First a few updates:
1. Now that I finished going through the entire AFC East, writing articles about how the Jets match-up against the Bills, Dolphins, and Patriots, I thought I’d share each fan bases respective reactions. When I wrote the articles, I posted a copy of the link in ESPN Message Boards for each team. Here is what I got:
- Bills fans were by far the most civil, offering a reasonable debate about their team. They disagreed with a few of my statements, but for the most part thought I had a fair analysis of their team.
- Patriots fans offered the most comments, all of which described my low levels of intelligence and general idiocy. Obviously, they are the Patriots and clearly they are going 15-1 and nobody can tell them anything different. I will say that it was my mistake to say the Pats defense is old, because it really isn’t. Two of their linebackers are old, their secondary is young but is simply not very good, and they have a very good d-line.
- Dolphins fans cracked me up the most. They talk like Miami went 16-0 last season and rolled through the playoffs. Yes, they had a nice season in 2008 but remember how they squeaked in the playoffs by beating the Jets by 7 in week 17 and then were humiliated at home 27-9 during wild-card weekend. I got news for you Dolphins fans, you aren’t going to be a 13-3 team. Come back to reality.
- My final view of the AFC East at this point is that the Patriots are the best team and will probably be in the 10-6 to 12-4 range. The other three teams will be battling it out, and all be around .500 at worst. One of those teams will win double digits and give New England a run for the division, will it be Buffalo, Miami, or the Jets? We’ll see. But expect to see the standings that look something like this:
- New England: 10-6/11-5
- Buf/NYJ/Mia: 10-6/11-5
- Buf/NYJ/Mia: 8-8/9-7
- Buf/NYJ/Mia: 7-9/-8-8
The Jets are going to have to find a way to win their division games, if they want to be in that #2 slot or maybe even that #1 spot.
Ten Ways For the Jets To Win Ten Games
1. Most Important Position Produces - The Jets aren’t going anywhere unless they have consistent, steady quarterback play. Mark Sanchez or Kellen Clemens don’t need to produce pro-bowl numbers but need to protect the football, hit the occasional big play when the opportunity is there, and overall be an effective game manager.
2. Number Two Receiver Steps Up – It doesn’t matter if it is Chansi Stuckey, Brad Smith, David Clowney or a combination of the three. The Jets need production opposite of Jerricho Cotchery to keep double teams off him and to make their offense harder to defend. I really think Stuckey can be a 60 catch guy in a full time role. The guy caught 32 passes last year despite receiving limited playing time, especially down the stretch. I am hoping Clowney can be the 2009 version of Dedric Ward in 1998. Remember Ward? In 1998, he had 25 receptions for 477 yards (19.1 yards per catch) and 4 touchdowns, all on bombs that put the nail in the coffin in huge games for the Jets.
3. Playmakers Make Plays – I am talking about Dustin Keller and Leon Washington, the Jets two most difficult match-ups. Both of these guys should get more touches on offense this year and need to step up. Keller should be able to be a 65-70 catch guy in this offense. Washington needs more carries and receptions. The only thing that stopped him last year was the Jets coaching staff.
4. Secondary Improvement – Lito Sheppard is going to see a ton of balls thrown at him this year and if he can’t play at the level he did a few years ago, the Jets are going to be in trouble. Jim Leonhard is also entering his first year as a full-time starter and needs to do his job well enough to allow Kerry Rhodes to freelance and make plays. Finally, don’t forget about guys like Donald Strickland, Dwight Lowery, and Eric Smith who will be on the field often against the spread offenses of the Bills and Patriots.
5. The Big Man Stays Healthy – The Jets defense starts and ends with Kris Jenkins. They need him healthy and productive for all 16 games, leading the charge against the run and freeing up Bart Scott and David Harris to make plays. Howard Green and Sione Pouha need to provide adequate relief off the bench to help keep the big guy fresh.
6. Offensive Line Stays Healthy – If Damien Woody, Alan Faneca, Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore, and D’Brickashaw Ferguson can stay healthy for all 16 games, it will go a long towards making the Jets a playoff caliber team.
7. TJ – The Jets need Thomas Jones in 2009. I am not ready to start giving Shonn Greene 20 carries a game. Jones has to be the workhorse he was in 2008, if Rex Ryan wants to win football games his way. Mike Tannenbaum…find a way to compromise with Jones to keep him in green and white for this upcoming season.
8. Pressure – Every great defense needs a strong pass rush. Calvin Pace needs to match his level of play from last season and receive some support from Vernon Gholston and Bryan Thomas. It is sad that as the #6 pick in the draft, Gholston would make Jets fans thrilled if he could just manage 6-8 sacks this year but we’d take it. Thomas needs to play the way he did the first half of last season for the whole year.
9. Revis Keeps Improving – Darrelle Revis is already one of the five best corners in the league but he will have his hands full this year: T.O. twice, Randy Moss twice, Steve Smith, Andre Johnson, Ted Ginn Jr (kidding), Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne, Roddy White. The Jets need him to be a lockdown corner against the elite receivers they face this year.
10. Cotchery Becomes a #1 – Nobody expects a pro-bowl appearance from Jerricho Cotchery but he needs to produce like a number one receiver. 80 catches, 1150 yards, 6-8 touchdowns would be a nice year for him.