First a few updates:
1. The big story being reported out of the New York media today is how Rex Ryan will be more hands on with the Jets offense and Mark Sanchez. Hopefully, a person the size of Ryan constantly in Sanchez’s ear about protecting the football will make him think twice before he launches another ball off his back foot into double coverage. Ryan also said yesterday he felt disrespected by the Pats bombing it up to Randy Moss with 30 seconds left despite being up 17. Was it a classless move? Sure it was, but what else would you expect from New England? The Jets and Pats are rivals. For all the talking the Jets have done this year, this is no time to be complaining about feeling disrespected.
2. The Jets fell to number 22 in ESPN’s Power Rankings. Remember when they were the #5 team? It is hard to believe that it was during this season.
AFC East Observations
New England Patriots – Unless they have a colossal meltdown, the Pats should cruise to the AFC East title. I am not sure if they are good enough right now to pull out a victory in New Orleans, but beyond that I think will roll through the rest of their schedule.
Miami Dolphins – Somehow, someway the Dolphins are right in the thick of the AFC wild card race. Unlike what was expected for the AFC this year, there is plenty of mediocrity battling for the #5 and #6 playoff spots. If the Dolphins can avoid a slip up against Buffalo this week, they will have a chance in upcoming games against Houston and Jacksonville to put themselves in great position to play in January. I am already having nightmares about a Miami/New England first round playoff game.
Buffalo Bills – I am fascinated to see how the NFL Network is going to promote the upcoming Jets/Bills Thursday night game, “Watch Mark Sanchez and his 19 interceptions lead the 4-7 Jets into Toronto to play Ryan Fitzpatrick and the 3-8 Buffalo Bills”…oh boy.
TOJ Top Twenty
- Indianapolis Peyton Mannings – I am giving them the bump up to #1 because of recent impressive victories over New England and on the road at Baltimore.
- New Orleans Saints – If they beat New England on Monday night, 16-0 becomes a reality.
- Minnesota Vikings – All I can do now is hope for a Brett Favre flameout in the playoffs.
- San Diego Chargers – About to run away from the suddenly hapless Broncos in the AFC West.
- New England Patriots – Another chance to show they are an elite team this Monday night.
- Arizona Cardinals – Putting together a very impressive season to follow up their NFC title.
- Cincinnati Bengals – A loss to Oakland? Really? Fortunately for them the Steelers couldn’t beat the Chiefs.
- Philadelphia Eagles – They finally won a close game.
- Dallas Cowboys – Ugly ugly win but if they can handle Oakland on Thursday, they will be 8-3 heading into a huge game against the Giants.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Who would have thought Pittsburgh would be battling for a wild card spot?
- New York Giants – They should be able to handle the fading Broncos on Thursday.
- Green Bay Packers – I would love them to get another shot at Minnesota in the playoffs.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Let’s see if they can handle a West Coast trip and being a playoff contender.
- Baltimore Ravens – Huge game Sunday night against the Steelers.
- Tennessee Titans – Could they actually finish over .500 after starting 0-6?
- Atlanta Falcons – Soft remaining schedule could help their playoff run.
- Miami Dolphins – I am hoping it is too little, too late for the Dolphins but unfortunately it may not be.
- Houston Texans – They can’t win a big game.
- Denver Broncos – Could they actually finish below .500 after starting 6-0?
- Carolina Panthers – Good news for their fledgling playoff hopes…the Jets upcoming on the schedule.
Jets vs. Panthers First Look
The Opponent: Let playing out the string commence…the Jets begin a three game streak against sub .500 teams this week with a home game against Carolina in the “Interception Bowl.” Jake Delhomme (14) and Mark Sanchez (16) have combined for 30 interceptions this season. The Panthers are coming off a 12-4 season but have disappointed in 2009 with a 4-6 record. Similar to the Jets, they can run the football and play some defense but are limited by a turnover prone quarterback. I do know this, I would be starting both Thomas Jones and DeAngelo Williams on your fantasy football team because there should be plenty of handoffs in the Meadowlands on Sunday. Last Thursday night, Carolina lost 24-17 at home to our beloved Dolphins, due to Ricky Williams running all over them…like I said it is time to hand the football off.
Key Players: Steve Smith is one of the league’s premier big play receivers but has struggled in 2009 because of inconsistent quarterback play. Fortunately, the Jets have Darrelle Revis to handle him and Carolina doesn’t have Wes Welker on the other side of him. DeAngelo Williams is their lead back and is also a big play threat with breakaway speed. Jonathan Stewart is very involved as the #2 running back with over 500 yards and 6 touchdowns. He provides a more bruising, inside running style. On defense, Julius Peppers is having another strong season with 7 sacks. Jon Beason is one of the better linebackers in football and Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall are a talented pair of corners.
Injuries: I would expect Donald Strickland, Dwight Lowery, and Vernon Gholston to miss another week. Strickland has a head injury. Lowery has a bad ankle sprain and Gholston has a hamstring/he’s not that good and the Jets coaches need an excuse to bench him issue.