthier, but the Jets should be able to snuff out the Falcons' run game, especially considering they know that is exactly what Atlanta will want to do.

Passing the ball will be difficult in the wintry conditions, but when they do, you can bet Ryan or Chris Redman will be trying to get the ball to Roddy White. The Jets will counter with Darrelle Revis, who has been the best cornerback in the game this season. Both players will have their hands full, but Revis has won virtually all these battles this year, so this shouldn't be too much different.

The Falcons' other big weapon, who will probably have a big impact on this game, is tight end Tony Gonzalez. In a game that will stress the short passing game through the air, Gonzalez is a great security blanket. The Jets may put Kerry Rhodes on Gonzalez, as Rhodes has the skillset to play with the future Hall of Famer.

This snow and wind will knock down both offenses, but the Jets' defense didn't need a whole lot of help. With Ryan and Turner both either out or less than 100%, the Jets should be able to dominate a Falcons' offense that has been inconsistent all season long.

Edge: Jets

When the Jets have the ball...
Mark Sanchez will be making his return, so all the attention will be on whether he can manage the game and manage the weather well enough to give the Jets a must-win victory. His first bad-weather game against Buffalo went horribly wrong, so look for the Jets to dial it down, especially with Sanchez coming off an injury.

That means a heavy dose of Thomas Jones, and a similar gameplan to last week against Tampa. Don't let the quarterback lose you the football game. That strategy was employed last week because the Buccaneers were inept and because Kellen Clemens was starting. This week, they again won't fully trust the quarterback, but the weather will have a lot to do with it.

Jones will get more carries on Sunday than he will in any game all season most likely. Shonn Greene has shown to have a fumbling problem in his rookie season, and that is simply unacceptable at this stage of the season with the magnitude of the games. So Jones will get the ball a lot, and look for Brad Smith to get an expanded package in the Wildcat/Seminole/MizzouTiger formation, getting direct snaps, and running the football from there. It's another offensive wrinkle to run the football out of, and it's a way to keep Sanchez from taking hits or from turning the ball over.

When the Jets do throw the ball, they probably won't take many chances. Dustin Keller, Braylon Edwards, and Jerricho Cotchery will do what they can to move the chains against a pretty bad secondary. The Jets receivers could win the one on one matchups outside, but it's unlikely that Brian Schottenheimer gives them many opportunities to make plays, and that should be fine.

The Jets are the number one team in the NFL when it comes to rushing the football, so there's no reason to get cute here. Give the ball to your workhorse, sprinkle in Greene, Smith, and Danny Woodhead, who has become the team's 3rd down back. The emphasis will be on taking care of the football, and putting enough points on the board to complement the defense. The Falcons' defense has been very mediocre this year, and the offense won't put up big points, but they should be able to control time of possession, and that's what Rex Ryan wants.

Edge: Push

Special Teams

The Falcons' kicking game had been a mess with Jason Elam kicking. Now, former Buc Matt Bryant has the job after his UFL gig ended, and he's been a precise kicker throughout his career even though he doesn't have a strong leg. . Eric Weems has been an effective returner since getting the job, but he hasn't scored yet. None of the Jets' returners have done that well all year, but Jay Feely has been a very accurate kicker. That will be vital Sunday. Steve Weatherford and Michael Koenen are both average punters who will have to deal with the tough conditions. Koenen has the stronger leg; Weatherford is more accurate.

Edge: Push


The Jets' defense should be able to impose its will on the Falcons' offense. The Jets will put Revis on White and dare either an injured Ryan or a backup Redman to beat them. The run defense has been stout since a couple of letdowns earlier in the year. The big question will be if the offense can put points on the board. If they can run physically impose their will on the Falcons and blow them out, that could be a confidence builder heading into Indianapolis next week. They will run the football as they have done every week all year, and they should be able to overmatch Atlanta.

Jets 20, Falcons 3

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tuesday News and Notes

*With yesterday's release of OT Ryan McKee, the Jets are looking to fill up the roster spot with former USC runningback and current Dallas Cowboy practice squadder, Chauncey Washington. With Shonn Greene having now lost 3 fumbles in 71 attempts, the Jets may be looking to challenge Greene, telling him to hold onto the football, or his playing time is gone. Let's face it, as much as Danny Woodhead has become a factor on third downs, and on catching the ball out of the backfield, he's no threat to Greene's #2 RB status.

*Mark Sanchez will practice tomorrow. Rex Ryan has not named a starter, but Sanchez's imminent appearance tomorrow at practice bodes well for him playing. Expect him to be on the field starting against Atlanta barring any setbacks.

*There are rumors that Jets-Bengals will be the Sunday night game week number 17. If that's the case, and there's something on the line that game for the Jets, it will be an amazing atmosphere. If not, I shudder to think at how fans angry about PSL's might react.

*Kerry Rhodes is back on the Jets' good side. Rex Ryan called his play "tremendous" and "his best game since I've been here." Rhodes technically started as the Jets opened up in a three safety lineup, and he played 30 of the 56 plays defensively. The difference is that he made a nice interception late in the game. That's what he needs to keep doing: make plays. With Matt Ryan expected to play for the Falcons next week, and Peyton Manning (possibly) and Carson Palmer the next two weeks, he's going to have to keep making plays if the Jets are going to win out.

*I'll post the viewing schedule, probably on Friday, because exams are swallowing up all my free time right now. Thursday will be a huge day for the Jets, though, because Jacksonville must lose one more time for the Jets to pass them in the race for the #6 seed. They play host to undefeated Indianapolis on Thursday Night Football.

The Colts, by the way, are expected to play all their starters on Thursday. They say they're going to take it week-by-week, so who knows what they will be doing week 16 against the Jets. They have said many times that they don't care that much about 16-0, and they just want to be healthy for the playoffs. We'll see what that ends up meaning.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Jets' Defense Suffocates Bucs 26-3

The New York Jets came out and did exactly what they had to do, dominating the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26-3. The Bucs couldn't manage a 1st down the entire first half, and their only score came after a Bart Scott 15-yard penalty set up a 43-yard field goal.

Defensively, this was about as dominant a performance as it gets, which is exactly what you want to see from this defense against an offense with a bad offensive line, a rookie quarterback, and below average weapons. This is the type of effort they need to bring out every week the rest of the year in order to make the playoffs. The defense is certainly good enough to beat Atlanta, and it can give the Jets a very good chance against Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

Calvin Pace, Darrelle Revis, David Harris, and Scott were probably the best performers on the defensive side of the ball, and the defensive line, including Sione Pouha, deserves a lot of credit for holding the Bucs to 43 yards on 20 carries. Kerry Rhodes also added a late interception.

Josh Freeman was forced to make quick decisions all game long, and he wilted under the pressure, throwing three interceptions and finishing with under 100 yards passing and a quarterback rating of 12.1.

You can't expect the defense to force punts in four plays every single time out, like they almost did today, but they need to bring their A-game out all game. They've been able to do that in the last three games, and they must continue to do that in the next three games.

As for the offense, Kellen Clemens did very little, but he didn't lose the game, and that was fine for this game. He made some ugly passes, but none of them resulted in turnovers, and he did what the coaching staff wanted him to do. They knew pretty early in the game that they didn't need to do much offensively besides not lose the game, and that's essentially what they did.

The Jets ran the ball 39 times, with Clemens throwing the ball just 23 times. Brad Smith also threw the ball on a fake punt for 27 yards to safety Eric Smith. For much of the game, the Jets two leading receivers were Eric Smith and Danny Woodhead, who gets a bigger role every week.

Thomas Jones led the way with 99 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, including a 33-yard TD scamper to make the game 16-0, which was really all that was needed to have a cushion over this team.

Gang Green wanted to run the ball as much as possible, and Tampa Bay knew that, yet the Jets were still able to get 310 yards offensively. Not a big performance by any means but a safe one, and one that was able to score 26 points.

Next week won't be so easy, as the Jets will be playing a tougher Atlanta foe that challenged New Orleans today. The Falcons are playing for their playoff lives, so if Mark Sanchez is ready to go next week, it would be a huge help, especially since the Falcons are more vulnerable through the air.

As for the other games today, Carolina made New England sweat for four quarters, but the Patriots were victorious 20-10. New England must lose two of their last three (at BUF, JAC, at HOU) for the Jets to have any divisional hopes.

But the Jets received some good news from Florida as the Jaguars fell to the Dolphins 14-10. Now, the Jets are tied for the wild card lead, even though they lose the tiebreaker to all the teams they are tied with: Miami, Baltimore, and Jacksonville. The Ravens annihilated Detroit 48-3.

The other factor in the race is the Denver Broncos, who seemed to have a stranglehold on the first wild card spot. Their loss to Indianapolis today drops them to 8-4. Their last three games come against Oakland, Philadelphia, and Kansas City, with only the Eagles game being on the road. If they lose twice more, two wild card spots are available for the green and white. It's unlikely, but you never know with the Broncos.

As for the Jets, they had an efficient, dominant win, over a team that they should do that to. No one really got hurt, and there are no new issues to arise during the game, so all in all, a good week 14 for Gang Green.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

NFL Picks: Week 14

2-1 last week
20-19 overall

Miami +2 over Jacksonville
Miami's offense changed a lot last week with Chad Henne having to throw the ball 52 times. The fact that he could do that and beat the Patriots says something. Without Ronnie Brown, the Dolphins are playing a more conventional offense, and that's a good thing here. Jacksonville is porous against the pass, and while Miami would love to run the ball, Henne gives the Dolphins a bigger passing threat than they've had all year. I said earlier in the week Miami had a 40% chance of winning this game. But Mike Sims-Walker is doubtful for the Jaguars, who are an enigmatic team. Tony Sparano will get his defense to shut down Maurice Jones-Drew, and without Sims-Walker, the Jaguars don't have the playmakers to take advantage of the Dolphins weak secondary. I also like the under in this game (44).
Dolphins 20, Jaguars 17

Cincinnati +7 over Minnesota

The Bengals are back to being disrespected, and I don't trust Brett Favre in December. Some chinks started to show in the armor last week, and the Bengals' secondary might be able to get him to turn the ball over a couple times. Cincinnati wants to run the ball, and Minnesota has the Williams Wall up front, but they do lose MLB EJ Henderson. This Bengals team was able to run the ball on Baltimore and Pittsburgh when both were closer to the tops of their games. They're good enough to win this one, so it's hard to pass up 7 points.
Vikings 24, Bengals 20

Carolina +13.5 over New England
There are some questions about Tom Brady's health. He missed practice for the first time all year this week and he had to leave the game last week briefly after getting hit. Carolina has a good enough secondary to not let the Patriots' receivers kill them, and if Brady is off, they could make a few plays. The Panthers are vulnerable against the run, but even though Lawrence Maroney has played better this year, that still isn't the Patriots' strong suit. DeAngelo Williams is back for the Panthers, so Carolina will test the Patriots' run defense, which will be missing Adalius Thomas. Jake Delhomme won't be playing, but is that really a bad thing? Carolina probably won't win, but they can keep it close.
Patriots 24, Carolina 13

And in Jets news, they signed OT Ryan McKee from the practice squad to the active roster.

New York Jets at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Preview

New York Jets at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, December 13: CBS, 1:00.

The Jets’ playoff hopes seem to improve every day, especially with Pittsburgh free falling out of the race. Still, they probably need to win out to have a chance, and even then, they need help. It won’t help that Kellen Clemens has to start at quarterback for the injured Mark Sanchez. Clemens has been a disappointment thus far in his career, but against the 1-11 Bucs, the Jets will try to win the game by running the ball and playing good defense.

Injury Report

New York Jets:
OUT: QB Mark Sanchez (knee), CB Dwight Lowery (ankle), OG Robert Turner (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: OG Alan Faneca (illness), OT Wayne Hunter (illness)
PROBABLE: CB Marquice Cole (knee), DE Shaun Ellis (knee), S Jim Leonhard (thumb), LB Calvin Pace (shoulder), CB Donald Strickland (concussion)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
DOUBTFUL: DT Michael Bennett (toe), WR Michael Clayton (knee), CB Derrick Roberson (groin)
QUESTIOBABLE: LB Geno Hayes (hamstring), WR Sammie Stroughter (lower back), RB Carnell Williams (back)
PROBABLE: TE Kellen Winslow (knee)

When the Jets have the ball…

To Clemens’s credit, he is on a one game winning streak as a starter. He has tools to be an NFL quarterback, with a good arm and pretty good mobility, but he turns the ball over a little too much. This will be his first chance behind a legitimate offensive line, and he’s going against a bad defense, so there’s a chance Clemens looks good.

Tampa Bay is a team that had run their version of a zone defense for so long that it had become known as the Tampa 2. Now, they’re trying to become a more man-to-man defense, and the adjustment has not been smooth. They should get CB Aqib Talib back from a hamstring injury, which will help them, but he’s no Darrelle Revis.

Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery are certainly talented enough to exploit this secondary. It is worth noting Edwards has never practiced with Clemens, so Edwards’s drop problem could rear its ugly head. Despite that, there should be opportunities deep if the Jets do let Clemens throw down the field and if the receivers do come down with the football. Dustin Keller also could have a nice game if the Jets keep the reigns in on Clemens as they probably will.

More likely, the Jets will run the ball constantly. Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene should receive at least 35 carries between them if the game is going the way the Jets want it to. Tampa is horrible against the run, and the Jets are the best rushing offense in the NFL thus far this year. That’s a bad combination for Tampa Bay.

Look for the Jets to stick to an even more conservative gameplan than they had last week against Buffalo. It was painfully obvious the Jets were doing as much as they could to hide Clemens last week when he came in, and he still almost fumbled the ball away. He’ll have to do more this time around, but they can still hide him a good deal this week. Atlanta might be a different story next week.

If you want a preview of what this game might look like offensively, look at the Bucs’ game last week against Carolina. The Panthers, like the Jets, are run-dominant teams playing with their backup quarterback, Matt Moore. Moore went 14-20 for 161 yards, 0 TDs, and 1 INT. The Jets will take that if they can run the ball the way they think they can. Carolina rushed for 158 yards on 32 carries in their 16-6 win. The Jets might be able to do a little better than that and control time of possession.

Advantage: Jets

When the Buccaneers have the ball…

A week ago, this looked like it would be a matchup of two rookie quarterbacks. But Sanchez’s injury means that Jets fans will get to take a look at what might have happened if the team hadn’t traded up. Freeman had been playing well for a rookie until last week’s five interception effort against Carolina.

His top two weapons are TE Kellen Winslow and WR Antonio Bryant. Revis will probably face Bryant most of the night. Bryant had 1,248 yards last year, and while he will fall well short of that this season, he does have 207 yards in his last two games. Winslow fits the tight end security blanket for a rookie quarterback role very well, with 633 yards receiving and a team-high five touchdowns. Only three teams allow less yards to opposing tight ends than New York, so on paper.

Also, Lito Sheppard, the Jets #2 cornerback, is said to be back at full strength as well, so hopefully teams won’t be able to pick on him as often. On paper, the feeble Buccaneer passing offense is a great matchup for the Jets, who will probably blitz like crazy at the rookie quarterback and see how he deals with it.

The Bucs are also facing a couple of late week back injuries to offensive weapons WR Sammie Stroughter and RB Cadillac Williams, both listed as questionable. Stroughter is the team’s 3rd leading receiver and main return man, while Williams is the Bucs’ leading rusher. If he can’t go, former Giant (and Jet) Derrick Ward will get a bigger workload.

The Jets’ defense has been more susceptible to opposing running games, but the Bucs have struggled on the ground all year. Ward averages just 3.6 yards-per-carry, and Williams isn’t much better at 4.0.

On paper, this looks like an utter mismatch, with Rex Ryan’s blitzing defense going against a rookie who doesn’t have enough weapons to take advantage. Freeman has played well for a rookie, but he’s coming off his worst game. The running game simply lacks the play in the trenches and the talent at runningback to put up more than 20 against this defense, unless they completely lay an egg.

Advantage: Jets


It’s gut-check time for this defense. With Kellen Clemens in the game instead of Mark Sanchez, it’s up to the defense to kill any hope Tampa bay has of an upset. Even if Clemens self-destructs, the running game and defense need to pick him up. This is a must-win game against a one-win team. There is no excuse for a loss. A close game is fine: the Jets are only 3-3.5 point favorites depending on where you look, and the offense won’t put up a lot of points. But the defense just can’t allow the Bucs to score more points, and I think they will.

Jets 23, Bucs 13

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Angry Kerry Rhodes Yells at Coach in Practice

According to Rich Cimini of the Daily News, the Kerry Rhodes saga has taken a new turn.

Rhodes, who apparently has regained his starting job after two games coming off the bench, admitted to reporters today that he yelled at secondary coach Dennis Thurman in practice. Clearly, Rhodes, who initially was miffed by the demotion, is irked by the uncertainty surrounding his role.

Rex Ryan is playing it coy, refusing to say that Rhodes has regained his starting job. But Rhodes is saying he has been told he'll be back with the starters. But, in practice, he apparently has been rotating with Eric Smith, leading to today's heated moment.

If you remember last week, Rhodes said that he would get his job back if he did just one thing: have a sit-down with defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman. That happened last Tuesday, and Rhodes played a lot on Thursday in the base defense, as early as the 2nd quarter, giving the appearance he had his job back.

But practice apparently was a pretty even split between he and Eric Smith, leading to Rhodes's pouting. So is he the starter? And does it really matter?

"Go ahead and name him the starter, if you want. I don't care," Rex Ryan seethed yesterday. "...We should be more concerned with the team than the individual. The guy who runs out there, he's starting. If Kerry feels better about him, I'll start him. If he'll feel better about it, go ahead, run out there, you're starting. Take Marques Douglas with you. I don't care. We're going to play. All our guys play, okay?"

Ryan is sick of talking about his unhappy safety. So what are Rhodes's thoughts on his head coach now?

"Hmm, let's see how I can characterize it," he said, followed by a pause. "I still like Rex. Yeah, I still like Rex."

The pause says a lot. Earlier on in the year, he never would have said anything. Then again, early on in the year, people expected him to make plays. His inability to do that led to his benching.

But let's not throw Rhodes's play completely under the bus. While he wasn't forcing turnovers early in the season, he was still showing good range, defending passes, and making tackles. Right before the Dolphins scored the GW TD with Brown in the MNF game, it was Rhodes making a great tackle in the backfield to keep the Jets alive.

The problem is that Rhodes makes $33.5 million dollars: money that a Pro Bowl-caliber safety should make. And he simply hasn't played that way this year, or even last year. Not to mention, you could make the case he's been the third best safety on the team this year. He's certainly the 3rd best hitter, behind his replacement Eric Smith and Jim Leonhard.

Smith is a good player who the Jets want to get on the field, which is part of the reason playing Rhodes more is a problem. The Jets owe Rhodes a lot of money, so they want to get as much back from that investment as possible. But he has to produce, and until that happens, this soap opera won't end until he's a goner.

By the way, here's Rhodes's response to the story, direct from Twitter.

"Wow NY is off da chain! I had a talk with my DB coach now its an altercation!! Lol wat else?"

Thursday News and Notes: Izzo to IR

*LB Larry Izzo has been placed on injured reserve, and they have signed rookies LB Josh Mauga (Nevada) and C Michael Parenton (Tulane) to the practice squad. Both had stints on the team in training camp.

Mauga seems like an interesting prospect. He was brought in during camp on August 16 and was waived/injured on August 28. He was a team captain at Nevada as a junior and was productive when he was on the field. Unfortunately, he's had a lot of injury problems in college, and his first Jets tenure earlier this year was ended with an injury. He's 6-2, 245, so he has size for the 3-4 ILB position that he'd likely be playing if he ever made the team.

Update (3:50):
DL Antonio Garay was claimed off the Jets' practice squad by San Diego, so that's where one of the practice squad vacancies came from.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Clemens Starting Sunday over Sanchez

Right after I posted that Mark Sanchez did not practice this afternoon, Rex Ryan declared that Kellen Clemens will be the starting quarterback Sunday against Tampa Bay. Sanchez has a strained PCL in his knee, and could not practice this week. Mark Sanchez said in his press conference that he was not happy about not playing. He will not practice tomorrow. The rookie asked Rex Ryan, but he vetoed it, saying that if he was out there tomorrow, he knew he'd be out there on Sunday, so he's holding him out.

There's not much reason to have faith in Kellen Clemens, but if the Jets can play defense and run the football, that should be enough to beat Tampa. Clemens hopefully will get a slightly longer leash than he had last week, when it was clear his job was simply not to make a turnover. Of course, Ryan and Brian Schottenheimer will still hammer into his head all week that turnovers are unacceptable, but they have to give him a chance to play the position.

Sanchez Doesn't Practice Wednesday

Wednesdays are usually the main day for teams to implement their gameplan, so the fact that QB Mark Sanchez was not out on the field does not bode well for his chances to play this Sunday. He was spotted on the stationary bike not dressed for practice.

Sanchez already has a brace on his left knee since college. If he were to somehow play Sunday, he would have to put one on his right knee as well. But he hasn't been participating in practice thus far this week, so it's looking less and less likely.

Even though Sanchez needs experience, and the Jets are in the thick of the playoff chase, if Sanchez is risking any serious complications, he should not play on Sunday. Fellow rookie QB Matthew Stafford impressed fans with his toughness, playing on Thanksgiving with a separated shoulder, but knee injuries are tricky, and while right now the prognosis is positive, one bad hit, and Sanchez could be out 10 months.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Week 14 Viewing Schedule

As a Jets fan, last week went very, very well in terms of the Wild Card spot. Both Baltimore and Pittsburgh lost, bringing both teams back to 6-6, and now, there is a very realistic shot that IF the Jets win out, they will make the playoffs.

AFC East Leader
New England (7-5, 5-4, in conference, 3-2 in division) (CAR, at BUF, JAX, at HOU)

The Wild Card Leaders
Denver (8-4, 6-3 in conference) (at IND, OAK, at PHI, KC)
Jacksonville (7-5, 6-2) (MIA, IND, at NE, at CLE)

Baltimore (6-6, 6-4) (DET, CHI, at PIT, at OAK)
Miami (6-6, 4-4, 4-2 division) (at JAX, at TEN, HOU, PIT)
New York Jets (6-6, 5-5) (at TB, ATL, at IND, CIN)
Pittsburgh (6-6, 4-5) (at CLE, GB, BAL, at MIA)

Houston (5-7, 4-6) (SEA, at STL, at MIA, NE)
Tennessee (5-7, 3-7) (STL, MIA, SD, at SEA)

At this point, you can pretty much toss out the longshots. There may be an AFC Wild Card team that comes in at 9-7, but chances are, it would be Baltimore, Miami, or Jacksonville. Those are the only contenders besides Denver that have less than 5 losses in conference. The Jets and Steelers need to win out to get in probably, and it's hard to see Houston or Tennessee finding any way to get in given the number of teams in front of them.

However, for the Jets, there may be a 2nd option to get into the playoffs. With Miami's win last Sunday over New England, the Jets are just a game out of the division. They will likely lose the tiebreaker with either Miami or New England, unless the Patriots lose to the Bills, in which case it gets complicated. So the simplest way to get in is for the Jets to win out, the Patriots to lose at least twice, and the Dolphins to lose at least once. New England does have a matchup with Jacksonville in week 16 which will have huge implications on the playoff chase.

Obviously, beating Tampa Bay is priority #1, and then beating Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati are numbers 2, 3, and 4, but assuming the Jets somehow get that done, let's take a look at the AFC playoff picture, game-by-game, in order of importance for the Jets. Root for the italicized teams.

Carolina at New England
Odds: 15%

Those of you hoping to win the division might need to wait another week for the first Patriot loss. They need to lose twice, but it probably won't happen here. Carolina should be able to slow the Patriots' passing game, but New England should be able to establish the run and get their defense back on track against an offense missing its starting quarterback and star runningback.

Miami at Jacksonville
Odds: 40%
Yes, I'm telling Jets fans to root for the Dolphins this week. When all is said and done, both teams will have to lose, but if the Dolphins can steal one here, the Jaguars need to lose just one more game the rest of the year for the Jets to pass them, and remember, they do play New England week 16, so one of those teams is guaranteed to lose. But it's vital for Jacksonville to drop a game as soon as possible. It's much easier to ask two teams to lose once than one team to lose twice.

Denver at Indianapolis
Odds: 70%

The Colts aren't resting starters just yet, but the chinks are starting to arise in the armor. Granted, 30% is a little high for a team to win on the road against a team that has won 21 consecutive regular season games, but the Broncos have the defense and running game to play with the Colts, and possible even win. It won't be easy, and even if the Broncos lose here, they still have to drop at least one more, but it's a start.

Detroit at Baltimore
Odds: 10%

The Ravens are struggling, but the Lions are the Lions. Calvin Johnson might be able to make a few big plays to keep the Lions in the game, but in the end of the day, the Ravens are the much better team, and they're playing at home. Baltimore's loss Monday night was huge. Don't get too greedy. But if you want to have some hope, remember Oakland beat Pittsburgh in Heinz Field last week. Upsets aren't impossible.

Pittsburgh at Cleveland
Odds: 15%

Like I said, upsets aren't impossible. Then again, in this rivalry, it seems that way. The Browns have lost 12 straight in this series, and this might be the worst team they've had since their last win all the way back in 2003. However, Brady Quinn has 7 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last 3 games. Could it continue against Pittsburgh? Bruce Gradkowski says yes. This game is on Thursday night, so if you have NFL Network, root for Eric Mangini's bunch.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Week 13 NFL Picks

Well, last week was ugly. 0-3 last week, and I'm now 18-18 overall this year. I've been over .500 all year long, and I don't plan on stopping now. I really like these three picks this week, so I'd be surprised if I went any less than 2-1.

Washington +10.5 over New Orleans
The Saints are coming off a high. They looked amazing on Monday night in one of the biggest games in the history of their franchise. Meanwhile, Washington's season has long been over. However, the Redskins would love nothing more than to ruin the Saints season. They have the defense to seriously slow down the Saints, and they might be able to force Drew Brees into a few turnovers and keep it close. They've played more spirited of late, and expect the Saints to start flat in the game like they were doing in October before picking it up and winning late.
Saints 24, Redskins 17

St. Louis +9.5 over Chicago

I hate picking the Rams, but they've been playing pretty hard lately behind Steven Jackson. The Bears should not be giving that many points to anyone the way their defense is playing. This is one of the few opponents the Rams can score against, and OJ Otogwe and the defense could force Jay Cutler into a couple mistakes. This is a play against Chicago more than for St. Louis, but I could see an upset here.
Rams 24, Bears 20

Tennessee +6.5 over Indianapolis

If you look at these teams just based on the last 5 games, you could make the case the Titans have been better than the Colts. Tennessee is in must-win mode every week, while Indianapolis can afford a let-down. If the Colts have a weakness, it's run defense, and Chris Johnson can run better than anybody. Vince Young can make some plays that Kerry Collins couldn't. I worry about the Titans' secondary, but they should stop the run, and if they don't let Peyton Manning explode, they could win, or at least force another Manning 4th quarter comeback.
Titans 31, Colts 27

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sanchez has a PCL Sprain

Multiple sources are reporting that Mark Sanchez's injury is a right PCL sprain. The extra rest after a Thursday game will give the injury more time to heal and give Sanchez more time to deal with the pain, but it's still uncertain if he will be able to play against Tampa Bay next Sunday.

He injured his knee in the 3rd quarter when he dove to pick up a first down on 3rd and 8. You probably heard that Joe Girardi was in to teach Sanchez how to slide. Apparently, he forgot (though the dive was enough to pick up the 1st down).

According to Football Outsiders, Chris Simms is the last quarterback to deal with just a sprained PCL, and he missed 3 games. Other places are reporting that Sanchez might be able to play with the pain next Sunday.

With the Jets needing to win out to possibly reach the playoffs, the Sanchez injury puts a huge wrench in those plans, as Kellen Clemens probably is not leading the Jets anywhere. Still, it might behoove the team to give Sanchez a week off against Tampa Bay to give him an extra week to heal. The defensive and running game should be enough to beat the Bucs, but beyond that, no.

It's going to be a tough decision because Sanchez lacks experience, both in college and the NFL. Even if these games probably won't mean much, they would be valuable games for a rookie quarterback to get under his belt, so it is just an unfortunate injury. More news when it comes in.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Jets vs Bills In-Game Thoughts

1st Quarter
This is shaping up to be just another Jets-Bills game. The Jets are outplaying the Bills, but they've left two, maybe three touchdowns on the table. Mark Sanchez missed an open Jerricho Cotchery in the endzone. Braylon Edwards dropped a perfectly thrown deep ball down the sideline that would have likely been a touchdown. And Lito Sheppard had a potential pick six slip through his hands. 3-3 isn't the worst result, but the Jets are the gang that can't shoot straight offensively.

The Jets took the lead 16-10 on a strong effort play by Braylon Edwards getting into the endzone. Still, you can add David Clowney's name to the Jets who have left touchdowns on the board, as Clowney dropped a pass in the endzone when he hit the ground, forcing the Jets to kick a field goal.

4 up
Mark Sanchez's numbers aren't that pretty, but he has played well in the early going. He easily could have three touchdowns. He's been throwing the ball down the field against a defense that harassed him into five interceptions last time.

Thomas Jones and company have run the ball very well the entire game so far. Jones has 58 yards on 10 carries, Shonn Greene has 31 yards on 4 carries, and Brad Smith and Tony Richardson have 19 and 17 yards on their 2 carries. All in all, the Jets could run for 600 yards against the Bills this year in two games.

The Jets' defense and special teams are knocking the ball out. They haven't intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick yet, but they've forced two fumbles and almost a third.

Terrell who? Darrelle Revis seems to be taking another victim. Watching Revis play is an absolute treat. He has 2 passes defensed, 2 tackles, and an assist. He might not win defensive player of the year, but I defy you to name a defender playing better than #24.

2 down
Kerry Rhodes: are you serious with that alligator arm hit? On Marshawn Lynch's long run, he had such a half-hearted attempt to knock him down that I would have no problem if this were his last year with the Jets.

Edwards made a few nice plays, but it's hard to make up for the potential 84-yard touchdown pass he left on the table. That was an on-the-money throw. Seeing that play is the happiest Browns fans have probably been in a month.

3rd Quarter
No points, but the Jets should be lining up for a field goal on the first play of the 4th quarter to make it 19-10. As it is, the Jets lead 16-10 after 3 quarters. But the big story is Mark Sanchez, who has left the game with an injured right knee. He dove to pick up a first down and may have fallen down awkwardly on his knee because the next play, he limped off. His return is officially questionable. He had x-rays taken. He's now being fitted with a brace and might come back. On the field, the defense and special teams haven't let the Bills' offense do much, Terrell Owens dropped a 3rd down pass, and the offense has been able to run the ball well enough to keep the ball out of the Bills' hands.

Field goal is good. 19-10 Jets.

4th Quarter
19-13 is your final in Toronto, as Darrelle Revis caps off a terrific defensive game with an interception on the Bills' final offensive play. The Jets ran all over the Bills again, and the quarterback play didn't blow it (despite Kellen Clemens's best effort).

Good win by the Jets. Back to .500. Now the focus turns to how Mark Sanchez is feeling. He has an extra few days to get healthy before the Tampa game. They might be able to beat the Bucs with a backup quarterback (stress: might), but Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati won't be so easy.

Jets Sign TE Matthew Mulligan

With a free roster spot after last Saturday's release of Justin Miller,and Mr. "#75 had reported eligible" Robert Turner injured and out for the Bills game, the Jets had a free roster spot and no third tight end. To fill that roster spot, the Jets signed TE Matthew Mulligan from the practice squad.

Mulligan (6'4, 270) may or may not play tomorrow against Buffalo, but with the Jets only playing with two tight ends anyway - James Dearth doesn't count - it makes a lot of sense to call him up. Turner's injury might cause Mulligan to play right away. After all, the 24-year old has been learning the system since September 6th, when they initially claimed him off waivers from Tennessee.

It could also be a bad sign for blocking TE Ben Hartsock. His penalties got him called out by Rex Ryan a few weeks ago, and what good is a blocking tight end if he costs the team yards in penalties? He's been cleaner in recent weeks, but this has to push him even more.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jets at Bills Preview

New York Jets (5-6) at Buffalo Bills (4-7)
Thursday, December 3, 2009.
Rogers Centre, Toronto, CA, 8:20 PM – NFLN

The Jets finally got off the skids last week with a 17-6 win over the Panthers. They were able to smother a struggling quarterback, get ahead early, and hide their quarterback from making mistakes. This week, they will try to do the same thing against a Bills team that intercepted Mark Sanchez five times in their first matchup. Buffalo is coming off its most impressive game in a while, a 31-14 victory over Miami. While their playoff hopes are likely over with 7 losses, they would like to keep the good feelings going under new coach Perry Fewell and get out of the AFC East cellar.

When the Jets have the ball…

Just like Carolina, the Buffalo defense can be run against but is pretty stout against the pass. In the first matchup between these two teams, the Jets threw too much, and Sanchez killed them. How else can you explain running for 318 yards as a team and losing? Sanchez was 10-29 for 119 yards and 5 interceptions. It’s safe to say that can’t happen again.

And it’s largely Brian Schottenheimer’s responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen. Rex Ryan took a bigger role in the offense last week, giving Sanchez a system on how aggressive to be on a particular play, a red light - yellow light – green light type of system. If everything goes to plan, Sanchez will rarely get a green light to be too aggressive.

The Bills are dead last in the NFL at stopping the run, so if the Jets do anything other than pound the football, Schottenheimer should be fired. Run, run, and run some more. Give Jones the ball, give Shonn Greene the ball, and only throw the ball sparingly. The Jets have the advantage in the front seven, and they should take advantage of that.

When the Jets do throw the ball, they should be conservative. Take a shot or two deep with Edwards or Cotchery from time to time, but make sure it is deep, and that an interception isn’t that painful with field position. That’s part of the reason that the Jets’ defense held up in the first game: the interceptions didn’t give the Jets that great field position. Dustin Keller should be the recipient of a number of shorter, chains-moving receptions.

The Bills have been good against opposing teams at slowing down passing games, so if the Jets are smart, they run all the time. If Sanchez controls the football, and he’ll probably be extra careful this week, the Jets should be able to run the ball between the twenties and give themselves enough opportunities to score.

Edge: Jets

When the Bills have the ball…

Ryan Fitzpatrick has outplayed Trent Edwards since taking over the starting job, and Buffalo has actually thrown the football down the field a bit and taken advantage of their strengths more with him at quarterback and Fewell as head coach. An offense with Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson, Lee Evans, and Terrell Owens shouldn’t be as bad as it was earlier this year.

One thing Fewell has done is play Fred Jackson more at runningback. He’s been more productive than Lynch when given playing time, and unlike Dick Jauron, he will give him every chance to be a bigtime back. He’s a versatile back who can run inside and outside and also catch the ball, and the Jets will focus on him and Lynch.

The Jets’ secondary has made headlines recently, whether they are lauding Darrelle Revis’s play or wondering what’s wrong with Kerry Rhodes. Revis will likely see a lot of Terrell Owens, and like he has done with good receivers all year, he will shut Owens down. Rhodes won’t start, but he will play more, and he will be a key playmaker, since the Jets may struggle covering Lee Evans with the likes of Drew Coleman.

The Jets’ defense played very well last week against Carolina, and they are allowing just 12.3 points-per-game, excluding touchdowns given up on offense and special teams. They only allowed 16 points to Buffalo in 4.5 quarters with a self-destructin quarterback. Buffalo is playing better, but Fitzpatrick is a JAG quarterback, and the Jets should be able to hold the Bills down enough.

Edge: Jets

Special Teams

The Jets’ special teams are merely average without Leon Washington returning kicks. Jay Feely is an accurate kicker from close, and Steve Weatherford has been decent. The Bills’ Rian Lindell has a big leg and has hit 85% of his kicks this year, while Brian Moorman is having another fine year. He possesses rare athleticism for a punter, so he could be a threat for a fake at any time. The Bills have had a returner by committee returning kicks. Fred Jackson had been receiving the bulk of the work, but with his expanded role in the offense, he might not be back there anymore.

Edge: Push


Both teams played more spirited football a week ago in getting important wins. Something has to give this week, and unless Mark Sanchez gives the game away, it’s probably Buffalo. Playing in Toronto, Canada hurts Buffalo’s home field advantage, and the Jets seem to have finally figured out that they need to pound the football and hide their quarterback to win. The Bills don’t have a ton of firepower offensively with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, but they will probably linger around. In the end, the Jets’ defense should be enough to hold the Bills down and come away with revenge.

Jets 19, Bills 9

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Jets Bring in Girardi to Teach Sanchez Sliding

One of the forgotten parts of Sunday's win over Carolina is the scare that Mark Sanchez gave all Jets fans when he hurt his knee being tackled on a QB scramble. Cimini of the Daily News said he had a slight limp in practice, but he will play Thursday night against Buffalo.

However, Rex Ryan has seen enough. You have to give him credit. When Sanchez was turning the ball over too much, he took a bigger role with the offense. Now, he's taking a bigger roll in teaching Sanchez how to get down and stay healthy. The Jets can't afford to get their franchise quarterback injured, so they brought in someone who knows how to slide, and can help teach their young QB.

So they looked to the New York Yankees for help. The Yankees sent none other than manager Joe Girardi (who had a memorable slide in the 1996 World Series) to Florham Park to teach Sanchez how to slide. He took about 10-15 reps on a mat on his right knee. As you may recall, it was his left knee that was banged up Sunday.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Jets' Playoff Picture: Week 13

Even though week 12 is over, with the Jets winning last week, I'm finally willing to talk about the playoff picture. I was waiting for the team to win first, and it took them a while, but after beating Carolina, the Jets are just a game back of a Wild Card spot. The tiebreaker situation is complicated, and the race is completely muddled right now, but let's take a look at things.

The leaders
Denver: 7-4 (5-3 conference)
Jacksonville: 6-5 (5-2)

The main contenders
Baltimore: 6-5 (6-4)
Pittsburgh: 6-5 (4-4)

Still kicking
Miami: 5-6, (3-4)
NY Jets: 5-6 (4-5)
Houston: 5-6 (4-5)
Tennessee: 5-6 (3-6)

Here's the games these teams will play this coming Sunday. All of these hypotheticals are if the Jets win on Thursday because if they don't, they're done. Still, there are a lot of tight games this week that wild card contenders could easily lose. A week or two from now, the Jets could actually be looking a whole lot better, until the at Indy-vs Cincy gauntlet to end the season.

Denver at Kansas City
Kansas City is not the ideal team you want to be rooting for, but they did beat the Steelers, and stranger things have happened at Arrowhead in division rivalries. Denver's schedule the rest of the way looks easy, so if they fall, they have to lose a game they shouldn't.

Houston at Jacksonville
This is a big one. Root for Houston. If they win, both teams would be tied with the Jets. Gang Green owns the tiebreaker over Houston, but not Jacksonville. The Jaguars might not be taken seriously by a lot of the NFL, and 20-3 losses to San Francisco won't help, but they're still above .500, and that means they need to start losing!

Baltimore at Green Bay
This is even bigger. Baltimore and Pittsburgh play one more time the rest of the year, in Pittsburgh in week 16. Other than that, both team's schedules are pretty easy, except for matchups against Green Bay. Pittsburgh plays them at home, but the Ravens need to travel to Lambeau. Baltimore wins, and they probably become the favorites to win the 2nd wild card spot behind Denver.

Oakland at Pittsburgh
Ugh. You have to root for the Raiders. Still, before you abandon all hope of an upset, remember that the Raiders have been able to pressure the opposing quarterback at times, and they did beat Cincinatti (who swept Pittsburgh) and Philadelphia. This time, they're on the road. On the bright side, Dennis Dixon might be starting again for Ben Roethlisberger, so if that is the case, the Raiders may have a long shot.

New England at Miami

It's best to root for the Patriots. The Dolphins own the tiebreaker over the Jets, so it would help to get them out of the way. Even if New England loses to New Orleans, the division is a pipe dream at this point, so hope the Patriots can knock down the Dolphins. Miami plays Jacksonville, Tennessee, Houston, and Pittsburgh the next four weeks, so if the Dolphins lose to New England, you'll probably be rooting for them to win three of the next four, as unappealing as that sounds.

Tennessee at Indianapolis
Root for Indy big. If the Titans win this one, they deserve to be taken very seriously to win their last four. If not, they have 7 conference losses, and you can stick a fork in them.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jets Finally Get a Win: Sedate Panthers 17-6

It's about time!

The defense showed up and played like they've been supposed to all year, and the offense played well enough to win. Sure, it wasn't the prettiest win, but who cares at this point? They needed a win, and they got it, and it was pretty convincing. They aren't back in the playoff picture, but one game wasn't going to do that. They probably need to win the next five as well and get some help, but either way, if the Jets can play well down the stretch, they can see a glimpse of what they can be next year with a year more experienced quarterback, and hopefully gain some more confidence.

*What can you say about Darrelle Revis? The guy is simply the best cornerback in the NFL. He had two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown on a fluky play where the ball was deflected to him off Steve Smith's foot. Smith was a non-factor all game long. Yes, he was hurt, but this was almost all Revis. He also had a QB pressure on one of Kerry Rhodes's picks, and he made a nice tackle on DeAngelo Williams near the sideline. What a player.

*Rhodes wishes (and might think) he is as good as Revis, but he certainly hadn't proven it thus far, leading to Rex Ryan to bench him in favor of harder hitting Eric Smith. Smith played well enough to probably earn himself another start, but Rhodes came up with two interceptions, and definitely will stay a key part of the defensive rotation. He needs to make more impact plays like that in the future, but it's always good seeing "Hollywood" living up to his reputation on the field.

*Mark Sanchez did a good job, only turning the ball over once. His one interception came when he barely underthrew Braylon Edwards. Chris Gamble had decent coverage underneath, but if Sanchez leads Edwards, he has a big gain. Overall, however, he did a good job managing the game. The Jets didn't ask him to do much, but he made plays when he needed to, and did everything the Jets asked of him.

*The Jets continue to shoot themselves in the foot with stupid turnovers. This time, it wasn't Sanchez, but Dustin Keller and Shonn Greene. Keller fumbled stretching for the goalline in the 3rd quarter. If he just goes down, the Jets have 1st and goal from the 1 and probably ice the game at 21-3, but that fumble gave the Panthers some life. Greene's fumble wasn't as costly as the one he had against Miami at home, but it still ended a drive the Jets were likely going to at least kick a field goal on. They need to play smarter.

*Shaun Ellis was an animal on the defensive line, making a number of plays. He's a bit underappreciated as far as Jets go, but games like this remind you of how valuable he is to this team. He was a key factor why DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart had very few running lanes, other than the two 3rd and longs Williams converted on the first drive of the game.

*Kudos to Brian Schottenheimer. He didn't get cute and try to throw on the Panthers, who have a decent secondary. He ran and ran and ran some more, and most impressively, he stuck with it when it wasn't working. He followed the offensive recipe to beat the Panthers. The defense gave him a lead, and he was able to play a ball-control offense, not putting his offense at risk of too many turnovers. You can't predict fumbles.

Next up is Buffalo on Thursday up in Toronto. The Bills beat the Dolphins 31-14, putting the Jets and Dolphins into a tie at 5-6 with the Bills a game behind. The Jets surely want revenge for the Bills' victory in Giants Stadium earlier this year, and hopefully Mark Sanchez throws less than five interceptions.