TOJ Week 7 NFL Picks and Ramblings

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How about 8-4 last week? Let’s see if TOJ can keep rolling…

Lines From BetUS

Pittsburgh (-3.5) vs. Miami – I firmly believe Pittsburgh is either the best or second best team in the NFL, while Miami is en route to a 7-9 or 8-8 record. Big Ben is going to have a big day against a suspect Miami secondary, while Chad Henne is due for a few bad interceptions after a solid performance last week.

Atlanta (-3) vs.Cincinnati – Atlanta had a major let down last week, but the Bengals just aren’t a very good football team right now. What ever happened to Carson Palmer?

Kansas City (-9) vs. Jacksonville – Todd Bouman? The Jaguars have to be the worst 3-3 team in NFL history, right?

Tennessee (-3) vs. Philadelphia – I am taking the better conference in what should a hard fought, physical game.

Washington (+2.5) vs. Chicago – Sadly, these are both serious playoff contenders in the NFC.

Cleveland (+13.5) vs. New Orleans – You have to like what Colt McCoy showed in his first start. They will keep this one interesting.

Baltimore (-14) vs. Buffalo – Oh boy.

Carolina (+3.5) vs. San Francisco – As bad of a game this is, it would still get better ratings than the World Series.

Seattle (-6.5) vs. Arizona – Max Hall isn’t ready to play in Seattle just yet.

New England (+1.5) vs. San Diego – Why the hell is New England an underdog?

Denver (-8.5) vs. Oakland – Denver is a much better 2-4 than Oakland.

Minnesota (+2) vs. Green Bay – Making the NFC North even more confusing.

New York Giants (+3) vs. Dallas – Goodnight Dallas.

How The Jets Can Get The Most Out Of Their Offense

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It is hard to spend too much time complaining about the Jets offense through their first six games. They have made tremendous strides since last season, starting with quarterback Mark Sanchez who finally appears to understand the value of the football and isn’t giving it away at every chance possible. Braylon Edwards is playing to his potential. LaDainian Tomlinson has found the fountain of youth and has been a revelation. Dustin Keller is playing like the Pro-Bowl tight end the Jets drafted him to be.

Yet, this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

The Jets have no shortage of weapons and skill position players who play meaningful reps on their offense. Consider they have Tomlinson and Shonn Greene splitting reps at halfback, Tony Richardson and John Conner splitting reps at fullback. Edwards, Santonio Holmes, and Jerricho Cotchery, three wide receivers who have all been number one guys at some point in their careers. Keller at tight end, with Ben Hartsock, Matthew Mulligan, and Wayne Hunter all involved as blocking tight ends. Beyond that, they have Brad Smith playing receiver and quarterback.

It isn’t an easy task for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to mix and match up personnel groups and come up with ways to get the most out of this collection of players. We have all seen his inconsistencies and struggles attempting to do this. Coming out of the bye week, the Jets can do a better job with their division of reps, more clearly dividing roles in their offense, while still not becoming too predictable and tipping off their tendencies.

Nobody is a bigger fan of Jerricho Cotchery than me, he is a gritty player who has a terrific understanding of how to run routes and great hands. However in this offense, he would be most effective as primarily the number three receiver/slot guy. Cotchery can give this offense what they need from him in 25 – 35 reps a game. He can be a big time weapon for the Jets on third downs and in the slot, matched up on team’s third or fourth best corners.

Santonio Holmes needs to be on the field more than the 25 – 35 reps he has been. Simply put, he is a more dynamic overall receiver than Cotchery and puts more pressure on the defense opposite Braylon Edwards. He can make a defense pay more for leaving him in single coverage and should be the guy getting the quick receiver screens instead of Cotchery. Holmes can force defenses to roll coverage over to him, which will open up things for Edwards who has been on top of his game this season.

At running back, the Jets need to mix up their tendencies more often. You can’t just bring in Shonn Greene when you want to run the football. He has to be out there occasionally on passing downs and be involved in the screen game. A better mix between Tomlinson and Greene will open up more running lanes for both of them. On top of that, the Jets must start getting Greene more overall touches particularly over the next five games. Tomlinson needs to be fresh for the final five games of the regular season heading into the playoffs, most notably against New England, Miami, and Pittsburgh.

Tomlinson has 43 touches over the past two weeks compared to Greene only having 19 touches, which isn’t a good enough division by Schottenheimer. The Jets can’t risk running Tomlinson into the ground and with the way Greene has been running the past few weeks, he has shown he is more than capable of taking on more carries. He is averaging 4.8, 5.7, and 5.3 yards per carry over the last three games, respectively.

When the Jets move into their “Tiger” formation, I’d like to see them get more out of it. They have rarely been using the extra player coming in motion to hold the defense on the fake reverse. Despite his recent fumble, Holmes is a big threat coming around the end. It would also be nice to get Brad Smith on the edge a little more and let him throw another pass to keep defenses honest. Also don’t forget LaDainian Tomlinson’s career passing numbers (8/12, 143 yards, 7 TDs, 0 INTs). How about an option pass?

Nobody is saying Brian Schottenheimer has an easy job, but the Jets could certainly be getting more out of their offense considering their collection of weapons.

Getting The Job Done: Antonio Cromartie

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When the Jets traded for Antonio Cromartie this off-season, it was a relatively controversial deal. Cromartie had floundered the past two seasons after putting together an All-Pro 2007 campaign and Jets fans saw close up in the playoffs last year what type of effort he was capable of putting forward on the field.

Nobody could question Cromartie’s raw physical skills. He might be the most gifted athlete on the Jets roster. Yet, the real question was whether he could keep his head in the game and thrive in Rex Ryan’s aggressive man to man system, which would seem to play to his physical strenghts.

Cromartie got off to a questionable start in 2010 for the Jets. He was flagged three times in the Jets opening Monday Night loss for illegal contact or pass interference and was routinely beat by Anquan Boldin. Week 2 didn’t start off much better when he was beat by Wes Welker for a 2nd quarter touchdown. However, the switch was flipped in the second half of the New England game and since then, Cromartie has been playing at a Pro-Bowl caliber level.

He rallied the defensive backs at halftime of the Jets/Patriots game to step up after Darrelle Revis suffered an injury. He then backed up his words by shutting down Randy Moss in the second half and pulling in an interception. Brandon Marshall did put together a big game on him the following week, but Cromartie bounced back by completely shutting down Lee Evans and then putting together another solid performance on Moss. Against Denver, Brandon Lloyd came into the game leading the NFL in receiving yards but Cromartie kept him to 74 yards, no scores, and without any game changing plays.

Cromartie is never going to be the shut down corner Revis was in 2009. He gets beat occasionally and is flagged more than you’d like to see. However, he has stepped up in the absence of Revis Island (which has yet to surface in 2010) and provided stability in a Jets secondary that has dealt with its share of injuries and juggled line-ups. As Revis gets back to 100 percent, I would expect ‘Cro to bag a few more interceptions in 2010 and make a strong case to be a Pro-Bowler. Considering the struggles of Kyle Wilson, Cromartie is making very hard for the Jets not to bring him back in 2011.

For The 2010 Jets, 12 Is The Number

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The Jets made it to the AFC Championship Game the hard way in 2009. They went on the road and pulled off two upsets as a wild-card, built momentum and eventually ran out of steam in the second half in Indianapolis.

We have seen wild-card teams win Super Bowls in recent years, most notably the New York Giants who ripped off three straight road victories before upsetting the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

However, considering the way the AFC looks like it is breaking so far and the 5-1 start the Jets have got themselves off to, there is no reason a minimum of 12 victories shouldn’t be the target for this team. The easiest road to the Super Bowl is getting yourself a bye and then hosting two playoff games, and this Jets team is built to do that. Look at the rest of their schedule:

Week 8 vs. Green Bay – Originally this appeared to be a much tougher match-up but the Packers have been decimated with injuries and could very well come into this game at 3-4. Beyond that, they have a long trip out to the Meadowlands off an emotional prime-time game against Brett Favre, while the Jets will be fresh off the bye week. There is no reason the Jets shouldn’t handle business against this one-dimensional offense, with Darrelle Revis and Calvin Pace likely very close to, if not, 100 percent.

PhotobucketWeek 9 at Detroit – The Lions are frisky for a 1-5 team, which means this could be a dangerous game. Yet in reality, the Jets are going to be 8 – 10 point favorites and need to handle business against a team they are far superior to in the talent department. Darrelle Revis/Antonio Cromartie vs. Calvin Johnson? Should be fun to watch.

Week 10 at Cleveland – The Mangini Bowl. Cleveland can be a tough place to play, yet I think plenty of Jets will be up for this game against their former coach.

Week 11 vs. Houston – I love this match-up for the Jets. The Texans are a finesse team that does not match up well against them, as we already saw last year. Beyond that, the Jets get them at home. Yes it is a few weeks away but this feels like a nice double digit smack down.

Week 12 vs. Cincinnati – The Jets back on Thanksgiving, looking to make up for their debacle against Dallas a few years back. I am not sure why I should think the Bengals can come into the Meadowlands and win this game, considering how the Jets played them last year and the fact that Cincinnati has pretty much sucked so far this season.

Week 13 at New England – The Jets get an extra three days to prepare for this game, which will likely go a long way to determining who wins the AFC East. Prime-time. December football. It doesn’t get much better than this. Jets fans are already panicking about Danny Woodhead racking up 150 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns.

Week 14 vs. Miami – Good to get Miami at home this late in the year. The Dolphins feel like a .500 team to me right now, so hopefully the Jets can do some serious damage to their playoff hopes this week.

Week 15 at Pittsburgh – Oh boy. Doesn’t this feel like a battle of a couple 11-3 or 12-2 teams for the AFC’s number one seed? Santonio Holmes coming back to Pittsburgh. A couple of powerhouse defenses. This game has to be flexed to Sunday night, right?

Week 16 at Chicago – I am already having visions of Wayne Chrebet getting flipped on his head and fumbling to clinch a killer loss. Regardless of the Bears 4-2 record, I just don’t think they are that good and will either be right at or below .500 coming into this game. What is the over/under on the number times Jay Cutler is sacked this week?

Week 17 vs. Buffalo – We should be seeing some Mark Brunell and Kellen Clemens this week.

When you look at this collection of ten games, it is hard to see the Jets not putting together at least a 7-3 record. 12-4 should be good enough for a bye week in the AFC but may not be good enough for a number one seed unless the Jets can take care of business in Pittsburgh. Does it make me a delirious homer to think there is a somewhat realistic shot the Jets could win 13 games this year?

A 13 win Jets team? Times really could be changing.

Getting The Job Done: Braylon Edwards

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One of the most encouraging stories of the Jets off-season was the reported progress wide receiver Braylon Edwards was making in the offense. He impressed the coaching staff with his level of commitment and the shape he got himself into, which had many around the organization projecting a big year for him.

There was rightfully some skepticism. Edwards has struggled with consistency his entire career and in 12 games for the Jets only pulled in 35 receptions, 541 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Most people were more excited about Dustin Keller and believed when Santonio Holmes returned, Edwards would fade into the background and make it a no brainer for the Jets to re-sign Holmes after the season and let Edwards walk.

However, despite Keller’s strong start and the return of Holmes the past two weeks. Edwards leads the Jets in receiving yards with 343 and has already piled up 4 touchdowns in 6 games. He allowed the Jets to weather the Holmes suspension by being a legitimate number one receiver and consistently providing a big play threat. Edwards already has three touchdown receptions of 30 yards or more, along with another reception over 30 yards to go with it. He is averaging an impressive 16.3 yards per catch, which is the highest of his career.

Even as Santonio Holmes becomes more acclimated to the offense, Edwards brings a needed height presence in the red zone and big play capability on the other side of the formation. He is looking like a borderline 1,000 yard receiver who could approach double digits in touchdowns in 2010, which is a level of production that most didn’t expect from him.

In terms of the off-season, it will be interesting to see if the Jets can find a way to re-sign Holmes and Edwards. The only way that would happen is if, the market for Edwards isn’t as strong as should be because of his DUI incident mixed with his previous off the field problems or if Edwards comes back to the Jets for less, considering how they stuck by him after the DUI. As of the right now, Edwards is going to have to realize that even despite his production David Harris, Antonio Cromartie (because of his pro-bowl caliber play and Kyle Wilson’s struggles), and likely Santonio Holmes will all be bigger priorities for the Jets.

This could very well be #17’s last season in New York, so it is good to see that at least on the field, he is getting the job done.

Edwards 2010 Highlights

TOJ NFL Power Rankings: Week 7

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TOJ’s week 7 edition of the NFL Power Rankings, followed by some general NFL observations…as always feel free to comment on my stupidity

The Top Two

1. New York Jets (5-1) – I am giving them the leap to number one because I believe if they played their best game against Pittsburgh’s best game right now, they’d win in a close one.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1) – They should really get rolling now with Ben Rothlisberger under center but didn’t look as dominant as I expected against the Browns who were giving a rookie quarterback his first start.

Just A Cut Below

3. New England Patriots (4-1) – Impressive win against the Baltimore Ravens, who never put them away. Yet if I read one more story about how happy Deion Branch is to be back in New England and how everybody there loves him, I’m going to throw up.

4. Baltimore Ravens (4-2) – You can’t be blowing 20-10 leads that late in the game. Fortunately for them, they have a bye week this week aka they are playing Buffalo.

5. Indiannapolis Colts (4-2) – As long as Peyton Manning is under center, they are the favorite in the AFC South. Austin Collie is having one hell of a year too by the way.

Best Of NFC…I Guess

6. New Orleans Saints (4-2) – If you had to bet on one NFC team going to the Super Bowl right now, it’d probably have to be New Orleans especially if they continue to run the ball like they did last week.

7. Philadelphia Eagles (4-2) – The Eagles have a problem that many teams in the NFL wouldn’t mind having. Let’s get see if they can beat a physical Tennessee team to get some momentum going.

8. Atlanta Falcons (4-2) – Laid a complete egg against the Eagles on the road.

9. New York Giants (4-2) – They have a golden opportunity to completely bury the Dallas Cowboys this Monday night.

Looking Like A Playoff Contender

10. Tennessee Titans (4-2) – A physical (dirty) team that can play defense, run the football, and has some weapons in the passing game.

11. Houston Texans (4-2) – They are a finesse (soft) team but can put up some points and have found a way to win close games this season.

12. Kansas City Chiefs (3-2) – They lost a couple of tough games in a row but still remain 1 1/2 games up in the AFC West, where nobody wants to win a game.

13. Washington Redskins (3-3) – You would have liked to see Donovan McNabb handle business on that final drive at home against the Colts.

14. Miam Dolphins (3-2) – Never easy to win in Green Bay. We’ll see how legitimate they are this week against the Steelers.

Not As Good As Their Record

15. Seattle Seahawks (3-2) – They actually won a road game. Perhaps with Marshawn Lynch on the roster and Mike Williams playing like he did at USC at receiver, they could find some consistency on offense.

16.. Chicago Bears (4-2) – Never a good sign when you can’t beat a mediocre Seattle team at home.

17. Green Bay Packers (3-3) – A little low? Maybe, but I am not sure they can overcome the mass of injuries they sustained. They are also playing sloppy, inconsistent football.

18. Arizona Cardinals (3-2) – They are right in the thick of things in the NFC West, then again so are the 1-5 49ers.

19. Tampa Bays Bucs (3-2) – As bad as a 3-2 team gets.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3) – As bad as a 3-3 team gets.

Frisky

21. St. Louis Rams (3-3) – Impressive win against San Diego considering how they lost to Detroit the week before.

22. Minnesota Vikings (2-3) – Amazing how much they could be in it, if they can take care of Green Bay this week.

The AFC West Is Brutal…Bengals Aren’t Much Better

23. Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) – A team supposed to built around their defense, that can’t stop anybody and a team that is supposed to have a high power passing attack that has a suddenly crappy quarterback.

24. Denver Broncos (2-4) – Thank you Renaldo Hill.

25. Oakland Raiders (2-4) – Just when you thought you could go an entire season without watching Kyle Boller play.

26. San Diego Chargers (2-4) – Thank you for destroying my three team tease this past weekend…and for LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Cromartie.

Bad Football Teams, Still Competitive

27. Dallas Cowboys (1-4) – They always find a way to lose.

28. San Francisco 49ers (1-5) – Still alive in the NFC West, where 7-9 just might equal a division title and home playoff game.

29. Detriot Lions (1-5) – As far as 1-5 teams go, they aren’t half bad.

30. Cleveland Browns (1-5) – Colt McCoy showed there might be hope for the future.

Cover Your Eyes

31. Carolina Panthers (0-5) – Doesn’t matter if Matt Moore or Jimmy Clausen are throwing interceptions and getting sacked.

32. Buffalo Bills (0-5) – They can’t win more than 2 games this season, can they?

PhotobucketAFC East – I think the Jets are going to have a tough time pulling away from the Patriots. The December 6th match-up between the two teams is going to go a long way to determining the division winner. Prior to the season I thought Miami would be the Jets main competition, however I think they are going to catch a beat down from Pittsburgh this week and be a .500 team the rest of the season.

NFC East  – This division couldn’t be anymore wide open. The Giants always beat Dallas and will likely bury them for good this Monday night, leaving them to battle with Philadelphia and Washington. The Eagles seem like the favorite right now, with either Vick or Kolb under center but you’d like to see more consistency on both sides of the ball from them and particularly their offensive line.

AFC North  – It will be fun to watch the Steelers and Ravens slug it out for the division title down the stretch, while the other team will likely land a wild-card. I can’t take the Bengals seriously as a contender because of how bad Carson Palmer has played.  I wonder if Eric Mangini will still be the Browns coach when the Jets come into town.

NFC North – Another wide open division. It feels like the Bears will eventually fall out of it, which leaves the Packers and Vikings to fight it out. 9-7 might be good enough to take this division title.

AFC South – I am more sold on the Titans as the Colts primary competitor for a division title. Houston just isn’t physical enough to win big games in November and December.

NFC South – The Saints and Falcons will be a division race that goes right down to the wire. Tampa Bay isn’t sticking around as a competitor for the division title but could be in the wild-card mix, since you could see a 8-8 team making the playoffs in the NFC.

AFC West – Everybody is still involved in the divisional race here. I wouldn’t be shocked if Denver ended up taking it as a 9-7 team, considering they weathered the tough part of their schedule.

NFC West – Just a bunch of inconsistent, mediocre teams with questions at quarterback. At least the Rams have their franchise guy under center, but he is a rookie so it remains to be seen how he plays down the stretch.

As of right now, it really is a shame that the NFC and AFC West have to send a team to the playoffs. I am having nightmares of a wild card weekend featuring the 8-8 Bears at the 7-9 Rams, followed by the 8-8 Chiefs hosting a playoff game.