New York Jets Fact or False: Thanksgiving and Rivalry Edition

Chris Gross with his weekly Fact or False previewing the Jets/Patriots Thanksgiving Night showdown

Happy Thanksgiving, Jets fans! After a much-needed victory in St. Louis last week, the Jets find themselves in a familiar, yet unfamiliar, spot in the Rex Ryan era. What’s familiar about tomorrow night’s game against New England is that the Jets always seem to find themselves in a pivotal point of their season when matching up against the Patriots for the second time in the 17 week regular season.

In 2009, New York headed to Foxboro at 4-5. A win would have been monumental as it would have not only gotten the Jets back to .500, but it would have completed a regular season sweep of New England for the first time since the 2000 season, when they were still led by the likes of Vinny Testaverde and Curtis Martin. New York fell that week 31-14, aided partly by Mark Sanchez’s 4 interceptions.

In 2010, the 9-2 (!!) Jets squared off with New England in Foxboro for sole possession of 1st place in the AFC East. Heading into that game, New York’s average margin of defeat in their only two losses was a meager 5 points, so naturally most people were optimistic about 2010 finally being the year that the Jets knock Brady’s bunch off of their pedestal and claim dominance in the division for the first time in a decade. What happened that night? The Jets were embarrassed 45-3 on national, prime time television.

Finally, in 2011, the Jets were hosts to the second regular season matchup between the two clubs. New York stood at 5-3 heading into their week 10 matchup with New England, fresh off of a dominant performance against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, NY. The Patriots, on the other hand, were also 5-3, but seemed to be spiraling downward, coming off of a 2 game losing streak to the Steelers and Giants. This was finally it. The Jets had New England right where they wanted them – reeling with an equivalent record, in their own building. It finally seemed that New York was ready to take over the division and earn a home playoff game, something many felt had held them from reaching the Super Bowl in the previous two seasons. Unfortunately for Gang Green, same story, different day. The Patriots smacked the Jets 37-16 in a game that was never close. It seemed as if this habit of dropping the second regular season matchup to New England might never be broken.

Now, the Jets finally have a chance to break that very habit. New York finds itself at a crossroad in their season. Standing at 4-6, this team has been hit from all angles. Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes are out for the year with season ending injuries. The media has used Tim Tebow’s presence in various attempts to stir up drama and rip this locker room apart. Ryan, General Manager Mike Tannenbaum, and Owner Woody Johnson, each praised for their brash styles at their respective positions in years past, have all come under heavy criticism. In short, Ryan’s once up and coming Jets have become the punch line for countless jokes revolving around the NFL.

So what does it all mean? It means the Jets face New England for the second time of the regular season in a relatively new position. Instead of being poised to topple the Patriots through a monumental victory that could shift the tide in the AFC East, New York now finds themselves with their backs against the wall. As we all know, Rex Ryan’s squad has done quite well in these situations in the past. Yes, in 2009, the Jets were aided by Jim Caldwell’s decision to pull all of his starters in their week fifteen matchup against the Colts in Indianapolis. However, New York still had to defeat the AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals in week 16 to secure a playoff spot. As you may recall, New York came out with a vengeance, blanking the Bengals 37-0, propelling them to their first AFC Championship Game run under Ryan.

Similarly, in 2010, the Jets traveled to Foxboro for the AFC Divisional Round game against the Patriots. No one in the world gave New York a chance, considering how lopsided the outcome of the previous matchup between the two clubs was. With their backs against the wall once again, New York pulled off one of the most satisfying wins in franchise history, upsetting the Patriots 28-21, leading to one of the most memorable post game speeches in the history of the sport.

By now, you are asking yourself what this all means for tomorrow night’s game. The answer is simple. These two teams have never faced each other under these circumstances. The Jets, although notoriously laughable in this game under Ryan, will be hosting the Patriots with their backs against the wall for the first time in this situation. You can throw the history books out, because regardless of the outcome, a new chapter will be written in this rivalry on Thanksgiving night. Key players on both teams are out of this competition. Rex is out to prove his worth as a head coach in an attempt to rally his team toward an unprecedented playoff run, a goal that suddenly becomes attainable with a win at MetLife stadium tomorrow, considering the fact that New York’s remaining opponents have a combined record of 17-33. The circumstances are different, but New York has another chance at a monumental victory over their long time foe.

How will it all pan out, though? For the Jets, there are several feats they need to attain to put themselves in a position to reign victorious. Rather than using outright predictions, this week’s New York Jets Fact or False highlights exactly what Gang Green needs to do in order to stage an upset of the Patriots on the biggest stage. Digest these proclamations with your holiday bird, and be sure to give thanks for a full day of NFL madness, regardless of any outcome.

The Jets need Shonn Greene to carry the load of the running game past the Patriots. False. This is a no brainer. New York looked like an entirely new offense last week using a running back by committee approach. While many have attributed their success to a poor opponent, St. Louis actually ranks thirteenth in total defense in the NFL. Are the Rams great? Absolutely not. But Jeff Fisher’s club is certainly not the laughing stock it once was. New York needed a strong offensive effort, and that is exactly what they got, led by the resurgence of Shonn Greene as the battering ram, the emergence of Bilal Powell, who scored his first two career touchdowns, as the elusive scat back, and the somewhat proper utilization of Joe McKnight as the explosive, all purpose back. The result? Mark Sanchez put together his most efficient performance of the season, and New York won in dominant fashion in a must win situation. Sticking to this philosophy is an absolute necessity against New England tomorrow. Control the clock, keep Brady off the field, and give Sanchez something to lean on.

The Jets need to find a way to pressure Brady without a heavy amount of blitzing. Fact. Most people are now aware of the blueprint on how to shut down Brady and the high-powered Patriots offense. Hit the prolific quarterback over and over and over. However, the reason that teams like the Giants have been so successful against New England is because they can do so without a heavy amount of blitzing. Tom Brady has been lights out against the blitz this year – 86 attempts, 10 TDs, 0 INTs, 90.0 QBR, and a 127.2 passer rating. New York needs to find a way to get in his face without using the blitz.

New England has lost three games this season – home against Arizona, and on the road in Baltimore and Seattle. In those three losses, Brady has been sacked 9 times, while being hit 17 times. New England’s offense can surely sputter if opposing defenses can get to Brady. The key is to do it without letting him burn you on the blitz. Rex and his staff need to get very creative disguising their pressure schemes to create the illusion that the Jets are bringing more heat than they actually are, through an effective use of zone blitzes, similar to how they were able to rattle Brady in the 2010 playoffs. Look for Ryan to mix up his fronts, using a variety of four man rushes, led primarily by Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples. With All-Pro Guard Logan Mankins ruled out for tomorrow, New York will have optimal opportunity to generate a strong interior pass rush. Based on the play of Wilkerson and Coples as of late, New England could easily have their hands full tomorrow night.

Tom Brady is the only part of the Patriots offense that needs to be stopped. False. While Brady is certainly the key to New England’s offensive success, the run game must be stopped at all costs as well. In each of the Patriots three losses this year, they have failed to generate more than 90 total rushing yards as a team. New York needs to make the offense one dimensional, and then worry about getting to Brady. A tall task, yes, but nothing will be easy in achieving the upset tomorrow night.

The Jets need to generate turnovers to win. Fact. Historically, the Jets under Rex Ryan have had their best success against the Patriots when they’ve been able to take the ball away from Tom Brady. In Ryan’s 3 total wins against New England, Brady has thrown a total of four interceptions. In New England’s five victories against Ryan’s Gang, Brady has turned the ball over via interception just once. This trend holds true to two of New England’s three losses this year. Brady has just three interceptions on the season, however one came in the home loss to Arizona, with the other two coming from the loss in Seattle. Another daunting task for the Jets, particularly without Darrelle Revis, but remember, Brady is missing two key pieces of his offense, as well, in Mankins and TE Rob Gronkowski.

The Jets Special Teams need to wake up. Fact. In order to pull off this upset, the Jets need to be nearly perfect in all three phases of the game. New York’s once stout special teams has been a complete disaster as of late. Blocked kicks, big returns, losing focus and succumbing to a surprise onsides kick have haunted the Jets in previous weeks. To quote ESPN’s Cris Carter, “Mike Westhoff, where you at?!” The prolific coach, now a household name thanks to his role in HBO’s 2010 season of Hard Knocks, seems to have lost the grasp of a unit that was once regarded as a crutch for New York in times of struggle. Westhoff must get his unit ready to play. Any lapse on special teams will likely spell disaster for New York. While you may be able to get away with some blunders against mediocre teams, New England is a different animal. Bill Belichick has likely gone through hours of Jets special teams footage, looking for ways to exploit this suddenly weak group. A big play on special teams cannot happen in any way whatsoever if the Jets wish to begin a late season playoff push.

Enjoy the game, enjoy your families and friends, and most of all, enjoy the Jets tomorrow night, folks. From all of us here at Turn On The Jets, we wish you and your loved ones a very happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving. 

Brady In Red: How The Patriots Decided To Play As The Jets

2-3. A mark most teams reach and start to wonder what isn’t going right. For the New York Jets, that’s quite a few things on both sides of the ball. Special teams? Could be the best in the league. Mike Westhoff will get returns with Sione Pouha, but sadly special teams accounts for but 30% of total play.

Offense. Surprisingly, the Jets are finally making the shift towards getting legitimate use out of their draft picks (except Ducasse). The Jets are testing out Jeremy Kerley, who will probably end up as the slot receiver by the end of the year unless Derrick Mason starts catching balls on 3rd down and quiets his criticisms of his offensive coordinator. The kick return job, which initially went to Antonio Cromartie, has been relegated to Joe Mcknight, who is finally emerging as a legitimate 4th round draft pick . McKnight got a few plays at running back, knowing Shonn Greene isn’t going to break anything to the outside and is better off with a full head of steam going north and south. If the Jets can get McKnight going, along with a steady power running game with Shonn Greene, LT may have even better stats than he did last year. Sadly, we must wait what will undoubtedly be a long 11 weeks and see if that pans out.

So what gets the Jets off to the slow start? Lack of a screen game. Lack of a power running game. Lack of a legitimate tall deep threat (No more Edwards). They have a middle of the field threat with Holmes and a sideline/end zone corner threat with Burress, but this whole going after aging talent that isn’t experienced with the system gamble is not working out the way it was supposed to. They can’t play off the run the way they are supposed to. They also can’t run the occasional Wildcat like they used to with Brad Smith. It is easy to see they should have paid Edwards and kept some sort of continuity with Sanchez and not have this receiving core of egos already blowing up against their coordinator.

Remedies? Can’t turn back time at this point in the season. Look at Philadelphia. On paper champions. If this was a video game, the Jets could probably run the table. Unfortunately, they have no run stopping linebacker with the loss of Bryan Thomas, and their backup center/guard Rob Turner isn’t going to be in for substitutions, which may lead to Vladimir Ducasse getting some sort of playing time.

THE RECKONING

Bill Belichick is the smartest coach in the NFL. There is no doubt at this point that he spent the large majority of his offseason trying to figure out the Jets and how they go about their defense against the Patriots. To the Patriots favor, some good things happened for their offense as opposed to the Jets defense. Their two tight ends are fully comfortable in this offense. They are too fast to play against linebackers, and they’re too strong to play against safeties. It just so happens the Jets have two undersized safeties and only two legitimate linebackers. Sure Revis took away Welker, but someone always has to account for those two tight ends, and no one on the Jets has the size or adequate speed save for Cromartie, who unfortunately spent his day attempting to catch Deion Branch as he got open for touchdowns.

Tom Brady has quite a few options if he decides to stay away from Revis. Deion Branch will usually have a corner playing against him, and if their two receivers are covered and the two tight ends stay in to run block on a play action, they can always jump out over the middle to get the ball up top, with the clear height advantage against Jets safeties or linebackers. And if the Jets bite on the play action? Well then they bring out the running back on either a wheel or circle route and utilize him as a receiver.

The clear difference with this Patriots team is the tempo. They will gash you down the field, run the ball to get a third and five, and then keep you guessing. In the past they would look for a short pass, but the new Patriots move at a pace they completely dictate. More often than not, they will run the ball on third down, knowing you will probably try and sub players out and waiting for one mismatch out of 5 matchups.

What puts the Patriots offense up to and beyond the light speed offense of the Packers is the legitimacy of their running game. With Ellis and Ridley, the Patriots have shown a willingness to put serious time in as a two tight end power running team that could at any point audible into a play action pass, keeping at least 2 linebackers or safeties dropping over the middle of the field.

Why did the Jets defense fail? No Trevor Pryce. No Shaun Ellis. Donald Strickland getting beat like a drum all day. No James Ihedigbo. No Dwight Lowery. No Drew Coleman. These were guys that were great at upsetting the rhythm of Brady. Ihedigbo and Coleman were both small speedsters who were great at matching up on the small Patriots receivers and occasionally sneaking in on a blitz. When Tom Brady is comfortable, you’re defensive coordinator is up in the booth counting to 3 and waiting for a completion. That is exactly how in control Brady is against a defense that simply can’t get to the quarterback the way it needs to with 4 down lineman.

Is it an indictment of Ryan? It’s hard to say. Muhammad Wilkerson is going to have to be a complete beast if the Jets defense expects to play with any sort of confidence. Sione Pouha? Good backup. Marcus Dixon and Mike DeVito? Both great rotation players, but these guys wouldn’t even make the Giants starting roster. If anyone in New York wants to look at the Giants for anything helpful, look how insanely productive the front 4 of the Giants defensive line are. If you can get pressure with 4 or 5, you’ll be able to drop 6 with very few holes. When you have to rush 6, you’ll always have holes in your defense. Sometimes the Giants only have to rush 3 to get pressure for gods sake.

What this season shows is how hard Rex Ryan’s job has been as a head coach, trying to get the most out of a team that is probably not even in the top 15 in terms of talent on both sides of the ball. As smart as they are, the following players wouldn’t even start on any other team in the NFL: Jim Leonhard, Matt Mulligan, Matt Slauson, Marcus Dixon. And on…

If the Jets are to make the playoffs this year, it would no doubt be a heroic effort of a team that is finding the crossroads of youth and veteran leadership rather difficult to overcome.

New England Patriots: Talking About Not Talking

I noticed just a hint of hypocrisy today when reading an article on both Pro Football Talk and ESPN about how quiet New England is keeping their off-season workouts. Yes, New England tight end Rob Gronkowski bragged to the country’s largest sports media outlet about how the Patriots are “on the down-low” and not seeking the press like “other teams” cough cough, Jets West anybody?

Can we stop with the act that New England never runs their mouth? Let’s not pretend Tom Brady never gestures at opponent’s sidelines or Deion Branch doesn’t cry a river of tears complaining about the Jets celebrating on their field. You can’t brag to the media about not bragging there Gronk.

Random Great Moment From 2010 Jets Season – Episode 1

A brief new series at Turn On The Jets —

“Random Great Moment From 2010 Jets Season”

Yes, I know I have posted this video probably five times in the past two months for various reasons but this needed to be featured as our first installment of Random Great Moment…

Let’s be honest, even the most optimistic among us had a tough time seeing the Jets upsetting the Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs. The game got off to a rough start in case you forgot with the Jets punting on their first possession and New England rolling right down the field on a confused looking Jets defense.

Fortunately, Tom Brady made a horrific throw on this screen pass attempt and David Harris was there to capitalize. It still amazes me to this day that Harris was caught by Alge Crumpler. Honestly, Harris looks like he is running with a piano on his back (coming from somebody who used to look the same way in the open field).

Even though the Jets didn’t score on the following drive, this play gave both the team and everybody watching confidence that the Jets could slow down the supposed unstoppable New England offense. Brady was rattled from that point on and the Jets smacked him around the rest of the afternoon, en route to their upset victory.

Personally, I can say when Harris intercepted that pass it was the highest I jumped after a play all season, almost hitting my head on the ceiling in the my cousin’s apartment. We are all in a bit of daze watching New England surgically move down the field, feeling another blowout coming on, yet this interception snapped us back to life as well as it clearly did for the players.

12 Pack Of Jets Off-Season Thoughts – Edition #11

As reliable as Chad Henne throwing an interception in a big game, the 12 pack is back with another edition. A friendly reminder to follow Turn On The Jets on Facebook and Twitter. For today’s 12 pack we are going to count down the 10 most important players to the Jets getting over the hump and making it to the Super Bowl in 2011, along posting some links and our usual weekend video clips —

Ten Most Important Jets In 2011 –

10. Santonio Holmes – Everything we have heard this off-season indicates that he will be back with the team and that he is now their top priority after taking care of David Harris. Holmes needs to be the number one receiver the Jets are going to sign him to be on a consistent basis.

9. Jim  Leonhard – The Jets defense needs a healthy Leonhard quarterbacking the secondary, especially with the spot opposite him a major question mark with Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, and James Ihedigbo all free agents.

8. Calvin Pace – Regardless of who the Jets draft this year, Pace will be their top pass rusher entering the season. The Jets need a full 16 game season out of him, where he finally reaches double digit in sacks, which he should be more than capable of in this system with his skill set.

7. Dustin Keller – Based on the assumption that Braylon Edwards won’t be back, Keller will need to take on a bigger role in the offense and become the team’s primary red-zone threat because of his size. Even if Edwards returns, Keller needs to keep growing and become a reliable outlet for Mark Sanchez.

6. Kyle Wilson – Based on the assumption that Antonio Cromartie won’t return despite TOJ writing 1200 articles this off-season begging for the Jets to re-sign him. Wilson needs to be able to handle the daunting task of being the corner opposite Revis Island, along with stepping up in the return game on both punts and kicks. Even if Cromartie returns, Wilson needs to improve as a nickel back and be better on returns.

5. Vladimir Ducasse/Wayne Hunter – One of the two of them needs to step into the right tackle spot to fill in for the recently released Damien Woody. The Jets offensive line has been a major strength the past few years and they can’t afford a major drop off because of one player being released. The coaching staff will obviously be pulling for Ducasse, last year’s second round pick, to seize the job. However, if he isn’t up to the task, Hunter must be more consistent than he was last season when he stepped in for an injured Woody.

4. Nick Mangold/D’Brickashaw Ferguson/Brandon Moore – Don’t ever forget how much of the Jets success the past couple of years is from having such a solid, consistent center, tackle, guard combination.

3. Shonn Greene – The Jets need a lead back who can carry the load on a weekly basis and this is Greene’s year to show he is that guy. 2010 was a disappointing season for the second year back, who got off to a slow start and never became the workhorse he showed he had the potential to be during the 2009 playoff run. Greene has the physical ability to be a 1200-1400 yard back, but can he stay healthy and consistent enough to achieve those numbers?

2. Darrelle Revis – The Jets aggressive defense is predicated on their corners being able to shut down receivers in single coverage. Darrelle Revis needs to stay healthy and play at the level he did in 2009 and the second half of 2010, especially with the uncertainty at the spot opposite him.

1. Mark Sanchez – Was there any question? It always starts and ends with the quarterback. Similar to how Sanchez took a step forward in 2010, the Jets need him to do the same thing this year. He will given more responsibility on offense and likely be asked to throw more than he has in previous years. Sanchez needs to get his completion percentage closer to 60 and should able to get near 4,000 yards passing next season, while keeping his interception total in the 10-13 range.

Weekend Links

– Keep up with your Gunaxin reading with a suggestion of things certain NFL players should be doing during the lockout and the John Madden Scale of Rating Women. 

– Good read on lockout frustration.

– Joe Namath coming to HBO.

Weekend Video Clips – Rex Sox are 0-6, so laugh at Boston edition

12 Pack of Jets Off-Season Thoughts – Edition #3

The 12 pack is back with our third off-season edition, read it, comment on it, disagree with it, print it out and give it to your girlfriend for Valentine’s Day

Follow Turn On The Jets on Facebook and Twitter

1. Early 2011 Procrastinating – The early talk on the 2011 season seems to place the New England Patriots as the favorite to come out of the AFC and make a Super Bowl appearance. I suppose this makes sense considering their collection of talented young players and all the off-season hardware collected by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.  However, the Patriots have now lost three straight playoff games when they were considered heavy favorites, including two in a row at home where they were smacked around pretty badly. Also remember, the reality of them not having a good defense, at all. It may be better for the Jets if New England is the consensus favorite to win the AFC East, as you know Rex Ryan won’t hesitate to use it as motivation considering the Jets have beat the Patriots in two of their past three meetings.

2. AFC East Quarterbacking – We know Tom Brady and Mark Sanchez aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Yet, it will be interesting to see how the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills handle their quarterback situations this off-season. The Bills could be content with Ryan Fitzpatrick who played well for most of last year, however they are a franchise in desperate need of a shot in the arm so I wouldn’t be stunned if they went quarterback with their number three overall pick. Cam Newton would be very intriguing for them. Miami has to decide whether to stick with Chad Henne. Maybe they will draft another quarterback in the second round, considering how well that has worked out for them. Those debates about Sanchez and Henne last off-season certainly sound funny now. The primary difference between the two is that when the spot gets bigger, Sanchez plays better and Henne plays worse…oh and that whole, being a winner thing. Remember Henne hasn’t won a single game of any importance yet in his NFL career.

3. Assistant Scorn – In the past month, the Jets have denied defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman the chance to interview for the Oakland defensive coordinator position, Bill Callahan the chance to interview for the Tennessee offensive coordinator position, and offensive line coach Mike Devlin the chance to interview for a few undisclosed positions. You have to wonder if frustration will start to build among the staff members. Callahan could have received assurance that he will take over for Brian Schottenheimer after his contract expires next year and there could be a thought that defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will get hired as a head coach after next season if the defense keeps playing well, and Thurman will take over.

4. Quick Hitters – Brandon Moore underwent successful hip surgery and is expected back for training camp, whenever that ends up being…Kicker Nick Novak was signed out of the UFL, where he won special team player of the year. It will be good to provide Nick Folk with a little competition, if the Jets decide to bring him back…Despite my dismissal of the Mark Sanchez’s off the field drama, the guy does need to remember who he is, where he plays, and use better judgment.

5. Maybe Next Time – It was a shame to see Curtis Martin not make it into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Martin handled it graciously as expected and mentioned the possibility of being inducted with Bill Parcells next year, which would be interesting considering their history together. It is only a matter of time for him, considering his qualifications.

6. Scary Stats – Mark Sanchez’s completion percentage was under 55 this year, for the second straight time in his NFL career…Dustin Keller scored five touchdowns in the Jets first four games, and didn’t score a single one after that…Jerricho Cotchery led the team in dropped passes this season…Shonn Greene only received more than 20 carries in one game this season.

7. TOJ Housekeeping – In the next week, we will be starting coverage of the 2011 NFL Draft with the assistance of a new writer…Remember to check out the new “TiqIq” widget on the right side of the page and the “Buy Tickets” page on the navigation bar for the best prices to local sporting events…we are still (and always) looking for more advertisers…TOJ is also still looking for assistance in designing a new banner for the site, e-mail me if you are interested…I hope everybody is enjoying TOJ’s contributions at SB Nation New York and Gunaxin…Finally, make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

8. Free Agent Talk – It looks like Cleveland is giving up on being the JV Jets by releasing Kenyon Coleman, Eric Barton, and David Bowens. They also released Shaun Rogers, which had some fans excited. However, Rogers has already visited Washington and there is talk Rob Ryan will go after him hard to join Dallas. I wouldn’t mind seeing Kenyon Coleman added back to the Jets defensive line rotation, as a depth player.

9. CBA – Not looking good so far…it is a scary thought to imagine next autumn without football. Beyond that, we can’t even enjoy the off-season the way we normally would because of all the negativity flowing around the negotiations. It would be a lie, if I said I knew anywhere near all the details of what is being discussed. Yet, everything I have heard or read, indicates the owners are being grossly selfish. Beyond that, it would be insanity to have an 18 game regular season. Did you see the type of injuries endured by the players this year?

10.  No to Ocho – Does anybody think it would be a good idea to target Chad Ochocinco, instead of focusing on getting the Jets own receivers back? Sorry Darrelle, I can’t agree with you on this one.

11. Franchise, Yes – Glad to hear the Jets are planning to use their franchise tag on David Harris, until they can negotiate a long term deal with him. It isn’t worth the risk of him hitting the market as a free agent, he is too important to their defense.

12. Random Video Clips – Enjoy your weekend

Jets vs. Patriots Round III – 12 Pack of Predictions

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Another week of Jets football means another 12 pack of predictions. TOJ actually fared well with his wild-card picks, going 3-1 on the games against the spread. In terms of my specific picks for Jets/Colts…eh, it was very hit or miss. Let’s see how we fare this week –

1. Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson will combine for 40 carries as the Jets attempt to control the clock and shorten the game. They will the run ball with some success but neither will crack the 100 yard mark individually.

2. Mark Sanchez will manage the game effectively. The Jets will be conservative with their playcalling, especially in the passing game. Sanchez will have at least one turnover but will also hit one big play down the field off play action when given the chance to go deep.

3. Tom Brady isn’t going to turn the football over.

4. The Jets will get one big play from their special teams, whether it is a return from Antonio Cromartie (who will be deep on kicks), a fake punt, or a surprise onsides kick. This play will help keep the game close into the fourth quarter.

5. The Jets defense will dare New England to run the ball to beat them and won’t stack the box. You will see plenty of Marquice Cole, Kyle Wilson, James Ihedigbo, and Dwight Lowery on the field and less of Bart Scott and Bryan Thomas. BenJarvus Green-Ellis will run for at least 65 yards and Danny Woodhead will add 65 total yards of offense.

6. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will both have big games working against the Jets safeties. One of them will score a touchdown and they will combine for at least 90 yards receiving.

7. Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards are going to beat Kyle Arrington for a touchdown on a long pass off play action.

8. Dustin Keller is going to have at least 6 receptions and be Mark Sanchez’s favorite target on third downs.

9. The Jets won’t attempt a field goal over 45 yards with Nick Folk, instead opting to go for it or punt on fourth down. Shayne Graham is going to miss at least one field goal attempt.

10. Brad Smith or LaDainian Tomlinson is going to throw a pass for the Jets.

11. There is going to be at least 3 or 4 scrums after the whistle and a personal foul or two in the first half alone.

12. My heart wants to pick the Jets, but in a lame attempt to be somewhat objective I have to admit the logical pick is New England. I do think the Jets will play them tight into the fourth quarter and ultimately lose something like 27-20. However, if the Jets can get the big special teams play I mentioned, and a signature performance from Mark Sanchez, and catch a break on defense with a tipped pass turned into an interception or a timely forced fumble, I wouldn’t be stunned if they stole the game late…I know those are a ton of ifs but this is the NFL and on any given Sunday…anything can happen.

Divisional Round Picks

Jets (+8.5) at New England

Baltimore (+3) at Pittsburgh – Wow, am I excited for this game. You know you could almost take a low-scoring game decided by 3 points or less to the bank. Baltimore is due to knock Pittsburgh out and I think this is the year for them to do it. The Steelers have problems on the offensive line and will miss Aaron Smith on defense. I expect the Ravens to steal a close one in the final seconds of what should be a great game.

Green Bay (+2.5) at Atlanta – I know everybody is on the Green Bay bandwagon, but guess what? So am I. Aaron Rodgers is going to be the best player on the field Saturday night and now that it looks like Green Bay found a running game, they will be balanced enough on offense to steal a tight, high-scoring game.

Seattle (+10) at Chicago – This line just feels too high after watching Seattle last week and knowing Jay Cutler is under center. This is going to be a close one and I wouldn’t be shocked if Seattle won the game, however in the end I do think Chicago will do enough to escape with a victory.

Time To Step Up: Antonio Cromartie

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Antonio Cromartie didn’t hesitate to throw himself in the middle of the Jets/Patriots firestorm this week by saying how he really felt about Tom Brady to the media. Yet beyond Cromartie grabbing headlines for his words or his clutch kick return in the wild-card game against Indy, is this reality: he needs to play much, much better on defense this Sunday if the Jets want a chance at an upset.

Cromartie had a relatively strong start to the year, however he has struggled in coverage lately. New England picked on him in their 45-3 route, particularly with Deion Branch. He was beat for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears by Johnny Knox and last week Pierre Garcon beat him up and down the field, including for a 52 yard touchdown.

We know Darrelle Revis is taking the player he is covering out of the game. However, the Jets need Cromartie to compliment him with the Pro-Bowl level play that he is capable of. He has the size to occasionally match-up with one of the Patriots tight ends and the speed to handle any of their receivers.

You can bet that Tom Brady will be throwing at Cromartie early and often on Sunday. If the Jets want to pull off the upset, Cromartie better be ready to tackle in the open field and make at least one of those highlight reel interceptions he is known for.

There is no question #31 has the physical skills to shut down whomever he is matched up against on New England. The question is, can he rise to the occasion in a big game?

Jets Best Defense Will Be Their Offense

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Rex Ryan has talked up the “Ground and Pound” since arriving in New York and we saw it in full force last week.

The primary reason the Jets beat the Indianapolis Colts last week was because their offensive line and running backs completed dominated the second half. Their running game set up manageable third downs, which the Jets routinely converted.

It can’t be any different this week against the New England Patriots, who can be run on. Before you throw away 111 yards on 23 carries, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene had in the 45-3 beatdown, remember 84 of those came in the first half when the game was still competititve. The two of them also combined for 128 yards in their week 2 match-up, with Tomlinson averaging 6.9 yards per carry.

The Jets must control the clock to keep Tom Brady off the field. It doesn’t start and end with the running game either. Mark Sanchez must be accurate in the short passing game and find ways to convert third downs.

Look at the Jets third down situations in the second half against the Colts –

  • 3rd and 2 – 5 yard by Shonn Greene. First Down.
  • 3rd and 3 – 20 yard pass to Dustin Keller. First Down.
  • 3rd and 7 – 9 yard pass to LaDainian Tomlinson. First Down.
  • 3rd and 1 – 6 yard run by Mark Sanchez. First Down.
  • 3rd and 1 – 1 yard run by LaDainian Tomlinson. Touchdown.
  • 3rd and 5 – Incomplete pass to Santonio Holmes.
  • 3rd and 5- Incomplete pass to Braylon Edwards.

As you can see the Jets were getting themselves in manageable situations through their running game. They finished 5/7 on third downs in the second half. Their only two misses were on a dropped pass by Santonio Holmes and an overthrow by Mark Sanchez to an open Braylon Edwards.

The Jets can’t afford those mistakes this week. No dropped passes. No overthrowing open receivers. Most importantly though is control the clock and setting up third and short through the running game. LaDainian Tomlinson and ShonnGreene both looked fresh and healthy last week and they should be the same this week, as neither reached 20 carries against Indy.

The less time Tom Brady is on the field and the more Jets shorten this game, the more likely it will be a one possession game in the 4th quarter, where one play can swing the game.