Monday, January 4, 2010

The Jets are Going to the Playoffs!

After a crazy season full of twists and turns, the Jets had a chance to win their last game on Sunday Night Football and get into the playoffs against their would-be first-round opponent in the Cincinnati Bengals, and did they put on a show or what?

The Jets slaughtered the Bengals 37-0, running for 257 yards and showing early and often that they weren't going to let this game get away like so many others this season. But while the running game led by Brad Smith gave the Jets some offensive punch, the defense stole the show.

Zero is a great number for a defense, and the Jets put up an astounding number of them last night.

*Zero net passing yards from the Bengals
*Zero passing yards from Carson Palmer on 11 throws
*Zero receptions from the chatty Chad Ochocinco in a half of play. 

But most importantly, Zero points allowed by this defense. Sure, the Bengals were missing a few starters and playing vanilla, but for a half of football, this is still Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles, and Andre Caldwell, the bulk of the Bengals' passing game. They did miss Cedric Benson, as well as their starting tight end. But the bulk of the offense played, and they couldn't do a thing against the top ranked Jets' defense.

Those of you who wondered if the Jets would remain the league's best defense in yards, passing yards, and points got your answer Sunday. They forced three turnovers, one against Palmer on an interception by Dwight Lowery near the end of the first half, and two on strip sacks of J.T. O'Sullivan.

The resounding victory sets up a rematch between the two squads Saturday at 4:30 PM. It will be the first game of the playoffs, so it will be a shorter week to wait in anticipation of New York's first playoff game in three years.

What can we take out of this game as far as how the teams match up with each other? It's a little hard to make definitive judgments. Cincinnati had every reason to play close to the vest, and they showed it by pulling their starters in the 3rd quarter. The Jets were clearly the motivated team, and they had a loud crowd to back it up.

Expecting a pounding like this again in Paul Brown Stadium is naive, but there are many reasons to be excited.

Gang Green led 27-0 at halftime, so critics can't even say the Jets pulled away against Cincinnati's backups. The Bengals' starting offense couldn't manage a single first down in the first half on their own. The Jets' pass defense matched up well on paper with the Bengals and it showed. Lock up Darrelle Revis on Chad Ochocinco, and make Laveranues Coles and Andre Caldwell beat you. And While both are adequate receivers, Dwight Lowery and Lito Sheppard are good enough to cover them. New York has proven time and time again how good its pass defense is, but this 37-0 game topped them all.

Offensively, there are still problems for the Jets. Against Cincinnati, they might be able to win by simply grinding out the football, running the ball with Thomas Jones, Shonn Greene, and Brad Smith behind a top-notch offensive line as they did. But at some point, they will need a passing game, and while Mark Sanchez did what was asked of him by not turning the ball over, the Jets do need to make plays in the passing game in case the defense isn't perfect and just to open up the running game. Still, Sanchez wasn't helped by Braylon Edwards missing a pass just short of the endzone that would have made his day look much better.

The Bengals were missing a few starters on defense, and the Jets figured they could win this game on the ground. Next week, it should be a little slower going, but the direct snap to Smith seemed very effective in this one. The Bengals will study it more, but they still have to tackle him, and the Jets still have yet to employ Smith's ability to throw the ball. That could be another wrinkle next week, which will be a struggle to score points on both sides of the ball.

But in the meantime, it's a day to enjoy the win, and enjoy the fact that the New York Jets were able to send out Giants Stadium in style, something their co-tenants can't claim. The Jets are going to the playoffs, and don't listen to the Mike Francesas of the world who say the Jets don't belong. They won the games they needed to win, and now they are in the playoffs. Sure, the Jets got lucky, and without the Colts laying down, there's a good chance the mood is quite different right now, but the Jets don't owe anything to anybody, and with the #1 ranked defense in the NFL, they can play with anybody in the NFL.