Right Move, Rex

Mark Sanchez may not like it or understand it now but head coach Rex Ryan is doing the right thing for him and the Jets organization by sitting the rookie QB this Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

If Sanchez wants his career to be a long journey and not just a sprint, weeks like this are necessary. After spraining the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, the 23 year old Sanchez would have worn braces on both knees against Tampa Bay. Where would the Jets be if he suffered a devastating injury hobbling around in the pocket? They'd be looking at a long rehab.

Sanchez didn't practice earlier this week. His knee needs time. This is why a team has back-ups. If Kellen Clemens in his fourth season can't guide the team for one week, then why is he on the roster? We'll return to Clemens in a moment.

There may be another unspoken reason why Rex Ryan believes he doesn't have to push Sanchez too quickly, who said he'd be playing if this were the Super Bowl. The Buccaneers are terrible. At 1-11, rookie head coach Raheem Morris' club has the NFL's 31st ranked rushing defense. The Bucs give up 27.5 points per game. No disrespect to the opponent, but the Jets can win with Clemens handing the ball off to RBs Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene. Tampa Bay's rookie quarterback Josh Freeman threw for 321 yards last week (16-6 loss to Carolina), but also threw 5 interceptions.

However, if the Jets were playing the Colts this week rather than on Dec. 27 (the game that may decide their playoff chances once and for all), would Sanchez play? Tough question. Clearly the coaches have limited confidence in Clemens after limiting him to two pass attempts in his relief duty against the injury-riddled Bills, a game the Jets won despite taking the air out of the ball the entire 4th quarter.

I'm not impressed with Clemens' quarterbacking skills. The Oregon product is tough and likeable, but he's not a smooth athlete, fails to read defenses well, and is inaccurate on his short to medium throws. He lacks pocket presence, too. All that being said, he still should be able to help the Jets get a victory this week. There's no need to rush Sanchez back into the line-up. It's more important that he be ready for his first stretch run in the NFL, rested and relatively healthy, than risking a more serious injury against an inferior opponent.

2) So, what about the playoffs? As you know, I've written often that the Jets won't make the playoffs this season. Well, several other teams are eating away at my forecast. Just about everything has gone the Jets favor the last two weeks. However, Ryan's club may still have to win out to secure a spot, and that would mean winning at Indianapolis.

Look at the standings. If the playoffs started today, the Jets would be out. Let's say the Patriots, Bengals, Colts and Chargers win their respective divisions. At 8-4, the Broncos are currently leading the wild card race. The 7-5 Jaguars are second. Everyone else is 6-6 or worse. Unfortunately for the Gang Green, the tie-breakers aren't looking good right now. The Jets are effectively two games behind Jacksonville because they lost the head-to-head match-up. The Jets are effectively one game behind the 6-6 Dolphins because Miami swept the season series.

The Ravens are 6-6, having lost three of their past five. The Steelers are finished, losers of five straight, at 6-7.

It's plausible the Jets would miss the playoffs even if they finish 10-6. They might need one of the AFC contenders to collapse. Jacksonville plays Miami at home this week, then finishes up with the Colts at home followed by road tilts in New England and Cleveland. The Broncos play the Colts, Raiders, Eagles, and Chiefs.

Computing the different scenarios may result in a headache. Let's see how the Jets do against the Buccaneers and then revisit this situation next week.


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