Is Eli Manning Elite?…Who Cares?

Chris Celletti questions the logic of attaching the word “elite” to Eli Manning

Eli Manning is good.

He’s won a Super Bowl. He’s put up some very gaudy statistics. He’s also thrown a boatload of interceptions. His most recent triumph was leading the Giants to two late touchdown drives against the New England Patriots for a big victory in Foxboro. Earlier this season, ever since Michael Kay asked Manning if he considered himself “elite” – among Tom Brady and his older brother Peyton as current NFL quarterbacks – and he answered some version of “yes”, the media and fans have been so obsessed with asking the question to themselves.

Is Eli Manning “elite”?

The Giants themselves played into this ridiculous vernacular,  when Justin Tuck said after the win over the Patriots that you can’t spell “elite” without “Eli. Thanks, Justin.

While the rest of the world asks this silly question, (and most are answering yes at this point), I’ll ask another:

Who cares?

Do we even have a frame of reference as to what “elite” means? We don’t. It is a completely dramatized phrase that seems to be the go-to word for sports fans these days when discussing their team against another. If you say your team or a player is elite, you’re dressing them in some sort of teflon coating. For some reason, the word “elite” holds more meaning than simply saying a player is “great”. But what the hell makes someone elite? What’s the cutoff? If you’re a top-5 QB, are you elite? Don’t dare be ranked number six! You sir, not elite.

What exactly did Manning do against the Patriots that made him elite as compared to past weeks? He actually had a terrible quarterback rating in the game, one of the lowest this season against New England’s horrible defense. He threw what could have been a back-breaking interception in the end zone, and took advantage of a few pass interference calls to complete the comeback. The Giants’ win was as much about how bad the Pats’ passing defense is, and how well the Giants defense played against Brady than it was about Manning.

This is in no way to disparage Manning, in any way whatsoever. I happen to think he is playing at a very high level this season. He’s probably the main reason the Giants sit atop the NFC East at 6-2. Why can’t it just be about exactly this? It’s actually possible that we can talk about Manning’s play, his statistics, the good things, the bad things, wins and losses without needing to attach a specific term to it.

What happens if Manning does something like this next week at San Francisco: 25/37, 310 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 1 fumble in a 24-16 49ers win? What will we do then? Will Eli have fallen off the elite pedestal?

No, because there is no such thing as the elite pedestal. We live in a football world where everything needs to be ranked and compared. Last night on television (I can’t remember who or what show exactly, although I believe it was Dan Patrick on Football Night in America), this was uttered in the transition from the Packers-Chargers highlight to the Saints-Bucs highlight: “Drew Brees is no Aaron Rodgers, but…” Why do we even have to make a comparison like that? Last time I checked its Super Bowl rings: Brees – 1, Rodgers – 1. They’re both star QBs for their teams and will be for years to come – just like Eli Manning.

Can’t we just let that be?

The Landscape Has Changed For The New York Jets

TJ on how the lessons learned from the New York Jets three game losing streak have created a three game winning streak

The Jets, once 2-3 with no identity and a growing hole to climb out of, have suddenly gained a share of the AFC East lead. Owning a piece of the penthouse that will come as a surprise to detractors, who saw this club as one ready to implode after a brutal early road trip. It shouldn’t. A defense returning ten starters and an offense that has added key pieces, are simply beginning to gel. The Jets are NOT the same team that culminated a three game skid in Foxboro. Gang Green’s crucial Sunday night matchup with the Patriots comes at the right time. As all systems are go.

Hard lessons learned on the road

The Jets learned some hard, but key lessons during each stop of their long losing tour. One sent them reeling and threatened to ruin their season. In Oakland, the club realized their need to tighten the bolts on the edges thanks to the Oakland’s Darren McFadden. Otherwise running backs would roam free down sidelines all year long, like cars in the EZ Pass lane.

In Baltimore, the Jets realized that their chemistry was off. Derrick Mason was then sent packing. In Foxboro the Jets regained their footing on the ground but may have overemphasized the notion of the “Ground and Pound,” after a month of trying to force feed an air attack featuring a third year quarterback and new faces at wide receiver. Balance on offense was needed.

Turmoil subsides and a win streak begins

By the time the Jets returned home at 2-3 for a win or else matchup against hapless Miami, the club faced an uphill climb (the Pats and Bills were 4-1 at the time) back to the top of the standings. The big question at the time however, was not their play on the field, but the team’s unity off of it.

Former Jet hero Joe Namath had started it all back in week three by suggesting on 1050 ESPN that Rex Ryan’s “soft” overconfident approach led to an ambush in Oakland. A Daily News report that the wideouts were unhappy with Schotty then surfaced prior to the Baltimore loss. Suddenly a Jets club that had motivated itself with an “us against the world” mentality under Rex Ryan, appeared to have acquired a cancerous “us against each other” one. The soil was still fertile inside of Florham Park to the outside observer while the offensive line had struggled without Nick Mangold. A three time All Pro who was returning as the Jets headed for Foxboro.

All of those internal dramas however, were symbolically put to rest when Santonio Holmes and Brandon Moore ended their feud by coming out together as captains for the Monday night coin toss against the winless Dolphins. The move was a brilliant ploy by Ryan. What it showed the Jets and the entire nation was that THIS team would not be broken up by weekday quotes and any frustrations borne out of any October troubles. The offense again started slow again that night, but the defense began to ferment, albeit against backup Matt Moore. The result was a 24-6  win. A display that may not have proved the club as Super Bowl worthy, but went a long way towards building the club’s confidence back up again.

Offense and defense rise

Now at 3-3, a key matchup against 4-1 San Diego, helped set the stage for a cementing of the foundation on both sides of the ball. During the losing streak, the defense had been growing, even though the offense was still not in rhythm. Aaron Maybin was resigned in week four, adding speed and pass rushing to the equation. Kyle Wilson provided solid coverage in the nickel and Antonio Cromartie had begun to keep his hands to himself. All while Darrelle Revis was embarking upon what has been up until now, a career year.

The defense looked good against Baltimore. It was the turnovers that killed them THAT night. One week later, despite Ben Jarveus Green Ellis rushing for 136 yards in Foxboro, the defense put pressure on Tom Brady. Miami was dealt with properly as well, despite a long gain outside by Reggie Bush in the first quarter.

Trailing at the half 21-10 against the historically high powered Chargers (who have struggled as of late but were still viewed as a legit first place team at the time) who featured a hot Antonio Gates that day, the defense finally put it all together. They shut out Phillip Rivers, Gates and co. in the second half. This while featuring a spread out passing game and featuring Shonn Greene. Both working effectively in unison for the first time all season. Seventeen unanswered points. 27-21 Jets. A template was now in place for the offense now as well.

Bye week fear is put to rest

Then fears of a bye week layoff reared their ugly head. After all, Rex’s Jets were 0-2 after bye weeks, and looked bad doing it. Trailing both the 5-2 Bills and 5-2 Pats, the Jets flew up to Orchard Park, with a dodgy post bye history and a hot upstart Bills team in their way.

The Jets battled complacency and a fired up Bills home crowd on Sunday by coming out focused, fast, and aggressive. In all phases. Fred Jackson, the Bills go to star, was bottled up all afternoon. The Jet offense itself, was marching up and down the field in the first half. Often times they stopped themselves with too many mistakes, but the club’s ten minute drive on their first possession (resulting in a brutal interception by Mark Sanchez) provided a window into the future as to how the Jets could move the ball against Buffalo. Once they stopped aiming the gun at their own feet, the Jets offense, with the help of a Rex Ryan defense that is now starting to take over games, settled in and hit cruise control for a 27-11 win. Their third straight.

A Giants win moves the Jets into a first place tie

Hours later, QB Eli Manning gave Patriot fans Super Bowl nightmarish flashbacks with a dramatic come from behind win in the final minute. It was a Giants victory that was music to Jets fans ears as it dropped the Pats into the three way tie with the Bills and Jets at 5-3. The AFC East race is once again wide open. With the Jets having made up ground that one month ago, with so much working against them, seemed like a longshot.

New York Jets: Ready To Rise In Wide Open AFC?

Now is the time for the New York Jets to rise to the top of a wide open AFC

Oh, how a few weeks can change things in the NFL.

Remember a few weeks ago after the New England Patriots beat the New York Jets 29-21? It was crazy to think the Jets were even in the discussion of contending for a division title in the AFC East. They had no offensive line. They couldn’t run the football. The defense had fell off a cliff. They’d be lucky to reach .500 with two games still left against the mighty Buffalo Bills, the San Diego Chargers and still having to play New England again.

The three game losing streak had given the legions of New York Jets haters all the ammunition they needed. Everybody got ready to watch Rex Ryan and his over-hyped team go down in flames.

Unfortunately for them, the AFC East and the rest of the conference, it appears the Jets have rediscovered their defense and running game, which is their winning formula. They have smacked around two finesse teams in a row who were supposed to be serious contenders in their conference and now have a chance to send the New England Patriots into a three game losing streak.

The beauty of the Jets turnaround is that while they are getting better every week and thriving in their identity, the rest of the conference appears to be crumbling around them. The AFC West is a joke of mediocre of teams trying to out-lose each other to miss the playoffs. The AFC South has the Texans who are still a finesse team that I feel comfortable predicting will lose the home playoff game they host. Pittsburgh and Baltimore are who they always have been, but just a little more inconsistent than usual. Cincinnati? I’m not sold yet. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them go 0-4 against the Ravens and Steelers.

The AFC East? Buffalo is about ready for their swoon. The Jets just wrote the book on how to stop their gimmicky offense and their defense is soft. New England has an awful, I repeat an awful defense and immortal Tom Brady looked pretty damn average yesterday.

Now is the time for the New York Jets to put their foot on the throat of the Patriots and send them to 5-4 to begin the process of creating separation from them at the top of the division. Denver, Buffalo, Kansas City, and Washington are upcoming on the schedule, which is a golden opportunity for the Jets to rack up wins while the Patriots could start a mid-season tailspin.

Sunday is the night for the Jets to start their march not just to the top of the division but to the top of the conference. A home playoff game is the goal and it is looking more attainable than ever.

Grading Out Jets/Bills

TOJ grades out the New York Jets beatdown of the Buffalo Bills

Quarterbacks (B) – Mark Sanchez was a bonehead red-zone interception and a fumbled snap away from having a terrific game…unfortunately those type of plays count in a big way. Outside of those plays, he was accurate (20/28) and did a good job pressing the football down the field. The ball was also spread around well to his receivers and tight ends. I don’t think Sanchez is much of a threat as a blocker these days.

Running Backs (A-) – Shonn Greene was solid for the third straight game. He had a huge run wiped out by a holding penalty on Matthew Mulligan. LaDainian Tomlinson was good in a limited role and got into the end-zone. John Conner scored his first touchdown of the season.

Wide Receivers (A) – Plaxico Burress looks to be heating up just in time for the second half of the season. Santonio Holmes scored a touchdown and drew two huge pass interference penalties that set up other touchdowns. Jeremy Kerley is developing into a very good slot receiver.

Tight Ends (D) – The grade is low because of Matthew Mulligan’s penalties and Dustin Keller’s stupidity in trying to jump over defenders.

Offensive Line (A) – Completely physically dominated the Buffalo Bills. It is pretty amazing how far this line has come since the Baltimore game.

Defensive Line (A) – They played an excellent all-around game, despite not having Mike DeVito and Kenrick Ellis in the rotation. Kudos to Marcus Dixon, Ropati Pitoitua, and Martin Tevaseu for stepping up in the rotation. Muhammad Wilkerson also had one of his better games.

Linebackers (A) – Calvin Pace and David Harris both came up with interceptions and were a big part of slowing down Fred Jackson. Bart Scott had a big hit on 4th and 1 and overall had one of his best games of the season.

Secondary (A) – They completely smothered the Bills receivers all day, outside of Darrelle Revis getting beat on one play…no that wasn’t a typo. Antonio Cromartie has settled down and Kyle Wilson continues to have a very good year.

Special Teams (A) – Nick Folk made two long field goals. Joe McKnight ripped off a huge return. Brad Smith did absolutely nothing on returns thanks to the Jets kick coverage. Just another day at the office for Mike Westhoff’s unit.

Coaching (A) – Rex Ryan pushed all the right buttons and game up with a terrific game plan on defense. Also, how about some credit for Brian Schottenheimer who called maybe his best game of the season?

Instant Reaction: The Swag Is Back, Jets Dominate Buffalo

The swag is back for the New York Jets, who completely dominated the Buffalo Bills in their building today

The darling of the AFC East took a hard crack to the face today from the New York Jets, who flexed their defensive muscle in a way we haven’t seen since last year. Buffalo’s offense was thoroughly dominated by Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine’s unit. Ryan Fitzpatrick looked helpless against the Jets secondary and with the pass rush constantly in his face, as he threw two interceptions and never made a big play. The performance was that much more impressive considering both Mike DeVito and Kenrick Ellis were inactive on the defensive line. It was the best performance of the year from the front seven and the secondary was terrific as usual.

On the other side of the football, the first half was maddening. The Jets moved the ball up and down the field but Mark Sanchez threw a killer end-zone interception and botched a snap. Fortunately, he rallied and actually put together one of his best games of the year finishing 20/28, with 230 yards, and 1 touchdown. Plaxico Burress caught all 5 of his targets for 79 yards, Santonio Holmes pulled in a touchdown, and Dustin Keller had 64 yards receiving. Shonn Greene had a solid 76 yards on 19 carries and LaDainian Tomlinson and John Conner both got in the end-zone.

What did we learn today? We learned the Jets are still capable of having an elite defense and that they can still physically dominate teams, especially finesse ones like Buffalo. Anybody who wrote off the Jets as AFC East contenders were crazy. New England is coming to the Meadowlands this week where the Jets will have a chance to take control of the division and extend their winning streak to 4.

The Ground and Pound is back…and yes the swag is back.

TOJ Roundtable Week 9 – Jets/Bills Predictions

The TOJ writing staff submits their picks for the Jets week 9 showdown against the Buffalo Bills

Joe Caporoso: Check the 12 Pack

TJ Rosenthal: Jets Win If – They stop Fred Jackson. The Bills offense can be contained in the air for two reasons. First, their WR combo of Stevie Johnson and David Nelson won’t stand a chance to Darrelle Revis should the Jets choose to lock either one of them up. The Bills TE Scott Chandler has 6 TD’s but has been targeted just 18 times all season. The Jets get exposed when TE’s force safeties up in coverage. By shutting down the passing game the Jets can attend to Jackson who has been rushing for 5.5 yards per carry (132-721 yds).

We expect a balance on offense for the Jets with Shonn Greene being effective. The Bills defense has allowed 4.9 yards per carry to opposing backs and Greene is coming off his best three games of the season (62-269 yds 4.3 avg). Look for Holmes to breakout or contribute greatly this week in a winning scenario. The media spotlight on his “happiness” will only add motivation.

The Jets Lose If: They can’t stop Jackson and Mark Sanchez throws too many interceptions. His 5 INT game against the Bills as a rookie is a mere coincidence for this concept. Our point is, if Sanchez even manages this game, then Greene can burn down some clock so  the Bills can’t put up their 30 point average. However, if Fred Jackson helps open up the Bills offense for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick by keeping Rex honest and backed off of the line of scrimmage, then a poor decision making game by the Jets QB could be enough for Buffalo to tip the scales. Even in a game played by both teams scoring in the low 20’s. Containing Jackson, while protecting the ball on their own half of the field is the way to get out of Buffalo alive. Even WITH the understanding that attacking downfield must be mixed in by Schotty at times.

Chris Celletti: If the Jets have proved anything under Rex Ryan, it is that they play their best when their backs are against the wall. I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic when I say that their season rests on what they do Sunday in Buffalo. A loss is potentially crippling with the Patriots coming to town in Week 10. The Jets simply have to win this game, and I think they respond. It will hinge a lot on the Jets’ offense, an offense that simply has to put up points to beat the Bills. Buffalo has been very good on offense all year, with Fred Jackson being one of the best backs in football, and the Jets’ run defense having been suspect. On the other hand, Buffalo’s defense is statistically one of the worst in football.

I expect the Jets to give a healthy dose of Shonn Greene to try and control the clock and keep Ryan Fitzpatrick on the sideline (who would have ever thought that would be the strategy against the Bills?) In the end, I think the Jets make just enough plays on both sides of the ball, perhaps forcing a few key turnovers as the defense steps up in the second half. The Jets set up a showdown with the Patriots as they knock off Buffalo, 26-20.

Rob Celletti: Following the Jets in the Rex Ryan era, there have been a lot of stories written about the dangers of a team that “believes its own hype” and its eventual downfall.  Strangely, this week could potentially flip the script.  Yes, the Jets got some of their swagger back before last week’s bye, but is there a sexier team than the Buffalo Bills in 2011?  Media and casual fans are enamored, and the team’s confidence couldn’t be higher.  Well, that all comes crashing down to earth this week for the Western New Yorkers.

There will apparently be a “white out” at Ralph Wilson Stadium, with the home fans matching the home team’s all-white get-up.  But the Jets have not only played in, but thrived in more hostile atmospheres.  I expect the road warrior Jets of 2009 and 2010 to show up big for this game.  Buffalo is 4-0 in home games (including last week’s Toronto game), the Jets are 0-3 on the road.  As Michael Kay would say, “Do you believe in ‘due’?”

Do not forget that the Jets have embarrassed this Bills over the past few seasons with a relentless rushing attack, and I expect Shonn Greene to rack up another 100+ yard performance and punctuate it with a score or two.  Joe McKnight will be dangerous as well.  Santonio Holmes is also going to reel in a touchdown and post close to 100 receiving yards.  The Jets’ defense will shut down Ryan Fitzpatrick’s receivers, and they’ll pick off the Harvard man once or twice and turn it into points the other way.

The Bills have been a good football team, and I don’t mean to disparage them, but they’ve benefited from some pretty fortunate bounces (see the multiple interception games by Mike Vick and Tom Brady, for example).  I just have a feeling that their luck runs out this week, just as the Jets start to get rolling.

The game will seem close, but Mark Sanchez will throw a late touchdown to Dustin Keller to put this game on ice.  Jets 31, Bills 20.

TOJ Week 9 NFL Picks

TOJ with his week 9 NFL Picks. What game are you most looking forward to this weekend?

Last Week: 5-7-1

Season Record: 57-53-4

TOJ Week 9 NFL Picks (Lines Courtesy of BetUS)

  • Atlanta (-8.5) vs. Indianapolis
  • Tampa Bay (+8.5) vs. New Orleans
  • Houston (-10.5) vs. Cleveland
  • Jets (+2) vs. Buffalo
  • Miami (+4) vs. Kansas City
  • San Francisco (-4.5) vs. Washington
  • Dallas (-11) vs. Seattle
  • Oakland (-7.5) vs. Tebowmania
  • Tennessee (-2.5) vs. Cincinnati
  • St. Louis (+2.5) vs. Arizona
  • Giants (+9) vs. New England
  • Green Bay (-6.5) vs. San Diego
  • Pittsburgh (-3.5) vs. Baltimore
  • Philadelphia (-8) vs. Chicago

Jets vs. Bills: 12 Pack Of Predictions

TOJ with 12 predictions for the Jets/Bills week 9 match-up

What is better than fall in NYC? Here is a November 12 Pack to, as we gear up for a monster weekend of NFL Football –

1. Shonn Greene is going to run for over 110 yards and his third touchdown of the season. Joe McKnight will also receive his most offensive touches so far this year.

2. Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to struggle against the Jets defense, being sacked multiple times and having at least one turnover. Stevie Johnson will have a minimal impact in this game.

3. Fred Jackson will have over 120 yards of total offense and score at least once. The Jets are going to miss Mike DeVito if he doesn’t end up playing this Sunday.

4. Brad Smith will make at least one big play in this game. However, Joe McKnight will break off one big kick return that directly sets up points for the Jets offense.

5. Aaron Maybin is going to have not one, but two sacks in his most extensive action of the season.

6. Mark Sanchez is going to throw for about 200 yards and one touchdown. He will be in the game manager role for most of Sunday, until late in the game.

7. Santonio Holmes will have at least 65 yards receiving.

8. Dustin Keller will get back in the end-zone for the first time since week 2.

9. Antonio Cromartie will be called for at least two penalties.

10. Brian Schottenheimer is going to call one of his best games of the past few years. How’s that for a crazy prediction?

11. Buffalo will gain their yards but the Jets will frequently hold them to field goals and keep them out of the end-zone.

12. This will be a tight game in the final minutes of the 4th quarter, but it will be Mark Sanchez not Ryan Fitzpatrick who leads the big scoring drive late as the Jets will win 23-19.

Media Trends: New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills

It has been an interesting week of media coverage leading up to the New York Jets/Buffalo Bills week 9 match-up. Let’s take a look at what has been trending…

1. The Fallacy Of Santonio Holmes Unhappiness – Has everybody forgotten this rumor started with this BS article from Pro Football Talk? Read the article, there is no source…just a complete assumption that since Holmes didn’t have a big game against San Diego that he was unhappy. Everybody has ran with this story and questioned him on it, like this was an event that actually occurred. Take all PFT stories with a grain of salt considering their history and ongoing anti-Jets bias.

2. #BillsMafia – There is a group on Twitter that has risen out of Buffalo’s recent success talking tough to the Jets and their fans this week and preparing for a whiteout where they will be handing out pom-poms to all their fans…no really. When it comes to the Bills Mafia and there obvious jokes about feet and Rex Ryan, along with the Jets being from Jersey, we take them about as serious as everybody took Fredo in the Godfather.

3. Other Quick Hits

  • Expect to see some Joe McKnight at receiver this week. He was working with them throughout the week.
  • Keep an eye on TJ Conley, as Mike Westhoff was clear in his press conference that he is less than thrilled with him.
  • Have you seen a major media outlet pick the Jets to win this week? I haven’t.

Joe McKnight and Aaron Maybin, Who Would Have Thought?

TOJ on two players who have come out of nowhere to become crucial parts to the New York Jets making a second half run

There is no denying how crucial Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills is going to be. LaDainian Tomlinson has already christened it a “do or die” game for the New York Jets divisional hopes and the same vibe is coming from the rest of the locker room. You want to win the AFC East? You want a home playoff game? Beat the two teams in front of you the next two weeks and take control of your destiny.

Yet, who could have imagined that two of the most crucial players coming into this game would be Joe McKnight and Aaron Maybin?

Joe McKnight, AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October, has turned into one of the most explosive kick returners in the league and one of the best all around special teams players. His contributions won’t stop there on Sunday, as the coaching staff has made it clear that he will receive a larger role on offense at both running back and receiver. McKnight has rare, game-breaking speed and the ability to make a play or two that will tip Sunday’s outcome in the Jets favor.

Aaron Maybin, the Buffalo Bills first round bust, has came to the Jets off the scrap heap and turned into their top pass rushing threat. In limited snaps he has already racked up 3 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. Maybin will also be on the receiving end of more playing time this week and how you could not root for this guy to tear up his former team? Maybin has brought a speed and energy to the Jets defense that it sorely needed. His pass rush will go a long way to disrupting the timing of Buffalo’s quick passing attack.

When August started many people thought Joe McKnight could end up being the team’s number four back and nobody thought Aaron Maybin would even be on a NFL team, and yet here they are with a chance to play a major part in seizing the Jets control of the division.

Credit Mike Tannenbaum for taking a shot on Maybin and Rex Ryan for putting him a spot to succeed. Also it might be time to start thinking that trading Leon Washington and cutting Danny Woodhead in favor of McKnight was actually a savvy move.