The Optimist – New York Jets Chance At The Playoffs

TOJ breaks down what the Jets road back to playoffs looks like

Is 2-3 the death sentence that many are making it out to be for the New York Jets playoff hopes? There is no question the Jets have put themselves in a serious hole in the AFC East, being already two games behind both Buffalo and New England and they haven’t helped themself in the wild-card race. Yet, let’s look at a realistic way they could climb to 10-6…a record that won’t guarantee a playoff spot but will give them a puncher’s chance to get in.

Out of their remaining 11 games, the following needs to occur

  • Take 2 out of 3 from their remaining NFC East opponents. This isn’t an easy task but certainly a doable one, considering the Giants inconsistencies (they just lost to Seattle at home), the Eagles awful start and Redskins being a good, but far from great team.
  • Beat both Kansas City and Denver. They get Kansas City at home and Denver on the road in primetime on a short week. However, these are both teams that shouldn’t win more than 5 or 6 games this year.
  • Sweep Miami. The Dolphins are arguably the worst team in the AFC this year…no letdowns.
  • Split with Buffalo. The Bills are a feisty but beatable bunch as we saw in their loss to Cincinnati.
  • Split with New England/San Diego combo. The Jets have both of them at home, including a primetime showdown with the Pats. You have to get one.

This outcome probably won’t lead to a division title and but should be enough to sneak the Jets in as a wild-card, where they have done some damage the previous two years.

TOJ Week 5 NFL Picks

Last Week: 8-8
Season Record: 35-28
  • Philadelphia (-2 ) vs. Buffalo
  • New Orleans (-5) vs. Carolina
  • Oakland (+6.5) vs. Houston
  • Indianapolis (-1.5) vs Kansas City
  • Cincinnati (+2.5) vs. Jacksonville
  • Minnesota (-2.5) vs. Arizona
  • New York Giants (-9) vs. Seattle
  • Tennessee (+7.5) vs. Pittsburgh
  • San Francisco (PK) vs. Tampa Bay
  • San Diego (-4.5) vs. Denver
  • New York Jets (+9) vs. New England
  • Atlanta (+5.5) vs. Green Bay
  • Chicago (+6.5) vs. Detroit

NFL Week 5 Smart Bets: And The Yankees Post-Mortem

Yikes. Well my Week 4 picks didn’t go so well, thanks to two athletes who are quite similar, Tony Romo and Alex Rodriguez. We’ll get to the Week 5 NFL picks in a little bit, but if you recall one of my bets last week was the Yankees beating the Tigers in the ALDS. I also proclaimed that Jose Valverde’s consecutive saves streak would come to and end, and while it nearly did, well, it didn’t.

So what happened to the 2011 New York Yankees? We’ve had a little time to digest the Yanks’ postseason failure, and I’m going to take what will probably be a very unpopular view on this. This Yankees team actually overachieved. By a lot.

Yeah, it’s possible for a team with the highest payroll in the sport to overachieve.

Heading into the season, all the “experts” had the Red Sox winning the AL East and going to the World Series. And for good reason. Who wouldn’t have picked the BoSox with their rotation of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, a bullpen with the second best closer in the game (I think so at least), and a lineup that is stacked with multiple MVP candidates? If in February you would have told me that the Yankees would lose Alex Rodriguez for about half the season, Mark Teixeira would hit under .250, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon (it is 2011!!!) would start 51 games combined, Derek Jeter would have a DL stint, A.J. Burnett would have an ERA in the fives and Rafael Soriano would pitch only 39 innings – and with all that the Yankees would win 97 games and win the division by six games, I probably would have told you to check into rehab immediately.

The fact of the matter is is that the Yankees were gritty and gutted their way through 162 games. Sure, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson had MVP-type seasons, with the latter putting up otherworldy numbers. Teixeria had good power numbers but let’s face it, it was a down year for him. Throw in all the Jorge Posada drama, and it wasn’t an easy task winning 97 games by any stretch. This season should go down as a good one for the Yankees. You can’t win it every year.

But in Yankees Universe we have to dissect the playoff meltdowns, and it really doesn’t get much easier than looking at the middle of the lineup. The Yankees simply needed much, much more out of their four, five and six hitters. A-Rod hasn’t been A-Rod all year, but he was vintage postseason A-Rod this year, and he’s starting to prove that his gargantuan 2009 playoff performance was an aberration. Rodriguez will be around for six more years, and thank goodness there is no salary cap in baseball. Additionally, it might be time for the Yankees to try something else in right field. Nick Swisher is a good player, seems like a great guy and teammate, and the fans like him. But man, how much more deer-in-the-headlights could you get than Swisher in the postseason?  Is it really worth the solid regular seasons if he’s going to be an automatic out in October? There are plenty of other players who could play a good right field with a solid bat and have a better approach at the plate in a big situation.

And I think Joe Girardi had a really rough time this postseason. Yanking Ivan Nova so early in Game 5 sent a message to the whole team that he was in panic mode. The Yankees can spin “forearm tightness” for Nova all they want. Girardi freaked out and pulled Nova. He also mismanaged the end of Game 2 by essentially giving away a run by bringing in Luis Ayala, a run that proved not costly but surely important. Girardi doesn’t need to be fired or anything, but he needs to learn from his poor managing the past two postseasons.

The future isn’t dark for the Yankees. Offensively they’ll be built around Cano and Granderson for the next few seasons, with Rodriguez and Teixiera of course capable of putting up big numbers. The pitching may lend itself to a youth movement, with Nova joining Sabathia and Phil Hughes in the rotation full time without the fear of being sent down (although maybe Girardi will pull him every time he gives up a few runs in the first two innings). Burnett will be back (it is what it is), and the Yankees can look to their youth with Dellin Betances or Hector Noesi for the fifth spot. The bullpen will be good as long as Rivera is around.

The Yankees are home early, and any first round loss stings. But fans should take a step back and look at the whole season, and realize that it could have been much, much worse.

And now, on to the picks –

Eagles -3 at Bills

The Eagles are a talented team and they are desperate. The Bills are a nice story, but I don’t think many people see them being a serious playoff threat. The Eagles won’t go 1-4. If they do, Andy Reid better walk around Cheesesteak Town in disguise.

Atlanta +6 vs Green Bay

I’m taking six points with Matt Ryan/Mike Smith at home. I think the Packers could very well win the game, but it will be close. One of the better games of the weekend.

Steelers -3 vs. Titans

I’ll take the Steelers at home off a bad loss. I know the Steelers are banged up, and very much like the Jets, look a little slow and old. But I think Mike Tomlin rallies the team, and at home, they don’t lose to a team quarterbacked by Matt Hasselbeck.

Saints -6.5 at Carolina

No spread is too high for the Saints these days. It could be a shootout, but I think the Saints put up a ton of points.

Non-Football Bonus Bet of the Week

NBA Playing entire season: 8-5

Yes, you can actually bet on this. Things sound a little uplifting recently, with David Stern caving a bit and offering the players close to 50% in revenue. Too much at stake for both sides, I think they get it done.

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.

TOJ Roundtable Week 4 – Jets/Ravens Predictions

Joe Caporoso: 12 Pack

Rob Celletti: In looking at the first 35 regular season games under Rex Ryan, you’d be hard-pressed to find two in a row which featured a subpar defensive performance.  That’s a large enough sample size for me.  I think the Jets defense has a strong bounce-back performance and leads the team to a hard-fought 20-17 victory. The Jets have two reasons to play with a vengeance on Sunday night: 1) they’ll remember last year’s excruciating 10-9 opening night loss at home to the Ravens, and 2) they’ll want to make up for last week’s shocking effort on defense and prove some of their doubters wrong.

TJ Rosenthal: JETS WIN IF: They come out inspired off of both the loss to Oakland and the Joe Namath comments. The players love Rex Ryan and will play aggressively out of the gates for him to back his faith in them. The offense may not be pretty throughout but will be effective on certain drives. The defense will play their best game of the year. Ray Rice will get his yards but the Jets will have Boldin smothered on Revis Island and Antonio Cromartie will bounce back with a key interception on a deep ball intended for Torrey Smith. Jets 23-20

RAVENS WIN IF: The Jets fail to match to the Ravens physically and emotionally. Joe Flacco will pick on a banged up Antonio Cromartie and Ray Rice wears down a defense that got torched by Darren McFadden a week ago. Mark Sanchez forces a few in areas patrolled by Ed Reed. The run game struggles. Again. Ravens 27-Jets 17.

Justin Fritze: I will take heat for this, but there are overwhelming feelings that the Jets are just not up to it against the Ravens they way they are built. Without Mangold calling protections they can’t handle the blitz or get enough time to play the West Coast short passing game. They will be forced to toss it up the field and save for a few long passes to Dustin Keller over the middle, they will struggle getting it to either Holmes or Burress because of Ed Reed’s ability to chameleon his double coverage. If the Jets survive, it will be on turnovers, but I still say Ravens 21-17.

Chris Celletti: I can’t help but think this is just a bad matchup at the wrong time for the Jets. If you think about it, since Rex Ryan took over as coach, there hasn’t really been a time where “panic” has set in. I think we’re about to reach that time. The Jets were dominated by an inferior team in Oakland last week, and face a much more sound and solid team this week in Baltimore. The Jets’ defense, especially their linebackers, look slow. On top of that, this is the best defense that the Jets will have faced so far this season, so the maligned running game may have serious issues. I by no means think the Jets will get blown out, but I could see the Ravens taking a close, low-scoring game. And then? Panic ensues.

CHECK OUT WEEK 4 FANTASY AND INJURY UPDATES

TOJ Week 4 NFL Picks

Last Week: 8-8

Season Record: 27-20

Week 4 Picks

  • Dallas (-2) vs. Detroit
  • New Orleans (-8) vs. Jacksonville
  • Philadelphia (-9) vs. San Francisco
  • Washington (-2.5) vs. St. Louis
  • Tennessee (PK) vs. Cleveland
  • Cincinnati (+4) vs. Buffalo
  • Minnesota (-3) vs. Kansas City
  • Carolina (+6) vs. Chicago
  • Pittsburgh (+3.5) vs. Houston
  • Seattle (+6) vs. Atlanta
  • New York Giants (-3) vs. Arizona
  • San Diego (-7) vs. Miami
  • Denver (+13) vs. Green Bay
  • New England (-6) vs. Oakland
  • New York Jets (+3.5) vs. Baltimore
  • Tampa Bay (-10) vs. Indianapolis

TOJ Week 3 NFL Picks

Last Week: 10-6

Season Record: 19-12

Week 3 Picks (Lines courtesy of BetUS)

  • Cincinnati (-2.5) vs. San Francisco
  • Buffalo (+7) vs. New England
  • New Orleans (-4.5) vs. Houston
  • Philadelphia (-8.5) vs. Giants
  • Cleveland (-2) vs. Miami
  • Tennessee (-7) vs. Denver
  • Minnesota (+4.5) vs. Detroit
  • Carolina (-4) vs. Jacksonville
  • San Diego (-14) vs. Kansas City
  • Jets (-4) vs. Oakland
  • Baltimore (-6) vs. St. Louis
  • Atlanta (PK) vs. Tampa Bay
  • Seattle (+3.5) vs. Arizona
  • Green Bay (-4.5) vs. Chicago
  • Pittsburgh (-11.5) vs. Indianapolis
  • Washington (+3) vs. Dallas

NFL Week 2 Review

1. With the amount of praise being lavished on the New England Patriots the first two weeks of the season, you would think they already have the Super Bowl wrapped up. I am not going to question how impressive their offense has been because it looks like a machine. Yet, if you watched their game against San Diego, you know how many opportunities the Chargers had to win that football game. If Mike Tolbert had his head on straight, they could have very well stolen that game and it isn’t like they ran the pathetic Miami Dolphins off the field the week before either. New England has the best offense in the league. Their defense is average. They are a beatable football team and we know the New York Jets know that better than anybody.

2. Kansas City Chiefs Todd Haley might soon be working for a Canadian online pharmacy with how unpopular he is becoming and how awful his team is performing. The Chiefs are a lifeless bunch who has been humiliated the past two weeks. How is it possible that this team won the AFC West last year? With superstar running back Jamaal Charles now out for the season and an upcoming game with San Diego, it is hard to see an improvement on the horizon.

3. Unbelievable how the Tennessee Titans could go from losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars to beating the Baltimore Ravens the following week. It was pretty apparent the Ravens were still hungover from their stomping of Pittsburgh the week before. However, the Titans could be a sneaky contender in the AFC South, considering how wide open that division is. Kenny Britt is playing as well as any wide receiver in the NFL right now. Matt Hasselbeck has the ability to win big games at quarterback and overall their defense is solid. They do still need to find a way to get Chris Johnson going however.

4. Drew Brees. Matt Ryan. Josh Freeman. Cam Newton. The NFC South is going to be fun to watch for a long, long time. It is truly remarkable how quickly Newton has become such a dynamic NFL player. Freeman is a younger Ben Roethlisberger, who is incredibly clutch. Brees is Brees. Ryan is coming off an impressive comeback win and is one of the league’s best young quarterbacks.

5. Week 3 games to look forward to –

  • New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles – Always an entertaining rivalry, let’s hope Mike Vick finds his way back to the field so we can see this game at full strength.
  • New England at Buffalo – Let’s see how much of a contender Buffalo really is.
  • Green Bay at Chicago – A rematch of the NFC Championship Game.

NFL Week 2 Review: Strange Times On The Sabbath

The second week is better than the first. 16 teams are undefeated. There has been separation. Now some undefeated will go win again while the list of the undefeated gets shorter. 2-0 teams feel good. Week 2. Some teams are lost at quarterback, and even for the good teams, things often go sideways.

Break this down. The Jets beat the Jaguars, who beat the Titans last week, who beat the Ravens this week, who beat the Steelers last week. Who beat the Jets last year in the AFC Championship.

The Buffalo Bills let Al Davis take one right in the mouth. That track team defense of Skinny Al let Ryan Fitzpatrick march right through his secondary, causing mass paralysis amongst the fat and wheezing Raider Nation. Dreams of Jason Campbell slowly turn to nightmares.

Who cares about the President’s approval rating? The Redskins are leading the NFC East. Yes it is a beautiful fact. Scott Van Pelt has finally taken out the old Redskins hat, and fit it like aged leather. They already owned the Giants last week, who are looking less and less likely to make the playoffs with every victory by the Eagles and Cowboys.

Monday Night Preview? The Giants will be forced to put on a show on defense tomorrow night, because the axes for Coughlin will get sharp if Eli tosses it all over the place against the Rams defense and gets picked more than once. A loss to the Rams on Monday Night loses the mystique of the Giants as a playoff contender for the rest of the year. Guaranteed.

Tony Romo put the Cowboys on his back against the Spikesless 49ers, which at the moment edges him ahead in the Jay Cutler poll of weakness in big games. Anyone see Taylor Mays?

Where did the Ravens go? Jets in the AFC Championship? What happens in Tennessee? Matt Hasselbeck doesn’t get sacked by the Ravens defense?

Donovan Mcnabb at the end of the rope? Adrian Peterson will soon regret any year longer than the next on his contract. Peterson is on a team that has no idea what it wants to do on offense and can’t get any younger on defense, a strange directionless ship without engines.

Will this be the year of Stafford? Could be. He has Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew, which seems to be the only thing you need when your defensive line is one of the best in the league. Keep him upright and feast on the carcass of Chicago and Minnesota towards the end of the season.

Can the NFC West do something relevant at any point this season? No. No exciting offense or defense will get you no love in the league of the Packers offense and Jets defense. If you don’t dominate on at least one side of the ball, you’ve got no room. 32 teams. Only 12 are relevant for longer than a week. And only 12 make the playoffs.

TOJ Week 2 NFL Picks

Last Week’s Record: 9-6

Season Record: 9-6

Week 2 Picks (Lines courtesy of BET Us)

  • New Orleans (-6.5) vs. Chicago
  • Detroit (-8.5) vs. Kansas City
  • Jets (-9) vs. Jacksonville
  • Oakland (+3.5) vs. Buffalo
  • Washington (-4) vs. Arizona
  • Baltimore (-7) vs. Tennessee
  • Pittsburgh (-14.5) vs. Seattle
  • Green Bay (-11.5) vs. Carolina
  • Tampa Bay (+3) vs. Minnesota
  • Cleveland (-2) vs. Indianapolis
  • Dallas (-4) vs. San Francisco
  • Houston (-3.5) vs. Miami
  • San Diego (+7) vs. New England
  • Denver (-3.5) vs. Cincinnati
  • Atlanta (+2.5) vs. Philadelphia
  • Giants (-6) vs. St. Louis