TOJ Thanksgiving Day Picks

TOJ with his Thanksgiving Day picks.

Last Week: 5-7-1

Season Record: 80-63-5

Green Bay (-7) vs. Detroit – I do think the Packers are good enough to run the table. The building will be rocking in Detroit and I expect the Lions to both jump out to an early lead and to empty the playbook with trick plays. However, in the end I think Aaron Rodgers will carve up that defense in the second half and Matthew Stafford will throw a couple of crucial interceptions.

Dallas (-7) vs. Miami – Yes, the Dolphins have been much better as of late but Dallas has too much on the line to slip up here. They are well on their way to being in the driver’s seat of the NFC East and won’t stumble against the surging ‘Fins.

San Francisco (+3) vs. Baltimore – Awesome football game. However, I am more sold on San Francisco than I am on Baltimore at this point. The 49ers play how the Ravens want to play better than they do.

TOJ Week 10 NFL Picks

TOJ with his week 10 NFL picks. Who are your best bets?

Last Week: 9-5

Season Record: 66-59-4 (already 0-1 this week, as I picked San Diego last night)

TOJ Week 10 NFL Picks (Lines Courtesy of BetUS)

  • Pittsburgh (-4) vs. Cincinnati
  • Denver (+3) vs. Kansas City
  • Jacksonville (-4) vs. Indianapolis
  • Tampa Bay (+4) vs. Houston
  • Carolina (-3.5) vs. Tennessee
  • Miami (-4) vs. Washington
  • Dallas (-5) vs. Buffalo
  • Philadelphia (-12.5) vs. Arizona
  • Atlanta (PK) vs. New Orleans
  • Chicago (-3) vs. Detroit
  • St. Louis (+3) vs. Cleveland
  • Baltimore (-7.5) vs. Seattle
  • San Francisco (-3.5) vs. Giants
  • Jets (-2) vs. New England
  • Minnesota (+13.5) vs. Green Bay


I’m Coming Home: Halfway Through NFL Season (NFC)

Justin breaks down the NFC at the mid-point of the season. Who are the real contenders?

If the playoffs started today, the Bengals would lead the AFC in wins and get a home playoff game. Take a few moments to breathe, loosen your tie, and try and remember that there are 4 divisional games remaining for the Bengals, 2 of which are against the Ravens, and 2 of which are against the Steelers. The Bengals will win none of those games, if not for only the fact that both the Ravens and Steelers playoff chances hinge on divisional wins against the shakiest team in the hardest division of the AFC.

Enough hating on the Bengals….for now.

Let’s look at the playoff picture in its entirety, starting with the NFC. The Falcons notoriously took Julio Jones in the first round and gave up two draft picks. That will come to be one of their best draft moves for the next 5 years. While the Falcons are currently ranked as the 7th best team against the run, that will probably bump up to the 15th by the end of the season. The Falcons defense has two first round picks at defensive line, one at linebacker and one at defensive back.
There is a formula to the Falcons that makes it one of the potentially greatest offenses in the league. They have their big power running back with Turner, their safety valve in Tony Gonzalez, and two of the top 15 receivers in the NFL. Roddy White and Julio Jones will be huge threats in the second half of the year, especially anywhere indoors.

The problem for a defense facing the Falcons in the second half of the year is that they understand how to roll their three headed dye with precision. If you get double coverage on either receiver, check down to Gonzalez, if Gonzalez has double coverage, find one of three on the outside, and if the defense drops 2 deep and man coverage on both receivers, run it up the middle. Packers have more explosive receivers, Bears have a better running back, but no one has a tight end as good as Gonzalez unless you count Hernandez and Gronkowski for the Patriots as one unit.

The only issue I have with the Falcons is the fact that they have only one quality win this year. Philly? No Vick. Colts? No Manning. Detroit? My feelings on Detroit are mixed, and I think they have a few more losses throughout the year as people start to pick up on how to stop Calvin Johnson and confuse a still relatively inexperienced Matthew Stafford.

Moving on. As I described previously, I have mixed feelings on the Lions. They have flash on defensive line and at receiver, but I don’t think they have enough experience to dig themselves out of a hole against a playoff team when the weather gets cold and Matthew Stafford is asked to find guys that aren’t Calvin Johnson. Next year? Sure, Lions easy playoff team. This year, I still can’t see them getting out of the first round of the playoffs, even though they have three first round picks on their defensive line and the 6th ranked pass defense halfway through the season.

The Saints. Next to Green Bay, the Saints have the best offense in the league. In fact, I would call the Saints the Big Brother to the Packers, if only because of experience in the playoffs. Are they a better overall offense? That depends on if you consider the running game as important as the passing game. The Saints easily have the best tandem at running back in the NFC. Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram is the best 1-2 potential, and there is simply no argument against the potential of Mark Ingram as a power running back in the second half of the season if he can stay healthy.

The Giants, despite the strange tendencies of their offense to be able to run the ball, pass the ball, and then not be able to do those things in the same game, still have the best defensive line/linebacking core in the NFC. This despite the fact that Goff and Sintim are on IR for the rest of the season. If they can get a shutdown corner with Prince Amukamara, then the Giants defense will be able to get nearly as insane as the Jets do in terms of blitz variety and amount of guys they can send to rush the passer.

Someone completely out of their mind may assume the 49ers are the second best team in the NFC. That sort of proclamation can easily be countered by looking at the number of quality wins they have. Philly? Didn’t have their team together yet. Lions? A team so up and down you never know what you’re gonna get. They will face the Giants, Ravens and Steelers, and most likely lose 2 out of 3 games there. Those defenses will show everyone that they are at least a 4 loss team.

Where will I give the 49ers credit? For finally utilizing the pieces that should have been walking all over the NFC West for the past 3 years. Mike Singletary was a great player. He was a below average coach and the turnaround by Harbaugh is most likely split credit between the coach and the division.

Look at what they’ve had. Justin Smith is a 2 time Pro Bowler. Patrick Willis is a 4 time Pro Bowler who will be the only linebacker to be mentioned in the same sentence as Ray Lewis. Vernon Davis averages 12.7 a catch and has over 29 receiving touchdowns as a tight end. They had pieces, and the fact that the 49ers took a defensive back in the third round and the sixth round while grabbing another linebacker in the first round makes it clear that Jim Harbaugh is going to have the perfect mix of youth and experience on defense. The fact that they did not take a quarterback in the first round may have been the best decision by the front office in years.

The Green Bay Packers have caught that Patriots bug of luck mixed with insanely efficient quarterback play. Cullen Jenkins? Gone. Nick Barnett? Gone. Nick Collins? Out on injured reserve. They get Jermichael Finley back, resurrect the youth of Donald Driver, and sling it to Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Greg Jennings in no particular order. They’ve got their future linebacker tandem of Hawk and Matthews for another 7 years and the secondary is stacked with young value talent. The only thing more terrifying than this year’s Packers is what next years Packer’s will look like when Randall Cobb finds his role at receiver and their two tight end draft picks (5th and 7th round) start to see more playing time.

By the end of the season, look for the 49ers to win their division easily, sneak in at 11-5, and lose at home to either the Lions or the Saints. The one thing I think can happen is the rematch of Falcons/Packers in the divisional round. If the Giants play the Packers I think they’ll be able to get to Aaron Rodgers, but only for a half. He will exploit the middle of the field and keep the pass defense on their toes. The Packers are much harder to scheme for than the Patriots. There has been a torch passed, whether people are willing to admit it or not.

TOJ Mid-Season NFL Power Rankings

TOJ with his mid-season NFL Power Rankings. How much do you disagree?

Your mid-season NFL Power Rankings from TOJ, but first a necessary and brief rant

It is hard to mentally fathom the crimes committed by former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. It is almost harder to fathom the protection he received from the infrastructure of the University he coached at. It does appear now that Joe Paterno won’t be back next year and he shouldn’t be. It is time to clean house. Clear the school and every last shred of any person who didn’t do everything in their power to report the crimes they were aware of. This situation is nothing short of sickening and to watch an institution placed over the safety of children is a disgrace. Hang your head in shame Happy Valley, your reputation will forever be tarnished.

1. Green Bay Packers (8-0) – It is hard to think that they don’t have a real shot of going 16-0.

2. San Francisco 49ers (7-1) – They should have that division clinched any day now.

3. Baltimore Ravens (6-2) – It was huge for this franchise to get a sweep of Pittsburgh.

4. New York Giants (6-2) – Pretty amazing what they have done considering their injuries.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) – They may have to go on the road in the playoffs this year.

6. New Orleans (6-3) – Some inconsistencies but they are hard to beat when they are on point.

7. New York Jets (5-3) – If their defense plays like that, they could beat anybody.

8. Detroit Lions (6-2) – Now in battle with Chicago for second place in the NFC North.

9. Houston Texans (6-3) – They should roll the rest of the way in the AFC South.

10. New England Patriots (5-3) – Incredible how awful their defense has become.

11. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) – I’m not sold yet.

12. Chicago Bears (5-3) – Gutsy win over Philly will keep them very relevant for second half of season.

13. Atlanta Falcons (5-3) – A chance to assert themselves as serious contenders this week against New Orleans.

14. Dallas Cowboys (4-4) – A soft schedule will give them a shot to hang with the Giants.

15. Buffalo Bills (5-3) – The early season hype seems like a long time ago.

16. Tampa Bay Bucs (4-4) – The “Youngry” Bucs haven’t lived up to expectations this year.

17. Tennessee Titans (4-4) – They have 8-8 written all over them.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) – Playoffs looking like a long shot after killer loss to Chicago.

19. San Diego Chargers (4-4) – The awfulness of their division keeps them a contender.

20. Oakland Raiders (4-4) – See above.

21. Kansas City Chiefs (3-5) – See above.

22. Denver Broncos (3-5) – See above.

23. Carolina Panthers (2-6) – They will be fun to watch the rest of the year.

24. Minnesota Vikings (2-6) – Will be competitive with Christian Ponder under center.

25. Cleveland Browns (3-5) – How bad is that offense?

26. Washington Redskins (3-5) – See above.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) – See above.

28. Miami Dolphins (1-7) – Glad they don’t suck enough for Luck.

29. Seattle Seahawks (2-6) – Hey, they are in second place in their division.

30. Arizona Cardinals (2-6) – How much did they pay Kevin Kolb?

31. St. Louis Rams (1-7) – Frustrating step back after last year.

32. Indianapolis Colts (0-8) – It is hard to think that they don’t have a real shot of going 0-16.

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

TOJ Week 8 NFL Picks – Extended Edition

TOJ with his week 8 NFL picks. Who are your best bets?

Last Week: 5-6-1 (Yikes)

Season Record: 52-46-3

TOJ Week 8 NFL Picks (Lines courtesy of BetUS)

Indianapolis (+8.5) vs. Tennessee Neither of these teams are quite as bad as they looked last week. I do think the Colts are truly awful but they will show some pride on Sunday and keep it close against Tennessee, who doesn’t have the firepower to blow them out.

Jacksonville (+9) vs. HoustonSimilarly, neither of these teams are quite as good as they looked last week. The Jaguars defense will keep them competitive.

Carolina (-3) vs. Minnesota Carolina will get their second win a row heading into their bye week. Cam Newton and Steve Smith have this team light years ahead of where anyone thought they’d be this season.

New Orleans (-14) vs. St. Louis I am not sure people really appreciate how terrible St. Louis is this season.

Baltimore (-13) vs. ArizonaThe Ravens should take out their anger on a pitiful Cardinals team this Sunday.

Giants (-10.5) vs. Miami The Suck For Luck tour loses in New Jersey for the second time in three weeks.

Buffalo (-6.5) vs. WashingtonOh, Canada. Jets nation will be rooting for the Redskins but won’t receive any help.

Detroit (-4) vs. DenverNot sure I can see Tebow winning two games in a row.

New England (-3) vs. Pittsburgh The Patriots have owned Pittsburgh, period. I hope it changes but there is no reason to think it will.

San Francisco (-9.5) vs. ClevelandThe 49ers should be able to rack up 11-12 wins this year considering their schedule.

Philadelphia (-3) vs. DallasThis could really go either way. I will take the home team.

Kansas City (+4.5) vs. San DiegoThe Chargers are still drowning in their tears from last week.

A New York Jets Exam Part 1

TOJ, Green Lantern, and The Jet Report debate out 20 key questions facing the New York Jets the rest of the season

Get comfortable in your seat, print out a copy and take it on the train, or get ready for an extended lunch break. Jeff Capellini from CBS New York, TJ Rosenthal from The Jet Report, along with myself have taken the time to answer 20 crucial about the New York Jets on their bye week. Enjoy, disagree, argue…let’s get after it —

CHECK BACK FOR PART TWO ON SUNDAY

1. What does THIS Jets team have (or not have) that will allow it to move beyond the AFC Championship game.

JEFF: Personnel-wise, the Jets have enough to get to the Super Bowl. They also have the great intangible called belief. What they don’t have yet is a cohesiveness. And when you get to conference title games you have to be a united front on the field and in the locker room to beat the upper echelon teams, especially in their buildings. If the Jets make the playoffs, they are not going to zip through, only to face a wild card team that went on a miraculous run, in the championship game. It just doesn’t work that way. Odds are, they could go to New England, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, you name it. They have to learn how to take that last step and it’s not something you can teach. It’s a matter of experience, execution and coaching. It’s that simple. You’d think if they are truly back and get this thing revved up they’ll be one of the most difficult outs in the entire postseason. But, again, simply making it yet again is not enough. There are no gimmes in the playoffs. Sooner or later they have to truly come together, and I mean for more than 30 minutes at a clip.

JOE: I don’t think talent is an issue here and the experience is clearly in place for the Jets to make a Super Bowl run. The difference is going to be how stingy will the defense be in January and if Mark Sanchez can put together a few big time performances at the right time. It is very likely the Jets could end up in the wild-card again, which means road victories over some combination of New England, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh need to occur for the Jets to finally make it to that elusive Super Bowl.

TJ: For many on this Jets team, there is the collective experience of having battled on the road through two straight AFC playoff runs now. That’s alot of adversity to fight through together. As for new pieces, Plaxico Burress could be a difference maker in the red zone as he was last week. The Jets were red zone failures over the past two seasons. What they also may have added, should they choose to use it, is more speed on offense thanks to Joe McKnight and Jeremy Kerley. On the defensive side, if Aaron Maybin continues to settle in, others like Calvin Pace may benefit. In that scenario you could argue that by December the Jets will have the pass rush that was not at their disposal either during the ’09 and ’10 seasons.

2. Looking back, are there any August roster changes you’d like to have back? Or attacked differently?

JEFF: I might not have let Shaun Ellis walk, but he got a king’s ransom from the Patriots, one that the Jets would have been laughed at for matching or exceeding. However, they are still, reportedly, well below the cap and the defensive line, while improving at a snail’s pace weekly, is still not a strength. I kind of think having Ellis around would have been a good thing for the Kenrick Ellises and Muhammad Wilkersons of the world. Plus, who knows? Maybe Shaun could’ve still made some impact plays at opportune moments. The bottom line is, his return would not have HURT the Jets.

JOE: Plaxico’s recent three touchdown game and the emergence of Jeremy Kerley has calmed me down about Braylon Edawrds and Jerricho Cotchery walking. I do think the Jets are moving around the receivers surrounding Mark Sanchez too much but hopefully he can continue to adjust. Obviously, it would have been nice to see Mike Tannenbaum add a veteran lineman when Robert Turner suffered his pre-season injury.

TJ: We are still uncomfortable with the notion that if Mark Sanchez has ANY sort of issues that could sideline him during a game or even for a week or two, that Mark Brunell, with all due respect to an outstanding 19 year NFL career, is next in line. We would have liked to see a better option handled over in the Summer even though the Jets would tell you that 7th rounder Greg McElroy was on pace to landing a backup role. We wanted a Sage Rosenfels type. An 8-10 year vet who could sling it if needed.

The chase for Nnamdi Asomugha was extensive and may have cost the Jets Brad Smith but the biggest move we’d take back is cutting Aaron Maybin in the first place. Could Maybin have made a difference out in Oakland, where the early season avalanche began? We’ll never know.

3. Whats the biggest fear or danger zone for this team, player or unit, as we enter the second half?

JEFF: If the Jets’ defense continues to be what it was in the second half of the Chargers game, I’m not worried at all. However, even if it is that unit, it’s still not a shutdown unit. The Jets will still allow the occasional running back to have the big game. Tight ends and second and third receivers will still post gaudy numbers. We’ve all heard of “bend-but-don’t-break” defenses. I think that’s what the Jets are, but on a more accelerated level. They are somewhere between bend but don’t break and shutdown. The hope is they will continue to make strides toward the latter, especially over the next two weeks.

JOE: The fear is the defense allowing teams to run the football on them. There is no Ground and Pound, if you allow another running back to rack up 150 yards. It is messes with the approach of the entire team and forces the offense to play too aggressively.

TJ: The biggest fear we have is cohesiveness on the field. The Jets are, barring a major change, seeing the extent of what Mark Sanchez can give the team consistently. That is leadership, hot streaks, and the ability to come from behind. If the Jets run game keeps growing, and the defense begins to cement while adding players like Maybin into the equation, then the load  that Sanchez wlll be asked to carry can remain reasonable. If parts break down too often though, the team will have to ride the arm, and decision making of Sanchez. Two traits that are best served when keeping his stranglehold on games within reason.

4. After the spreading the ball around and featuring big pieces like Burress, Greene and Keller last Sunday, is it safe to say that Schotty and the offense have a solid handle on their approach now?

JEFF: I’m confident this offensive line is very close to being what it was last season. I think it has gotten over its adjustment period, which was caused mostly by injuries and these new and somewhat absurd CBA rules on padded practices. Shonn Greene IS a No. 1 running back. He moves the sticks. Mark Sanchez is a better quarterback than he was last season. Plaxico Burress is still a premier red zone target. The Jets just have to do a better job of complimenting Greene with LaDainian Tomlinson out of the backfield and as a receiver, must not forget about Dustin Keller, which they have been prone to do, and must get the ball in Santonio Holmes’ hands. He cannot be catching 2-3 balls a game. He’s their quickest way to the red zone. Brian Schotteheimer must find new and inventive ways to get the ball in No. 10’s hands. He changes games.

JOE: I don’t think it is safe to say that after one game but they are definitely moving in the right direction. Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller should be the top targets in the passing game, with Burress being the primary threat in the red-zone. Kerley is a third down weapon. The running game should feature Shonn Greene getting around 20 carries each week, while LaDainian Tomlinson chips in 7-10 touches as a runner and receiver. Joe McKnight needs a few packages where he can catch and run the ball in space and will gradually become more involved as the season goes on.

TJ: They better. If last week was a fluke rather than the template moving forward, then the Jets will be spotty on offense in the second half and be forced to win games solely through the work of the special teams and the defense. A strategy that has a limit to it’s effectiveness without a killer pass rusher. Last Sunday, the Jets got everyone involved which kept everyone mentally in the game. This stretched the field enough to create room for Shonn Greene to run. The only way that the Jets offense can be counted on to uphold their 24.6 points per game average is to keep doing more of the same.

5. What can we expect of Wilkerson and Ellis? How high is the ceiling of Aaron Maybin as a pass rusher this year and beyond?

JEFF: I think 3-4 years from now the Jets will have serious pieces with Kenrick and Muhammad, but for now you just have to hope they continue to show the flashes they’ve shown and live with the disappearing acts. Jets are a scheme-based defense anyway, and they generate their pressure off the blitz. Maybin has been a pleasant surprise, but he’s nowhere near a polished player. He gets to the QB for sure, but he’s mostly a straight-line or speed rusher. The guy needs to learn some moves because sooner or later wise tackles will just push him outside rather than engage him at the point of attack.

JOE: Wilkerson and Ellis look like they can be building blocks on the defensive line for years to come. In Rex’s system they won’t be flashy players but will be key components in stopping the run and pushing the pocket. Aaron Maybin really only has a couple of things going for him, his speed and motor. However, in Rex’s system he may have found a perfect home. I do believe he can be a double digit sack this year and beyond.

TJ: Wilkerson and Ellis will have their moments. The best case scenario has them making impacts in a few games, or on a few game changing plays. Their time as terrorizing beasts upfront is off in the not so distant future. Maybin’s time may be now. Maybin is fast, his pursuit can wreak havoc when plays are extended. All three have a bright future at this point, but Maybin can be a difference maker for this team. He may HAVE TO continue his pass rushing growth if the Jets hope to reach Indy.

6. If the “bad” Cromartie rears his head too often, are you comfortable throwing Kyle Wilson at the corner yet?

JEFF: I think anyone waiting for Kyle to become a shutdown corner at this level may be waiting a while. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t be a responsible and useful part of this defense. He’s improved over last season. His reads have been much better, but for the time being I think you just have to live with Antonio being Antonio because he has more upside as a “big play player” than Wilson has. And on a defense that features just one true star, the Jets need all the big- and game-changing plays they can get. Take the good with the bad with Cro and keep Kyle zoned rather than out wide, where there is less margin for error.

JOE: You know what you are getting with Antonio Cromartie, which is inconsistency. I don’t think the quick hook is the right answer as the Jets need his size and speed on the outside. Beyond that, Kyle Wilson is starting to thrive in the nickel role which is a crucial one in the Jets defense. I wouldn’t mess with that anytime soon.

TJ: No. However, we are a heck of alot more comfortable with him now that he is playing the ball and his head is turned around, than we would have been had he been forced into a starting corner role last season. Wilson’s growth in roles  such as a nickel cover guy, a blitzing weapon, and a spy, along with Maybin’s blindside speed, give the Jets added elements to last year’s defense. The second year CB’s confidence is certainly growing. That bodes well should he be forced to spell Cromartie or provide health insurance for EITHER cornerback position. As scary as that is to say, considering what a thought like that means.

7. Will Joe McKnight’s role increase?

JEFF: It almost has to, but it’s hard to say it will because even Tomlinson disappears for long stretches of games. And that’s not because LaDainian is no longer a viable talent. Schottenheimer has yet to find a balance with his RB personnel.  We know Greene should be a 20-plus carry back. We know Tomlinson should be a 5-7-carry back and more of a pass-catching threat. Where does that leave McKnight, a guy with tons of talent and more maturity? It’s hard to say. If in the average game the Jets runs 60-65 plays from scrimmage and want a 50-50 run pass balance, you are looking at 30-33 touches for RBs. Well, if Greene is getting 20-25 and Tomlinson 5-7, that’s 25-32 right there. I think McKnight could be the true change-of-pace back the Jets need, while Tomlinson at this point should be in sets where he’s split out wide or used as the primary back, but only inside the opponent’s 5-yard line.

JOE: I do think it will, but the Jets still need to figure out exactly where to fit him in this year. In the long term, he is a perfect change of pace back for Shonn Greene. For this year, with LaDainian Tomlinson still in the mix it remains hard to get him many touches. Yet, the Jets must get him going in the screen game and use his receiving skills by splitting him out.

TJ: We hope so. Making McKnight a player who is part of 5-7 plays, even as a play action decoy, gives the Jets the threat of big play speed that they haven’t had under Ryan since Leon Washington was around. Speed kills. McKnight has already proven that this year on special teams. It’s not easy to find guys who cause oppoments comcern simply by lining up. Number 25 would have to be treated by defense with respect should he be sent out into the flat for a pitch outside or for a fake that could allow Sanchez to roll out in the other direction with less defenders on his heels.

8. Assess the safeties so far. Some argue that it’s time we see more of the athletic Brodney Pool.

JEFF: It probably is time to see more of Pool. He’s sound in most aspects. But, truth be told, Eric Smith, Pool and Jim Leonhard are undersized and do not cover very well. I think finding a do-it-all safety is one of the hardest things an NFL front office has to deal with on a yearly basis. Ronnie Lott doesn’t grow on trees. So, unless the Jets go out and get lucky on the open market, I think you have to rotate Pool and Smith and play off their strengths depending on the situation. I’d trust Pool more on the opposing side of the 50 due to his speed, but I’d be fine with Smith when the field gets shorter.

JOE: On paper that does make sense, but Pool hasn’t been very good when on the field this year. The Jets will have a patch-work situation at that position for the rest of the year. A playmaking safety isn’t easy to find but the Jets need to try, especially in the early rounds of next year’s draft.

TJ: Why is there so much “miscommunication” going on back there as I believe Leonhard claimed there was last week when rookie LB Josh Mauga was frantically running for his life to cover Antonio Gates in the end zone. Plays like that are happening too often and they shouldn’t, given the experience that Jim Leonhard and Eric Smith have during their time in New York together.

Covering tight ends has been a nightmare again for the Jets who may want to leave that up to corner guys like Wilson, and Donald Strickland instead of Smith. Does Brodney Pool get what defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and Rex Ryan want? If so, get him in on more plays. He hits hard. so even if he’s late to the ball, someone is gonna get dialed up, perhaps leading to some turnovers.

9. Are the Patriots better than the Jets? If so, in what ways and how much better?

JEFF: At the end of the day I see this matchup as a wash. It all depends on when on the calendar they meet. Earlier in the season is better for the Patriots because the Jets’ D is so complex it takes quite a while for the players to get comfortable in their roles. Later in the season is better from a defensive standpoint. Offensively, the Jets should always be able to move the ball and put up points on the New England defense because it’s simply not that good. The Pats have more “stars” on offense; the Jets are much more sound defensively. I just think the Pats know how to put teams away, while the Jets, due in part to their offensive philosophy, always seem to find themselves still being forced to move the ball on offense in the fourth quarter instead of just letting the defense preserve victories. It’s not by design and that’s the main reason the Jets hover around 9-11 wins instead of 12-13 and securing home playoff games.

JOE: On a week to week basis, yes they are a better football team. They are more consistent and have one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history under center with a ridiculous collection of weapons. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean the Jets aren’t more than capable of beating them in a few weeks and again in the playoffs if it comes to that. A few weeks ago, the Jets played far from their best game and hung right with New England. They have confidence against them, which goes a long way.

TJ: The Patriots of week 6 were better than the Jets. We’re not so sure if they will be by week 9. This Jets team has the roadmap to success now, thanks to a second half against the Chargers that helped highlight key blueprints. They have found their identity of spreading the ball around and stretching the field in order to open up the run game. This while locking down the corners, covering tight ends with nickel guys, and putting some heat on the pocket with Maybin and Calvin Pace. McKnight and rookie Jeremy Kerley provide the field positon in the return game. There is still room to grow for the Jets so the jury is stlll out. Falling behind by two games by failing to identify the strengths and weaknesses of this current group earlier, makes it tougher to win the division though. Obviously.

10. How can the Jets compensate for their shortcomings on defense, particularly at safety and outside linebacker?

JEFF: By getting to the quarterback. I can’t state it any clearer.

JOE: Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine. They have the ability to coach around those shortcomings, which existed last year but still didn’t prevent the Jets from beating Indianapolis or New England on the road.

TJ: By working Brodney Pool into the safety rotation for more athleticism and aggressive hitting. By rushing guys like Wilson on passing downs and again, asking Pool and the safeties to play the outside run a bit more. This would leave Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis on their own more often so Cro would HAVE TO think less and react more on his island. We all know that Revis can handle any coverage assignment by himself.

CHECK BACK FOR PART TWO ON SUNDAY

New York Jets Bye Week – A Call To Arms

In response to Rich CImini, Justin with a solution on how the New York Jets should handle their bye week

The NFL bye week is a vicious assault on the glory of the organized violence we call football. It makes even the most brutal of thugs snap out of their psychopathic routine and fall backwards toward reading trash like Twilight on their wife’s kindle, spending time with their children, and going to pansy events like poetry readings at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Hell even Ray Lewis spent his bye week writing a pacifist manifesto to be handed out to the protesters at Occupy Wall Street.

Upon the start of bye week, all cell phones should be temporarily disconnected and every player should be taken on a 13 hour bus ride to Binghamton (a place once called, by it’s own sheriff “the place where hopes and dreams die”), where they will begin readying themselves for the inhuman brutality of the east coast winter.

Upon arrival in the 9th circle of hell, the lineman, in an effort to slim them down and tone them up, will be given a rucksack consisting of raw meat and various bottles of unlabeled whiskey. The raw meat will be accompanied by a small roll of kindling and a flint to start a fire. The whiskey can be used either for the treating of turf infections or to accompany the meat.

A nice 5 day survival expedition into the wilderness of upstate New York would do wonders for team morale. Let’s start with the defense, because after all, if you can chase down a grizzly and tear it to pieces with your bare hands, tackling starry eyed quarterbacks trying to find tight ends on a hitch route would look as difficult as beating the Seahawks in Madden 12. Though there may be a few armless quarterbacks, the constant influx of young talent from college would give guys like Tony Pike and Pat White a second shot as an NFL starter.

An alternative: Drop the whole offensive line into the heart of Trenton at 3am and see if defensive ends are as intimidating as the thought of having to duck into some project building in efforts to avoid the intermittent stray gunshot. I’m pretty sure if guys like Colin Baxter were able to manage getting themselves out of Trenton in the hour of the demon, the defensive stunts of the Buffalo Bills would not be as complex as they seem today. To illustrate, the showdown between offensive lineman and the opposing defense would look like Michael Douglas trying to pay for his soda in Falling Down.

Running backs are not spared, as they should all be sent to the nearest army obstacle course and forced to scale 50 foot rope walls while holding on to a football caked in Vaseline, followed by a nice 50 yard swim across an alligator infested lake while holding onto a 20lb medicine ball. It will be beautiful…receivers being forced to run through a paintball field while avoiding fire from both sides….all sorts of mortars, land mines going off in the distance akin to the first day of Navy Seal training….there will be a point when the sheer will to get to the end zone will outweigh childish fantasy football stats, the game clock, or even what some call being “down by contact”.

Yes the bye week will allow these things and so much more. A hand to hand combat version of capture the flag, a friendly game of rugby with the only athletes who seem to make NFL players look like they have a paranoid fear of injury, and even some good old bare knuckle boxing would make the Chiefs recent fascination of bean bag toss look as dainty as the exercise routines of golfers.

Football is a wonderful game, but as Terrell Suggs and Scott Van Pelt said, it’s getting soft. Time to throw out the moisturizer.

Breaking Down The Rest Of The New York Jets Schedule

TOJ breaks down the rest of the New York Jets 2011 regular season schedule. Is 10 wins reasonable?

The New York Jets currently sit at 4-3, likely a game or two behind the place many people thought they would be at this point of the season. When looking at their remaining nine games, it is very conceivable the Jets could still finish with 10 or 11 wins. Of course the deciding factor in that is going to be if they play like they did in the second half against San Diego for the remainder of the season or like they did in the second half against Oakland. Let’s look at what’s left for the Jets —

  • November 6th at Buffalo

A huge game that will go a long way how the AFC East and wild-card race will look for the remainder of the season. I would expect Buffalo to take care of business against Washington this week, meaning the Jets will be a full game behind the Bills heading into this meeting. The key against the Bills is to not turn the football over and slow down Fred Jackson.

  • November 13th vs. New England, Sunday Night

Showdown. Especially, if the Jets can beat Buffalo and New England slips up against either Pittsburgh or the Giants in the next two weeks. Even without a Patriots slip-up in the coming weeks, a Jets win will make them relevant in the AFC East race for the rest of the season. They have never been swept by New England since Rex Ryan has taken over.

  • November 17th at Denver, Thursday Night

A short week. A long trip. Tebow Christ. This should be an interesting game.

  • November 27th vs. Buffalo

The Bills for the second time in four weeks. They are a different team on the road and if the Jets handle their business, this could be a chance to bury them in the AFC East race and seriously cripple them in the wild-card hunt.

  • December 4th at Washington

Considering the way their season is headed, this should one of the easier games left on the Jets schedule if not the easiest. Rex Ryan and his defense should be able to tee off on the John GrossBeck crap platter at quarterback.

  • December 11th vs Kansas City

The Chiefs looked like the worst team in football for three weeks but now look halfway decent. Regardless, the Jets should be able to handle them at home.

  • December 18th at Philadelphia

A difficult road trip to face Mike Vick and the Eagles, who will likely need this game as they attempt to claw back in the NFC East race.

  • December 24th vs G-Men

How many fights are going to break out in the stadium? How many holidays are going to be ruined? It looks like this game will have playoff implications for both teams and you know Rex Ryan’s off-season quotes will be plastered all over the place leading up to it.

  • January 1st at Miami

Good to know if the Jets need this one, they finish against one of the worst teams in recent NFL history.

If you remember my roadmap to the Jets making the playoffs from a few weeks ago when they were 2-3, you will see they are on pace by taking the first step in sweeping Miami and getting a split out of the San Diego/New England match-ups. Sticking to that original article, 10 wins can be achieved like this —

  • Take 2 out of 3 from remaining NFC East opponents
  • Beat Kansas City, Denver, and Miami
  • Split with Buffalo

Not too crazy, right? Nevermind the reality that the Jets have a good shot to knock off New England at home, as they have done the past two years.

Strange Vibrations in the BCS Machine, 4 NFL Teams Run Out Of Gas

A review of the past weekend’s action in college football and the NFL

Taking one final look at the BCS standings: the prophecy of SEC domination is beginning to take over, the Big 12, the Pac 12…will all bow at the altar.

I want to be a West Virginia fan. Open a dude ranch. Set my couch on fire while spitting out moonshine and reading the Book of Revelation. Drink some PBR and spend half the day tending to the livestock. I get the LSU loss, makes sense to lose with the pressure of a home game against the second best defense in football in primetime but Syracuse? They don’t do anything well, except expose that 3-3-5 stack for all it’s worth. A million passing yards, man coverage failure, beat on slants, beat deep and time to take a long hard look in the mirror and settle with the Snapshot Progressive Savings bowl. Let’s say they finish 9-3, which is two losses too many for the Big East. 2nd place and a weekday bowl game that makes football freaks sick.

It is going to get ugly for a second straight year in Texas. They have some pieces for the future on defense, but Mack Brown might make it only a few more if they don’t at least make it through the season with less than 5 losses. Texas Tech, Kansas State and Texas A&M will take 2 out of those 3 with ease, look for more recruits to find other Texas area schools as the days of National Championships are over for the next decade. The power is shifting. Move over Cowboys, we have another candidate for team most hanging on to their own history. The fat old businessmen are simply getting drunk on Saturdays and not caring about the outcome of the game. Betting is over and the Longhorns are looking like fools.

Auburn has officially gone to hell. The Cam Newton factor may have singlehandedly won them at least 3 road games last year. They did not have the overall talent to win a National Championship, and are sitting at the bottom of the SEC West, hoping for some sort of magic to hobble them through the rest of the year as a 5 loss team. They may play in Alabama, but they are not Alabama. Clemson set the wheels in motion, and LSU buried any chance of relevance for the next 2 years. Nobody cares about Auburn anymore, and nobody will by the start of next year. Michael Dyer will always be the runner up to Trent Richardson,

Will Georgia beat Florida? That’s going to be the type of game where you hope each team beats each other into the ground, akin to a Giants/Patriots, or a Packers/Steelers game. How they made it by Tennessee and Mississippi State perplexes me but they will probably get one over on Auburn, who will be scraping themselves off the floor by November 12th. If South Carolina loses Lattimore, all bets are off on the SEC East.

Arizona State Sun Devils, one of the PAC 12 phantoms that rises out of the woods and goes backwards towards the latter half of the season. They just may go undefeated through the rest of the year, but two losses keep them on the edge of the highly overrated PAC 12 conference. There is nothing I care about concerning this team, though I am sure USC is probably a better team. Unfortunately Reggie Bush ruined the beauty and sun kissed finesse of USC for the next few years.

I will root for Texas Tech for years to come. One because they are the reason for Michael Crabtree. Two because they knocked off Oklahoma. Three, because they average 383.7 passing yards per game. The only caveat to Texas Tech is of course the second half of their schedule. Texas will summon enough pride to keep that game close. Oklahoma State will outgun them, and Baylor will attempt some sort of dramatic 500 yard passing high note against a defense that averages 30.7 against it.

What I saw from the Indianapolis defense last night was not surprising. Greatest offense in the NFL against a secondary with a large majority of undrafted, third tier players? Not much of a contest. Small linebackers who can’t defend receivers, can’t stop the run, and can’t tackle in space? Indianapolis hash them. Defensive line? Freeney and Mathis are two of the best defensive ends who happen to be two of the smartest in the league. But when a quarterback can get away from the pocket and throw, defensive ends can’t do much. Especially when they start throwing the occasional power run and play action pass. If your secondary can’t give you three seconds to get the sack, all that effort goes to waste.

The Miami Dolphins are God’s way of punishing the Miami Heat. I was once invited to a Dolphins game. Reggie Bush might keep you awake, Brandon Marshall will make some big catches. But they can’t finish games once they get stopped through the air. Chad Henne would have got them 4 wins, but there is no stopping the insanity for Andrew Luck, who will in fact decline Miami’s invitation if it is given. What’s there to be excited about. A 20th ranked defense? A bunch of overrated wide receivers? No great tight end? Miami could do best by trading the Luck pick for two first rounders and two second rounders, beefing up their secondary and receiving core. They’ll be able to get someone decent at QB in the second or third round.

Now for the sorriest team from the sorriest division of the sorriest coast of professional football. The Rams are not worthy of the old Rams colors. They are second tier talent across the board. They are the 8-8 team without a highlight reel, and Sam Bradford is going to need some help at receiver. He needs a big playmaking receiver to sit across from Brandon Lloyd while Pettis and Salas grow into starters. Amendola will be relegated to the slot and Lance Kendricks will finally take over at tight end. They need secondary help and they could use some offensive lineman to keep Bradford upright. They will make do on their defensive line although Spagnolo is itching for a first round defensive lineman to accompany Robert Quinn.

Minnesota proves my theory of hedging your bets on an aging quarterback to be disastrous for twice as many years as he plays. Brett Favre for two years? Four year recovery time for any sort of playoff run. Look at the Vikings closely. Is Adrian Peterson the best running back in the NFL? There’s no way to judge that. Without Favre, the Vikings are going against a stacked box all day. When Favre was there, everyone defended the pass. Hell of a change for the offensive line. There’s going to be nothing to like about this team by the end of the year. Peterson would break all sorts of record on either the Packers, Saints or Ravens. Sadly, he will stay in Minnesota and freeze his ass off.