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.

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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.

Top Ten Super Bowl Games

When it comes to Super Bowl games, is it a curse or a blessing to have the last game of the season be great?  Funny how those games tend to give me the worst levels of anxiety from football withdrawal once they’re over.  This list is about the games that were the most exciting that left you wanting more football.  One where the outcome was in doubt

  1. Super Bowl XXXVIII- Patriots 32 Panthers 29:  Best ever played! We had a 0-0 defensive slugfest going when Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme gave us a preview of the 4th quarter each throwing TD passes for a 14-10 halftime score.  Then the defenses were getting ripped apart as each team scored  three times in the highest scoring quarter in Super Bowl history with 37 points.  Five TDs in the 4th quarter?? This was epic! In Carolina’s case it was 3 TDs which included a record 85 yard TD from Delhomme to Muhsin Muhammad.  Brady set record for completions with 32 of 47 for 354 yards and 3 TDs for the game with Delhomme 16 of 32 for 323 yards 3TDs and get this, a higher QB ranking.  Adam Vinatieri won it with a last second field goal but this one took your breath away.
  2. Super Bowl XXXII-Broncos 31 Packers 24: Remembered for John Elway finally becoming a champion came in one of the hardest hitting Super Bowls of all time.  Terrell Davis rushed for 157 yards and 3TDs in an MVP performance while Dorsey Levens ran for 90 yards for Green Bay.  Brett Favre kept firing back and threw for 3 TDs and the game came down to its final play.
  3. Super Bowl XLIII- Steelers 27 Cardinals 24: Cardinals in the Super Bowl?  Oh, sorry about that.  This game had wild swings of momentum and the best finish ever. Once Arizona figured out how to move the ball on Pittsburgh’s #1 ranked defense, they were poised to take a 14-10 lead when James Harrison intercepted Kurt Warner and rumbled 100 yards for a TD on the last play of the first half.  Steelers 17-7 was the 14 point swing here.  Larry Fitzgerald got hot, catching 7 for 147 and 2TDs including a 64yarder to give the Cardinals their first lead with 3:24 left in the game.  Then Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes answered for the Steelers with a drive and then touchdow for the ages.  Holmes back of the endzone toe tap catch with :10 left was the best game winner ever.
  4. Super Bowl XXV- Giants 20 Bills 19: The drama came down to a final missed field goal, but the escapism this game provided the country at the outbreak of the Gulf War was tremendous.  Contrasting styles of the methodical, plodding Giants and the K-Gun flash of Buffalo made it interesting also.  New York played keep away by possessing the ball for over 40 minutes.
  5. Super Bowl XIV- Steelers 31 Rams 19: You have to admit when you were watching this game it was like the Steelers couldn’t make the Rams go away.  Backup Vince Ferragamo and the Rams stood toe to toe with the defending champions and wouldn’t flinch.  Halfback option passes for touchdowns, 10 plays of 20 or more yards including 5 plays of 39 or more. This game had 1 tie and 7 lead changes!  Terry Bradshaw shook off 3 interceptions and took a 4th quarter lead with a 73 yard TD to John Stallworth, then came back to him for a 45 yard gain to set up the last touchdown.  The latter came after the Rams were driving to retake the lead and Lambert picked off Ferragamo inside his own 20.
  6. Super Bowl XXIII- 49ers 20 Bengals 16: Best showcase of safeties in a game of defense.  David Fulcher of Cincinnati and Ronnie Lott of the 49ers were all over the place with Fulcher playing the better game. With a sack, a forced fumble, a touchdown saving tackle at the 2 which resulted in a missed field goal, and 7 tackles at or near the line of scrimmage. Fulcher was the game’s MVP had it not been for Jerry Rice’s heroics.  After losing Tim Krumrie to a broken leg the Bengal defense put in a Herculean effort to hold back the 49ers but Joe Cool prevailed again. Montana threw for 357 yards and led the famous 92 yard TD drive in the waning seconds to win it.  What would have happened had Lewis Billups not dropped that interception in the 4th quarter?
  7. Super Bowl XIII- Steelers 35 Cowboys 31: The battle of champions with the winner to be crowned Team of the Decade for the 1970s and the first Super Bowl to conclude in prime time. This time Dallas was the defending champion and we had the highest scoring first half in Super Bowl history with 35 points (Steelers 21-14 lead), longest TD with Stallworth’s 75 yard TD from Terry Bradshaw, surprise defensive TD with Hollywood Henderson and Mike Hegman.  The famous dropped TD pass of Jackie Smith was a signature play but the Cowboys started to really move the ball on Pittsburgh in the 4th scoring two late TDs.  It was Bradshaw’s first 300 yard passing game and both Lynn Swann and John Stallworth were the first tandem to go over 100 yards in the same Super Bowl. Game had everything and I haven’t talked about Staubach, Dorsett, Tony Hill or Franco Harris yet.
  8. Super Bowl XXXIV- Rams 23 Titans 16: Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show on Turf with Marshall Faulk  were on the edge of blowing out the Titans, but couldn’t do it.  The scrappy Titan defense kept forcing them to try field goals instead of the accustomed “Bob and Weave” TD celebration.  The late Steve McNair and Eddie George finally got going in the second half and in a game of the tortoise and the hare started their methodical comeback.  Dominated the second half in points and time of possession, rallied to tie it at 16-16.  Yet MVP Warner then threw a 73 yard TD to Isaac Bruce to take a lead that would come down to the frantic last Titan drive.  The imge of Kevin Dyson stretching for that last yard being tackled by Mike Jones is burned into the memory.
  9. Super Bowl X- Steelers 21 Cowboys 17:  The best of the first ten Super Bowls by far.  All except with that “Up With People” halftime show…yikes!! “Hollywood Henderson” , a linebacker on a reverse with the opening kickoff??  Almost broke it too had Roy Gerela not made the tackle and bruised his ribs.  Doomsday shut down Franco Harris, yet couldn’t stop MVP Lynn Swann whose 4 catches for 161 yards and a 4th quarter TD.  The Steelers kept missing field goals and the game remained close.  The defenses held the offenses in check but Roger Staubach was able to hit Drew Pearson on the first TD allowed by the Steelers for the entire 1975 season.  The Steelers sacked him seven times but Roger kept firing until the bitter end.  Pittsburgh gave the ball to the Cowboys on downs allowing 3 shots from midfield for the win.  The final pass intercepted by Glen Edwards as time expired.
  10. Super Bowl V- Colts 16 Cowboys 13: This game had to be fun to watch. It was like a drunk on rollerskates.  Eleven turnovers, Johnny Unitas knocked from the game. Duane Thomas fumbled at the goal line when Dallas could have taken a commanding lead.  Johnny Unitas’ 75 yard touchdown to John Mackey bounced off two other players.  A 4th quarter come from behind victory by the Baltimore Colts based off of interceptions by “Mad Dog” Mike Curtis and Rick Volk setting up the Colts in Cowboy territory for a Tom Nowatzke TD and last second field goal by Jim O’Brien.  How could anyone have watched this game and had a clue who would win. LOL  Now get this for the last bit of humor; Chuck Howley, Cowboys linebacker wins the MVP and was on the losing side of the ledger and wouldn’t accept the award.  Bubba Smith, Colts defensive end refuses to wear the ring, and Bill Curry who played center said he looks upon his ring with “mixed feelings”.  Laughably sloppy… one day I’ll sit down and watch it since I was one at the time.

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