The second-year Jets signal-caller's disappointing Monday night outing (10-of-21, 74 yds.) was certainly the most dissected aspect of the 10-9 loss to the Ravens, yet his optimism has not faltered. Sanchez is intent on leading the Jets' offense all the way to Dallas this February, but if he wants to be taken seriously, he'd better start putting forth some better passing performances…or at the very least, be allowed to…
The big question is: is it Sanchez or the overly conservative Gang Green gameplan that is stunting the passing game? To argue for Sanchez and that it isn't his fault, exhibit A has to be the fantastic postseason he had in January. Judging by the New York run to the AFC title game, one has to believe he is capable of making plays on his own or play shrewdly in a system. Yet the Jets seem to prefer keeping the training wheels on his arm.
No matter which—and don't get me wrong, the Jets will need to figure it out eventually—the approach they're taking didn't work against Baltimore. Against New England this week, the Jets would be wise to make some drastic alterations to their offensive approach, or be eaten alive by Brady and crew.
This rivalry has gotten to be one of the most heated in football, so the intensity should be easily visible on Sunday. Of course, that physicality would be even greater if both groups were whole up front. But with Logan Mankins still in a contract dispute and Calvin Pace and Kris Jenkins both out, there'll be a different aesthetic to the battle in the trenches.
Maybe the most interesting matchup to watch, though, will be the one between Randy Moss and Darrelle Revis. The once disgruntled Revis didn't seem very far behind after his month-long holdout, and the aging yet still physically imposing Moss wants to show that he is far from a "slouch."
Three Keys to a Jets Win
1. Find a way to neutralize the little guy
Wes Welker's absence in the playoffs against Baltimore last season was clearly a factor in New England's uncharacteristically convincing loss. His playmaking ability is unique, and he is a matchup problem for any defense—even one as good as New York's. The Jets defense should be good enough to stop Fred Taylor, and maybe even Randy Moss, but keeping Welker in check is imperative if they expect to get back to .500. Let's see how Welker does against Kyle Wilson, whose speed and good feet might give him an outside chance at keeping up with the player, especially if can stay flag-free.
2. Run the football!
It's tough enough to win when all you have is a running game. It's near-impossible to do so when you don't even have that. LaDanian Tomlinson's team-high 62 rushing yards against Baltimore probably isn't going to cut it against the Pats, either. Shonn Greene was a non-factor last week, another fact that will have to change if the Jets are going to have a shot this week and going forward. Green's fumbling issues against Baltimore are troubling but they have to continue to let him run downhill and beat up New England's defense. If Greene can get some positive yards, perhaps the Jets can break the elusive 45 offensive plays barrier that eluded them last week. Gasp!
3. Make this a "special" Sunday
The Jets' special teams were responsible for all of the nine points on their side against the Ravens, and although winning on field goals isn't exactly a safe approach, maybe they were on to something—sort of. Special teams might be the way New York wins this game if they can't get their offense going as much as they'd like. Nick Folk needs to be on point, and—perhaps more importantly—Brad Smith and Jim Leonhard need to be at their best in trying to turn a kickoff or punt into six.
Three Keys to a Patriots Win
1. Get Fred Taylor going This will be easier said than done against a tough Jets "D," but New England's ability to make them fear someone other than Brady and the receivers will be it a lot easier to score points. If the Jets make Taylor a non-factor, it'll give them a much better opportunity to throw some more guys back into coverage.
2. Keep the pressure off Brady
The Giants proved in Super Bowl XLII that getting to Tom Brady early and often is one of the few ways to slow him down. In contrast, the three-time Super Bowl champion is the phenom he is largely because of the protection he has had over the years. Keeping the likes of Jason Taylor away from Brady is of the utmost importance.
3. Keep an eye on LT
Tomlinson is the Welker of the Jets in the sense that he is a threat over the middle that has superior speed. Sanchez has been a check-down machine, so seeing more passes head the way of LT is a reasonable expectation. If the Jets can get the short passing game going, it may open up other opportunities for their offense; if not, it seems New England can't lose.
Before last week, it seemed New England was aging fast and the Jets were ready for take-off. But New York's stock dropped a great deal after the loss to the Ravens, while the Patriots showed once again why they are never really out of the race by pounding the Bengals. The Jets will get it together eventually, but to expect them to turn it all around in one week against their rival is a lot to ask.