Sanchez Breakdown: Head Check

Rob Celletti provides his weekly breakdown of Mark Sanchez’s performance

Stat Line: 28/41, 328 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception – 90.3 QB Rating, 68.3 completion percentage

Season Stats: 116/218, 1,453 yards, 9 touchdowns, 7 interceptions – 74.6 QB Rating, 53.2 completion percentage

I’m starting to develop a love/hate relationship with this column. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing about the Jets, I love participating in the Great Ongoing Quarterback Debate, and in general, it’s been a fun exercise. But yesterday’s game – and the sport in general – is about so many more things than the play of Mark Sanchez. Anyone who places the blame for yesterday’s loss solely on the quarterback needs to have his or her head examined.

The truth is this: if Mark Sanchez plays the way he did yesterday for the rest of the season, the Jets are probably going to win at least 6 of their remaining 9 games and make the playoffs. Does this absolve him of the interception? No. But 25 quarterbacks have competed thus far in Week 7 of the NFL season, and 15 of them threw at least one interception (Joe Flacco and Eli Manning threw two apiece! Gasp!). Interceptions are part of the game, and by the way, Sanchez’s did not lead directly to points against the Jets. Was the game-ending fumble really his fault? Or do Jets fans need to suck it up and credit Rob Ninkovich for blowing through the Jets’ line and making a game-sealing play? Where was this play by a Jet linebacker moments earlier, when they had a chance to seal the game themselves? But I digress. You know how this goes…

The Best: Sanchez engineered one of the drives of his career to get the Jets within a field goal in the 4th quarter. A drive that started on the 8 yard line was set back by a false start penalty, so in reality, Sanchez drove the Jets 96 yards in 14 plays in just under 7 minutes. The 7 route he completed to Jeremy Kerley on 3rd and 3 from the 32 is just another example of an elite-level NFL throw that Sanchez executed perfectly. Even when plays broke down, Sanchez made the right decision, such as his check down to Lex Hilliard three plays after the Kerley first down to keep the chains moving. Basically, Sanchez did everything that a good NFL quarterback needs to do in a key spot. He was calm, accurate, and most importantly, he finished the drive, and did so with a flourish, throwing an absolute dart into a tight window for the Dustin Keller touchdown. The comeback was on.

The Worst: While I fall on the side of the debate that generally comes to Sanchez’s defense, I feel as though I’ve been pretty fair in my criticism of his shortcomings. He still has at least two or three head-scratching moments every game, which is difficult to explain for a fourth year quarterback. But some quarterbacks never shake these moments from their games (see Romo, Tony; Cutler, Jay) and fans will need to learn to live with them. The interception was bad for several reasons: 1) the ball was thrown way too late after Sanchez had pump-faked to the other side of the field; 2) it was severely under-thrown; 3) Sanchez had at least two other places he could have gone with the ball to pick up positive yardage. Not only did he miss a touchdown, he gave away possession cheaply.

The Jets were also unable to finish drives. Again, there is more than enough blame to go around (conservative play-calling, Stephen Hill‘s drop, etc.), but Sanchez was a damn good red zone quarterback last year, and the Jets only scored two touchdowns yesterday in their four trips inside New England’s 20. There were certainly points left on the field by Sanchez and the offense yesterday, which is immensely frustrating.

Here’s the undeniable truth: Mark Sanchez handed the Jets a 26-23 lead with 1:37 remaining in this game. I understand that he has his critics, and the debate has become a little bit like politics; no matter what is said or what happens, people have chosen which side of the fence they‘re on and have dug in to staunchly defend that position. Still, the people who blame yesterday’s loss solely on Sanchez are being unrealistic and unfair. If you’re going to bash Sanchez for his mistakes, you have that right, but credit him when he deserves it – and his second half performance yesterday deserves a ton of credit. If you want him replaced, then I’d like to ask: by whom?

Yesterday’s performance was good enough for the Jets to win. Unfortunately, the narrative surrounding this team and this quarterback has a lot of people believing otherwise.

New York Jets – Ten Truths After New England Loss

Ten truths about the New York Jets through their first seven games

Yesterday’s game was arguably the most frustrating regular season loss since Rex Ryan has taken over as the New York Jets head coach. It has led to heated debates among New York Jets fans and writers about how to assess the blame for the squandering of such a golden opportunity. Despite correctly picking the winner in every Jets game so far this season and thus having their record be exactly what I expected right now, it still feels like time to search for some truths on this team after 7 games. 

1 – Mark Sanchez is ridiculously inconsistent – Sanchez played a terrific second half of football yesterday, probably as good as we’ve ever seen him play. We saw a similarly effective quarterback against Buffalo, late in the game against Miami and in spurts in other games. However, Sanchez has also played some of the worst football of his career this season and made a handful of inexcusably bad decisions and throws. He needs support around him to consistently pull out victories. You can win with an inconsistent quarterback but you better avoid too many mistakes in other areas of the game.

2 – Mark Sanchez is the starting quarterback for the rest of the season – Even if you don’t think Sanchez is the long term guy for this team, which is a valid feeling at this point, he is without question their best option for the rest of this season. If he plays like he did yesterday the rest of the year, the Jets are winning 9-10 games and making the playoffs. You could give Tim Tebow 100 opportunities and he couldn’t complete the touchdown that Sanchez did to Dustin Keller yesterday, along with any of the deep seven routes to Jeremy Kerley. Sanchez is the best option at quarterback on this roster. There was never a real quarterback controversy on this team and there isn’t now.

3 – Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano wanted no part of Tim Tebow this off-season – There was no football motivation behind this trade as the Jets came into the season with no plan on how to use him and still haven’t really figured it out. Tebow has value in short yardage and as a change of pace runner out of the Wildcat but the Jets can’t even get him on the field for 3rd and 1s instead of throwing slants to Chaz Schilens.

4 – We have a Tony Sparano problem – As soon as the Jets broke the huddle and went into a shotgun 4 wide formation on 3rd and 1 against New England yesterday, everybody in their right mind knew a poor play call was coming. The Jets had been extremely effective in third and short with Shonn Greene and should have simply handed him the ball. Beyond that, going empty and letting Tim Tebow run up the middle isn’t going to be stopped in that situation, period. You don’t throw a backside slant there unless you have an elite receiver who has good size. The Jets don’t have that player on their roster right now. Chaz Schilens certainly isn’t it. Just an awful, inexcusable play-call and it hasn’t been the first time that has happened this year. Sparano has struggled with his red-zone play-calling and getting a feel for when to be aggressive and when not to be. There are 7 games in the books now and I know there has been moving parts on offense because of injuries, but it is time to recognize what you have and take advantage of it.

5 – Jeremy Kerley is a very good wide receiver – The Jets are going to try like hell to trade Santonio Holmes this off-season but will have a tough time finding any takers because of how much guaranteed money he is owed. Kerley looks like a younger, faster version of Holmes without the baggage. There is a very real chance he could put together a 1,000 yard season this year which would give him the same amount in his career that Holmes has. Kerley’s rapid maturation has been the best story on the offensive side of the football so far for the Jets. We criticize Mike Tannenbaum all the time and will continue to do so when it is justified but it looks like the Kerley pick was a steal.

6 – The coaching staff/front office is wisely embracing a youth movement and starting to recognize some of their mistakes – Quinton Coples and Demario Davis are slowly turning into full time players. Antonio Allen and Marcus Dowtin have been brought on the active roster. Marcus Dixon was cut. Bart Scott is seeing less playing time. John Conner was cut and replaced by a much more effective Lex Hilliard. Joe McKnight is starting to play more on offense. They ignored pressure to sign a veteran big name receiver. These are baby steps but they are all steps in the right direction.

7 – When you rely on young players, mistakes are going to happen – Stephen Hill can’t drop that pass yesterday. It was a brutal mistake at the worst possible moment. Regardless, Hill has flashed enough potential this season to know that he is the opening day starting split end next season. He is going to play major reps the rest of the year and learn on the job, which is going to cost the Jets at times. You will see the same thing with Davis, Coples and Allen on defense. However, in the long term the positives will outweigh the negatives.

8 – The Jets are painfully shorthanded at outside linebacker – When you run as much 3-4 as the Jets do, you need outside linebackers who can rush the passers. The Jets have zero who can. Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas and Aaron Maybin have a combined 2 sacks between them through 7 games. Pace has value as a run stopper but that’s it. Maybin isn’t good enough to make any impact at all most weeks. Bryan Thomas is finished. Rex Ryan must find a way to manufacture a pass rush by utilizing his secondary more on blitzes.

9 – Antonio Cromartie is an All-Pro and is leading a very good secondary minus Darrelle Revis – Cromartie has played the best football of his career since Darrelle Revis went down with a season ending injury. Simply put, he has embraced and thrived in the role of being Rex’s new lockdown corner. LaRon Landry has been a very good addition and helped improve the safety play from last year. Even Kyle Wilson has been better in previous weeks. The secondary has rallied after the Revis’ injury and remains very good.

10 – The Jets are going to be in the division and playoff hunt – Anybody who classifies the Jets as an awful team or a bottom feeder isn’t paying attention. This is a team who will remain around .500 for the next few weeks and will have an opportunity to make a run late for a division title or a wild-cart spot. New England isn’t running away with anything this year (look at their schedule) and certainly nobody is pulling away in the AFC wild-card race.

Gut Punch – New York Jets Lose Heartbreaker To Patriots

The New York Jets lost a heartbreaker to their hated rivals in New England

The New York Jets lost a brutally painful game today to New England, in one that will be intensely debated about and vented over the next few days. Let’s try to go over a few key points of contention –

– Mark Sanchez finished 28/41 for 328 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Throughout the game he made impressive throws into tight windows and pushed the ball down the field, completing a large collection of passes over 20 yards. He also put the team on his back for a key 92 yard drive that got them back within 3 in the 4th quarter. Regardless, he threw an awful interception in the first half and fumbled the ball away in overtime. There will be intense criticism for those plays with a general ignorance of the 70% completion percentage and all the positive he accomplished, that is the nature of the business. However, you are kidding yourself if you think Tim Tebow should get anywhere near the starting quarterback job on this team. You are also kidding yourself if you think this loss falls 100% on Sanchez’s lap.

– The coaching left something to be desired today, to say the least. Tony Sparano calling a slant route to Chaz Schilens on a 3rd and 1 near the goal-line was just negligent considering how the Jets were running the ball in short yardage. They were content to settle for a field goal after recovering a fumble deep in Patriots territory after a kickoff return, when they could have attacked the end-zone.  Rex Ryan’s defense was also not aggressive enough on the final drive of regulation or the first drive in overtime. They repeatedly kept rushing 3 or 4, instead of mixing a blitz in. If they needed to switch personnel (which they did), they should sacrificed a timeout for it in overtime.

– You can’t allow a kick return for a touchdown to be that easy .You can’t repeatedly go offsides. You can’t get personal fouls on punts that keeps the ball in New England’s hands. You can’t drop passes. These are mistakes that happen when you go young because of injuries and other necessities but they must be avoided to beat a team like New England.

– The Jets can’t afford their traditional post-Patriots game hangover. Next week’s game against Miami is of critical importance. They cannot afford to lose a home division game to them considering how tight the division and conference is going to be.

– Yes, the division remains wide open. The Jets are a flawed team. So is New England. They aren’t a 12 win team. They might not be a 10 win team. The Jets let one get away, which is what made this loss so painful but the Patriots aren’t running away in the division race.

– Jeremy Kerley is developing into a legitimate number one receiver. Dustin Keller was terrific today. Joe McKnight deserves a ton of credit for gutting through his ankle injury and putting together a productive game. Demario Davis showed flashes of why so many Jets fans were excited about him this summer.

– Get the venting out now Jets fans, you need to. It was an emotional roller coaster today. The Jets blew a golden opportunity but must now quickly regroup to keep pace in the jumbled AFC East.

Turn On The Jets Roundtable Week 7 – Jets vs. Pats Predictions

The TOJ staff gives their predictions for Jets/Pats

Joe Caporoso – 12 Pack

Chris Gross –  Patriots 27, Jets 20- The Jets head into Foxboro coming off of a dominating performance against the young Indianapolis Colts at home. They face a New England team ranked 5th against the run with a very young and talented front 7, accompanied by an extremely explosive offensive unit. New York has been vastly improved over the past couple weeks, particularly defensively, where we have seen how creative and intelligent Rex Ryan truly is.

The keys for the Jets rely on another strong performance from the pass rush, and secure, smart play from Mark Sanchez. Defensively, if the Jets can get Quinton Coples, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Aaron Maybin in Tom Brady’s face, making him very uncomfortable, they might just have a chance to shut down New England’s high powered offensive attack. Offensively, New York needs to take advantage of every possibly opportunity they may get. The Jets cannot afford to have Sanchez miss open targets, particularly deep, or make careless turnovers.
New York will come into this game guns blazing. Rex will likely be very aggressive with the defense. Expect to see some pressure schemes designed to keep Brady off balance, accompanied by a surplus of personnel groups, including the “big nickel” package, designed to compete with the Patriots’ no huddle offense. On offense, the Jets will look to open up the run by testing New England’s secondary with a few early deep passes. Shonn Greene will get going again, but this week don’t expect another 100+ yard performance. Instead, Greene will likely get 20-25 carries for about 75-80 yards. Sanchez will play well enough to hold off Tim Tebow for another week, while the Jets keep it close all game, but ultimately fall short due to a strong 4th quarter by Brady and Co.

Mike Donnelly – While the Jets may have issues of their own this year, it’s important to keep in mind that the Patriots are not exactly THE PATRIOTS anymore. The defense is still amongst the worst in the NFL, and the offense doesn’t put up video game type numbers on offense like they used to. I expect the Jets to be outplayed, but make a few big plays throughout the game to make it more competitive than most think. Look for a healthy dose of Tebow, a big special teams play or two, and a few timely defensive plays (Tom Brady, meet Quinton Coples!) as the Jets shock the football world and pull out a 26-24 win.

Chris Celletti – If the Jets can keep Tom Brady relatively in check – eliminate big plays, get some hits on him, force a turnover or two – I think this going to be a close game throughout. The Jets are going to try and continue the success they had on the ground last week with Shonn Greene, even though there’s a much more formidable opponent in front of them this week. But I still think they’re going to be very conservative and try to get one of those “game managing, don’t lose it for us” games out of Mark Sanchez. I also expect plenty of Tim Tebow and the rest of the kitchen sink stuff we’ve seen over the past two weeks. The Jets know they need to do some of those things to beat superior teams. Unfortunately, I think Brady and Belichick outdo their counterparts by just enough, holding on late for a 24-17 win.

Rob Celletti -The Jets will play like an insulted, disrespected team on Sunday, and they should, being 10.5 point underdogs. I’m not saying the Jets are on equal footing with New England, but this is a “throw the record out” scenario.  Even if the Jets were 0-6, I’d think they would keep the game close against their arch rivals.

New England’s defense, particularly on the backend, is nothing to brag about. Mark Sanchez has had some of his best games as a pro against the Patriots and there will be places to throw the ball aggressively on Sunday. I also think the Jets will get a representative game on the ground from Shonn Greene and will hit on some creative things with Tim Tebow in the mix. The result of this game is incumbent upon the defense. The Jets can pull an upset if they hold New England to less than 24 points. If Wes Welker and the vaunted tight ends are running rampant in and around the Jets’ linebackers, a likely scenario, watch out.
In the end, the Jets battle to the end, but can’t muster anything on their final drive: New England 31, Jets 27.

Turn On The Jets Week 7 NFL Picks

The TOJ staff gives their week 7 NFL Picks

The Race for Steak continues. Note that last week’s record includes the most recent Thursday Night game –

CURRENT STANDINGS

1. Mike Donnelly (52-37-3)

2. Rob Celletti (43-44-5)

3. Chris Gross (43-45-4)

4. Chris Celletti (40-48-4)

5. Joe Caporoso (37-51-4)

Joe Caporoso

Last Week (6-7-1)

  • Bills (-3) vs. Titans
  • Vikings (-6.5) vs. Cardinals
  • Browns (+2) vs. Colts
  • Ravens (+7) vs. Texans
  • Packers (-5) vs. Rams
  • Cowboys (-2) vs. Panthers
  • Redskins (+6) vs. Giants
  • Saints (-2) vs. Bucs
  • Jets (+10.5) vs. Pats
  • Jags (+4) vs. Raiders
  • Steelers (-1) vs. Bengals
  • Bears (-6.5) vs. Lions

Mike Donnelly

Last Week (9-4-1)

  • Titans +3
  • Vikings -6.5
  • Colts -2
  • Texans -7
  • Rams +5
  • Panthers +2
  • Redskins +6
  • Bucs +2
  • Jets +10.5
  • Jaguars +4
  • Bengals +1
  • Lions +6.5

Rob Celletti

Last Week (7-6-1)

  • Bills (-3) over Titans
  • Cardinals (+6.5) over Vikings
  • Browns (+2) over Colts
  • Texans (-7) over Ravens
  • Packers (-5) over Rams
  • Redskins (+6.5) over Giants
  • Saints (-2) over Buccaneers
  • Cowboys (-2) over Panthers
  • Jets (+10.5) over Patriots
  • Raiders (-4) over Jaguars
  • Steelers (-1.5) over Bengals
  • Lions (+6.5) over Bears

Chris Celletti

Last Week (8-5-1)

  • Titans
  • Cardinals
  • Colts
  • Ravens
  • Packers
  • Panthers
  • Redskins
  • Saints
  • Jets
  • Jaguars
  • Bengals
  • Bears

Chris Gross

Last Week (8-5-1)

  • Titans +3
  • Cardinals +7
  • Colts -2
  • Ravens +7
  • Packers -5
  • Cowboys -2
  • Giants -6
  • Saints -1.5
  • Jets +10.5
  • Raiders -6.5
  • Steelers -1
  • Lions +6.5

Patriots Always Measuring Stick For Rex’s Jets

TJ Rosenthal on the Patriots/Jets rivalry since Rex Ryan took over

Since Rex Ryan entered Florham Park declaring that he wasn’t here to kiss Bill Belichick rings, the Patriots have become the Jets favorite measuring stick. Knowing that beating them validates all of the hard work, while providing instant credibility around the league. That winning more regular season games over the entire season than New England allows for a more high level entry into the postseason. One containing home playoff games and some years, even first round byes. A scenario that on paper, increases any franchise’s odds of reaching the Super Bowl.

Sunday’s matchup that pits an underachieving Pats team against a Jets team that is rebranding itself after key personnel losses, will again be a gauge for this years progress to date. The big question for the Jets heading into Sunday is how far along they are adaption wise, as they adjust to what has been an ever altering roster. If the Jets collective growth shown against the Texans and Colts continues to develop on Sunday, then maybe the Jets can give the Patriots, a team that is loaded on offense and thriving in their new hyper no huddle style, a real run for their money.

Ryan’s direct challenge to Belichick from the moment he entered the scene in 2009 has this rivalry to another level. One that at times, due to the importance Ryan and his Jets always place on the meetings, has left them with a hangover that has led to more immediate losses. In November 2010 a 45-3 blowout dubbed “The Monday Night Massacre,” in a game that was for sole possesion of first place, left the Jets 9-3 and pretty embarassed. Wondering if they truly were a team who had the goods to topple their favorite enemy. A symbolic ball burying ceremony led by Ryan failed to exorcise the demons of that nationally televised ass kicking. A listless and putrid 10-6 loss to a struggling Miami club at home. best noted for the Sal Alosi and Trip Gate saga, became the fallout. Ending any hopes for a division title.

Last year’s second meeting between the two, a 37-16 Sunday night loss in yet another game for first place in the division, sent the Jets reeling. A loss days later on a Thursday in Denver dropped the Jets to 5-5. Days earlier they were 5-3 and looking to make a move in the AFC. The club never regained it’s footing, finishing at a disappointing 8-8.

On the flip side, there was no bigger franchise win, aside from Super Bowl III, than there was during the Divisional Playoff round in January of 2011. A game that saw the Jets shock and defeat a 14-2 Pats squad 28-21. Squandering home field advantage throughout the playoffs in the process. A game whose lasting impression became Bart Scott’s “Can’t Wait” interview with Sal Paolantonio.

Some questioned whether finally knocking the Patriots off and sending them home was too much for the emotional Jets one week later however, when Rex’s Jets came out flat and got too far behind the Steelers in the AFC Championship. The passing of the big Patriot test perhaps taking all of the wind out of their sails as they fell one game short of the Super Bowl in the 24-19 loss.

The Pats have won nine division titles and three Super Bowls under Belichick They are a litmus test not just for the Jets, but for all clubs who face them throughout the year. Unfortunately for Gang Green, the matchup is not some once in a while gathering, that win or lose can still provide some valuable insight. Instead, it is one that has to be dealt with head on. Twice a year, with little hopes for a home playoff game or a bye without at worst, a split during the regualr season series.

Under Ryan, everything has grown with the Jets. Their expectations. Their visibility. Their exposure. Their obsessive need to beat the Patriots amd prove to themselves that they are the better team.

A win on Sunday, as these two renew a rivaly that dates back to 1960 when the Pats were from Boston and the Jets were the Titans, would give Ryan and the Jets just cause for believing that a successful season without Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes CAN happen. What the Jets can’t allow, under any circumstance, is for a loss to linger much longer than Sunday. The way it has recently after facing the Pats. At 3-3 and in a four way tie for first place in the division, too much is still possible. Especially in a conference, the AFC, where only two teams have records better than 3-3.

As Ryan likes to say, the Jets are going to “take their swing ” at the champ this weekend. In a game whose outcome will, as it so often has in the recent past, give the Jets a clearer view of where they stand. Of how much farther they have to grow as a team in 2012, in order to earn a chance to play for the right to kiss their own rings.

Turn On The Jets 12 Pack, Week 7 – Jets vs. Patriots

12 predictions for the New York Jets week 7 match-up against the New England Patriots

The 12 pack is back and rocking a 6-0 record on game picks so far this season. A big thanks to our staff for putting together another great week of coverage. Make sure you are following myself, Chris Gross, Mike Donnelly, TJ Rosenthal, Rob Celletti and Chris Celletti on Twitter. 

1. Shonn Greene will not crack 100 yards rushing. However, he won’t regress all the way back to his early season struggles. Look for him to finish with 17-20 carries and 70-85 yards, along with a touchdown.

2. Stevan Ridley will be the game’s leading rusher. New England is going to have success running the football on the Jets, who will look to force them into longer drives instead of giving up chunk plays in the passing game.

3. Stephen Hill is going to catch his 4th touchdown of the season and make an impact in the downfield passing game against New England’s shaky secondary.

4. Tom Brady will throw for over 275 yards with a pair of touchdowns and one interception. The Jets will sack him twice.

5. Mark Sanchez will throw for over 200 yards with one touchdown and one interception. New England will sack him twice as well.

6. Jonathan Grimes will get at least three carries.

7. Tim Tebow will receive zero handoffs. However, he will see his most extensive work of the season on offense. He will run 7-10 times out of the quarterback position and throw 2-4 passes.

8. Dustin Keller will be more involved in the offense, finishing with 4 catches for 48 yards.

9. Jermey Kerley will lead the Jets in receiving yards and have at least one catch over 20 yards.

10. Wes Welker will lead the Patriots in receptions but Aaron Hernandez will lead them in receiving yards. Rob Gronkowski is going to score a touchdown.

11. The Jets will rip off one big kick return, whether it is Antonio Cromartie or Joe McKnight deep on kicks.

12. The Jets are going to cover the 10.5 line but I don’t think they steal one in New England. This will be a competitive game throughout but ultimately the Patriots will make a few more big plays in the 4th quarter, en route to a 28-20 victory.

Turn On The Jets NFL Week 7 Best Bets: Changing the Approach

Chris Celletti with his weekly NFL Best Bets. Where should you put your money this weekend?

Week 6 Record: 2-1 (Respectable!)

Season Record: 7-10-1 (Getting there!)

Underdogs are killing it in the NFL this season. It started early and most chalked it up to the usual early-season parity and also those weirdos who were pretending to be refs. But funny thing is that it’s kept up. Last week, underdogs were 12-2. The only two favorites that covered? Your New York Football Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and I had ’em both. Yippeee!

So this week I’m going to do something a little odd, which is pick three dogs and hope I get them right. Underdogs cover or outright win every single week in the NFL, and chances are with the way things are going that three will win this week. Hopefully I nab them. Let’s call it Changing the Approach, and I’d like to offer a little bit of advice to a billion dollar operation who should try the same thing: The New York Yankees.

The Yankees, the Bronx Bombers with all their power and all their home runs and questionable starting pitching just got swept by the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. They went 3-6 in the postseason, while batting a historically-inept .188. Their starting pitching, outside of C.C. Sabathia in Game 4 against the Tigers, was incredible. Delmon Young drove in six runs in the sweep, the Yankees scored six themselves. Alex Rodriguez’s world came crashing down, Derek Jeter’s ankle exploded into 19 pieces, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson looked like they were actually trying NOT to hit the ball, and …well, you get the point.

At least the Red Sox finished last.

But this has to be the wake up call the Yankees needed. When you look back at the 2009 postseason, when the Yanks won their 27th World Series, you now have to count it as an outlier. For all the years the Yankees went into the postseason worried sick about their starting pitching, it’s almost always been the offense’s sputtering that sent them home. The theme has always been the same: horrible with runners in scoring position, no productive outs, no stealing of bases/pushing the envelope, way too dependent on the long ball, and A-Rod sucking. This season, all of that rued its collective ugly head, but it went to epic proportions. If the Yankees finally realize that they need to be a more versatile offensive team and make changes to that end this offseason, the 2012 postseason might be the best thing that ever happened to the franchise. If not, we’ll likely be saying the same thing next year.

What the Yankees need to do is change the approach. Look, A-Rod will most likely be back next season. If they can get rid of him, they will, and they should, but we’re going to assume he’s back. And that’s fine, really. He just has to be the full-time DH next season, and see if he can give the Yankees 500 healthy at bats. Nick Swisher will be gone. He’s been a good regular season player, but it’s time to move on. He somehow makes Postseason A-Rod look like Ted Williams, which is amazing.

But what the Yankees can’t do is replace Swisher with another home-run-seeking guy. They already have power in the lineup with Robinson Cano and yes, A-Rod. Russell Martin will likely be back, who will chip in 20 homers or so (he just needs to be way better as an average hitter). Where the Yankees can make big, meaningful moves towards youth and versatility is in left field/right field, third base and center field. If I’m Brian Cashman, I’m shopping Granderson this offseason. The Yankees just don’t need a guy who is going to hit 43 home runs but hit .220 and strike out 200 times. They don’t need Adam Dunn, which is what Granderson has become. Another team will take him. Guys like him have value on some teams. The Yankees aren’t one of those teams.

If I’m the Yankees in 2013, I bring back Ichiro Suzuki on a one year deal and stick him in right field. Brett Gardner plays every game in center field. I get a younger, versatile left fielder and a similar player for third base. It almost doesn’t even matter who. Just someone who can hit .270, play decent defense, bunt, steal, and most importantly, someone who isn’t just looking to mash the ball into the seats every at-bat. The rest of the infield stays the same. A rotation of Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda (who should also be brought back on a short deal), and perhaps Michael Pineda and Andy Pettitte is good enough, as was proved this October.

But if the Yanks write a blank check to Josh Hamilton and stick him in right or left field, I have a feeling that they’ll be cleaning out their lockers at about the same time next season. It’s not that Hamilton isn’t a great player, he’s just not the type of player the Yankees need. They have enough of those already. They need some more versatility, some more youth and speed, and they have ample opportunities to add that this offseason.

Now, onto the picks:

Ravens +7 at Texans

I think we can chalk this line up to ZOMG Ray Lewish is hurt the Ravens are toast! The Texans haven’t looked great for the past six quarters. The Jets did a good job against them in the second half in Week 5, and the Packers wiped them in Week 6. I guess you could say that the Texans are due to play a good game, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to have an easy time with the Ravens. This just smells like a field goal game to me. I think you take seven points with the Ravens against anyone in the NFL.

Redskins +6.5 at Giants

The Giants went 0-2 against the ‘Skins last season. They always seem to struggle with them. I could also see this being a little bit of a let-down game for the G-Men, coming off a big road win at San Francisco last week. For some reason I just have visions of RGIII running all over the place, keeping this a dogfight to the end.

Cardinals +6.5 at Vikings

Chances are this will be a really low scoring game, with two good defenses going head to head. Generally, those types of games are close all the way through. I actually like the Cards straight up in this one, so give me the 6.5 points.

Bonus Non-Football Bet of the Week (Season Record 3-3)

Shameless plug here – I’ll be ringside this Saturday when boxing debuts at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, on assignment for SBNation New York. Does that mean I probably shouldn’t make a gambling prediction for one of these fights? Yeah, but whatever. Of course, in typical boxing fashion, Saturday’s main event between super-exciting Danny Garcia and grizzled vet Erik Morales is in doubt because Morales probably failed a drug test, but there are other good fights on the card for boxing nuts. One I’m looking forward to is Randall Bailey against Devon Alexander for Bailey’s welterweight crown. Bailey pulled a shocking victory out of nowhere in his last fight against Mike Jones, flooring Jones in the 11th round after being out-boxed the previous 10. Bailey is never out of any fight, because he’s one of boxing’s toughest one-punch punchers (check YouTube for some highlights). Alexander is wildly talented but his toughness has often been put into question. The fight presents a compelling dynamic, and I’m going to say Bailey pulls the upset and retains his title. He’s at +450 to do so, so this would be another fairly big upset for Bailey.

Turn On The Jets Talks With Pats Propaganda – Jets/Patriots Preview

Joe Caporoso talks with Mike Dussault of Pats Propaganda about the upcoming match-up between the Jets and Patriots

I had the opportunity to talk with one of our favorite writers behind enemy lines, Mike Dussault of Pats Propaganda, to preview the upcoming New York Jets/New England Patriots showdown. Here is our conversation –

JC – What is the issue with New England’s secondary and is it a solvable problem this season? Is it actually as bad as it is being hyped up to be?

MD – Really the only issue, and it’s a glaring one, is that they cannot stop the 20+ passing plays. They’re giving up almost 6 per game. It really just boils down to that, and it’s maddening because they’ve been the worst in the NFL at it for two seasons and just can’t seem to get it fixed. Now injuries have played into it somewhat. When Russell Wilson heaved the 46-yard game winning TD last weekend it was two rookies that were on the back end. But things weren’t especially better when it was starters Steve Gregory (out since week 4) and Patrick Chung (dinged at the end of the game).

JC – Are you surprised by some of the game management issues that are arising, particularly with two Hall of Famers like Belichick and Brady leading the way?

MD – Yes, there have definitely been some head scratching moments this year, like last week’s debacle at the end of the first half, where they took an intentional grounding with one second left inside the 10-yard line that basically cost them the game in the long run. They should’ve just kicked the field goal when they had the chance with 6 seconds left.

There are a couple factors contributing. With Josh McDaniels back and his aggressive/often unconventional style, and the Pats trying to execute at such a fast pace it has led to some of the miscues, but ultimately I think they’ll be okay in the long run. There’s no question they’re still trying to lock down their identity and I think that has played into it as well. Sometimes they’re unstoppable, other times they seem to be going backwards. They need consistency and with that the game management stuff will take care of itself.

JC – Can you talk about how New England has rebuilt this offense to be a dual threat with their newly found power running game?

MD – Honestly I don’t think they have much of a straight up power running game as some might think, and we saw that against the Seahawks last week.  What they excel at is running on nickel and dime defenses, and once their passing game that’s when their run game is most dangerous.

Now there’s no question Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Boldin are still a more dynamic group than they’ve had in some time, but so far we’ve only seen them dominate the run game situationally, when teams are on their heels and overly concerned with the passing attack. Whether they can consistently move the ball on the ground to run the clock out and seal a win, when the opposition knows they’re trying to run, remains to be seen. This includes short yardage situations too. And we’ve already seen a ton of negative plays that were rare in recent history. Make no mistake, you’ve got to stop the passing game first and foremost.

JC – If you were the Jets how would you attack the New England defense? The New England offense?

MD –  For the Jets offense you have to take some shots down the field. There’s no weaker link than the Patriots back end. They’ve been effective in stopping the run every week, with Brandon Spikes really being the tone setter there, and they’re a good tackling team for the most part as well. The short pass and ground attack is less effective so far this year than it has been in year’s past.

But if you look at Seattle’s game plan, they stuck with their ground game even though it wasn’t dominant and took a lot of play action shots down the field, especially on early downs. The Jets have some ammo to keep the Pats defense off balance, I’m sure Rex has been saving something Tebow-y just for New England. Those plays that confuse or put the Pats on their heels will open up the long balls down the field. But the difficult thing, and most key part, is not throwing interceptions on those deep shots. Simply put if Sanchez and the offense have one turnover or less they’ll be in the game until the end and then they just have to make the clutch plays. The Patriots defense lives or dies by turnovers, if you give them two or more New England will probably win.

For the Jets defense it’s all about patience. There will probably be a couple drives where the Patriots run no-huddle and look unstoppable. You just have to weather those storms and continue to force them to execute for 60 minutes. Because they’ve got a habit of going stone cold during crunch time. I know Rex loves to mix things up a lot, but the Pats no-huddle will make that difficult, so I’d say stay in base and simplify the calls so they can get in quickly. If the Jets go DB heavy the Patriots will not hesitate to run so they’ll have to be prepared for that as well.

Obviously they must try to confuse Brady’s reads as much as possible, and when the Pats offense goes no-huddle they must be prepared. So much of the damage New England does in the no-huddle is because teams are not lined up, don’t have the call, or simply gassed. You can’t give them anything easy. Make them work for it till the end and it’s entirely possible they won’t make the clutch plays in the clutch moments.

JC – Prediction for the game, how many wins the Patriots finish with and how many wins the Jets finish with?

MD – Well hey, I’m biased but even when I do my best to be non-biased I like the Pats in this one. They’re always tough coming off an embarrassing loss, even moreso at home. I’d expect them to bring their A-game this week.

The wild card is Sanchez and the deep ball. If the Jets can get a couple long scores, not turn the ball over, move the ball a bit on the ground, and keep it close until the 4th quarter it could be anybodies game.

Let’s go Pats 24, Jets 13.

At this point I like the Pats at 12-4. Jets 9-7.

MD – The Jets have had a season of injuries like none I’ve seen before. Who are some of the players that might be unknown to Patriots fans but have been elevating their play in the absence of so many starters?

JC – On offense, Jeremy Kerley has stepped into being the offense’s top playmaker. He is averaging over 17 yards per catch and has shown a consistent ability to create big plays down the field. The Jets receiving core gets a ton of flak for lacking talent but that isn’t a fair assessment. Outside of Kerley, Chaz Schilens has been a capable possession receiver and a healthy Stephen Hill has big play potential. He already has three touchdowns, despite missing 2 and 1/2 games.

On defense, Patriots fans know Antonio Cromartie obviously but he has taken his play to a different level in the absence of Darrelle Revis. The past three weeks have been the best I’ve seen Cromartie play since joining the team and he seems to have embraced a leadership role in the secondary.

MD – Is this a make or break year for Mark Sanchez? Has he progressed or regressed as a quarterback?

JC – Considering the structure of his contract, he will likely be back next year unless the bottom truly falls out on the season and his performance. Even the staunchest Sanchez apologist would have to admit he has regressed since the 2010 season. There have been flashes of strong play but the inconsistency has been maddening. The last two weeks have been baby steps in the right direction after a disastrous game against San Francisco. We have seen some of Sanchez’s best work against the Patriots since his career started, so hopefully he can keep building positive momentum.

MD –  How have the defense and offense evolved this year, if they have? What kind of team are the Jets trying to be? Is ground and pound really accurate?

JC – Ground and Pound needs to go as an expression (which is why we changed the tag-line on our site haha). Prior to last week, the Jets had been dreadful running the football and stopping the run, along with having a non-existent pass rush. We saw strides in the right direction beginning the in second half against Houston and then carrying over to the Indianapolis game. On offense, they are still going to be run heavy but do take more shots down the field than they did under Brian Schottenheimer. On defense, Rex Ryan seems to recognize his base defense’s shortcomings and has slowly been getting more creative with his schemes and integrating younger players into more playing time.

MD – Name a player on offense and a player on defense that will be key to the Jets chances of knocking off the Patriots.

JC –  Offensively, it has to be on Sanchez to hit his throws down the field. The Jets have the players on the outside who can beat the Patriots secondary deep (Hill, Kerley and yes even Cromartie) but Sanchez must be accurate. Defensively, they must knock Tom Brady off his mark and get him rattled early in the game. Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples are their best natural pass rushers and both must make an impact early and often.

MD – If you were the Patriots where would you attack the Jets offense and defense? What can be exploited?

JC –  The Jets still lack speed at linebacker in a big way. I would be running to the outside heavily with RIdley and Woodhead, along with looking to hurt the Jets in the screen game. If the Jets try to match up the Patriots tight ends in man coverage with their safeties, it should be a match-up Brady can take advantage of as well. On defense, I would make Sanchez beat you. Bottle up the running game and force him to hit throws down the field into tight windows and hope he throws a few interceptions.

 

New York Jets Week 7 – Game Plan Thoughts For New England

A few thoughts on how the New York Jets could game plan for the New England Patriots

The New York Jets head to New England this Sunday in a pivotal AFC East game between a pair of 3-3 teams. Despite having the same record, the Jets find themselves as 10.5 point underdogs. New England is a better team but the Jets have beat the Patriots in the past when they had less talented rosters than them. This is another “kitchen sink” game where Rex Ryan and the coaching staff needs to put together a creative game plan that doesn’t hold back any gadgets or surprises. How can the Jets give themselves a chance to pull off the upset?

Offense – New England is extremely weak in their secondary, giving up an inordinate amount of 20+ yard passing plays. Their corners and safeties have a difficult time playing the ball in the air and both position groups are generally lacking on talent. The Jets are going to have to take their shots down the field. This is the type of game they drafted Stephen Hill for. This is the type of game you give Antonio Cromartie another shot to run a pass route or two. Jeremy Kerley should be able to do some damage down the seam. Of course all of that is irrelevant if Mark Sanchez cannot be accurate with his deep passes. This is a big test for Sanchez. Can he take advantage of a weak secondary? In the past Sanchez has played some of his best games against New England (and some of his worst) – but he does have over a 100 quarterback rating in 4 of his 7 games against them. The Jets need “Good Sanchez” in a big way on Sunday.

Obviously the Jets can’t be one dimensional. They need a productive running game to open up play action passing down the field. Without Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight, that much more pressure will be on Shonn Greene to perform. Nobody is expecting him to duplicate last week’s performance but if he could give the Jets a solid 20 carry, 85 yard performance it will go a long way to helping their passing game out. Powell and McKnight’s absence could also lead to a bigger role for Tim Tebow.

I had an interesting conversation with Steve Hunter of Sports Geek, where he mentioned the possibility of using a “surprise” Wildcat that utilized Tebow in a hurry-up offense. New England uses their hurry-up to prevent defenses from subbing and allowing them to take advantage of team’s nickel personnel with their running game or their base personnel with their passing game. If the Jets started a series with Sanchez at quarterback and Tebow at one of the running back spots, they could move to a hurry up and alternate in plays where Tebow lines up quarterback before New England has a chance to substitute or react. This also wouldn’t be a bad game to allow Tebow to take a shot down the field, considering the Patriots vulnerable secondary.

Basically, the Jets need to get creative to manufacture points because New England is going to score their share. You aren’t winning this game with anything less than 24 on the board.

Defense – As previously mentioned, New England is going to gain their yards and score their share of points. The key is going to be, how many times can the Jets force the Patriots to settle for a field goal instead of letting them get in the end-zone? And can they force New England into a couple of turnovers? The Jets can’t allow the Patriots to rip off huge chunks of yardage. They have to make them work on long drives and hope they press eventually and Brady throws them an interception or Stevan Ridley coughs up a fumble.

New England thrives in their no huddle because they take advantage of a team’s inability to substitute and then gash them with their running game when they have personnel on the field to defend the pass. This is what makes having the personnel to run a “big nickel” that much more important. Rex Ryan seems to recognize that and smartly brought up hybrid safety/linebacker Antonio Allen last week and now this week has brought up another hybrid in Marcus Dowtin. These are the type of players you need to defend the Patriots, guys with coverage skills but who have the ability to play in the box and make tackles. Considering Eric Smith’s injury, look for extended reps for Allen and for Dowtin to be thrown right on the field like Allen was last week. At linebacker, Demario Davis should see a big chunk of Bart Scott’s playing time because of his speed and coverage skills.

Safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell were brought in to help slow down the Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. They can’t match them in man to man coverage and it may be a good idea to give Antonio Cromartie a few shots on them in certain situations. However, they have the ability to get physical with them in the box and re-route or delay their routes in hopes of throwing their timing with Brady off. It will be imperative that Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Aaron Maybin generate a pass rush because Brady is a different quarterback when he is getting frequently hit.

Special Teams – If Joe McKnight doesn’t play, Antonio Cromartie will be the primary kick returner and he is always capable of ripping off a big return. Jeremy Kerley remains dangerous as a punt returner as well. Any points generated from special teams would be a huge bump in a game where the Jets are trying to pace themselves with the Patriots offense. I have a tough time seeing the Jets executing another fake punt because you know New England is going to be waiting for it. Let’s see how creative Mike Westhoff can get.