AFC East Report: Postseason

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End of Regular Season

Indianapolis @ New England, 4:30 p.m. Sunday
NY Jets @ Pittsburgh, 4:30 p.m. Saturday

New York Jets:

Let me start by saying one thing...the Jets did not get lucky to win this one, nor did the Chargers "lose the game". The Jets flat out won it. Twice in fact because they had to overcome a blunder of the highest order by Eric Barton. I guess once a Raider, always a Raider. The Jets needed some luck to re-win the game, but make no mistake about it, they outplayed the Chargers, in San Diego, for the second time this year, and this time with SD hitting on all cylinders resting their regulars for a week, while the Pennington has a sore shoulder and John Abraham missed the game. Excuse my annoyance here, but to the people who focus on the San Diego missing the kick in OT, get a brain. Almost all of those people were so busy building up San Diego as the Cinderella who was too talented to lose to the Jets they're scrambling to talk around why they were wrong instead of just admitting they continually underestimate the Jets. Out of 15-20 so called experts at ESPN, on the networks, and on the internet sites, only Phil Simms defended the Jets as a team that had a shot to win it, with many predicting a San Diego win by a wide margin.

I am the first to criticize the Jets when they don't play to their potential and I thought the Jets weren't playing with enough effort and confidence lately to win this one, but they are a team with talent. A lot of it. They came to play on Saturday and Pennington earned his stripes back. While it's an uphill climb to win the Pittsburgh game, there was a lot to like here and Jets fans can actually look forward to the rematch.


Plain and simple this was all about Chad. While I would have loved to see them convert on one more scoring drive to feel great about the offensive effort (20 points on the road is solid but not spectacular) Pennington WAS great, especially considering the shoulder injury. He threw the ball well downfield and with authority on shorter routes, something I haven't seen in 2 years, and made the defense pay for buying into the "just stop Curtis" mentality. As important as the quality of the throws he made was the fact he didn't make one bad decision, not even close. One example was the great adjustment to get the ball to Becht for the TD when McCareins was the first hot read, and was covered. No pass was close to being intercepted that I recall, and I felt like good things would happen whenever he dropped back to pass. Paul Hackett deserves credit for opening it up, calling a lot of passes to wide receivers and not trying to grind it out despite having a lead on the road.

The gameplan was all about getting the ball in the hands of dangerous people (Moss, McCareins and occasionally Jordan) instead of going safe with Martin, and that is a great sign about the mindset of the coaches. Martin was held in check by NT Jamal Williams who succeeded in pushing a smaller Kevin Mawae out of position, but one thing that was overlooked was the overall success of the Jets run game. It came courtesy of a couple big Lamont Jordan runs, but the Jets' backs managed 116 yards on 25 carries against the 3rd ranked run defense. Martin's success starts inside, and against Williams the Jets couldn't open up running lanes. It was good to see Jordan get some key carries as he cemented the game with his 19 yard run to the 15-yard line in OT. Don't underestimate the importance of that run, or the 6 yards he picked up afterwards, as the Jets often bog down just outside field goal range, and on Saturday night Doug Brien needed some insurance yards.

I feel Jordan and Martin's styles play to different situations. Martin is the ideal back to take advantage of a weak run defense as he is the expert at staying patient and exploiting seams that develop. Jordan is more useful when speed to get to the outside is critical or lowering your shoulder is needed inside. Jordan will be needed even more in Pittsburgh.


I don't think Madden/Michaels talked enough about how great the Jets D played, nor did the ESPN crew covering the postgame. If this was the Patriots we'd be hearing how they took away the two strengths from San Diego all game long forcing Brees into dinking and dunking for 55 minutes. We heard how Martin was having a hard time running inside, but with Tomlinson we kept hearing how fresh he was. Fresh?? The guy had 80 yards on 26 carries, Martin was struggling but would have needed only 14 yards on 8 more carries to hit those totals. The Jets turned a very balanced offense with the best RB in the game one dimensional, and after the first two San Diego drives Brees generated nothing until the very end. DeWayne Robertson, outside of a boneheaded penalty, had a huge game. Remember he was going against Toniu Fonoti, a guy who is listed at 6' 6" and 350lb (probably more like 380). Fonoti has been on highlight reels all year for mauling defenders, and is considered perhaps the strongest guy in the NFL. Aside from Tomlinson's running stats, there were two plays that stood out to me. When Robertson stuffed LT for a 3-yard loss to help snuff that 3rd quarter drive, he blew right past Fonoti, and beat the fullback double team to drop Tomlinson. And on 3rd and goal from the 1 every Jets fan should watch the highlight in slow motion. You will see Robertson getting under the pads of Fonoti and lifting him/driving him back 2 yards right into Tomlinson's path to stuff him. It was an awesome display of how far he's come this year. Next year he needs only to work on generating a pass rush and he will be pro bowl bound.

The pass defense is another story. They did eliminate Gates...both Gates and Tomlinson have had 2 of their worst games of the year against the Jets. Gates was invisible until the very last drive of regulation, and even then if Barton doesn't take that penalty, Gates doesn't score a TD. But you can also see where the Jets had to make some sacrifices, allowing a lot of underneath stuff to go on and giving big cushions off the line to avoid getting beat deep. Derrick Strait showed up on a few plays which fans have to hope is a sign of things to come, and the LBs cover well, but the Jets need help on deep balls where fast receivers seem to run away from CB's and safeties don't seem to get over in time to cover. Erik Coleman did make a great play to tip a deep pass into the air which Tongue ended up intercepting. Again, all I heard about was how tough Brees was to tackle Tongue 25 yards later, not how great the pass break up was by Coleman. Typical.


Bring on the Steelers part II. The Jets have given everyone around them a shot of confidence, and if Pennington can sustain some of what he did next week the game should be close. I think if all things were equal (injuries, rest, preparation and neutral site) I'd feel the Jets have a good shot to win because I think they match up better with the Steelers than they do the Colts or Patriots. But all things are not equal and those issues are going to be a big hurdle to overcome.

Pittsburgh is great against the run, and there's no question they're going to follow the same tactic they (and everyone) showed last time these teams played. Make Pennington beat you. If I were the Jets, I'd take a few more shots deep downfield than they did against San Diego, because that's Pittsburgh's biggest vulnerability. This game is going to rest entirely on Pennington's arm, and at least it's not as bleak as it looked last week. Pittsburgh is even tougher than San Diego so Chad may struggle, but there is good reason to have hope here. Pittsburgh's corners can't cover Moss or McCareins, so if it's not a windy day Pennington should look for those guys instead of the backs and tight ends who won't have much running room against the speedy Pittsburgh linebackers. The Jets will probably need one or two quick strike scores to keep Pittsburgh from dictating the pace. I think this is a game to give Jordan the ball as much as Martin if not more since they need someone fast enough to turn the corner and run over the safeties when he gets there.

Defensively the Jets could use Abraham since they are not generating enough pass rush to keep QB's honest and Pittsburgh finally put the game away last time with the deep ball. They will have Burress this time which opens things up for Roethlisberger even more, which is all the more reason the Jets need a rush. This time around though Bettis is the RB who is limited by injury and that's good news. The Jets will shut Staley down and he will wear out before the Jets do, but Bettis has potential to wear them down late in the game. I am hoping Derrick Strait is able to play nickel which puts Donnie Abraham on the outside instead of Buckley. It's not a major upgrade but it helps. I wish there were some way to start McGraw at free safety and put Coleman at strong safety to beef up coverage, since I think the front seven can handle Staley.

My biggest concern is the extra week of rest and preparation Pittsburgh has. It gives them a chance to put in a few new wrinkles, but it means they'll be fresher in what should be a slugfest, and the place to look for this will be in the trenches. I think if the Jets come out strong, not necessarily scoring first, it will be a battle the whole way. Common sense dictates Pittsburgh is the favorite, but the Jets have a shot to win this.

Analyst: Nick Romano;

New England Patriots:

No report this week.

Analyst: Craig Natale;

Miami Dolphins:

End of season.

Analyst: Chris Dellapietra

Buffalo Bills:

End of season.

Analyst: Mark Weiler;

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