TOJ Championship Week Preview

TOJ with a preview of the AFC and NFC Championship Game

It feels like a hundred years ago we were preparing for the New York Jets vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game. This year’s version features the two team’s top rivals, as the New England Patriots have reasserted their dominance of the AFC East and the Baltimore Ravens have finally maneuvered further in the playoffs than Pittsburgh.

At first glance, it is hard to convince yourself that Baltimore can win this football game. Yet, you then need to remind yourself that New England hasn’t beaten a team with a better than .500 record all season and that they lost to a similarly constructed Jets team in the playoffs last year. Baltimore has the talent on the defense to disrupt the Patriots mighty offense. The question is really whether the Ravens offense can do enough to pull off the upset?

New England’s defense is garbage but the simplicity and mediocrity of the Ravens offense may not be able to take enough advantage of it to pull the upset. In the end, I think the New England revenge tour continues another week and they knock off the Ravens in a game closer than most expect.

In the NFC, the Giants and their fans have got the match-up they have wanted in San Francisco. I would offer a word of caution from experience however. I remember a New York team and their fans being incredibly hyped after knocking off the consensus best team in the regular season on the road in the divisional round and then being understandably confident against a team they looked good against earlier in the season in the Championship Game, just to suffer a major let-down.

From the sounds of things, the Giants have already punched their ticket to the Super Bowl. I wouldn’t sleep on San Francisco in the Mud Bowl that the field should be on Sunday. Regardless, in this year of NFL misery for Jets fans it only makes sense we would have to suffer through a Giants/Patriots rematch, so why pick against it?

AFC Championship Game – 12 Pack of Predictions

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It is cold, it is refreshing and it is wrong more times than not…it is the 12 pack, with a very special AFC Championship Game edition –

1. Mark Sanchez is going to throw for about 200 yards and hit a key big play down the field to Santonio Holmes, who is due for a long touchdown. He also won’t turn the football over.

2. Braylon Edwards will lead the Jets in receptions and yards, continuing his terrific season as the Jets most reliable receiver.

3. Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson will combine for less than 90 yards rushing, it is going to be tough sledding against a pissed off Pittsburgh front seven that didn’t play well in the previous Jets match-up.

4. Ben Roethlisberger is going to create a long touchdown after breaking the pocket by hitting one of his receivers that isn’t being covered by Darrelle Revis. Overall, Antonio Cromartie is going to have a tough time in this game and will be picked on by Roethlisberger.

5. Rashard Mendenhall won’t crack 100 yards but will still have a solid outing against the Jets defense, especially taking advantage when they don’t stack the box.

6. The Jets are going to have one big kick return that will directly set up points.

7. The Jets will be very hesitant to attempt a field goal over 40 yards, Nick Folk is going to miss a kick somewhere between 30 and 40 yards as well.

8. Emmanuel Sanders and Heath Miller are both going to have productive days working the middle of the field against the Jets secondary.

9. Jason Taylor is going to record a sack in a big spot. I know he has looked out of it the past week, but I just got a feeling.

10. Shaun Ellis is going to play another very strong game and keep pressure on Roethlibserger throughout the game.

11. The Jets are going to score points in the first quarter…finally.

12. Yes, Yes, Yes…the Jets are going to the Super Bowl. Put it down as my most confident pick of the season, with the Jets winning 21-17 in a tight, hard-fought game. This is our year and it has been since the off-season, through Hard Knocks, through all the miracle last second victories, through all the controversies, and punctuated by the major upset of the Patriots last week, that even I couldn’t see coming…shame on me. Pittsburgh has won enough damn Super Bowls, this is our time.

New York Jets: Flight Boys are Balling

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If you have been reading this site over the past year or so that it has been active, you know I am partial to the wide receiver position. Why? For the obvious selfish reason that I was a receiver in high school and college…a slow, possession receiver with great hands who wore too many writstbands and celebrated a little too much after each first down. Yes, those were the days…

Anyway, you can imagine how much I enjoy the fact that the Jets have finally accumulated so much talent at the position. Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, and Jerricho Cotchery have adopted the “Flight Boys” title and started the airplane celebration after big plays and wins, which all of us love so much and which everybody else uses as more fuel on their fire of hate towards the Jets. Is it a little corny? If I was a Giants fan, I’d say so…but since not, you can frequently catch me celebrating Jets wins by running around with my arms like an airplane, having nowhere near as much swag as Holmes, Edwards, or Cotchery but maybe approaching it one day if this site gets bought out by ESPN or something.

Regardless, the Jets offense has the ability to go point for point with any team they face because of their wide receivers and the continued growth of Mark Sanchez.

Let’s start with Cotchery, who despite being a favorite of TOJ and just about everybody else who follows this team, had a disappointing year. I thought Cotchery would lead the team in receptions and would be a deadly third down weapon, unfortunately he dealt with injuries and uncharacteristic drops all season. Yet, he has shown flashes of being that key weapon in the slot, who could take advantage of single coverage inside the numbers.

Last week, in the biggest spot possible (until this week) Cotchery rose up with 5 receptions for 96 yards, including arguably the most important play of the game, a 58 yard catch and run in the 4th quarter to break the Patriots momentum. This is a guy who was a starter since 2006 and didn’t complain once about being demoted or having less balls thrown his way. He waited patiently until his number was called and took advantage when it was.

I can’t say enough about the year Braylon Edwards has put together. One of my friends, who isn’t a Jets fan, constantly criticizes Edwards for not being more productive given his physical ability. However, if you have watched every Jets snap this season, you know he has been the Jets most reliable target. He dropped maybe about 2 passes all year and made a ton of tough and clutch catches in traffic. His stats don’t jump off the page because of the players he is splitting targets with and how often the Jets run the ball. He has earned a new contract from this team, and I hope they can find a way to work it out.

Santonio Holmes has proven to be an absolute steal. The guy was suspended the first four games of the year and still had three game winning catches this season and the nicest catch of the playoffs so far against New England. He is a big play machine and still one of the most clutch players in the league.

I can’t answer the question of who to bring back, Holmes or Edwards. The answer is both, find a way Mike T…without pulling all your hair out.

AFC Championship: Just Not Good Enough For Jets

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The dust has fully settled on the Jets oh so sweet victory over the New England Patriots, the long weekend is over and it is time for a few key realizations —

Yes, it was a very, very important win in Jets franchise history to end New England’s season in their building as heavy underdogs. Honestly, outside of  Super Bowl III, it is probably the greatest win in franchise history. Maybe I am too young and I’m not placing enough importance on another game in their past but to my knowledge and understanding, this should rank as #2.

However, there is no awards or trophies for beating your arch-rival in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Before the season started, Rex Ryan talked Super Bowl, the players talked Super Bowl, and most of us felt this team was good enough to win a Super Bowl, now is the time to seize the opportunity.

The Jets are exercising demons on a weekly basis. Rex Ryan can’t beat Peyton Manning? Those days are over. The Jets can’t beat the Patriots when it counts, Tom Brady is an infallible quarterback who never mistakes? Sorry, Phil Simms, Jim Nantz and every other mainstream media member, those are days are also over. Yet, the biggest demon still needs to be exercised. The demon of the Jets not winning a Super Bowl since 1969.

The novelty of getting to the AFC Championship Game has worn off. We did that last year. It was a pleasant surprise as a 9-7 team with a first year head coach and rookie quarterback and the Jets were rightly heavy underdogs to a team that was capable of going 16-0. This time around is different. The Jets expected to be here. They already beat Pittsburgh, in Pittsburgh, this year and honestly they should be expected to win this game.

There are no excuses. I don’t want to hear about a hangover from the New England win when a Super Bowl birth is on the line. This team has Super Bowl talent throughout the entire organization, from the owner, to the GM, to the coaching staff, to every player on this roster.

The Jets have already taken over this town. There hasn’t been a bigger, more consistent story since the day Rex Ryan took over. However, the only way for this organization to truly become a part of history and permanently shed their labels as little brothers in this sports town is to win a championship.

Rex Ryan said it in all those Hard Knocks promos we loved so much, “it is time to win a Super Bowl”…nothing else is acceptable.