New York Jets – Formula For The “Upset”

Panic has taken over surrounding the New York Jets, as they head into New England as 9 point underdogs. Most people have written the team off after watching Mark Sanchez get hit like a piñata last week in primetime and the Baltimore Ravens roll over them like they were a glorified JV team. The nice part about this game is that all it takes is a Jets win, coupled with a Buffalo loss to put them in first place in the AFC East.

Of course winning in New England is easier said than done, especially with Tom Brady racking up record breaking passing statistics. There is one thing indisputable about the Patriots. They can throw the damn football. Brady is the best quarterback in the league and has a full arsenal at his disposal, led by slot receiver Wes Welker who is playing the best football of his career and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who seems to catch a touchdown every 2.5 seconds. Yet, there is another thing that is indisputable, the New York Jets should be confident about getting to Brady and slowing down his mighty machine. They have done it before and they have the personnel to do it again.

New England is about as one dimensional as it gets. They have one of the league’s worst defenses and they show no commitment to running the football. Unfortunately, as of late the Jets have also been one dimensional and that dimension is turning the football over.

The Jets must get back to what made them the AFC’s second best team the past two years, which is relying on their defense, running game, special teams, and a controlled passing attack. Don’t talk yourself out of the fact that this is a winnable game for the Jets. It absolutely is, but a few things need to occur.

First off, Rex Ryan needs to bring his A game when it comes to the defensive game-plan. He beat Brady in the chess game last January, but can he do it again? The pass rush must show up, hopefully with a boost from Aaron Maybin again, and players like Kyle Wilson, Donald Strickland, Brodney Pool, and Eric Smith need to be at the top of their game.

The special teams needs to make plays and win their third of the game. A few big kick returns…solid kick coverage…no missed field goals…and accurate punting, will go a long way to a Jets victory.

Finally, the offense needs to find itself. Call it embracing the ugly. Wrap your arms around the 3 yard carry, the screen pass, and the occasional play action shot down field. Keep it simple and protect the football. If the Jets pick their spots they can beat the New England secondary but Mark Sanchez shouldn’t throw more than 26 times on Sunday. He has averaged a touch over 25 attempts in his three career victories against New England, so keep his dropbacks in that range.

We all watched last week, it is understandable why most people don’t expect a Jets victory. However, let’s not make this out to be the 1996 Jets by the 1972 Dolphins. The Jets got a shot on Sunday and it is a good one

Timing Is Right For McKnight, As Jets Revisit Ground Attack

Joe McKnight first joined the Jets last year as a nervous, fumbling fourth round selection. A player whose real first notable performance in Green and White entailed vomiting during minicamp. Thus earning him an underachieving label that the former USC tailback almost couldn’t shake. Until now. One blocked punt and the longest play in Jets history later, McKnight’s moment has clearly arrived. The timing of it couldn’t be better for an offense that has lost their identity, while a special teams unit perhaps found the answer to the loss of Brad Smith. As the Jets return to the “Ground and Pound” mentality this week, they must add to it more plays designed for McKnight. A guy who can break off big runs from a variety of places.

On special teams McKnight has found his rythym. His solid forty plus yard second half return in Oakland following Antonio Cromartie’s injury (occurring while trying to retrieve his own fumble during the prior kickoff) was followed by his 107 yard TD encore in Baltimore this past Sunday. McKnight’s blazing speed, and quick cuts are finally beginning to make their way to the surface.  Natural instinct is starting to topple what has been a paralyzing habit of overthinking by McKnight during runbacks.

On offense the 5’11 198 pound McKnight can become the speedy outside rushing threat that without him, the new version of the Ground and Pound doesn’t have. After weeks of horrid blocking in pass protection and too much of a focus on throwing the ball, Ryan wants to return to running the ball. Additional speed like McKnights’ would certainly help provide another choice within that concept.

McKnight could also make things happen in the passing game. Prior to becoming a Jet, many NFL draft scouting reports highlighted his hands, and pass catching abilities as a strengths as well. Now may be the perfect time for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to add McKnight’s tools into the gameplan both on the ground and through the air.

The reasoning being simple. McKnight can score. From anywhere. Yet the offensive line and feature back Shonn Greene have struggled. A weekly change of pace from a pair of breakaway speed legs provided by McKnight might provide the remedy. With the ball in the hands of McKnight, plays won’t take very long to develop, but will still retain the upside potential for long gains.

McKnight could also line up in the slot. For bubble screens and quick outs into the flat. Both of which could turn into favorable one on one situations against much slower defenders. Line McKnight up as the “QB” of the Wildcat as well. This to obtain the ability to work the option on the perimeter. All to be used as a way to allow McKnight a few more opportunities to break free and change games. The way Smith used to from whatever position HE was put in.

Sometimes an offense just needs a little boost. A new look that turns into a big play. McKnight could be the one to provide this. At 2-2, with the notion of returning to a ball control style on offense, the Jets must go beyond simply PONDERING the idea of using him more frequently. Instead, they must see that now IS the right time to explore just how big of a weapon Joe McKnight truly CAN be.

New York Jets: How To Get The Swagger Back

Prior to their last meeting with the New England Patriots, the New York Jets were heavy underdogs. You may remember the massacre they undertook in the 2010 regular season and how everybody had already crowned the 14-2 Patriots as Super Bowl champs. Nobody gave the Jets a shot the last time they traveled up north to face their rivals.

Did the Jets stop running their mouths in the week leading up to the game? Of course not. Did they go into New England, 100 percent certain they were more than capable of ending the Patriots season? Of course they did. These were Rex Ryan’s Jets, who simply didn’t give a damn what you thought about them, how they acted, and what they said.

It was a beautiful thing to watch, the entire football world lavishing praise on the classy Patriots, who kept their bougie heads too high to step into the fray with the Jets outside of a few subtle references from Wes Welker. Tom Brady would shred up an idiotic Antonio Cromartie for calling him an A—Hole and New England would laugh in the face of a bumbling Rex Ryan. Yet, when they took the field, it was the Jets who punched New England in the mouth. It was Tom Brady who looked idiotic trying to move the ball against the Jets defense. It was Bill Belicheck outcoached by Rex Ryan and yes it was Mark Sanchez, that same guy you all want to cut, throwing for 3 touchdowns and leading his team to a win.

This week the Jets are 9 point underdogs. They have already been written off for the 2011 season by those who cover the league and sadly by many of their fans. Let’s be honest, nobody expects them to win.

This is the time for the Jets to go back to their roots. Run their mouth. Run the football. Run out another epic defense performance against a supposedly unstoppable Patriots offense. Break out the Flight Boys celebration all over that field just like they did last time. The Jets from last two years wouldn’t give a damn about New England still seething over that loss and how much their showboating irritated their rivals. They would simply be ready to cue up more of it.

I am all for the return to the Ground and Pound. Three runs and a punt can be a victory sometimes. Don’t get caught up in trying to go pass for pass with New England. Run the football at them consistently and set up your play action shots down the field. Let your defense and special teams make plays, while your offense doesn’t beat you. The Jets have stopped New England before and they can do it again. New England isn’t infallible, in case you forgot the Buffalo game from a couple of weeks ago.

One win can do wonders in the NFL and despite many of you thinking the season is over, a Jets victory coupled with a Buffalo loss to Philadelphia, puts them in first place…exactly where we though they’d be after 5 games.

2-2 Is Not Time For New York Jets To Panic

Rex Ryan is right. It is time to return to the Ground and Pound, to smashing mouths and putting hats on people. Even if just to rev up a team that for the past two weeks has not only lost games, but has been beaten up emotionally and physically. Despite falling to 2-2 after getting knocked around in Oakland and Baltimore, the Jets still have time to get where they want to go. Ryan is toning down the Super Bowl talk for now and that’s a good thing. The Jets are not looking like a club that is headed for Indianapolis these days. However it only early October. Nobody gets awarded a ticket punched for the big dance yet anyway.

The “Ground and Pound” was the essential label the 2009 Jets carried with them in their luggage every week. Thomas Jones was the hammer. Shonn Greene the closer. With All Pro bodyguards Alan Faneca, Nick Mangold, Damien Woody and D’Brickshaw Ferguson all paving the way. Jones is a Chief though now. Faneca and Woody are now retired and Mangold has been out for two weeks. With news of the “return” the obvious concern will be as to whether or not the Jets are daydreaming when they say they want THIS foundation on offense again, minus THAT personnel.

The Jets have replaced Woody with the struggling Wayne Hunter at RT.  Rookie Colin Baxter has done his best to cover up the loss of Mangold while the always maligned Vlad Ducasse has been shifting places with Matt Slauson up front. It hasn’t worked out well. Shonn Greene has had no room to run and LaDainian Tomlinson, when he’s not catching screen passes has not found a hole yet either. Let’s not even talk about what has gone on when Sanchez has gone back to throw.

The solution? Ryan’s calls for using less three WR sets that have featured the star trio of Burress, Holmes and Mason, but have rendered little production. By adding more skill position blocking types with the names of Mulligan, Baker and Conner, jersey sales may not flourish, but the Jets may start plowing space.

Even if a bigger return to the ground (in 2009 the Jets ran the ball 61 percent of the time. This year the Jets have THROWN it 62 percent of the time) fails to move the chains all game, it still may be the wise move. Just defining a personality on offense at all, could cure a group that is stuck between running plays with too many wideouts in the formation, and passing plays that attempt to show the growth of Mark Sanchez off despite the inability to protect him.

The Jets are currently 30th in the NFL in rushing. Yet by going back to grinding it out, Gang Green can still reestablish control over two key broad concepts that have been lost. First, that they are the more physical team. One that won’t beat itself (Baltimore score 21 defensive points thanks to turnovers by Sanchez) by handing teams touchdowns. Second, that the defense will again be asked to carry the primary responsibility for field position and scoreboard maintenance. After all, there would be little need to improve upon a 22.9 points per game average in 2010  if the Defense can return to their under 19 points per game average of 2010.

Then there is the AFC. A conference without a powerhouse club dominating both sides of the ball. Sure there are five 3-1 teams, but break them all down and you’ll notice that all have their own issues and potential firestorms awaiting them as well.

The Pats are second in the NFL in scoring but 20th in points allowed. With some health concerns to key players like LB Jerod Mayo, expected out a month, and big Albert Haynesworth who has already missed two games.

The Ravens brutalized the Jets offense but QB Joe Flacco and his top accomplice RB Ray Rice had minimal affect on the party. If there is to be a playoff rematch in January, the Jets by then could be months along with the resurgent Ground and Pound.. If so, then expect the 10-9 type of grind it out game that both teams endured last season instead of the wild 34-17 one they just played.

The Texans and Chargers are 3-1 but they are, well, the Texans and Chargers. One franchise trying to rid itself of the tag of dramatic fourth quarter chokers. The other coached by Norv Turner, who always seems to turn promising team outlooks into crushing season ending defeats in January.

The Bills and Titans are both off to exciting and surprising starts but are newbies to the upper crust. The Bills can light it up on offense and comeback from way down to do it. The Titans are 1st in the NFL in allowing just 14 points per game. This duo will have to prove over a longer period than just four games.

As Joe Namath noted last week, it is dangerous for teams to rest on their laurels and maybe these Jets did. to a degree. Regardless, Namath and other detractors better not discount the importance of achievment. The experience and success that two consecutive month long road runs to the AFC title game, will do wonders in keeping the club focused on seeing the big picture, through this early season storm.

The past two games have given the Jets and those who die hard with them an understandable reason for concern. With a talented roster, a conference with no complete and fully healthy team, and Ryan who has too much belief in his team to quit, it’s a situation that doesn’t call for widespread panic just yet either

TOJ NFL Power Rankings – Week 5

A quarter of the way through the NFL season, it is time for our first 2011 Power Rankings. Explain my stupidity to me on Twitter or Facebook

Also check out an early week 5 preview

The Elite

1. Green Bay Packers (4-0) – The champs are hitting on all cylinders right now.

2. New Orleans Saints (3-1) – They almost knocked off the Packers in week one. Darren Sproles was a complete steal for them in free agency.

3. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) – Laid an egg in Tennessee but look like they are ready to roll to a AFC North title.

4. New England Patriots (3-1) – They throw the football better than anybody in the league but what else can they do?

On The Rise

5. Detroit Lions (4-0) – Calvin Johnson is the best player in the NFL right now.

6. Tennessee Titans (3-1) – I trust them more than the Houston Texans to take the AFC South title.

7. Houston Texans (3-1) – Will this finally be the year they get over the hump?

8. San Diego Chargers (3-1) – An unimpressive 3-1…but considering their early season struggles in the past they will take it.

9. Washington Redskins (3-1) – Not as flashy of a team as their division counterparts but they could steal the NFC East.

10. New York Giants (3-1) – Rolling up wins in the first half of the season as they usually do.

11. Tampa Bay Bucs (3-1) – The young pups look like a legitimate playoff contender for the second year in a row.

12. Buffalo Bills (3-1) – Didn’t need that loss to Cincinnati with the schedule about to get more difficult.

13. Oakland Raiders (2-2) – Should be battling it out with San Diego for the division title out West.

14. San Francisco (3-1) – Solidly average is enough to roll in the NFC West.

Disappointments

15. New York Jets (2-2) – .500 never felt more like winless.

16. Atlanta Falcons (2-2) – They don’t look on New Orleans level this season.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) – Offensive lines are important (see Jets for this fact as well).

18. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – Tony Romo is completely bipolar.

19. Chicago Bears (2-2) – Quickly losing ground on both Detroit and Green Bay.

20. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) – Dream Team quickly turning into nightmare.

Happily Mediocre

21. Carolina Panthers (1-3) – They will put up a fight every week with Cam Newton under center.

22. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) – They already have more wins than I expected.

23. Cleveland Browns (2-2) – The Browns are at least beating the really crappy teams now.

Pretty Damn Bad

24. Seattle Seahawks (1-3) – You are always alive in the NFC West.

25. Arizona Cardinals (1-3) – See above.

26. Denver Broncos (1-3) – We want Tebow. We want Tebow.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) – Going to be a rough rookie year for Blaine Gabbert.

28. Indianpolis Colts (0-4) – How many more times do we have to watch them in primetime?

Really Damn Bad

29. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) – Advanced from a ACC caliber team to maybe a low end SEC caliber team as of late.

30. Minnesota Vikings (0-4) – It hasn’t been a fun couple of years for Donovan McNabb.

31. St. Louis Rams (0-4) – How much longer will ‘Spags hold on to his job?

32. Miami Dolphins (0-4) – I really enjoy putting them here.