Rex Ryan has talked up the “Ground and Pound” since arriving in New York and we saw it in full force last week.
The primary reason the Jets beat the Indianapolis Colts last week was because their offensive line and running backs completed dominated the second half. Their running game set up manageable third downs, which the Jets routinely converted.
It can’t be any different this week against the New England Patriots, who can be run on. Before you throw away 111 yards on 23 carries, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene had in the 45-3 beatdown, remember 84 of those came in the first half when the game was still competititve. The two of them also combined for 128 yards in their week 2 match-up, with Tomlinson averaging 6.9 yards per carry.
The Jets must control the clock to keep Tom Brady off the field. It doesn’t start and end with the running game either. Mark Sanchez must be accurate in the short passing game and find ways to convert third downs.
Look at the Jets third down situations in the second half against the Colts –
- 3rd and 2 – 5 yard by Shonn Greene. First Down.
- 3rd and 3 – 20 yard pass to Dustin Keller. First Down.
- 3rd and 7 – 9 yard pass to LaDainian Tomlinson. First Down.
- 3rd and 1 – 6 yard run by Mark Sanchez. First Down.
- 3rd and 1 – 1 yard run by LaDainian Tomlinson. Touchdown.
- 3rd and 5 – Incomplete pass to Santonio Holmes.
- 3rd and 5- Incomplete pass to Braylon Edwards.
As you can see the Jets were getting themselves in manageable situations through their running game. They finished 5/7 on third downs in the second half. Their only two misses were on a dropped pass by Santonio Holmes and an overthrow by Mark Sanchez to an open Braylon Edwards.
The Jets can’t afford those mistakes this week. No dropped passes. No overthrowing open receivers. Most importantly though is control the clock and setting up third and short through the running game. LaDainian Tomlinson and ShonnGreene both looked fresh and healthy last week and they should be the same this week, as neither reached 20 carries against Indy.
The less time Tom Brady is on the field and the more Jets shorten this game, the more likely it will be a one possession game in the 4th quarter, where one play can swing the game.
Betting on the NFL this week offers some intriguing options for gamblers.
In the first game of the weekend, Pittsburgh is currently a 3 point favorite over Baltimore. Both of their games this year were decided by 3 points, with the road team winning each game. The over/under is currently at 37, which could offer some value considering the point total in their two games was 31 and 23, respectively.
In the Saturday night game, Green Bay is only 2.5 point underdogs despite facing the NFC’s number one seed in Atlanta. Many people are on the Packers bandwagon and it is showing in the spread.
Seattle remains heavy underdogs this weekend, as the Bears are favored by 10 points even though they lost at home earlier in the year to Seattle. It will be interesting to see if gamblers have gained any faith in the Seahawks after last week.
The Jets are also heavy underdogs to the New England Patriots, who are 9 point favorites. It will be interesting to see how they respond to losing 45-3 to the Patriots earlier in the year.
Some final thoughts on Wild-Card Weekend, a ranking of the remaining teams, and initial thoughts on the divisional round match-ups —
- If you would have told me I would pick 3 of the 4 games right for the past weekend and the one I got wrong would be Seattle/New Orleans, I would have never believed you. Who could have seen that coming? Seattle grabbed the momentum and took advantage of a terrific game by Matt Hassleback. The funny thing now is that Seattle has already won in Chicago this year and has a decent shot at doing it again this weekend. Could you imagine the Seahawks actually hosting the NFC Championship Game as a 9-9 team?
- It was a great weekend of games, outside of the complete dud laid by the Cheifs at home. Baltimore was the superior team but Kansas City could have put up more of a fight. How do you not target Dwayne Bowe once? It isn’t like the Ravens have Darrelle Revis out there.
- The Packers are peeking at the right time, which is incredibly impressive considering all the injuries they sustained. It felt like Mike Vick was taking Philly in for a touchdown on that final drive but a few inches underthrown and a great play by Tramon Williams ended it.
Divisional Weekend Power Rankings
1. New England Patriots – They are the unquestioned favorite. Let’s see if the Jets can make Belichick and Brady look human again, like they did way way back in week 2.
2. Atlanta Falcons – Would anybody be surprised if Green Bay went into Atlanta and won this weekend? The Falcons don’t have the same clout as most number one seeds normally do.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers – Let’s see how their offensive line holds up in round III vs. the Ravens.
4. Baltimore Ravens – You can’t love football and not be beyond excited for Ravens/Steelers this weekend.
5. Green Bay Packers – The Packers have the feel of a team who is hot at the right time and with enough talent to win it all.
6. Chicago Bears – If Jay Cutler has his head on straight, the Bears should roll to the NFC Championship Game. However, I have a feeling Seahawks/Bears is going to be a tight one.
7. New York Jets – Nobody will give them a chance this weekend. Let’s see if they can shock the world.
8. Seattle Seahawks – Well they shut us up last weekend.
Initial Thoughts on Divisional Weekend
Ravens at Steelers – Tape the knuckles up and get ready for old-school, smashmouth, defensive football between a couple of teams who couldn’t know each other any better and couldn’t hate each other more. Take the under and look forward to one hell of a football game.
Packers at Falcons – Their regular season game a few weeks back was terrific and this one should be even better. A couple of great young quarterbacks and high powered offenses at work in the prime-time game.
Seahawks at Bears – I can’t help but have an early feeling Seattle is going to build off last week and take this game. This is coming from somebody who spent the entire year bashing the Seahawks as one of the five worst teams in the league. However, they did beat Chicago earlier in the year and I am not fully sold on the Bears yet. Remember the playoffs are about who is hot at the right time.
Jets at Patriots – Do I expect the Jets to win? No. Will I spend the whole week coming up with every possible way for them to win and talking myself into it happening? Yes.
Wild-Card Weekend Highlights
Is there anything better than a weekend of playoff football when your team is involved? The correct answer is absolutely not, so here is hoping that everybody beat the snow home and is ready for a great two days of football, without carrying on anymore here is a very special edition of the 12 pack for Jets/Colts, along with the rest of my weekend picks —
1. Mark Sanchez is going to throw for over 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns against an over-matched Colts secondary. More importantly, he will protect the football and won’t have a single turnover.
2. Peyton Manning is going to throw for over 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Jets secondary. He will find the match-ups that he wants because he always does. However, Manning will throw an interception Saturday night to Antonio Cromartie.
3. Shonn Greene will have at least 18 carries and at least 90 yards to lead the Jets ground attack. LaDanian Tomlinson will have 10-12 carries and 3-5 receptions. Joe McKnight won’t be involved in the offensive game-plan.
4. The Colts won’t have a running back who finishes with more than 50 yards on the ground. However, they will make big contributions catching the football out of the backfield.
5. Jacob Tamme is going to have a big day against the Jets secondary, with at least 65 receiving yards and a touchdown.
6. Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards will both have at least 70 yards receiving. One of them will get into the end-zone on a big play of 30 yards or longer.
7. Reggie Wayne will have less than 50 yards receiving and won’t score a touchdown against Darrelle Revis. Pierre Garcon will beat Antonio Cromartie for one big play but beyond that will be relatively quiet.
8. Brad Smith is going to have one big kick return and break one big run on offense.
9. Robert Mathis will have a pair of sacks against Damien Woody as he struggles to return from his surgery.
10. Despite having a less reliable kicker, the Jets will outplay the Colts on special teams which will go a long to determining the outcome of this game.
11. The Jets will coach this game extremely aggressively, meaning they won’t hesitate to go for 4th and 1’s and potentially try a few trick plays. However, Rex Ryan being too aggressive on defense will burn them a few times for big plays.
12. The Jets are going win a close one that comes down to the final few minutes, 27-24.
NFL Wild-Card Weekend Picks
Jets (+3) vs. Indy
Saints (-11) vs. Seahawks – I don’t want to hear about the long trip, the crowd noise, or the injuries to their running backs, the Saints are a much, much better team than the 7-9 Seahawks who don’t belong anywhere near the playoffs.
Ravens (-4) vs. Chiefs – Kansas City will struggle to move the football and will have a difficult time stopping Ray Rice. The Ravens are simply a more experienced team, who is better prepared to win this type of game.
Packers (+3) vs. Eagles – I have been all about the Mike Vick show all year but I think he will struggle with Green Bay’s blitzing and the Packers offense will run up a bunch of points on an inconsistent Philadelphia defense.
It doesn’t take more than a few second of looking at ESPN to realize who the consensus favorite for the Super Bowl is: the New England Patriots. However, that doesn’t mean certain NFC teams aren’t receiving strong odds to win the Lombardi trophy.
When looking at Super Bowl Betting the defending champion New Orleans Saints are frequently the second highest favorite of odds-makers. Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons aren’t too far behind. Interestingly enough, the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles who are being picked by many to come out of the NFC, offer tremendous value as Super Bowl picks due to their low odds at many betting sites.
In the AFC, despite the Patriots recent dominance there are many teams capable of making it past them. The New York Jets have beat them earlier in the season. The Baltimore Ravens knocked them out of the playoffs last year and the Indianapolis Colts are always a threat with Peyton Manning behind center. Finally, don’t forget about the Pittsburgh Steelers who have plenty of experience in big games.
If you are looking to be really risky, the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks are considered long-shot favorites to make it out of the first round, never mind make it to the Super Bowl.