2011 Predictions Continued …and the winner of the AFC is…??

On the heels of a great Packers win over New Orleans 42-34, we are about to talk about the other conference?? Yes we are!! We did the NFC side of the ledger already and it’s time to pack what we’ve studied and written about throughout this tense summer. Last year, our crystal ball was a bit hazy but we became undone by a couple of upsets. We had the Baltimore Ravens facing the New England Patriots last summer but they each were knocked off in the divisional round before the championship game. Alright…we have some new D Cell batteries (do they still make those?) for my crystal ball and we’re going in. Who will win the prestigious Lamar S Hunt trophy and represent the AFC in Super Bowl XVLI??

Our choices to make the AFC Championship race are as follows:

1. New York – AFC East Champs w/ homefield advantage throughout playoffs.

2. Kansas City Chiefs – AFC West Champs w/second seed in the playoffs. If the Jets stumble in the divisional round, Chiefs would host the AFC Championship Game.

3. Baltimore Ravens – AFC North Champs. Will participate in the wildcard round and can only host the AFC Championship if #3 seed and lower meet. Will host the 6th seed wildcard weekend.

4. Houston Texans – AFC South Champs. Will participate in the wildcard round and can only host the AFC Championship if # 4 seed and lower meet. Will host the 5th seed wildcard weekend.

5. New England Patriots – The top record of  non divisional winners and will face the 4th seeded team on the road during Wildcard weekend. Could only host the AFC Championship if #5 and #6 teams were to meet. (Has never happened)

6. San Diego Chargers – The second best record of non divisional winners and will face the #3 seeded team on the road during Wildcard weekend. Cannot host playoff game no matter what.

The regular season is over and the vanquished turn their attention toward the draft and other improvement methods, the big boys of the conference decide it’s championship. Wildcard weekend would have the brakes halt the Charger season in Baltimore. The Ravens battle hardened group would stifle Phillip Rivers and Ryan Matthews in the cold of the Northeast. This would bring about the end of the Chargers season and quite possible the tenure of San Diego coach Norv Turner. The Patriots would be down in Houston to take on the upstart Texans.  Tom Brady would be too much for the young Texans and would win a shootout. It would be the second time Brady had it out in that stadium having won Super Bowl XXXVIII over Carolina there.

Having gone the wildcard route two times before, they proved themselves formidable by making the AFC Championship twice. For the first time ever the Jets would be enjoying home field advantage. With two weeks off before the divisional tilt, the team would finally come into the playoffs healthy. A raucous Meadowlands crowd and a fierce defense greet Tom Brady and the Patriots offense and dominate from the start. In a game that would mimic their 2010 playoff outing, stellar play by the Jets corners on the slow Patriot receivers. That crowd and that defense at home would be enough to slow Brady down, however Mark Sanchez would have his best playoff  game to date and the Jets pull away in a strong win 30-17.  Plaxico Burress would be the receiver the Patriots would have a hard time stopping.

In the other divisional round the Chiefs would host the Baltimore Ravens for the second straight year. With four former head coaches amongst their staff, Kansas City would be well schooled with what to do.   This time the Chiefs come into the game with Jonathon Baldwin and Steve Breaston to go with Dewayne Bowe to give KC three big receivers. This game would be hard hitting like the 2010 playoff game but the Chiefs were taught by these same Ravens, the difference between regular season and playoff intensity. So they would pay them back in kind, hit for hit. The running attack of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones would be solid enough. The Ravens secondary would not holdup as Matt Cassel would pass the Chiefs to a solid win 31-14 win. The underrated Chiefs defense would get to Joe Flacco with Tamba Hali and pass rush specialist Allen Bailey, the physical specimen drafted out of Miami.

The race for the Lamar S Hunt trophy, emblematic of achievment in the American Football Conference, would come down to these two old AFL antagonists.  The New York Jets would represent the AFC in Super Bowl XVLI after a 24-14 win in the chilly confines of the Meadowlands which would send them off in a ticker tape style similar to when the Giants beat the Redskins in 1986. Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez come through.

 

 

 

 

 

2011 New York Jets Preview

Twice to the AFC Championship Game and vanquished one game away from the Super Bowl.  Do they go the way of the 70s Houston Oilers or 80s Cleveland Browns who made it to the pinnacle of the conference only to fall back into obscurity. Or fulfill their promise like the ’94 49ers, after losses in ’92 & 93, then advance to a Super Bowl win?  Time will tell but as we go to press today, the Jets have released center turned tackle Damien Woody and are parting ways with DE/OLB Jason Taylor, NT Kris Jenkins, and OLB Vernon Gholston.  The loss of Jenkins and Taylor would hurt the team from a locker room standpoint yet Gholsten has underachieved to record levels.  Yet don’t be surprised when / if Jenkins or Taylor are brought back later.  I don’t see either being pursued  by other teams and no, Taylor is not going to go back to Miami.

The Jets have an ‘esprit de corps that permeates their roster yet they seem to be on borrowed time with a smaller window than most elite teams.  This is a veteran laden squad that really leans on veteran leadership to offset the bombast of Rex Ryan to keep the team on point.  There are moments where veteran players bridge the gap between Coach Ryan’s declarations and the work that needs to be impressed into the young players minds to make that happen.  Careful New York, don’t let too many of these guys get away.

Quarterback: Very young Mark Sanchez, whom former USC / present Seattle Seahawk  Head Coach Pete Carroll proclaimed wasn’t ready for the NFL.  (Cue laughter) This is the only quarterback in the NFL to defeat both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in a single season playoff run.  Understand what you are seeing here and yes the Jets are a run first / pass second team.  Its a more traditional take on how to run offense yet no other quarterback in history was asked to defeat 3 consecutive Super Bowl winning quarterbacks in one post season run.  Yet he didn’t crack under the pressure and proved to be a leader on the rise until the bitter end.  After throwing for 5 TDs and only 1 interception in last year’s playoffs, Sanchez was seen rallying the troops on the sideline (most notably) on camera with Jerricho Crotchery that the cameras picked up in the waning moments of the AFC Championship.  This kid is the real deal.

Speaking of kid, its imperative that his brothers who run most of his business affairs, keep him from the pratfalls that could derail a tremendous career.  He’s a traditionalist in terms of finding a rhythm once the rushing game has established its dominance but hell Bart Starr played that way.  However look at the improvement Sanchez provided in year two: 17TDs to 13 ints v. 12 TDs to 20 ints in year one.  That same level of improvement, however unlikely, would be Mark throwing for 25TDs and only 6 interception and that I could promise you would be those of a Super Bowl champion.

Unlike Joe Flacco, Sanchez is improving as a quarterback.  His play in the second half of football games, AFC Championship included,  Sanchez has thrown for the go ahead touchdown on 4 occasions last year.  His improvement can be measured in the coaching staff asking him to throw more than his rookie season.  Although his completion percentage stayed the same (53.8 to 54.8) he threw for nearly 900 more yards.  He was asked to throw 507 times last year as compared to 364 times during his rookie year and he threw 7 LESS interceptions in his sophomore year.  Detractors of his play need to take a long look in the mirror because thats legitimate improvement.

Playing in the fishbowl that is the New York media, Rex Ryan has been brilliant at deflecting the heat of winning and losing onto himself allowing for his young quarterback to flourish with minimal pressure.  Mark Sanchize is on the rise.

Offensive Backfield: This backfield has one more season in its present state. Shonn Greene and Ladainian Tomlinson spelling each other allows the Jets to go with the hot hand during various games as well as share the pounding.  This allowed Tomlinson to have lively legs toward the end of the season.  But lets face it he came into the season with a chip on his shoulder to show that he can still play and came in in great shape.  This proud future Hall of Famer ran for 914 yards in his first season in Gotham, up from the 730 yards the season before, even though he ran 4 FEWER times than his last in San Diego.  He showed the burst that many thought he lost a few years back.  The Jets believe they can coax another season out of him and we believe so as well.  His locker room impact is even greater than his on field presence but his shelf life will run out after this season as a player.

As for Shonn Greene, he was asked to take on more of the heavy lifting at running back and had a decent second season.  However his averaged dropped to 4.1 per carry from 5.0 as a rookie.  Teams game planned for him more and were affective in slowing his production.  Greene has patient feet yet sometimes runs up the back of his blockers.  This can be seen as a positive or a negative depending on how the play ends.  One of the better plays came as he bounced out the game clinching touchdown run that sealed the Patriots fate in the playoffs.  Although he believes he can pound the football and move the pile, he can get thrown for an occasional loss.  Greene slip some of those solid hits and prolong your career.  He ran for 766 yards and may run for 900 this year.  Teams will plan for Sanchez to be better at throwing the football and allow for the Jets to run for even more yardage this year.  Greene will be the big beneficiary of that with LT taking more of a supplemental role earlier in this new season.  A draft pick should be spent at RB to prepare for LT’s imminent departure.

Receivers: Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards are a good match as a set of receviers.   Edwards handling the intermediate routes and Holmes as the game breaker. Uh…well not quite.  A closer look at the numbers shows that they were close in receptions (Edwards 53 rec. / Holmes 52 rec.) yet Edwards gained 904 yards to Holmes 746.  Their combined 13 touchdowns and yardage should be up with a maturing Sanchez.  With that being the case look for fewer catches for Jerricho Crotchery who caught 41 passes last year.  This year there will be more plays called for Holmes to get short passes in space and gain yardage after the catch.  This is a solid threesome at receiver.  They could use a draft pick here to obtain a speedy receiver who could double as a returner.

Offensive Line: This team just took a hit with the loss of tackle Damien Woody.  Hopefully there is a succession in place because this team may need to re-sign him if there is a drop in production.  For this was the 4th best rushing offense in football rushing for 2,374 yards and a lofty 4.4 yard average.  As a group this team tied for 7th giving up only 28 sacks so hopefully this a cap relief and resign move.  Nick Mangold, Matt Slauson, D’Brickshaw Ferguson, and Brandon Moore make up the nucleus of a solid line that will be a cohesive unit for years to come.  With Moore the only linemen who has more than 5 years experience.  Mangold is a Pro Bowler center and first team all pro, who is in the prime of his career.  A solid anchor that will make all the blocking audibles along this very solid front.  This line is Super Bowl ready.

Defensive Line: Shaun Ellis is entering his 11th year and is still stout against the run but slowing as a pass rusher.  Well partly, a 3-4 end usually is running twists and stunts to free linebackers and other blitzers to get to the quarterback.  Rex Ryan would be happy to get more than 4.5 sacks out of his starting end to keep him from blitzing.  The Jets parted ways with NT Kris Jenkins who has been hit with too many injuries as of late.  Age and injuries have slowed one of the best run stuffers in recent years.  Don’t be surprised if they bring him back as an insurance policy when the playoffs near. DE Mike Devito is adequate but not spectacular. This team could use a few draft picks on their D-line, this team needs a jolt when it comes to rushing the passer.  They haven’t replaced John Abraham as a top shelf pass rusher.  Could easily see the Jets draft several pass rushers as they did with Abraham and Shaun Ellis back in 2000.

Linebackers: Absolutely the heart and soul of the defense. There isn’t a better set of inside linebackers than Bart Scott and David Harris.  Scott is the emotional leader and a physical hitter with great tackle to tackle range.  Playing next to a great talent makes one either shrink or raise their level of play.  The latter is what has taken place with “Hitman” Harris, who was designated this year’s franchise tag to keep him from leaving via free agency.  He’s averaged 107 tackles and 3 sacks over his 4 years in New York and also provided the signature play in the AFC Divisional upset of New England.  His 58 yard interception return in the 1st quarter was the first hint that Tom Brady was about to have a long day.

The aforementioned Bart Scott is the soul of this defense.  His intensity and strong play is why Ryan brought him in from Baltimore the moment he got the head coaching job in Gotham.  In his two seasons in New York Scott has averaged 86.5 tackles and is still in his prime entering his 10th season.  Scott and Harris punish runners and smother tight ends on underneath routes.  Hopefully the Jets can get an injury free season from OLB Calvin Pace who no longer has Jason Taylor sharing time with him.  Taylor was released earlier this week yet maybe a cap insurance policy to be brought back later in the season.  Pace will need to produce the 10.5 sacks that he and Taylor combined for in ’10.  With Bryan Thomas coming in from the other side (6 sacks) this is as solid a set of linebackers in the NFL. Near Super Bowl quality.

Secondary: OK I was guilty of giving Darrelle Revis grief for getting beaten a few times early last year but lets face it, he didn’t get a proper training camp in and was back to his usual self when he rounded into game shape later in the season.  His 0 interceptions last year was an anomaly and he will be there from day one of camp and will return to the shut down corner averaging 5 interceptions per year.  Antonio Cromartie came through with a good season also.  He battled Randy Moss to a standstill in that early season matchup against New England.  His long arms throw off receivers when he gets physical and jams wideouts and not depend solely on his athleticism.  Revis and Cromartie are entering their 5th and 6th seasons respectively and remind me of the Hanford Dixon / Frank Minnifield pairing in Cleveland in the 1980s.  Do not be surprised if they both make the pro bowl and a strong interception total by Cromartie as teams throw away from Revis.   A 10 interception season by Cromartie is not out of the question.  Nickelback Drew Coleman is a solid 3rd corner and affective blitzer.

Jim Leonard is quietly one of the leaders of this defense and is affective in keeping the secondary together.  A coach on the field also doubles as the team’s punt returner.  The Jets missed him in the playoffs and for a Super Bowl run they’d be better served with their captain.  Pool and Smith are solid at the free safety position as well.  As a unit, this could be the best secondary in football, certainly in the AFC and they are Super Bowl quality.

Overall: This team is primed to reach Super Bowl XLVI, make no mistakes about it.  A friend of mine, Randy Davis was right about this team being the real deal last year and I wasn’t sure.  After that playoff run I am totally sold.  This isn’t just Rex Ryan talk either.  If you analyze this team as I have you’ll see that there are no obvious weaknesses.  A quarterback who is growing in stature and on the verge of a breakout season.  An organization with a signature playoff win against New England that has them brimming with confidence.  The key is for them to not get overconfident and remember that sick feeling they had as the time ticked away in Heinz Field last January.

I can’t say it enough but Mark Sanchez is on the cusp of super stardom.  He’s young, mobile and grew a thick skin during the ’10 playoff run.  With the NFL having played exhibition and a regular season game in Mexico, where American football has tremendous popularity, its befitting to see a rising Hispanic star come to the forefront.  Uh…Pete Carroll you missed, this kid is ready and he already has the NFL all time record for road playoff wins with 4.  He will improve even further and once this team gets home field advantage…yes this is going to be the AFC participant v. the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLVI.  Move over Broadway Joe,  Mark Sanchize, Bart “Can’t Wait!” Scott, LT, David “Hitman” Harris and Rex Ryan are about to make a Super Bowl run.  Long suffering Jets misery should come to an end next February.

New York Jets and the Future of Mark Sanchez

The New York Jets became the first team in a decade to lose back to back conference championships since the 2002-’03 Philadelphia Eagles. So the question becomes where Rex Ryan and his team go from here? 

They are primed to make another Super Bowl run with Sanchez at the helm. With every other young quarterback who make the playoffs, the team scales down their play calling to minimize mistakes.  They use the punt as an ally and play to the strengths of their defense while running the football.  From Bob Griese to Roger Staubach, to Terry Bradshaw, to Tom Brady, to Ben Roethlisberger, many a young quarterback has won championships with this formula.  Mark Sanchez may just be the next in line.  He’s shown a flair for the dramatic with several late game touchdown throws this year against Jacksonville and Cleveland respectively.  This is a crossroads season where the Jets can ask a little more of Sanchez throwing the football to supplement Shonn Greene and Tomlinson’s running. 

On the same day that “Twitter Gate” vilified Jay Cutler for appearing to quit on his Bear teammates in the NFC Championship, the camera caught a poignant moment where Sanchez was consoling WR Jericho Cotchery at the end of the AFC Championship game. Let’s face facts; Mark Sanchez is a good young leader with a good head on his shoulders, one “that isn’t ready for the NFL.” voiced former USC coach Pete Carroll erroneously, who subsequently went 7-9 with the Seattle Seahawks this year.  Yet there was Sanchez, the Jets season extinguishing as the clock wound down, having a face to face with a receiver several years his senior. Undoubtedly, he was telling his teammate something positive as the two stood facemask to facemask, Sanchez talking and tapping Cotchery’s helmet as the wideout nodded in agreement.  Displaying a leadership quality that shows not only that he’s ready for the NFL, but one that suggests he’s about to take a championship step forward in leading the Jets there.

Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes have a good chemistry with their young QB.  In fact on the day Edwards arrived in New York from Cleveland, it was Sanchez who was there to greet him at former Jet Kerry Rhodes house.  All of which was caught on an ESPN telecast.  Edwards has ideal size for a possession receiver and Holmes is more explosive after the catch. Throw in Cotchery and if they can find a way to utilize Brad Smith a little bit more, this team could surprise in the air.  Detractors of Edwards were silenced as he played motivated, inspired football.  Holmes will benefit from a full Jets training camp to be more productive as well.

Rex Ryan’s scheme on defense is in tune with his players and the personnel they have selected.  Can they coax another year out of Jason Taylor or injured NT Kris Jenkins?  In Jenkins case they showed they could get by without him.  Injuries are starting to mount for Jenkins who will need serious spot deployment to make it through a long season healthy.  Taylor is definitely at the point where it’s a gamble to ask for another season from him as well.  I would look to replacing Taylor and have him mentor an understudy.  They could be impenetrable if they can reach the playoffs with Jenkins in the middle. With one of the best CB tandems in football in Revis and Cromartie, a young stud outside linebacker to go with Bart Scott, David Harris, and Calvin Pace could vault the Jets into the best defense in football.  

Why so high on Sanchez? Having run the gauntlet in this year’s playoffs in facing Manning, Brady, and Roethlisberger, the kid held his own. If Roethlisberger wins his 3rd Super Bowl this week, that’s a total of 7 Super Bowl wins between his three opponents.  He faced three Hall of Fame quarterbacks and beat two of them. Sanchez threw 3TDs in the upset of the Patriots and brought the Jets back from a 24 point deficit in the AFC Championship.  Sanchez has now engineered 4 playoff road wins which ties the NFL record.  So is he Mark Sanchez or Mark Sanchize?? I don’t know but let’s ask these questions;

  • Can the New York Jets duplicate the feat by those same Philadelphia Eagles of ’02-’04 and the ’74-’76 Raiders who lost 2 straight conference finals yet win in a third consecutive attempt??
  •  If Mark Sanchez improves again this season, how many games do the Jets win next season??
  • What happens next year if the Jets get homefield advantage and have to only play two playoff games instead of three to get to the Super Bowl??
  • A Mexican American quarterback as an icon would be great for the league and a link to not only Jim Plunkett but to the  legendary Joe Kapp in terms of hispanic Super Bowl quarterbacks of yesteryear.

Thanks for reading.

AFC Championship Recap

Steelers Hammer Jets Early

Heinz Field and the AFC Championship Game where Rex Ryan’s charges came up short for the second year in a row. Well did they come up short or were they beaten?  They were beaten.   The Steelers dominated the game from the very outset with a near ten minute drive to set the tone at the start of the game.  Rashard Mendenhall ran in his accustomed hard nosed fashion and kept the Jets from taking advantage of their injured offensive line.  Speaking of which they fired off the ball and took command of the trenches early taking the fight to the Jets defense.  Mendenhall finished the first half with 17 carries for 95 yards.  When they needed a play, there was ole’ trusty, reliable Roethlisberger.   The Steelers kept their raucous crowd in the game with a dominant first half performance in taking a 24-0 lead.  Then holding off the surging Jets in the end 24-19 to advance to their 8th Super Bowl to face the Green Bay Packers.

Ben Roethlisberger proved why he deserves to be talked about among the best quarterbacks in the game today and creeping into the all time quarterback talk.  He began the game on fire again.  Not from the stat sheet, but when the Steelers needed a play to keep a drive alive, he found a way to extend plays and make the throw that kept the chains going.  The ad-lib option pitch back to Mendenhall is what showcases his greatness.  How alert was that?  It shows he’s aware of where everyone is on the field and this year he’s endured offseason tumult, had to play with a young receiving corp, and now has to be given credit for what he provides his team. His stats read 10 of 19 for 133 yards and 2 interceptions, but he ran for a touchdown and when it counted most he completed passes for the two first downs that allowed the Steelers to run out the clock.  Thats greatness.

When you’re talking football in January, you had better bring your defense.  The Jets brought theirs but they just didn’t have ananswer in the first half.  As mentioned before they did pick off Roethlisberger twice but were pushed off the ball for much of the first half.  Consequently the #1 against the run Steelers defense only allowed 1 rushing yard and kept the Jets from getting into any offensive rhythm.  Then with the Jets trying desperately for points before the half, Ike Taylor’s sack and forced fumble returned for a touchdown by William Gay was the signature play of the game.  Providing the insurmountable 24-3 lead they’d have to protect.  They provided the biggest play of the game when the Jets had trimmed the lead to 24-10.  The Jets, threatening to get back into the game and on their 17th play of the drive couldn’t dent the Steel Curtain on a 4th and 1 from the Steeler 2 yard line.  Tomlinson never made it back to the line of scrimmage.   

The Steelers did give up a safety on the next play but the defense won it on that goal line. The resulting time it took for the Jets to march for the touchdown to make it 24-19 came on a defense that was tired.  It cost the Jets 4:29 of possession time only leaving 3:09 on the clock when the Steelers took the field.  So with a couple key throws by Ben, the Jets were sent home from the AFC Championship game for the second year in a row. They battled valiantly in the second half but again came up short.  They didn’t come up short on their own, the Steelers held them off.  We have a couple weeks to get ready for the Super Bowl in Dallas.  Packers or these resourceful Steelers.  Who do you have?

Thanks for reading…

AFC Championship Preview

Don’t you just love this time of year? The conference final has a home team with passionate fans which is antithetical to Super Bowl corporate yahoo crowds.  They’re so staid…I love the noise that is generated as the teams are introduced and hope the networks let us hear and feel that intensity and not talk over what the cameras and microphones are picking up. Yet its time for the two most magical games to take place.

As I look at this game the first thing you have to realize is the league’s number 2 & 3 ranked defense in the Steelers and Jets respectively.  Each team runs a tough 3-4 defense that are stout against the run yet the Steelers offense comes in with a glaring weakness with 2 backup tackles.  We know the son of Buddy Ryan will send blitzes at different times against Ben Roethlisberger.  We know Big Ben is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the league, yet can get sacked going after the big play.  He’s a big body and feels like that he can shake free from a blitzer and often does.  Last week the Ravens were getting to him in the first half and that offensive line hasn’t improved on the health front.  Furthermore Darrelle Revis has returned to “Revis Island” form while Antonio Cromartie, and nickleback Drew Coleman are jelling as a secondary and can stay with the Steelers recievers when Ben extends the play. Evidenced by one play last week where Tom Brady couldn’t find a reciever when he had 8.5 seconds to do so. Don’t forget that Revis is from Pittsburgh.  Revis on Mike Wallace will throw the Steelers for a loop. Advantage Jets.

The key to a Steelers victory quite simply are the legs of Rashard Mendenhall.  Is it me or is he not the perfect back for the Pittsburgh Steelers?  He just fits the image in your mind of the Steelers running the football.  He has to have a 120 yard game and wear down the Jets defense.  Calvin Pace and Jason Taylor are older outside linebackers who don’t have rocks in their pockets and can be moved run blocking wise.  He has to keep the Steelers out of obvious passing situations where their line can be exposed.  Hard nosed, nearly rushed for 1,300 yards, he has a legitimate chance to do that.

Countering that the Jets are going with a two headed monster of LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene (what kind of spelling is that) …anyway  They are averaging over 120 yards in the playoffs and can easily switch to a runner with livelier legs in a particular half.  We saw this when the Jets switched to Tomlinson to start the second half against the Colts in the wildcard round.  Greene last week was the hotter hand in the divisional round when he ran for 76 yards agains the Patriots last week.  They as a group are averaging over 120 yards themselves. Advantage push…until you read next paragraph..

When it comes to defense lets face it…The Jets play great defense, the Steelers are defense. Each team stops the run well.  The Steelers are #1 against the run, giving up only 62.8 yards a game.  The Jets are giving up 90.9 yards a game.  The Steelers win that matchup.  Could see Mendenhall pushing over 100 yards grudgingly.  The Jets will have to over-reach to make it to their goal of 120 yards.  The Steelers have great pass rushers in Harrison (10.5 sacks) and LaMarr Woodley (10 sacks) and are clearly the Steelers wildcard.  Their secondary at one point late in the season were ranked 22nd against the pass who have to contend against former teammate Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards.  Slight advantage Steelers.

Mark Sanchez doesn’t have great stats but he did last week throwing for 3 TDs last week and outperformed Tom Brady. He’s progressing and has done so all year.  All year.  After throwing Hall of Famers Tom Brady and Peyton Manning out of the playoffs it is time to wake up to the fact that he’s won 4 playoff games.  He is a legitimate quarterback and has played all five of his game on the road.  Don’t look now but I think he’s going to win his 6th if he gets the running game going or completing passes on rollouts. 

Those things said…I’m going with the Jets in this game, 27-24.  There is something that will come to pass with those tackles of the Steelers.  I’m afraid there will be a turnover that will quiet Heinz Field.  The Jets are a mirror image of what the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers were.  Hungry, veteran laden, young quarterback and a tough running game. I have the Jets in a tough game where they won a few weeks  ago.  Santonio Holmes and Brad Smith will provide a few spark plays as well… Based on emotion and defensive Xs and Os…

2010 AFC Champion: New York Jets

Jets Are Slick Like A Fox

Is it me or are the New York Jets changing the face of the NFL?  What I mean is take a look at the brashness that they are exhibiting as they advance through the playoffs.  A coach in Rex Ryan who almost stoops to the level of his players in saying what is on his mind.  Players that celebrated on the field like school kids after winning a playoff game where no one, including yours truly, didn’t think they’d win.  Yet they persisted and are on their way to the unfriendly confines of Heinz Field where they will play a Steelers team they beat late in the season.

This team really talked a big game and ate it for the late season loss to the Patriots, a 45-3 debacle on Monday night football.  Yet they stayed true to who they were and talked brashly about getting back into the thick of things, through late season wins over Pittsburgh. From Coach Ryan’s pregame declaration that it was personal between he and Belichick, to Antonio Cromartie’s expletive pre-game comments about Tom Brady, this team has been  bellacose, verbose, inflammatory.   LOL Damn have they made these playoffs fun

Then you have the Patriots.  They were above the smack talk, or so we thought, then Wes Welker gets roped into making a reference regarding feet which was an obvious smack toward the much publicized fetish of Rex Ryan.  He subsequently gets benched for the beginning of the game which resulted in the Patriots never getting in sync the rest of the game.  To hear Deion Branch call them classless is like the pot calling the kettle black.  How soon we forget!!  You remember the 2006 AFC Divisional playoff when the Patriots came from behind to beat the San Diego Chargers don’t you?

The Patriots started a near fist fight on the Charger logo when the game was over doing Shawne Merrimans’ “Lights Out” dance??  How about the 2004 AFC Championship when Deion Branch, who on the decisive touchdown, ran a reverse into the endzone waving goodbye to the nearest Steeler defender.  Take your medecine and be quiet….and this is before we start talking about a team that ran scores up on teams in 2007 in the most distasteful fashion.

Lost in all of this is the fact Mark Sanchez is growing up right before our very eyes.  He’s beaten two straight Hall of Famers in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady yet no one has acknowledged that.  The fact that the defense has throttled two offenses and befuddled those same two quarterbacks and nearly knocked Brady into next season.  The Jets coverage was so great on one play ESPN showed Brady had over 8.5 seconds on one play and still couldn’t find a receiver.

That the league’s #2 defense has grown into a fire breathing monster and headed for Pittsburgh. Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson are averaging over 120 yards a game in the playoffs.  Yet now the Jets don’t want to talk.  This could be the worst thing they could do since the focus has been on their antics and not on their X’s and O’s.  I hope they lapse into who they really are.  A trip to the Super Bowl may depend on it.

Thanks for reading