Jets Better Not Sleep On The Lions…Yes, The Lions

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I try not to buy into the “Same Old Jets” talk. I don’t believe things that happened years ago impact the individuals in the Jets locker room now, especially with the change of culture Rex Ryan has ushered in. However, this week I am worried more than I should be for a 5-2 team on the road facing a 2-5 team who has won 4 games over the past 2 and 1/2 seasons.

Part of the reason is that the Jets simply haven’t played all that well since their week 4 drubbing of the Buffalo Bills. They won a sloppy game against the Vikings, thanks largely to Brett Favre’s incompetence. They escaped with a victory in Denver, thanks to a defensive pass interference penalty and then were shut out at home by the Green Bay Packers. Now I don’t want to take credit away for the wins against Minnesota and Denver. A win is a win and the Jets stepped up in big spots late in those games to ensure victories. However, they still aren’t clicking like they were when they ran through their AFC East opponents.

The other reason is that the Lions are better than most 2-5 teams. There is a good amount of talent on this roster and they are a few plays (include a robbery in Chicago) from being a 4-3 team. They have plenty of flaws, namely their ability to stop the run and run the football but there is playmakers spread across this roster.

Matthew Stafford has been similar to Mark Sanchez so far in his career, when he has managed to stay healthy, which means he could be great on some days and god awful on others. Calvin Johnson is one of the most physically gifted players in the NFL and along with Jahvid Best, Kevin Smith, Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, and Nate Burleson…there are plenty of viable options on the Detroit offense.

Their defense has struggled but Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch have proven to be playmakers on their line and Alfonso Smith has pulled in 4 interceptions in only 7 games in the secondary. Jim Schwartz is a good coach, who has his young defense competing and as he pointed out today, they do have 8 more sacks so far this season than the Jets.

The Jets like to talk like they are the best team in the NFL. If they are, they should be fuming after being embarrassed in front of their home fans and ready to steamroll a young Detroit team in their own building. You would hope that is the mindset and there is nothing being taken for granted. Cut the cute BS out on offense Brian Schottenheimer and ram the ball down the Lions throat. They can’t stop your running game. Rex Ryan, man your prized cornerbacks up and send the house at their inexperienced quarterback, the way other teams have at your young quarterback.

The best way to knock the memory of the Green Bay debacle out of everybody’s head is to leave no doubt who the 5-2 team is and who the 2-5 team is this Sunday.

Jets vs. Lions: First Look

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The Opponent: Despite being 2-5, the Detroit Lions have improved significantly under head coach Jim Schwartz the past two years. They have been competitive every week and are coming off a home victory against the Washington Redskins who came into Detroit with a winning record. The Lions can throw the football and have playmakers at a variety of positions. However, they have struggled to run the football and stop the run consistently. This isn’t going to be a cakewalk for the Jets, as Detroit isn’t the type of team who isn’t going show up like Dallas or Buffalo against the Jets in week 4.

Detroit Starters/Key Reserves

OFFENSE

  • Quarterback: Matthew Stafford – 37/60, 295 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT
  • Running Back: Jahvid Best – 91 carries, 297 yards, 4 TDs, 36 receptions, 316 yards, 1 TD
  • Running Back: Kevin Smith – 23 carries, 104 yards,
  • Wide Receiver: Calvin Johnson – 38 receptions, 538 yards, 8 TDs
  • Wide Receiver: Nate Burleson – 19 receptions, 176 yards, 2 TDs
  • Wide Receiver: Bryant Johnson – 8 receptions, 80 yards
  • Tight End: Brandon Pettigrew – 35 receptions, 344 yards, 2 TDs
  • Tight End; Tony Scheffler – 26 receptions, 217 yards, 1 TD
  • Left Tackle: Jeff Backus
  • Left Guard: Rob Sims
  • Center: Dominic Raiola
  • Right Guard: Stephen Peterman
  • Right Tackle: Gosder Cherilus

DEFENSE

  • Defensive End: Cliff Avril – 16 tackles, 3 sacks
  • Nose Tackle: Ndamukong Suh – 27 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 1 INT
  • Defensive Tackle: Corey Williams – 22 tackles, 1 sack
  • Defensive End: Kyle Vanden Bosch – 32 tackles, 4 sacks
  • Outside Linebacker: Ashlee Palmer – 34 tackles
  • Middle Linebacker: Zach Follett – 21 tackles
  • Outside Linebacker: Julian Peterson – 37 tackles, 1 sack
  • Corner: Chris Houston – 26 tackles, 1 INT
  • Corner: Alphonso Smith – 24 tackles, 4 INTs
  • Corner: Jonathan Wade – 29 tackles 
  • Safety: Louis Delmas – 46 tackles, 2 sacks
  • Safety: C.C. Brown – 35 tackles

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Kicker: Jason Hanson – 12/14 FGs
  • Punter: Nick Harris – 44.8 yards per punt
  • Kick Return: Stefan Logan – 29.5 per return, 1 TD
  • Punt Return: – 13.1 per return

PhotobucketKey Players: Calvin Johnson is one of the most physcially gifted players in the NFL and will let us know exactly how healthy Darrelle Revis really is. Jahvid Best is dangerous in the open field, along with a great receiver out of the backfield and Brandon Pettigrew is a quality receiving threat at the tight end position. Ndamukong Suh has beast so far in 2010, look at his stats through only 7 games…unbelievable. Kyle Vanden Bosch is also off to a strong start on the Lions defensive line. Stefan Logan is very dangerous in the return game. Alphonso Smith has 4 INTs so far this year.

Injuries: The Jets remain extremely healthy (keep your fingers crossed). Detroit isn’t dealing with any major injuries at the moment either. C.C. Brown has been banged up but I hope he does play, considering his coverage skills.

Key Storylines:  Can the Jets bounce-back? Will Brian Schottenheimer remember to run the football? Calvin Johnson vs. Darrelle Revis. Can Mark Sanchez put together a solid performance after two straight subpar ones?

Highlights of Lions Win Last Week

Time To Panic For Jets?

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Braylon Edwards is lecturing people about catching the football and being arrogant. Yes, the guy who was arrogant enough to think he could drive himself home after drinking all night a few weeks ago and is notorious for having problems catching the ball. Jerricho Cotchery, the Jets most reliable receiver the past few years, is having his worst season. The return of Santonio Holmes has led to nothing but struggles for Mark Sanchez, whose completion percentage is now all the way down to 53. Dustin Keller hasn’t caught a touchdown in three weeks, after pulling in 5 during the Jets first 4 games. Shonn Greene is hardly a factor on the team anymore.

In the words of Vince Lombardi, what the hell is going out here?

Wait a minute…during the bye week, weren’t we concerned about the Jets defense not their offense? Yes, since the Jets offense put up 28, 31, 38, 29, and 24 in the previous 5 games. Is it possible that this situation may not be quite as bad as everybody is making it out to be?

The Jets have a young quarterback and an inconsistent offensive coordinator, who is struggling to juggle the number of options the Jets have in the receiving game. There are going to be lapses at times. They laid an egg in game one and responded with 5 great performances. Now they laid an egg in game 7, and hopefully will respond with 5 more great performances.

Similar to every team in the NFL, the Jets have flaws which are going to rear their head at times throughout the season. The key is to be able to still find a way to win when they appear, similar to the Minnesota and Denver games. More importantly is for the Jets to work out the kinks now and to be playing their best football in December heading into January.

The positive news is that the Jets defense finally looked like their 2009 unit, which was the best in the NFL. If they keep improving and the offense gets back to their week 2-5 level, the Jets are going to be just fine.

Getting shut-out at home is plenty embarrassing but let’s step back from the ledge Jets fans. If the Jets slip up against the 2-5 Lions or 2-5 Browns, then it is time to hit the panic button.

TOJ NFL Power Rankings: Week 9

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A tricky week to put together power rankings, after the NFC finally stepped up and grabbed a few victories from the AFC. The NFL just keeps getting more and more confusing each week, regardless here is what I am thinking heading into week 9, which can’t get here fast enough for Jets fans:

1. New England Patriots (6-1) – They just win football games, despite a young defense and an inconsistent running game. Beyond that, I am pretty sure Bill Belichick has acquired 102 draft picks for next season.

2. Indianapolis Peyton Mannings (5-2) – I am pretty confident you could throw me in the slot for the Colts and they’d still put up 30 points a game.

3. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) – They watched two of their top competitors in the AFC lose to NFC teams during their bye week.

4. New York Giants (5-2) – Seattle has always been a house of horrors for them. However if they can get a win, their schedule is very manageable the rest of the way.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) – The defending champs were desperate and made a few more plays than Pittsburgh, not a terrible loss for them.

6. Green Bay Packers (5-3) – Two straight impressive wins for Green Bay, who showed they could win a defensive struggle and take advantage of wide receivers who can’t catch the football.

7. New York Jets (5-2) – Too steep of a fall? I don’t think so. Great teams don’t get shut out at home by defenses of Green Bay’s caliber.

8. Atlanta Falcons (5-2) – They had a bye week to prepare for a huge game against the second place Bucs…who would have thought?

9. New Orleans Saints (5-3) – Did they get their swagger back with a big win over the Steelers?

10. Tennessee Titans (5-3) – Tough loss to San Diego and it won’t be easy to keep pace with the Colts, unless they get more consistent.

11. Kansas City Chiefs (5-2) – They could give themselves a nice mid-season cushion in first place by beating Oakland.

12. Tampa Bay Bucs (5-2) – Let’s see how legit they are against the Falcons this week, after they failed two of their other big tests miserably.

13. Miami Dolphins (4-3) – Chance for a statement win this week in Baltimore.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) – Can Mike Vick keep the Eagles on pace with the Giants for a NFC East title?

15. Houston Texans (4-3) – Feeling like another 8-8 year for the Texans.

16. Oakland Raiders (4-4) – Oakland actually has a big game in November.

17. San Diego Chargers (3-5) – Are they ready to make their annual mid-season run?

18. Seattle Seahawks (4-3) – They just lost by 30 to Oakland and still might be the NFC West’s best team…yuck.

19. Washington Redskins (4-4) – Rex Grossman is never the answer.

20. Chicago Bears (4-3) – The crappiest team in the NFL over .500

21. St. Louis Rams (4-4) – A very impressive season so far for this young team.

22. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4) – The crappiest team in the NFL that is at least .500.

23. Arizona Cardinals (3-4) – You think they miss Kurt Warner?

24. Detroit Lions (2-5) – Yes I am beyond worried about the Jets traveling to Detroit this week.

25. Cincinnati Bengals (2-5) – Playing out the string with their cast of characters should just be a joy.

26. Cleveland Browns (2-5) – Come on Mangini, let’s get that upset over New England this week.

27. Denver Broncos (2-6) – Is it time for Tim Tebow yet?

28. San Francisco 49ers (2-6) – Sadly alive in the NFC West.

29. Minnesota Vikings (2-5) – The most talked about 2-5 team in NFL history.

30. Carolina Panthers (1-6) – I’d be shocked if they won more than 3 games this year.

31. Buffalo Bills (0-7) – At least they put up a fight every week.

32. Dallas Cowboys (1-6) – No heart, no effort. I’d be more scared of the Jets playing Buffalo or Carolina right now than Dallas.

What Happened To The Ground And Pound?

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One of the most encouraging aspects of the Jets since the beginning of the Rex Ryan era, is that they developed a distinct identity as a football team. The Jets are going to be built around an aggressive defense and running the football. The Ground and Pound. When they strayed from the formula last year, they began to struggle and when they went back to it, they made their run to the AFC Championship Game.

This reality makes it particularly perplexing how pass happy the Jets offense has been this season. Encouraged by the progress Mark Sanchez demonstrated against New England, Miami, and Buffalo, Brian Schottenheimer has forgotten the Jets identity and began to ignore his running game. The Jets pride themselves on the talent of their offensive line and running backs, yet they haven’t had a back with 20 carries in their past two games, as a matter of fact only twice this season has a Jets back reached 20 carries.

Shonn Greene, the Jets young power running back who is supposed to wear down defenses and keep LaDainian Tomlinson fresh for the end of the season has seen his role gradually decline in the offense. After a season high 22 carries against Buffalo, he received 10 against Minnesota, 9 against Denver, and then only 6 against Green Bay.

Mark Sanchez threw 44 passes against the Vikings, completing only 21 of them. 30 passes against Denver, completing only 17 of them and then finally 38 against the Packers, with only 16 completions. Are you seeing what I am seeing in the math? It might be time for Sanchez to be throwing 20-25 passes a game and for LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene to combine for 35-40 carries.

The Jets need to get back to their identity. They will be a more productive with Tomlinson and Greene leading the charge, followed by Sanchez utilizing their weapons in the passing game off play action and when defenses stack the box.

How about that ground and pound, Rex?

Grading Out Jets/Packers

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Quarterback (C-) An ugly statistical day for Mark Sanchez (16/38, 256 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs. He wasn’t helped by dropped passes all over the field, particularly by Jerricho Cotchery and Santonio Holmes. However, Sanchez still appeared erratic and out of rhythm all day. He needs to get himself back on track quickly if the Jets are going to keep pace with the Patriots in the AFC East.

Running Backs (C) A disappointing effort from the Jets rushing attack. LaDainian Tomlinson struggled to get going (16 carries, 54 yards), while Shonn Greene was never given the chance to get going (6 carries, 22 yards). The Jets must do a better job of balancing the carries between their top two backs. Greene also needs to catch the ball when it is thrown to him.

Wide Receivers (F) Jerricho Cotchery, what is happening to you? You have to wonder if he is feeling extra pressure because of the addition of Holmes and is pressing too much but I have never seen him struggle like that. Speaking of Holmes, he needs to catch the ball when it hits him in the hands too and become more consistent. Terrible job by both Brian Schottenhiemer and Mark Sanchez, not involving BraylonEdwards more in the offense. Brad Smith had a rare negative play with a fumble.

Tight Ends (C)  Dustin Keller has cooled off after his strong start to the season. You can’t let defenders just rip the ball out of your hands.

Offensive Line (C) They did a pretty good job protecting Mark Sanchez overall but didn’t get their usual push in the running game. I’d expect a much bigger commitment to the Ground and Pound in the upcoming weeks.

Defensive Line (A) The Packers did nothing running the ball and Mike DeVito was very active in particular with 5 tackles. The Jets aren’t getting much of anything out of Trevor Pryce or Vernon Gholston right now.

Linebackers (A) Great game for David Harris with 9 tackles and a sack. Bart Scott played one of his better games with 7 tackles and a tackle for loss. Jason Taylor and Bryan Thomas have been awfully quiet lately.

Secondary (A) Holding Aaron Rodgers to 15/34 for 170 yards is pretty damn impressive. Darrelle Revis appears to moving around much better than prior to the bye week. Dwight Lowery had a nice pass breakup and a sack. Kyle Wilson is going to start being inactive soon.

Special Teams (D) Basic football knowledge…you don’t fake punts on 4th and 18 from your own 20 yard line. Nick Folk shanked a 37 yard field goal.

Coaching (F) Bad use of challenges and time outs, along with a weak and predictable offensive game plan. Beyond that, Steve Weatherford should never have the jurisdiction to run that fake punt on his own.