Off to Italy: Jets vs. Colts/Week 16 Predictions

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First off, Merry Christmas everybody. I am about to head off to the airport for 7 nights back in the old homeland where my forefathers likely rooted for the worst soccer team in the country and passed that tradition down to me as a Jets fan when my family came to America. If you never see this blog updated again, it is likely I pulled a Michael Corleone found my Apollonia and will be settling down as a simple grape farmer in the hills of Italy, with no concerns about rookie quarterbacks, graduate school, playoff scenarios, or student loans. However, in the more likely case I will return a week from today to write about Jets/Colts which I will be viewing on DVD and the upcoming Jets/Bengals game.

I don’t expect to be coming home for a meaningful week 17 game but I can keep up some bizarre hope the next 7 days. I will be rocking my brand new white Titans Darrelle Revis jersey as a final show of support on the plane today. What do I think will happen in week 16 while I am paddling down the canals of Venice?

1. I think the Jets will put a good fight but ultimately fall short to the Colts 27-17. I expect most of the Colts key players to play the bulk of the game and that should be enough for them to get a victory. The defense will play well but in the end Peyton Manning will be too much and Mark Sanchez won’t make enough plays for the Jets to get a victory.

2. I think the Miami Dolphins will beat the Houston Texans fairly easily and set themselves up to be playing for a playoff spot in week 17…yuck.

3. I think the Titans will knock off the Chargers tonight to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

4. I think the Steelers will win a close one over the Ravens, muddling the AFC playoff picture even further.

5. I think New England will beat Jacksonville and wrap up the AFC East.

6. I think the Bengals will beat Kansas City and wrap up the AFC North.

7. I think Dallas will hold off Washington and the Giants will beat Carolina keeping the NFC race interesting for another week.

And with that…I’m off to Italy.

Jets vs. Titans: Prediction, TOJ TV Episode III

First a few updates:

1. Another week, another round of trash talk. Here is what Titans fullback Ahmad Hall had to say about Bart Scott, “I don’t like Bart; Bart don’t like me. He knows that. We had a good battle last year and he knows what he is going to get from me and I know what I am going to get from him. So it is what it is. You’re going to see us fighting all day. It is serious to me. I wouldn’t fight the guy or nothing like that – unless he wanted to fight. I don’t like the guy. He just runs his mouth all the time, even when he is not doing anything in the play. He is a talker and I just like guys that go out there and get their job done. Bart Scott is talking to everybody – he is talking to fans, he is talking to whoever listens to him. I think he runs his mouth a little too much and needs to just come out there and play. I went out there on a lead play (last year) and knocked his helmet off and he is still talking mess.” Keith Bulluck also said the Titans plan on rattling Mark Sanchez and leaving New York with their first win of the season. Alot of yapping from a team who is 0-2 and lost to the Jets by 21 in their own building last year.

2. Mark Sanchez is being listed on the injury report as a full participant in practice with tendinitis in his knee. Let’s not panic here, the Jets were just fined for not listing Brett Favre on the injury report last season and I think the Jets will go out of their way to list any type of ailment the rest of the season. Sanchez is going to start on Sunday and should be fine.

3. Donald Strickland and Lito Sheppard are both out this Sunday, meaning Dwight Lowery will start, with Drew Coleman sliding into the nickel role. Ahmad Carroll and Marquice Cole will be the backups. The Jets brought in free agents Corey Ivy and Justin Miller for a visit today, which could mean Strickland or Sheppard will be out for more than a week…not good with the Saints coming up next week.

Jets vs. Titans: Prediction, TOJ TV Episode III

Enjoy some footage from inside the stadium during the Jets victory over the Patriots, including the raucous celebration by the fans after the game, and some anti-New England chants.

The Song: Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z f/ Alicia Keys

Jets vs. Titans: Key Match-Ups

First a few updates:

1. The Jets signed corner Marquice Cole from their practice squad to the active roster, and released tight end Matthew Mulligan. Lito Sheppard (quad) and Donald Strickland (ankle) both didn’t practice today and Rex Ryan didn’t sound that confident when discussing either of them playing this Sunday. If both those guys don’t play, expect to see Dwight Lowery start opposite Darrelle Revis and Drew Coleman move into the nickle spot.

2. Michael Ventre of NBC Sports doesn’t seem to like the Jets or their fans too much, as expressed here: (http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/32975810/ns/sports-nfl//) . He made alot of less than flattering generalizations about Jets fans and seems to have us all pegged as overweight, stupid, and unable to put sentences together without a profanity. He also doesn’t have much faith in the Jets sustaining their success. I don’t know Michael Ventre, but it sounds like his girlfriend cheated on him with a guy from New York or something.

3. The Jets are ranked #4 in USA Today’s Power Rankings, let’s not read the press clippings like last year.

4. Jets are currently ranked #1 in yards allowed and still are yet to allow a touchdown. If you take away the Sanchez interception and the field goal from Leon Washington’s fumble, and they have allowed 6 points.

5. Good to have the Yankees back in the playoffs, where they belong. However, I am not getting too excited until they lock up the AL East crown.

Jets vs. Titans: Key Match-Ups

Tomorrow check back for an excessively comprehensive breakdown of the Jets/Titans game and then again on Friday for my prediction, today I am going to focus on the key individual match-ups for this Sunday’s game.

Bart Scott/David Harris vs. Chris Johnson: Johnson is coming off a game where he had 197 yards rushing and 87 yards receiving, no that isn’t a misprint. He has tremendous speed and game-breaking ability that likely keeps many defensive coordinators up at night. It will be on the Jets linebackers, led by Scott and Harris to get Johnson in the backfield before he can explode through the hole and to wrap him when they get a chance. A missed tackle against this guy could lead to a 70 yard touchdown. The Jets are going to have to commit a corner or safety to him in coverage when he splits out, but if he is catching passes out of the backfield, Harris or Scott have to recognize the play and react before he builds up a head of steam.

Jerricho Cotchery/Chansi Stuckey/David Clowney/Dustin Keller vs. Cortland Finnegan/Nick Harper/Michael Griffin/Chris Hope: The Titans pass defense has been awful through the first two weeks of the regular season. Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, and Andre Johnson all went for over 100 yards on them. Despite having a rookie quarterback, this might be the game for Brian Schottenheimer to turn the spread/passing offense a little bit loose. Jerricho Cotchery had the best statistical game of his career against the Titans two years ago (8 receptions, 152 yards, 1 TD) and also had a nice day against them last year with 6 catches for 55 yards. Dustin Keller had 6 catches last year against the Titans, converting multiple key third downs. It will be interesting to see if Sanchez can air a few out this Sunday and maybe hit a guy like David Clowney or Cotchery on a few big plays. Nobody is saying the Jets should abandon their running game, but if there are opportunities for big plays in the passing game, the Jets need to take advantage of them.

Jets Offensive Line vs. Titans Defensive Line: The Jets ran all over Tennesee last year en route to a 34-13 victory. Rex Ryan has expressed some mild disappointment with the Jets production on the ground so far and both Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are coming off quiet games running the ball. The Titans have one of the NFL’s best run defenses, so it would make a statement if the Jets could have the type of success they did last year.

Rex Ryan vs. The Let Down Game: The Jets are coming off an emotional victory and are suddenly becoming the national media’s darlings. Tennessee is a team that is much better than their 0-2 record indicates and is facing a desperation game, because coming back from 0-3 in the AFC South would be near impossible. All in the ingredients are in place for the Jets to have a major let down performance/reality check. Can Rex have his team ready to go with the same intensity he did last week?

Leon Delivers the Knockout Punch to Tennessee Last Year

What Is A Successful Jets Season?

First a few updates:

1. The Jets released tight end Bubba Franks yesterday, moving them from being very thin at the position to being ridiculously thin. Behind second year player Dustin Keller, the Jets have a converted defensive end, a long snapper and two undrafted free agents. It might be time to consider a move before training camp starts, Mike Tannebaum, because the Jets are kidding themselves if they think Kareem Brown can start off the year as their number two tight end.

2. Kerry Rhodes was on ESPN Radio today and made a few interesting comments. He discussed the relief of having Jim Leonhard starting alongside of him because of the freedom it will grant him in the secondary. It was also clear from the interview that he was frustrated with the way Eric Mangini used him last season.

What Is A Successful Jets Season?

Over the past few days I have been reading numerous previews about the Jets in 2009 and listening to different football analysts talk about the team and have noticed a growing pessimism about them this upcoming year. The general consensus seems to be that the Jets and their fans have too high of expectations for 2009, and that there are many reasons to believe the team will struggle this season. The organization and the fans need to reconsider what a successful 2009 season equates to.

Reading these previews and thinking about the upcoming year forces you to question, what do you consider to be a successful Jets season in 2009? Personally, I always think a playoff appearance equals a successful season, but should I be satisfied with less?

There are plenty of reasonable and convincing arguments against the Jets being a playoff team in 2009. They have a rookie head coach. The last two defensive coordinators from Baltimore who became head coaches struggled in the top position. They are likely starting a rookie quarterback. Their schedule is difficult, especially in the first four games. They lack depth on both sides of the ball and are due for a rash of injuries after having a healthy 2009 season. Their offense has major question marks at tight end and receiver. Their defense will be without their best outside linebacker for the first four games. I hear you critics…and you got some valid arguments.

Here is a hypothetical: the Jets go 7-9 this year. Mark Sanchez wins the starting quarterback job, progresses nicely during the season and shows signs of being the guy the Jets drafted him to be. The defense starts out a little slow but adapts to the new system as the year moves on and they finish very strong. You get what you expect out of your pro-bowl running backs and your inexperienced receiving core. The season ends and the Jets spend the off-season acquiring a big time target for Sanchez and improving their overall depth, not that bad, right? Can you be satisfied with that for next year? Honestly, I can’t say I would because naturally I want to watch a team with winning record compete in the playoffs but in reality that wouldn’t be a terrible season.

The above scenario could very easily happen in 2009, as could even worse scenarios that involve major injuries, Mark Sanchez/Rex Ryan looking like a bust, and a 4-12 record. However, it also isn’t crazy to argue/believe the Jets can be a 9-7 to 11-5 team competing for wild-card spot and maybe even a division title.

The rookie head coach/rookie quarterback problem can be overcome (see Atlanta/Baltimore last year). I also remember the Jets making the playoffs with a rookie head coach in both 2001 (Herman Edwards) and 2006 (Eric Mangini). The Jets didn’t receive incredible quarterback play in either of those seasons but still managed to win ten games. Sanchez will make his mistakes but if he can be average/slightly above average, the Jets will be in every game because of their running game and talent level on defense.

I don’t buy the concerns about the Jets schedule. Their first four games aren’t the easiest in the world but there is no reason they can’t be 2-2. Houston is a team that everybody says is jumping to the next level every single season, yet they always go 7-9 or 8-8. The Pats are the Pats. The Jets whipped the Titans last year in Tennessee and now get them at home and the Saints haven’t made the playoffs the past two years. After those four games the Jets have Miami, Buffalo, Oakland, Miami and then a bye. Am I really insane to think the Jets can be 5-3 heading into that bye? The second half of the schedule isn’t a cakewalk but includes winnable games at home against Jacksonville, Cincinnati, and on the road against Tampa Bay and Toronto aka Buffalo. Carolina, New England, Atlanta, and Indy are tough second half games but if the Jets are a playoff caliber team, they will be able to pull an upset or two.

The Jets depth is a major issue on offense, period. If an offensive lineman gets hurt for an extended period of time, they could be in serious trouble although Wayne Hunter and Robert Turner have some game experience the past two years (as extra tight ends), there would be still be large drop off. They have one NFL caliber tight end on their roster right now and the receivers are a question mark. However, I do remember in 2006 when the same questions were asked about their receiving core and a little known player stepped up and turned into a capable NFL starter (Jerricho Cotchery) and the other one was a solid number one (Laveranues Coles). Why can’t Chansi Stuckey or David Clowney imitate Cotchery from 2006 this season and why can’t Cotchery imitate Coles, a player who he arguably played better than the last two years?

On defense, I think the Jets have pretty good depth. Their top three backup corners (Dwight Lowery, Donald Strickland, Drew Coleman) and backup safety (Eric Smith) all have starting or extended experience as NFL players. At linebacker, Larry Izzo is a seasoned NFL veteran, Jason Trusnick and Marques Murrell have flashed potential and when Calvin Pace returns in week 5, Vernon Gholston can bump back into being a pass rush specialist. They are definitely a little thin at defensive end but Howard Green and Sione Pouha are experienced backups at defensive tackle in the NFL.

Like just about every NFL team, the Jets can end up anywhere in the standings in 2009. We will learn alot about Rex Ryan and his new defense, along with Mark Sanchez right out of the gate on the road in Houston and home against division favorite/rival New England in week two.

Even if it isn’t fair, I can’t say I’d be happy with a 7-9 team, unless maybe they swept New England and Miami…nah maybe not even then. I want to see them at match last season’s win total and playing meaningful games in December.

New Jets Player Highlight of the Day: Bart Scott demolishes Ben Rothlisberger. Swaggalicious.