Turn On The Jets Week 12 NFL Picks

The TOJ staff gives their picks for week 12 of the NFL season


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

CURRENT STANDINGS

1. Rob Celletti (85-72-6)

2. Mike Donnelly (82-77-4)

3. Chris Gross (81-77-5)

4. Chris Celletti (80-78-5)

5. Joe Caporoso (67-90-6)

Joe Caporoso

Last Week (7-7-2)

  • Oakland (+8) vs. Cincy
  • Pittsburgh (-1.5) vs. Cleveland
  • Buffalo (+3) vs. Indy
  • Denver (-10) vs. Kansas City
  • Tennessee (-4) vs. Jacksonville
  • Tampa (-1) vs. Atlanta
  • Seattle (-3) vs. Miami
  • Baltimore (-1) vs. San Diego
  • San Francisco (-1) vs. New Orleans
  • St. Louis (+1.5) vs. Arizona
  • Green Bay (+3) vs. Giants
  • Philadelphia (+3) vs. Carolina
  • Minnesota (PK) vs. Chicago

Mike Donnelly

Last Week (8-7-1)

  • Bengals -8
  • Steelers -1.5
  • Bills +3
  • Broncos -10
  • Jaguars +4
  • Falcons +1
  • Dolphins +3
  • Chargers +1
  • Saints +1
  • Cardinals -1.5
  • Packers +3
  • Panthers -3
  • Bears PK

Rob Celletti

Last Week (6-9-1)

  • Bengals (-8)
  • Browns (+1.5)
  • Colts (-3)
  • Chiefs (+10)
  • Jaguars (+4)
  • Falcons (+1)
  • Dolphins (+3)
  • Ravens (-1)
  • Saints (+1)
  • Cardinals (-1.5)
  • Giants (-3)
  • Panthers (-3)
  • Bears (pk)

Chris Celletti

Last Week (8-7-1)

  • Raiders
  • Steelers
  • Colts
  • Broncos
  • Jaguars
  • Falcons
  • Seahawks
  • Ravens
  • Saints
  • Cardinals
  • Packers
  • Panthers
  • Bears

Chris Gross

Last Week (6-9-1)

  • Bengals (-8)
  • Steelers (-1.5)
  • Colts (-3)
  • Broncos (-10)
  • Jaguars (+4)
  • Bucs (+1)
  • Dolphins (+2.5)
  • Ravens (pk)
  • Saints (+1)
  • Cardinals (-1.5)
  • Giants (-3)
  • Panthers (-3)
  • Chicago (PK)

New York Jets – Burn It To The Ground

The New York Jets need to be accountable for their mistakes and begin the process of gutting their team

When you watch that type of performance from a football team on a national stage with their season on the line, it begs the simple questions “What happened? What went wrong? Who is to blame?”  Yet, we’ve seen this movie before the past two years. The Jets had a chance to be a playoff team last year but were blown out by the Philadelphia Eagles, a non-playoff team. They then lost by 15 to the New York Giants and ended the season with a loss to another non-playoff team, the Miami Dolphins. In 2012, it has been more of the same. In a pivotal game against Miami, who is currently 4-6, they were blown out on their home field. Then last night…well you saw what happened.

Since their December win in 2010 against Pittsburgh, the New York Jets don’t have a single impressive regular season win on their resume. What they do have on their resume is a collection of blowout losses. Three losses by 17 or more last year. Five losses by 17 or more this year…and counting. This isn’t a one game issue, a one mistake issue, or a one player issue. This is an organizational failure that is the product of poor personnel evaluation and a lack of accountability.

The 2010 Jets were a very good football team who won 11 games and a beat a 14 win New England team in the playoffs on the road. They laid an egg in the first half of the AFC Championship Game, which cost them a trip to the Super Bowl…the first in a series of recent Rex Ryan coaching blunders. But how does a team that talented so quickly fall?

Look at the 2009 draft now in retrospect. Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene and Matt Slauson were the only players they left that draft with. Three players. How do you build depth like that? Sanchez is clearly a game manager who can succeed if he is protected by a strong running game, talented skill position players and a very good defense. He is not built to carry a team. This was abundantly clear after 2010. Poor self-scouting led the Jets to believe otherwise, so they decided to proceed in 2011 with a three receiver base offense that was going to be pass heavy and neglected building around Sanchez.

Greene was a third round back who was effective after a defense was worn down by a quality starter like Thomas Jones or LaDainian Tomlinson. This wasn’t a first round back who had a skill set that was off the charts. He was a one-dimensional downhill runner. What did the Jets do heading into 2011? Make him their “bell-cow” back who was ready to receive 20+ carries every week. Poor self-scouting. Slauson was good enough to beat out Vladimir Ducasse and that was it. He started by default because a 2010 2nd round pick busted. Yet, the Jets didn’t replace him heading into this year. Poor self-scouting.

Now look at the 2010 draft, which is maybe the worst draft class in recent NFL history. The Jets left with four players…again no opportunity to build depth. Kyle Wilson. Vladimir Ducasse. Joe McKnight and John Conner. Think about that. Kyle Wilson is a below average nickelback, never-mind starting NFL corner and the Jets spent a first round pick on him. When you draft a corner in the first round in 2010 and you already have Darrelle Revis, you would think you wouldn’t be chasing Nnamdi Asomugha the next off-season and then settling on giving a big contract to Antonio Cromartie. But the Jets did. Ducasse can’t play in the NFL. Not at guard. Not at tackle. Not anywhere. The Jets replacement plan for Hall of Famer Alan Faneca was Ducasse…poor self-scouting. Conner was a one-dimensional fullback who brought nothing to the offense and the Jets already had Tony Richardson. So now you are carrying two fullbacks, including one who is useless…poor roster management. McKnight is a good kick returner and has potential on offense but can’t stay healthy.

Two poor drafts made worse by poor self-scouting set the table in a big way for the current issues. However, don’t forget the ill-fated chase for Asomugha. Remember, the Jets could have just re-signed Cromartie and they would have been fine. Instead they needed the “name” and they needed to be in the Asomugha chase. They lost and had to pay Cromartie an even bigger contract in the long run as “apology money.” What was worse is that in the process of going after Asomugha, they guaranteed money on contracts for Bart Scott and Calvin Pace to free up cap space, players on the downside of their career. They also went cheap at wide receiver and offensive line, ignoring the necessity of keeping talent around Sanchez and receivers that he had built chemistry with.

They began paying the price last year and are really paying it now. Scott and Pace are past their primes and aren’t equipped to start in this league anymore. The Jets didn’t want to pay Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery or Brad Smith. They went “name” and got Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason on relatively low cost deals. They floundered and now the Jets are starting from scratch again at receiver. The “plan” to replace Damien Woody and Alan Fancea was Ducasse and Wayne Hunter. Poor self-scouting by planning on handing jobs to two incompetent players.

Where does this leave them now? A mess. Below average players weighing down the cap with bloated contracts. The Tim Tebow trade was a PR-stunt to distract attention from a roster with glaring holes all over the place. Rex Ryan isn’t built to handle adversity like this and seems at a complete loss on how to handle such an untalented team. You can’t bluster wins which is what he is trying to do. He knew this team lacked talent but couldn’t talk down expectations because that’s not who he is. He also failed by hiring Tony Sparano to coach his offense, foolishly sticking to the “Ground and Pound” theory in a league that is moving away from that trend.

The logical move is to fire General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and completely rebuild the personnel department. Let your new GM improve the scouting, let him make a decision on Rex and the quarterback position. Let me oversee the gutting of this roster, which should see the departure of the following starters: Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas, Matt Slauson, Austin Howard, Shonn Greene, Lex Hilliard, and Brandon Moore.

There is no half-measure solutions. This roster needs to be turned over completely and rebuilt through strong drafts and wise decisions in free agency. There are a few scraps on this roster who have long term potential who will be useful moving forward (Muhammad Wilkerson, Jeremy Kerley, Quinton Coples, Demario Davis to name a few) but beyond that it is burn to the ground time.

You can’t get away with poor drafts and poor scouting in the NFL. The Jets are now a textbook example of that.

Initial Reaction – New York Jets Give Us Thanksgiving Turd

The New York Jets bottomed out on national television tonight

That has to be as bad as it gets, right? You couldn’t write a script for a more embarrassing performance on national television. Tonight was a large exclamation point on how far the New York Jets have fallen since their appearance in the AFC Championship Game only two seasons ago. Tonight was a large exclamation point on the overwhelming lack of talent on this football team.

There is no mystery. There is no in-season solution. The Jets are a bad football team who lacks talent at every single position. The failure is widespread and starts at the top. In a perfect world this will lead to Woody Johnson taking a hard look at his personnel department, deciding to gut it by starting with the firing of GM Mike Tannenbaum and then go from there. Unfortunately in the Jets world, they will finish 7-9 and use the injury excuses for Revis and Holmes instead of making any major changes.

That would be a shame. This team lined up for their first play tonight with Clyde Gates, Chaz Schilens, Jeff Cumberland, Lex Hilliard, Austin Howard and Matt Slauson on the field. They had Jason Smith ready to play major reps off the bench. Their play calling was ludicrously unimaginative and predictable. On defense, their lack of speed at linebacker is at comic proportions. They had Ellis Lankster trying to cover Wes Welker! Ellis Lankster!

Sloppy. Poorly prepared. Mentally weak. Embarrassing. Untalented. Those are your 2012 New York Jets. Mark Sanchez sliding into Brandon Moore and losing a fumble was a perfect microcosm of this team’s season. They deserve the ridicule. They deserve the GIF images of that fumble on every site. They deserve the butt of every joke this year. They are the Chiefs. They are the Browns. They are the Jaguars.

Destroy and Rebuild it. Any trace of those 2009 and 2010 teams are gone. There is no Ground and Pound. There is a mediocre offensive line blocking for mediocre backs with a mediocre quarterback throwing to mediocre receivers. There is a slow defense who can’t stop the run or sack the quarterback.

Turn On The Jets 12 Pack, Week 12 – Jets vs. Pats

12 predictions for the New York Jets Thanksgiving Night game against the New England Patriots

The Turn On The Jets 12 Pack is back with a very special Thanksgiving batch of predictions for Jets vs. Patriots. I am spending the holiday with my mother’s side of the family (The Jets fans side…the slightly crazier side…and ultimately the side I probably most resemble as a person, oh well) so it should it make for an interesting day of excessive eating. The beauty of Italian Thanksgivings is that turkey is never enough. No…no…no there needs to be nine different courses that hit every major unhealthy food group.

We have the 12:30 kickoff with antipasto (salted meats, cheeses and shrimp…damn it there’d better be shrimp). Followed by pasta (with a meat sauce of course!), ham (unnecessary excessive meat usage), and then of course a deep fried turkey. As if that won’t be enough to kill me by 6 PM, I’m sure I’ll eat two cannolis on the ride into MetLife and then promptly die when working my way up to Section 317. The air is so thin up there that Ryan Clark wouldn’t be allowed to sit in my seat. 

I could only hope I have enough energy to combat the inevitable group of Patriots fans in the section next to me decked out in their freshly bought Chandler Jones jersey and holding up a “YO SOY FIESTA” sign despite neither Jones or Rob Gronkowski playing. These are the guys who were booing Adam Vinateri (who won them two Super Bowls) last week even though Stephen Gostowksi is kicking at somewhere around 37% this year. “VINAWTERRY??? WICKED BUM, YA COULDN’T SPLIT A SAM SUMMER ALE WITH THAT HARDO AT A BAR IN DAW-CHESTAH. NOW WOODHEAD? THAT’S MY KINDA GUY. BET HE SPENDS OFF-SEASONS WATCHING BRUINS GAMES IN QUINCY”

Anyway (did I get sidetracked there?), on to the predictions…

1. Tim Tebow will play less than 5 offensive snaps in this game. Yet, he will see approximately 49 minutes of camera time on the network broadcast. Thank god I will be in the stands and the only Tebow reference I will see is the guy ten rows in front of me wearing a Florida jersey and holding up a “PUT IN THE FOOTBALL PLAYER” sign.

2. Both Dustin Keller and Jeremy Kerley will have another big game against the Patriots secondary. They will combine for 170 yards receiving and a touchdown between them.

3. Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight will combine for 35 total touches on offense. Look for Powell and McKnight to be active in the passing game as checkdown and screen options.

4. Wes Welker is going to have a big day, leading the Patriots in receptions, receiving yards and getting into the end-zone.

5. Tom Brady will throw for at least 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns. However, he will be sacked once and turn the ball over once.

6. Mark Sanchez will throw for 225-250 yards with a touchdown. He will have at least one turnover. His completion percentage will be 55% or higher.

7. The Jets special teams will avoid any catastrophes.

8. Stevan Ridley will have less than 70 yards rushing. Danny Woodhead will less than 50 yards of total offense.

9. Brandon Lloyd will have another quiet game. Aaron Hernandez will have at least 4 catches for 60 yards. Julian Edeleman will make at least two big plays for the Patriots offense.

10. Whether it comes on special teams or offense, the Jets will attempt some type of trick play.

11. Chaz Schilens will see much more playing time than Stephen Hill and make a couple of important third down catches.

12. The New York Jets are going to give us a little (likely misguided) late season hope with a 27-24 upset of the New England Patriots. The defense will be put in position to make a late stop and this time they will come through. Foolish optimism? Maybe. But I think the Jets have this upset in them.

Predicted Game Outcome Record (9-1)

Turn On The Jets Week 12 Roundtable – Jets vs. Pats Predictions

The TOJ staff gives their predictions for Jets vs. Patriots on Thanksgiving night

Joe Caporoso – 12 Pack

Chris Gross– Jets 24, New England 21: Tomorrow, the Jets will display the same mentality that they had last week in St. Louis, the mindset that their backs are against the wall and they need to swing from the hip to survive throughout the rest of the season. While New York is historically bad under Rex Ryan when facing the Patriots in the clubs’ second regular season matchups, they have yet to play under these circumstances.

In the past, New York has been poised to top New England for the divisional lead in match up number 2, but now they host the Patriots as a team of desperation. How much will this team be willing to do to survive? One thing about the Jets in the Ryan era is that they have fought through a lot of adversity. Expect another aggressive gameplan from both coordinators. Sparano needs to pull out all the stops, including a further commitment to his 3 headed RB approach. Defensively, look for Rex to disguise his pressure schemes, creating the illusion that he is sending more pass rushers than he actually is. Tom Brady is lights out against the blitz (86 attempts, 10 TDs, 0 INTs, 90.0 QBR, 127.2 passer rating), so Ryan must let Brady think he has the Jets right where he wants them, only to drop 7 and rush 4. Blitzes will be neccesary, but it is essential the Jets get to Brady, otherwise it will be lights out. Expect a hard fought, chippy game, one that once again comes down to the wire, only with New York coming out on top this time around.

Rob Celletti – It’s amazing what one win can do. Last week, I truly believed that this team was dead in the water.  Granted, they played a weak Rams team that came into a clear letdown situation, and had an extremely poor gameplan to boot (thanks Schotty!).  But that win certainly helped lift the gloom off of the Jets season and gives the team and its fans at least half a hope of saving the 2012 season.

And honestly, there are two ways to look at this: 1) be a pessimist, say “get it over with” and expect the Jets to lose; 2) get excited and root hard for the Jets in a game that they certainly have a chance to win, at home vs. New England on a short week.  I’m taking the latter.  It’s the holiday season after all, which, if nothing else, is a time for positive vibes. The Jets played the Patriots tough and should have beaten them earlier in the season. Mark Sanchez shredded the New England secondary that week, to the tune of 328 yards on 28/41 passing. Expect more of that, plus a stronger dose of the run game. To me, this game comes down to if the Jets can fluster Tom Brady, whose emotional approach to the game can sometimes be his undoing, if he’s rattled. The Jets have done this before (see Week 2 in 2009, AFC Divisional Playoff in January of 2011). What the hell? Jets 30, Patriots 27 – on a late Nick Folk field goal

Mike Donnelly – Everything is set up for the Jets to take this game and make us as fans even more confused as to what kind of team they are. Rob Gronkowski is out and the Patriots only had a short week to prepare for the game without him. The Jets are home, they’re desperate, and home teams always have an advantage on these Thursday games. I laid out my 3 keys to the game in yesterday’s Stock Watch column, and I think the Jets are going to end up putting check marks next to all 3 of them when all is said and done. They’ll protect the football, they’ll harass Tom Brady, and with Gronk out, they’ll find a way to slow down Wes Welker. Let’s be real: The Jets should have won the last time these two teams met in Foxboro a few weeks ago. This time they will get over the hump and pull it out down the stretch, 24-20

Chris Celletti – If I were the Jets, I would throw 40 times on Thursday, right around the same amount they did in Week 7, because that’s how you beat the Patriots. Something tells me the Jets are going to scale Sanchez back a bit and look for a very balanced attack. As for the Jets’ defense, I think people are putting a little bit too much credence into Rob Gronkowski’s injury. He’s a big loss, but this doesn’t mean the Patriots aren’t going to be able to move the ball or score points. It will be up to the Jets’ defense to make a few big plays in the red zone and make New England kick field goals. To me, this game comes down to Mark Sanchez and whether he can hold on to the ball and make plays down the field. The chances will be there, and Sanchez very well could throw for over 300 yards and a few touchdowns. If he does, the Jets win. Give us a nice kickoff to the holiday season boys. Go out and beat the Pats, 27-24

THANKSGIVING PICKS

  • Joe – DET (+3), DAL (-3), NYJ (+7)
  • Chris G – HOU (-3), WAS (+3), NYJ (+7)
  • Mike – DET (+3), DAL (-3), NYJ (+7)
  • Rob – DET (+3), DAL (-3), NYJ (+7)
  • Chris C – HOU (-3), DAL (-3), NYJ (+7)

 

Turn On The Jets Week 12 Roundtable – Jets vs. Pats Match-Up

The TOJ staff discusses what match-up they are most looking forward to in the Jets vs. Patriots game tomorrow night

Joe Caporoso – Sanchez. Sanchez. Sanchez. Simply put, the Jets cannot win this game unless Mark Sanchez protects the football and makes a few plays down the field against a suspect New England secondary. He has been boom or bust against the Patriots in the past. If the Jets want to make a late season playoff run and Sanchez wants any semblance of job security for next year, it starts with a big time performance tomorrow night.

Chris Gross – Mike Westhoff vs. Himself: Has the former star of Hard Knocks already mentally checked out, about 8 weeks prior to his official retirement? The Jets once stout special teams play has been a disaster as of late. Most recently, last week in St. Louis, New York avoided an ultimate disaster after a holding penalty negated what would have been a Rams kickoff returned for a touchdown. Add the blocked field goal and failed fake punt, and it’s a miracle that this team was still able to win in a relatively dominant fashion. To pull the upset tomorrow night against the Patriots, the Jets will likely need to play a perfect game in all three phases. This means that New York cannot afford another Special Teams blunder. A blocked kick, big return, or falling asleep on the kickoff return team, resulting in New England successfully executing a surprise onsides kick (See Miami), will all spell disaster for Gang Green. Westhoff needs to have his unit ready, because based on their play over the past few weeks, Bill Belichick is likely licking his chops while thinking about how he can expose the flaws in New York’s special teams

Rob Celletti – Everyone knows that the Patriots have an abysmal secondary, which is why the key matchup this week for the Jets is actually their run game vs. New England’s defensive front. Mark Sanchez has proven to be an effective quarterback when he’s got a run game supporting him, as this opens up misdirection and playaction.  n my opinion, the Jets have gotten away from the ground game quickly in their losses this season, even when not trailing by multiple scores. Even if the Jets go down 10-0 quickly tomorrow night, they would be wise to continue handing off to the new backfield committee of Greene, Powell and McKnight.  Sanchez should still attempt 30+ passes in this game, but how successful he is on those throws will be tied to how successful the Jets are on the ground

Mike Donnelly – The matchup I’m most looking forward to seeing is the Jets Pass Rush vs. Tom Brady. There is no question that getting in Brady’s face and pressuring him is the only way to throw him off his game and give yourself the best chance to win. Look at what the Giants did to him in those Super Bowls. Look what the Jets did to him in that 2010 playoff game. It can be done, and the Jets need it to be done. Mo Wilkerson is playing like an absolute beast and Quinton Coples is developing nicely along side of him. Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace are on the downside of their careers, but don’t be surprised to see them step up in what will likely be their last Patriots rivalry game of their careers. Ricky Sapp is getting a longer look lately, and there was ever a time for him to announce his arrival to the NFL, it’s this week. If the Jets are going to have any chance, they need to generate a pass rush, and that’s what I’ll be watching for.

Chris Celletti – The opportunity is in Mark Sanchez’s hands. The Jets’ quarterback can win this game for his team, he just needs to go out and do it. Just as in their Week 7 matchup against the Patriots, Sanchez will have chances all day to throw the ball down the field and rip off big chunks of yards against the Patriots’ spotty secondary. While the Pats’ offense is a bit banged up and missing their biggest weapon, I still wouldn’t bank on them putting up something like 17 points. They’re still the league’s best offense, and there’s that guy Tom Brady under center. So in order for the Jets to pull the upset, as they almost did in Foxboro earlier this year, they’ll need to put up points. The guy that can make sure that happens? Sanchez. Let’s see it, 6.

A Recent History Of New York Jets Ruining Holidays

A recent history of the New York Jets ruining holidays

Being a New York Jets fan certainly isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Generally, it provides a consistent cycle of inevitable let-downs and heartbreak. What has been interesting is that the Jets have found a way to impact numerous holidays in recent years. So much so, that in my 25 years on this planet very few holidays have passed without me having a distinct Jets memory related to it.

December 21st, 1997 – Jets Lose 13-10 in Detroit – As a 10 year old Jets fan, I’d never seen my team anywhere near the playoffs. They always seemed like this enormous thing that my lowly team would never get to be a part of. Yet, all the Jets needed was a win in Detroit to sneak in. The top of my Christmas List that year was a sloppily scribbled “JETS PLAYOFFS” After waking up at the crack of dawn and putting on my Keyshawn Johnson jersey, I watched an early lead trickle away behind interceptions from Leon Johnson (a running back) and Ray Lucas (an early version of Tebow). Why oh why were these players throwing second half passes in the biggest game of the year? My Dad (A Giants fan) could only laugh and tell me…get used to it. What did I get for Christmas that year? A Neil O’Donnell jersey that I cried into all day (pathetic, I know).

December 19th, 1998 – Jets Beat Buffalo 17-10 – I skipped a recreational basketball practice to watch the Jets clinch a AFC East title and was benched for it two days later in our game, which we lost to end our season. Since I was our leading scorer, the entire team was mad at me and refused to hang out with me over Christmas Break. (You can see how unhealthy it is to be a Jets fan already).

December 24th, 2000 – Jets Lose to Baltimore 34-20 – The Jets needing a win on Christmas Eve to clinch a playoff spot? What do you think happened? An obvious 14-0 lead was quickly erased, thanks mostly to Vinny Testaverde throwing an interception that was returned 99 yards for a touchdown right before the half. I spent the night at my Grandma’s hoping the Jets could stil get in because of a Pittsburgh loss in the late game…they didn’t lose. No playoffs. Miserable Christmas Eve.

December 26th, 2005 – Jets Lose to New England 31-21 – A long break in-between holiday memories, I know. I got tickets to this Monday night game as a Christmas present. My only memory is walking into the game and hearing Patriots fans yelling “YA QUARTABACK IS BROOKS BOLLANNGAHHH!” and sadly knowing they were right. The Jets lost by 10.

December 25th, 2006 – Jets Beat Miami 13-10 – Hey, a positive memory! Chad Pennington, Leon Washington and the rest of the upstart 2006 Jets knocked off Cleo Lemon in a primetime thriller to save Christmas and propel the Jets to the playoffs…where they were promptly stomped out by New England.

November 22nd, 2007 – Jets Lose to Dallas 34-3 – Finally some Thanksgiving Jets Football! Nothing like gathering around the television to watch Kellen Clemens, Chris Baker and Justin McCariens get the ever living crap beat out of them by Tony Romo and Terrell Owens. I remember thinking after this game that the Jets were the worst team in professional sports and would likely never reach playoffs again.

November 25th, 2010 – Jets Beat Cincinnati 26-10 – Another Thanksgiving night game for the Jets – this time a much more enjoyable one. The highlight of this game? Brad Smith ripping off two touchdowns, one on a kick return and one on a long reverse. Too bad the Jets only have the poor man’s version of Smith now AKA Tim Tebow.

December 24th, 2011 – Giants Beat Jets 29-14 – Somewhere Victor Cruz is still running.

New York Jets – Fork In The Road Again Involves New England

For the fourth straight year under Rex Ryan, the pivotal moment of their season will come against New England

The New York Jets are holding on to the slimmest of playoff hopes thanks to last week’s victory over the St. Louis Rams and the general mediocrity of the AFC. An upset over the New England Patriots this Thursday night could set the table for a late season playoff run, aided by an alarmingly weak schedule the rest of the way. The Jets don’t play a team with a better current record than 4-6 after this week’s game. Late season games against New England have marked the pivot points of every Rex Ryan led Jets season so far and this year appears no different. Hopefully, the Jets will be able to reverse their recent trend of disastrous performances in these pivot games.

In 2009, the team bottomed out at 4-6 after getting blown out 31-14 in New England thanks mostly to a four interception performance from Mark Sanchez. Ryan responded by benching Kerry Rhodes on defense and drastically scaling back the Jets offense and going even more run heavy than before (remember the color coded wristband?). The Jets won 5 of their next 6 and snuck into the playoffs to make an improbable run to the AFC Championship Game.

In 2010, it was the Monday Night Massacre which ended a four game Jets winning streak with a 45-3 loss. Another three interceptions from Sanchez and another loss to rally around, which the Jets didn’t truly do until they shocked the Patriots in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

Last year, the 5-3 Jets were coming off an impressive road win in Buffalo and appeared ready to overtake New England for the AFC East lead. What happened? 37-16 New England at MetLife with 2 interceptions from Sanchez. They lost the following week in Denver before going 3-3 down the stretch to miss the playoffs.

The Jets have no margin for error this Thursday. There is no time to rally around another New England blowout loss and Sanchez stink bomb. Simply put, a win makes the Jets very relavant in December. A loss means they are basically playing out the string. They are catching New England without Rob Gronkowski and Chandler Jones, along with a banged up Aaron Hernandez. Yes, the Patriots are still a much better all-around team but the Jets out-played them a month ago and still found a way to lose a heart-breaker in overtime. They should be confident.

Take away the kick return touchdown. Take away the safety. Don’t get gun-shy conservative on defense in a big spot and keep a balanced, yet creative approach on offense. This game will be competitive in the fourth quarter and who knows what could happen then.

The Jets defense played a strong game up until New England’s final two drives in the previous meeting. Rex Ryan is smart enough not to come with the same scheme at Brady twice in one season. Look for Antonio Cromartie to work between Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez (if he plays), while bracketing Wes Welker in the slot. New England’s running game is more potent than in previous years but you’d rather force the Patriots to put together 12-13 play drives to score points. You can’t let them rip off 25 yards a play in the passing game. Muhammad Wilkerson needs to continue his recent hot streak and generate pressure upfront along with Quinton Coples. The Jets don’t really have the horses to blitz Brady because of their lack of talent at linebacker and if you don’t get to Brady when you blitz, he kills you.

On offense, the Jets got a good push in the running game earlier in the season against New England’s front seven. It will be important to stick with the committee approach, alternating between Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight to keep a fresh back. Powell and McKnight also need to be used to make an impact in the short passing game.

When it comes to throwing the ball, Mark Sanchez needs to protect the football above everything. New England is a bad defense but an opportunistic defense. If you don’t let them take the ball away, the Patriots aren’t pulling away in this one. There is going to be chances for big plays down the field, particularly from Jeremy Kerley and Dustin Keller out of the slot. The two combined for 213 receiving yards back in October.

We mentioned a “creative” offense a few paragraphs ago. The Jets still lack overall talent on offense and shouldn’t be hesitant to empty the playbook out a little bit on Thursday. A well-timed reverse or flea-flicker could steal points for an offense that desperately needs any they could get.

This game is a referendum on both Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez. Can Sanchez protect the football and play well enough to give his team a chance to win, in a game that could propel a late season run that might save his job? Can Rex put together a game plan to steal a victory from a team with vastly superior talent? Any questions about Ryan’s head coaching future here will go radio silent with a national television victory over the Patriots with the current group of players he is working with.

No Huddle – Crucial Win In St. Louis Edition

TJ Rosenthal goes No Huddle on the Jets crucial win in St. Louis

4-6 is not the type of record to go celebrating in the Meatpacking District over. The way New York athletes often do after big victories. Ending a three game skid and moving beyond a “Terrible Tim” storm that threatened to derail focus on the Rams is. The Jets win over St Louis has seemingly calmed the Florham Park madness down for the time being but more importantly, has moved Gang Green to within two games of a wildcard spot with six games remaining. The hated Pats minus Gronk are next, but a season on the brink was given a breath of life yesterday. Let’s at least be thankful for that at the start of this holiday week.

1 – Unraveling the Mystery That Is Mark Sanchez

Give Mark Sanchez an effective run game, a defense that gets stops, some screen passes with proper spacing, a few roll outs, and receivers who hold onto the ball, and you get a 118 rating. The entire team has to be functioning well in order for Sanchez to manage a game with confidence but when they do, the Jets starting QB can do his job well.

We wonder what minimizing the Tebow substitutions did to his rythym too as well. Should plays or packages that call for 15 more often reappear this season, it will be worth keeping an eye on how the production of Sanchez changes. Hopefully the staff monitors any differences should they arise, as well.

2 – Bart Scott’s Brief Boycott

The Jets animated veteran LB gave his defense post game orders to use the catch phrase “both teams played hard”  with the press. The boycott failed after a brief stand, but it’s intent, to combat a media that used unnamed sources to try and splinter a team already struggling with a three game losing streak and an undermanned roster, is understandable. It’s hard to blame the longtime veteran for being angry about the purposeful disruption.

The players though, should all know by now, that the Jets are painted as a circus tent who at times, bring the cartoonish characterization upon themselves. For a colorful team with an open door media policy like the Jets,  the all or nothing Big Apple coverage is heightened to the utmost degree.

On the flip side, there is nothing like winning in New York. An upset over the Patriots Thursday will change the storyline from “implosion” to “another Rex late season charge” towards the playoffs.

3 – Three Headed Monster: A Wish Finally Granted

We asked for GM Mike Tannenbaum to acquire one more veteran RB this offseason in order to bolster the ground and pound concept that Tony Sparano was hoping to reinvigorate this year. We didn’t get our wish.

Finally in week 11, we got the next best thing. A three pronged attack that included speedy Joe McKnight and shifty Bilal Powell into the mix. Shonn Greene has been effective as of late, and the help he got Sunday proved that the Jets can aid Mark Sanchez by moving the chains on the ground while setting up play action. Let’s hope this approach continues. There ought to be no going back to the “Greene as Bell Cow Back” daydream ever again.

4 – Gronk’s Injury 

Rob Gronkowski got injured in the waning moments of a 59-24 Patriot blowout win against the Colts Sunday. The great TE’s broken forearm was an unnecessary one, especially when you consider that it happened on the extra point blocking team in a 35 point game.

On the one hand we respect Bill Belichick for working on his offense’s playbook and crispness with his starters, even when a victory is in the bag. On the other hand, the mindset comes at a great risk to the health of key starters. New England lost Wes Welker in a meaningless final game three years back, and could have used him during their first round playoff exit at the hands of the Ravens at home weeks later. Team history was there for Belichick to lean on before deciding to take that type of chance again.

What Gronk’s injury means for the Jets is two fold heading into their must win matchup on Thanksgiving night. First, that the only unguardable player in one on one coverage will be out . A reality that will help the Jets at times. Second, that Belichick has often been able to offset an injury in the short term by utilizing backups and other positions anyway.

The Patriots are still the Patriots as long as Tom Brady is the QB and Belichick is the HC. Don’t let any one injury, even to the league’s best player at his position, allow you to think otherwise.

5 – Other Jets/Pats Thoughts

The Jets will take this win over the Rams to believe in themselves again. Rex Ryan told them prior to Sunday, that it was the “Jets against the world” again and the often used tool in Ryan kit worked. As it has on many other occasions. The players’ confidence in Ryan and the coaches game planning, will have a huge effect in how the Jets prepare mentally for Thursday night.
Ryan will now also remind his team that they had the last meeting between the two clubs won, were it not for one failed stop on the game’s final regulation drive. BEFORE Rob Gronkowski, the unguardable one, was lost due to his work on XPT team blocking duties, while up 35 points with seconds left against the Colts.
Rex should also make the team aware that in the short term, Bill Belichick is a master at covering up a key loss by making weapons out of anyone and everyone at his disposal. That keeping a peddle down on the gas is the only to continue climbing out of the big hole Gang Green has made for themselves.

Sanchez Breakdown: One at a Time

Rob Celletti with a breakdown of Mark Sanchez’s performance against the St. Louis Rams

Stat line: 15/20, 178 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT; 75% completion pct., 118.3 QB Rating

Season Stats: 168/314, 2,038 yards, 11 TD, 9 INT; 53.5 completion pct., 73.4 QB Rating

We’ve gotten to a point – and maybe rightfully so – where Mark Sanchez can do no right in the eyes of some Jets fans. Yesterday, Sanchez played a smart, effective, efficient, well-rounded game. He was sharp, confident, decisive and consistent through four quarters. He played turnover-free football. Yet, lots of chatter on Twitter and the like after the game was, “MEH, SANCHEZ STILL SUCKS.”

I’m not here to be reductive, and as a matter of fact, analyzing Mark Sanchez is the same thing as analyzing the Jets’ season. At this point, you have no choice but to take it one game at a time. So regardless of how you feel about the Jets quarterback in a big-picture sense, you can’t deny that he played well yesterday. That was good enough to get a floundering team to 4-6 and keep the lights on for at least three more days.

The Best: Our esteemed editor has pointed out the pump fake as one of those infuriating Sanchez habits that needs to be broken. Yesterday though, Sanchez looked comfortable and under control in the pocket. The pump fake wasn’t a frantic sign of indecision, but rather a tool Sanchez used to move safeties and wait for the play to develop down the field. The touchdown throw to Chaz Schilens was opened up by a feigned screen into the right flat. Sanchez pumped, the defense bit, and Schilens got open behind the defense. The Jets scored a touchdown on a similar play in week 1 against Buffalo.

Perhaps the most encouraging part of yesterday’s game for Sanchez was that on more than one occasion, he went through his progressions and found his second or third receiving options. One of Sanchez’s glaring weaknesses has been tunnel vision and staring down his primary receiver, but he made strides in the right direction in that area yesterday.

The Worst: Very little went wrong for Sanchez yesterday, though they did need a little bit of luck early on. Sanchez was sacked and stripped on the first drive of the game, but the ball bounced right back into his waiting arms. Disaster averted.

The Key Moment: The Jets were up 13-7 and driving late in the third quarter when they faced a 3rd and 3 from the Rams’ 23 yard line. Off of a playaction fake, Sanchez looked to his right for Stephen Hill on a quick slant, but pulled the ball down and instead dumped it in the left flat to a wide open Konrad Reuland. How many times have we seen Sanchez double-clutch in that situation, only to not get rid of the ball and take a sack? Instead, a simple dump off pass to his safety valve led to Bilal Powell’s first touchdown three plays later. When you hear coaches and quarterbacks talking about “positive plays”, this is exactly what they mean. Credit Sanchez for being patient here, getting 18 big yards, and setting up a key score.

So now, Sanchez needs to do it again, in three days. Yesterday’s success is no indicator of future performance, and like the team, Sanchez will be evaluated one game at a time.