Excuse me for not being more excited about previewing the Jets/Bills backup bowl this Sunday, but my mind is already on Wild Card Weekend, where the Jets will either be traveling to Kansas City or Indianapolis. Despite the two teams being very different, the Jets road to the Super Bowl is going to need the following formula regardless of who they play.
1) The Good Mark Sanchez – We have seen the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde act from Sanchez at times over the past two years. The encouraging thing is that he played very well in last year’s playoffs and has looked great the previous two weeks. This is a quarterback driven league and the Jets are no different than any other team in that, they need their guy playing at a high level if they want make any noise in January. Sanchez has more weapons at his disposal in this year’s playoffs than he did last year, so hopefully he can create big plays and points to support his struggling defense.
2) Shonn Greene – The benefit of still using LaDainian Tomlinson too much down the stretch is that Shonn Greene is especially fresh for the playoffs. He is the type of back built for January, with his hard charging north/south running. Tomlinson is fine as a change of pace back and a 3rd down receiving option but the Jets would be foolish to not have Greene in the 18-20 carry range when the playoffs start.
3) Defensive Answers – The Jets are lacking the personnel to have a great defense but let’s be honest they aren’t completely devoid of talent and they are supposed to have one of the top defensive minds in the league coaching them. Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine are going to have to get creative to manufacture a pass rush and to avoid leaving players like Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery on an island too frequently. Beyond that, players like Calvin Pace and Jason Taylor simply have to play better.
4) Special Teams Boost – Another way to cover for the Jets defensive shortcomings is to win the special teams battle. Kick returner Brad Smith and punter Steve Weatherford have both had Pro-Bowl quality years and the Jets need them both to keep it up. Nick Folk needs to stay reliable, as he has been the previous few weeks and it wouldn’t hurt if they could rip off a big punt return at some point.
5) Santonio – I love what Braylon Edwards has done for the Jets this year, as he has surprisingly been their most reliable and consistent receiver. Yet, Santonio Holmes is the only game-changing player on the Jets offense. He is the guy who can take a 3 yard slant route and turn it into a 70 yard touchdown or come up with a 7 catch, 165 yard game where an opposing defense just can’t stop him. The Jets need ‘Tone Time to last all the way through January if they want a shot of playing in February.
Our final installment of the NFL Regular Season Power Rankings…don’t shed a tear on me. Don’t worry, the show doesn’t stop in the playoffs, but here is a very special edition of TOJ NFL Power Rankings…
1. New England Patriots (13-2) – There is no way around it, New England is the team to beat heading into the 2010 playoffs. How many hours are going to be spent pouring over the game tape from when Cleveland beat them way back on November 7th? They are the best but not unbeatable because of a sometimes shaky defense and young players in many key spots.
The Top Contenders
2. New Orleans Saints (11-4) – They know what it takes to win in the playoffs and regardless of likely being a wild-card, their road to the Super Bowl isn’t looking too intimidating. Big win over Atlanta last week in their building, showed they are still the team to beat in the NFC.
3. Baltimore Ravens (11-4) – The team I am most confident can knock off the Patriots in the playoffs. However, they will likely have to get by Peyton Manning first which will be no easy task.
Super Bowl Capable
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) – They need to handle business against the Browns or Sunday or risk falling all the way to a #6 seed. It would be a tall task for any wild-card team to come into Heinz Field and get a victory.
5. Atlanta Falcons (12-3) – The road to the Super Bowl still goes through Atlanta in the NFC but they now have it in their head that New Orleans can beat them in their building. Beyond that, the Falcons simply aren’t a dominant team who could be knocked off by any playoff team in their conference.
6. Chicago Bears (11-4) – Clinched a bye thanks to Philadelphia laying an egg last night. If Jay Cutler plays like he did against the Jets, they will be a tough out. It will be interesting to see how they handle the Green Bay game on Sunday, which is meaningless to them.
7. Philadelphia Eagles (10-5) – I know, I know…they looked awful last night but Mike Vick makes them a scary match-up for anybody in the NFC. They will have to beat Chicago at some point, however, who banged them up earlier in the year.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (10-5) – 7-0 at home and they are peeking at the right time. However, it remains to be seen how the key young players on their team handle their first playoff action.
9. Green Bay Packers (9-6) – Chicago would be doing the rest of the conference a favor by doing everything in their power to keep them out of the playoffs.
10. Indianapolis Colts (9-6) – It doesn’t matter how banged up they are, Peyton Manning makes them capable of reaching February.
11. New York Jets (10-5) – If they remember how to play defense and to give Shonn Greene the football, they could roll off a few wins in January especially if Mark Sanchez stays hot. After all the talk, a one and done showing would be a major disappointment.
Just Kill Them Already
12. Tampa Bay Bucs (9-6) – The young Bucs exceeded everybody’s expectations this year and are going to be a serious contender for a long time. However, it is doubtful they will receive enough help to reach the playoffs this time around.
13. New York Giants (9-6) – There is no overcoming the meltdown they had against the Eagles, which looks like it will take them from a potential #2 seed to having a new head coach.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-7) – They had every chance in the world to take advantage of the Colts struggles but failed to do so.
If Only They Were in the NFC West
15. Oakland Raiders (7-8) – Not a bad year for the Raiders, who helped the Jets out just a little by not being their usual 4-5 win selves which would have resulted in a top 10 pick for the Patriots in next year’s draft.
16. San Diego Chargers (8-7) – Inexcusable let down in Cincinnati ended their playoff hopes. Oh well, they weren’t going to win a playoff game anyway.
Pulling For You Sunday Night
17. St. Louis Rams (7-8) – Is there anybody who would rather see the pitiful Seahawks in the playoffs than the young, surprising Rams led by Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson?
A Moment to Laugh
18. Washington Redskins (6-9) – For the way they handled the Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb situation, along with thinking they could be a playoff team by starting Joey Galloway at receiver.
19. Miami Dolphins (7-8) – For thinking Chad Henne was a franchise quarterback and to everybody (I am looking you Bill Williamson) who argued they’d rather have him than Mark Sanchez.
20. Minnesota Vikings (6-9) – To how much better they would have been starting Joe Webb all along.
21. Dallas Cowboys (5-10) – To people like me who thought they were a Super Bowl contender.
22. Detroit Lions (5-10) – To them throwing the ball on third down when the Jets had no timeouts with Drew Stanton way back in November.
Deserve Some Respect
23. Buffalo Bills (4-11) – They have fought hard every week and are a handful of plays away from being a 7 win team despite lacking talent on both sides of the ball.
24. Cleveland Browns (5-10) – Fought hard all year but then dropped some winnable games late in the season that will likely cost Eric Mangini his job.
Deserve No Respect
25. Tennessee Titans (6-9) – Completely meltdown and quit in the second half of the year…kind of like Vince Young when he gets taken out of games.
26. Houston Texans (5-10) – Kind of funny to think about what everyone was saying about them after they beat the Colts in week one.
27. Seattle Seahawks (6-9) – If you haven’t been able to tell yet this year, it absolutely disgusts me that Seattle can still make the playoffs. Over the last 9 games, Seattle has lost by 30, 34, 15, 18, 19, 16, and 23 and beaten the Cardinals and Panthers aka a pair of college teams. Just disgusting that we have to watch them on Sunday night.
28. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11) – It would have been real interesting to watch how their season would have went without T.O. and Ochocinco.
29. Denver Broncos (4-11) – At least they have Tebow to look forward to next year.
30. San Francisco 49ers (5-10) – Mike Singletary was always entertaining.
31. Arizona Cardinals (5-10) – Funny to see Kerry Rhodes run his mouth on Twitter about the Jets as he is a key part of one of the NFL’s worst defenses.
32. Carolina Panthers (2-13) – Should be in last place for a long, long time in the NFC South.