10 QUESTIONS: Jets vs Patriots Wildcard Round - Part 1
Dan Leberfeld is an insider for JetsConfidential.com and host on Sirius Radio's show "Press Coverage" which can be heard 11-2 Eastern on Saturday's on SIRIUS NFL Radio.
Q)The Jets stood at 7-6 after losing to the Buffalo Bills in early December and it looked like they might not make the playoffs unless they won out. What were the expectations after that loss?
Leberfeld: People tend to overreact to one game. That is all it was, and the Bills played fairly well down the stretch, so this wasn't an upset of biblical proportions. The Jets are a very even-keeled team. Their approach and mind-set following losses is the same as after wins. So they got over that game quickly, and proceeded to win their final three games. But the most disturbing aspect of this game was their run defense, which was a big problem. Willis McGahee ran all over them for the second time this year. And their 24th ranked run defense has to be their biggest concern entering the Patriots game. Remember the Patriots ran all over the Jets in their first regular season meeting, and were somewhat successful in the second encounter.
Q) When the Patriots and the Jets played during the season, both teams had an assortment of roster changes they were dealing with, from injury substitutions to rookie/new players in the starting lineup. How stable has the Jets roster been as the season wound down? How did that affect the team?
Leberfeld: One of the reasons for the Jets success this year is that the team has stayed amazingly healthy. The only player of note lost for the season was No. 3 receiver and punt returner Tim Dwight. The Jets do have a few banged up players, but they are all questionable or probable. But it's also important to realize they don't believe in listing players as doubtful or out. It's part of a strategy to throw off opponents. The most significant injury they are dealing with right now is starting cornerback Andre Dyson, who has an MCL sprain, and likely won't play. But while he's decent, he's certainly replaceable, and the combination of David Barrett and Justin Miller can certainly fill the void.
Q) How has Chad Pennington's repaired shoulder held up from the beating he's taken over the season?
Leberfeld: Amazingly well. He has taken a lot of big hits. Rookie left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson has given up 10 sacks, and a lot of pressures. There have been some scary moments. He's taken some wicked hits, but has bounced up every time. This is one of the most amazing comebacks in NFL history. Most medical experts thought he was done. Most former players who had a similar medical situation thought he was finished. He overcame astronomical odds, and is playing as well as he ever had. It's a testament to his off-the-charts work ethic.
Q) Leon Washington has obviously developed well in his first season as a Jet. Did he hit the proverbial "rookie wall" yet?
Leberfeld: Only he knows how his body feels, and he's too tough to admit to anyone he's feeling poor, even if he was. Based on his amazing performance against Miami late in the season, he looks like he's holding up fine physically. He has turned into an absolute fourth round steal for the Jets. He was downgraded in the draft because he had a down senior year, but let's not forget this guy was Mr. Football in Florida coming out of high school in Jacksonville. He's a special talent. He's a great kid with a tremendous attitude and loads of natural ability. He's has star potential.
Q) How do you think the departure of Miami Dolphins head coach Nick Saban will affect the AFC East, namely the Jets and the Patriots?
Leberfeld: It depends who replaces him. But I don't think this is a huge loss for the Dolphins. I think Saban is a heck of a coach, but a poor GM, and that is why his tenure in Miami didn't work out very well. Aside from linebacker Channing Crowder, none of his draft picks really has had a big impact. Obviously his decision to trade for Daunte Culpepper instead of signing Drew Brees was a colossal error. And the Dolphins future looks bleak because Saban leaves them with a very shaky quarterback situation, and an old Front Seven. With or without Saban, the Dolphins don't look like they are going to be very good next year.
Look for Part 2 where Dan answers questions about the Jets ability to make the postseason after struggling early, The biggest contributor to the Jets in 2006, and how Mangini's knowledge of the Patriots is enough to help the Jets to a win.