Excuse me for not being more excited about previewing the Jets/Bills backup bowl this Sunday, but my mind is already on Wild Card Weekend, where the Jets will either be traveling to Kansas City or Indianapolis. Despite the two teams being very different, the Jets road to the Super Bowl is going to need the following formula regardless of who they play.
1) The Good Mark Sanchez – We have seen the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde act from Sanchez at times over the past two years. The encouraging thing is that he played very well in last year’s playoffs and has looked great the previous two weeks. This is a quarterback driven league and the Jets are no different than any other team in that, they need their guy playing at a high level if they want make any noise in January. Sanchez has more weapons at his disposal in this year’s playoffs than he did last year, so hopefully he can create big plays and points to support his struggling defense.2) Shonn Greene – The benefit of still using LaDainian Tomlinson too much down the stretch is that Shonn Greene is especially fresh for the playoffs. He is the type of back built for January, with his hard charging north/south running. Tomlinson is fine as a change of pace back and a 3rd down receiving option but the Jets would be foolish to not have Greene in the 18-20 carry range when the playoffs start.
3) Defensive Answers – The Jets are lacking the personnel to have a great defense but let’s be honest they aren’t completely devoid of talent and they are supposed to have one of the top defensive minds in the league coaching them. Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine are going to have to get creative to manufacture a pass rush and to avoid leaving players like Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery on an island too frequently. Beyond that, players like Calvin Pace and Jason Taylor simply have to play better.
4) Special Teams Boost – Another way to cover for the Jets defensive shortcomings is to win the special teams battle. Kick returner Brad Smith and punter Steve Weatherford have both had Pro-Bowl quality years and the Jets need them both to keep it up. Nick Folk needs to stay reliable, as he has been the previous few weeks and it wouldn’t hurt if they could rip off a big punt return at some point.
5) Santonio – I love what Braylon Edwards has done for the Jets this year, as he has surprisingly been their most reliable and consistent receiver. Yet, Santonio Holmes is the only game-changing player on the Jets offense. He is the guy who can take a 3 yard slant route and turn it into a 70 yard touchdown or come up with a 7 catch, 165 yard game where an opposing defense just can’t stop him. The Jets need ‘Tone Time to last all the way through January if they want a shot of playing in February.