Sunday, November 22, 2009. The New York Jets are fresh off of a 31-14 drubbing at the hands of the New England Patriots in which rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez threw 5 (five) interceptions. That’s right, he threw the ball to the other team on 5 different occasions during the course of the game.
After a quick start, it seemed as though NFL reality had caught up with the Jets and their rookie quarterback and rookie Head Coach Rex Ryan.
Fast forward almost a month to the day, December 20, 2009, and you see the Jets drop a painfully ugly game to the mediocre Falcons who were missing their star running back Michael “The Burner” Turner (who only ran for about 2,000 yards the previous year, no biggie). In one of the most inept offensive performances you will ever see, they dropped the game 10-7, with the only touchdown coming off a defensive turnover and a completely mishandled 2-minute drill costing them an opportunity at a win.
In his press conference following this game, Rex Ryan declared the season over and said that it was a shame his team would have to wait until next year to make the playoffs.
Then something crazy happened—or more appropriately, a number of crazy things happened.
First, the Colts decided to wipe their collective buttcracks with the pages of the football history books by taking out their starters—including the best quarterback of our generation Peyton Manning—and putting in their reserves—including some rookie whose last name is Painter and went to Purdue. Staring at the opportunity to complete an undefeated season, the Colts decided instead to bend over for the rest of the game and let Peyton leave early to do another commercial with Justin Timberlake (who by the way might be the best celebrity spokesperson duo out there—legitimately funny, overexposed and they know it, some of the biggest megastars in their respective fields, and just damn nice to look at if we’re really being serious about it) while the Jets got a win that would ultimately lead to them re-defining the notion of “backing in to the playoffs.”
Then, probably more importantly (though without that BS win the Jets’ season is over so this transformation means nothing), the Jets remembered that they should stick to doing what they do well and nothing else, and that sticking to their plan would win them games. They started running well, kept locking down on defense, and stopped letting the Sanchise throw them out of games. His pass attempts plummeted faster than Brady Quinn on Draft day, and all of a sudden the Jets were in games.
The key for the Jets as they take on a Colts team that presumably gives a lump of butt nuggets this time out is to slow the game down. If you’re like me and you sit at home all day watching SportsCenter and wondering whether Josh Eliott is a complete douche or if he just plays one on TV, then you saw Mark Schlereth talking about the Jets needing to take 4 possessions away from the Colts in this game. Now if you’ve forgotten, Mark Schlereth won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos. (Oh wait, you mean that doesn’t have to come up every single time his name is mentioned? Man, someone should tell him that.) But seriously, I thought the possession point was a good one made by Schlereth, and I think the Jets are ideally built to do just that.
Why do I think that? Because the way you take away possessions in a football game is through tough, blitz-happy defense causing the other team to hand you the ball and control of the time of possession to keep the other offense on the sideline.
The Jets do a great job of mixing up blitzes and of not showing too obviously who is coming, so Manning’s infamous audibles may very well be neutralized (at least to a degree), and the havoc caused by the blitzes should theoretically create some opportunities for turnovers. Time-of-possession-wise, the Jets’ offensive plan is to run it, run it, and run it some more and then let the Mexican take over within the 30 just to create some drama. Simply stated, against a sub-par rush defense in Indy, time of possession should be a strength for Gang Green on Sunday.
Then again, after that Pats game put them at a bleak 4-6, and when they couldn’t move the ball on offense against the Falcons, everyone thought they were destined to miss the playoffs in a big way.
Just goes to show you that theoretical sports predictions are about as useful as Braylon Edwards going across the middle of the field: if things happen the way they’re supposed to, you’re really more surprised than impressed.
PREDICTION: Jets 26-20
NFC pick (not that you care): Saints 38-24