Insider Monday Team Report
The Dream is Alive!
The New York Jets are playoff-bound.
After being kept out of postseason play for the previous two seasons, Gang Green stamped its ticket to the tournament with a 37-0 drubbing of the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday night, capping one of the more unlikely runs to the playoffs in franchise history.
Now that they’re in, though, there’s a new question everyone’s asking: How far can this team go?
There’s been talk of this team making some noise in the AFC playoffs now that they’ve snuck in the back door to the postseason, but in order to do that, they’ll have to beat the same team they dominated in the final game at Giants Stadium next Saturday in the opening round. And you can bet they won’t be seeing the same team that had their quarterback post a 1-11 performance throwing the football.
“We know that Cincinnati is going to come back, look at that tape, and make some adjustments, so we have to get ready,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “We’re going to face a different team. Even though it’s the same team, we’re going to face a different one. We don’t have our fans (with us in Cincinnati), behind us, so that’s going to be a little more challenging offensively. (I) played a lot of games in Cincinnati, and I know those fans can get loud. They do a good job supporting their team. Again, we’re going to take our team up there and give them our best shot again.”
As a Jets fan, there’s no team you’d rather face in the opening game of the playoffs then these Bengals. They’re banged up on defense – they were absolutely dominated up front by the Jets’ offensive line, with Gang Green rushing for over 200 yards on the ground. On the flip side, they have no legitimate second wide receiver opposite Chad Ochocinco (or is it Johnson now after he was left stranded on Revis Island?) allowing for #24 to take Cincy’s lone vertical weapon out of the game. Cedric Benson did not play for the Bengals last night, and that will certainly change the dynamics of Cincy’s run game. But it appears as though this defense has really hit it’s stride, so it should be tough goings for Benson Sunday as well.
The Jets have an outstanding defense and an outstanding running game. We saw how dangerous a team they can be when Mark Sanchez doesn’t turn the ball over. In frigid conditions where throwing is a challenge, the Jets have the two key components to play in this environment. If they can win the turnover battle, this game has a first-round Jets upset written all over it.
GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN
Winning the turnover battle really all depends on how careful Sanchez can be with the football. The rookie was solid last night, making all the right throws – and none of the wrong ones – in the win. But, again, he doesn’t have to be outstanding with the way the rest of this team is playing right now. Which is why he got rave reviews from his head coach this morning.
He played a heck of a game last night,” Ryan said. “He really did. Those were some tough conditions to play in. It’s not just managing the game. He’s a threat to throw it. I thought he did a great job. I don’t think we asked him to do a whole lot, but he was so confident and comfortable back there. He was excited. That’s great to see in a young quarterback. That’s a lot of pressure. You had to win to get in, and I thought he did a great job.”
While Sanchez didn’t screw anything up, there’s going to be a point during this postseason where he needs to make some throws to either seal a game, or pull his team back into one. Can he do it? We’ll have to wait and see.
THE TIGER PACKAGE
Another guy everyone’s wondering about is wide receiver-turned-utility man Brad Smith. After his outstanding performance running the Jets’ version of the Wildcat offense last night, everyone’s wondering – can he throw the ball effectively?
Smith was a standout quarterback in college, so we know he can throw the ball. But we also now know there’s pass plays in the package for Smith, plays that may come out Saturday afternoon in Cincy.
“I think it adds another dimension,” Smith said. “It makes you have to play things a little bit more honest when you can throw out of it and you can all kinds of creative things out of that formation and personnel package. With any quarterback that’s mobile and can do some different things, it makes the defense think a lot.”
A SEASON OF FIRSTS
Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez’ first season in New York brought a playoff berth to the Big Apple, something fans are hoping becomes a regular occurence. That isn’t the only first being experienced after Sunday night’s victory. Several Jets will get to experience postseason play for the first time, including linebacker Calvin Pace.
“I’m just proud, proud of everybody,” Pace said. “I’m proud of the team, coaches, and the organization. When things were bad, everybody stuck together. In this season, there were a lot of times that we could have folded it in and said it’s over, but guys kept fighting and now it’s a new season. We’re going to take it up another notch.”
The team returns to the practice field tomorrow to begin preparations for Saturday’s game. Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com for all your news and updates.