TUESDAY INSIDER JETS REPORT

How the Jets can win the Super Bowl

FLORHAM PARK, NJ  - So the Jets just won the Super Bowl. Confetti’s streaming all over. Somebody, probably on defense, is going to Disney World.

A team merely two games over break even in the regular season, that needed ample assistance to reach the postseason, has stunningly corralled the ultimate prize.

Shocking doesn’t begin to describe this twist of fate. Unprecedented would qualify. A rookie coach and quarterback, a grounded aerial attack, and an uncanny tendency to forfeit victories when they appeared a total certainty, all these perceived postseason weaknesses had been surmounted.

It’s the most unbelievable championship run in New York since the miracle Mets of 1969, even more unexpected than the Giants’ amazing trophy drive two years ago.

How did they do it?  

OK, the dream’s concluded. Wake up!

How could they do it?

1. They stayed healthy.

The playoffs are the promise land, a destination desired by every executive, coach, and player plying their craft in the league.             Double that notion for a franchise prowling the outskirts of contention, jobs hanging perilous in the balance between victory and defeat. The margins are wafer thin. Every transaction by the suits, game plan drawn up by the headset troupe, and play executed by the team is dedicated toward that pursuit, the elusive gift of true opportunity, the shot to stand victorious on a podium, a validated organization.

The playoffs are different. The elevated intensity practically leaps off the television screen.

But it is a mistake to assume that the standard level of gridiron chaos subsides just because the games mean so much more. The constant press conferences and heightened media coverage, the delirium of fans, these differences can get us thinking in dramatic terms. The star quarterback doesn’t get hurt in the movie. The best player’s knee doesn’t combust. But these things can happen in January, just as easily as in October.

The Bengals saw Super bowl visions disintegrate in the 2005 Wild Card game when Carson Palmer took a devastating shot low, courtesy of Kimo Von Oelhoffen. Palmer’s knee was mangled, and the Steelers won a Super Bowl that could have belonged to Cincinnati. Nothing very cinematic about that…

Everyone remembers Leonard Marshall’s brutal hit on Joe Montana in the 1991 NFC Championship game.  

After losing essential players like Kris Jenkins and Leon Washington way before the tournament, the Jets simply can’t withstand another major loss. All the trades, game plans, hopes, dreams, and schemes go out the window should Darrelle Revis sustain an injury.

On that note, New York also desperately needs David Harris anchoring the linebacker core next week. If they are to make a legendary dash for glory, the Jets need to be healthy.

2.Mark Sanchez did not turn the ball over – neither did the rest of his offensive teammates.

If there’s one thing that practically invites a playoff thrashing, it’s when a road underdog cannot maintain possession of the pigskin, offering up a bounty for the home team, and placing their defense firmly on heel.

Countless playoff showdowns have been rendered laughers once the fumbles began rolling and interceptions started flying.

The stature of the team and their frequency of mistakes are definitely connected. The less of a realistic shot for an underdog to pull an upset, and the more likely they attempt compensating for a sizable talent gulf with risky maneuvers. A running back will stretch for an extra yard and neglect ball security. A quarterback will channel his inner Favre and test triple coverage. Should the underdog fall behind early, a comedy of errors often follows.

The Jets are in a rare position. New York is undeniably fortunate to have made the playoffs, but they do not necessarily need to employ a reckless philosophy, beyond the reach of their abilities. Toting a top ranked defense and running game, the Jets are not a garden-variety wild card team. Just last year, a dangerous Chargers outfit, that secured a division title only because the Broncos imploded, defeated the favored Colts in the first round. The Chargers were, and remain, obviously, completely loaded with talent. They didn’t need to deviate from their usual strategy. Although the Jets will be on the road for their wild card matchup, as opposed to the Chargers in ’08, they should share a similar mindset.

If Rex Ryan’s gang plays their best, they could beat just about anyone. Inconsistency at a key position often precludes them from firing on all cylinders, but despite the fortuitous sequence of events allowing their entry into the playoffs, these Jets belong, especially against the Bengals. No need to pray for miracles.

That in mind, there really would be no excuse for turnovers.  The Jets defense can withstand one major mistake, maybe two, but a total breakdown, in the vein of the second New England game, would be totally unacceptable. This is not a team that should be playing desperate from the opening gun, and the Bengals’ newfound conservatism on offense will probably preclude early home team fireworks. 

If New York does defeat Cincinnati, they should carry the same calm mindset into proceeding match-ups.

The Jets have self-destructed before in 2009.  With the overall skill level of their roster, and the great opportunity they have secured, it would be a real shame for that trait to be a defining mark.

3.The Running game took over. 

Where are the Jets without Thomas Jones? Nowhere. Jones assumed an even heavier responsibility when Leon Washington suffered a season ending leg injury. The third year Jet appeared to be wearing down late, neutralized by a mediocre Falcons run defense in week fifteen. Fortunately for the Jets, Jones still had octane in the tank, rebounding with strong outings against the Colts and Bengals. The emergence of Shonn Greene has definitely helped. Greene will be vital for the Jets in the playoffs, spotting Jones. The explosive rookie is also capable of changing a game with one run, though his penchant for fumbling could prove extremely detrimental.

Completely reliant on this phase, the Jets have found creative ways to generate big plays with the run, especially last week with Brad Smith. They may have a few other gadgets up their sleeve for the Wildcard round. The offensive line shined brightly on Smith’s long gainers. The efforts of this group are absolutely vital for a sustained playoff push.  

Brandon Moore and the offensive line are key to the Jets' championship hopes.

4. The defense dominated. 

The Jets defense is arguably playing their finest football going into the playoffs, shutting out the Bengals week seventeen, and totally embarrassing Carson Palmer in the process. They received zero plaudits for defeating the Colts at Indianapolis after Jim Caldwell pulled his starters, but the big strip fumble of Curtis Painter, executed by an onrushing Calvin Pace, was probably the biggest single play of the entire season. 

Pace has enjoyed a remarkable year, considering his absence in the first four games of the season. He is just one piece of a unit that is arguably the strongest in the league. The exploits of Darrelle Revis are finally receiving deserved due. Shaun Ellis chalked up one of his most disruptive campaigns. Bart Scott proved an adept tackler and excellent in coverage. And on…

Should the offense successfully employ an intelligent approach, rooted in ball control and clock killing, the defense could be poised to dominate.

Their presence practically guarantees close games.

Bart Scott and the Jets D will keep New York in the game.

5. They finished.

Championship caliber teams close the show. Those brutal home losses against Buffalo and Jacksonville typify a roster prepared to win on a physical level, but perhaps lacking a mental edge. Communication breakdowns were the principal cause for the Jaguar defeat, while the Bills game exposed the inexperience under center. Have the Jets grown? They needed to.   

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Quotes from the opposition:

Carson Palmer and Marvin Lewis were available via conference call today. Here were some of their thoughts.

Palmer:

His relationship with Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez: “I’ve known [Mark] for probably ten or fifteen years. I first met him back when I was a young guy in high school and he was kind of hanging around. His brother was one of my teammates on our high school football team. I met Mark way when I was probably a sophomore in high school.

How often does he communicate with Sanchez? “It depends on what time of the year. If it’s the off season quite a bit, and during the season its tough just because he’s extremely busy being there in New York with all the stuff he’s got going on. I get pretty busy out here.”

On whether he had advice for Sanchez regarding the media: “Mark is obviously a very smart kid, but coming from USC, it’s a little bit different but not much different than the New York media. He’s used to that being the USC starting quarterback, being the only game in town with no NFL team.”

On his offense struggling against the Jets’ defense this past Sunday: “I don’t think we were vanilla at all. We came out. We had a game plan and we went after it. We just didn’t play our game plan well. We got outplayed obviously by a very good team. We’re not going to hide a bunch of things. We’re going to have a couple of new wrinkles, but we are who we are just like the Jets are who we think they are which is very good.”

Lewis:

On whether it will be a different Bengals team this Sunday: “We have to go and play better football. We didn’t play good enough football. We got our butts kicked in. We have to play better football than we did Sunday night this weekend.”

On the return of Cedric Benson: We have to do a better job of blocking the guys up front, getting on the right guys and so forth.  The runners aren’t going to make any runs without the people up front doing a better job. That’s going to be key for us.”

Did the Bengals hold back on Sunday? “That really isn’t relevant right now at all to the situation. We’re going to play the Jets on Saturday and what we did, or didn’t do, doesn’t really matter now.”

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Rex Ryan had his daily press conference. The most pressing team related news involved David Harris, who did not participate in practice with an injured ankle. With the way Ryan was talking about Kenwin Cummings and Ryan Fowler, it seems Harris missing the game this Saturday is a definite possibility.

Ryan on Mark Sanchez this Saturday: “We just need him to be efficient… Joe Montana would have had struggled in those conditions. [Sunday] He’s as confident as I’ve seen him.”

Ryan on Cedric Benson’s potential impact: “Benson’s had a great year. There’s a lot of confidence in him. Maybe they’ll take a more running approach.”

Ryan’s thoughts on the phrase ‘same old Jets’: “Nothing. That’s not the Jets I know.”

Ryan on Shaun Ellis: “His peers recognize Shaun as a tremendous football player… he can play in any type of defense.”

Ryan on Shonn Greene’s fumbling issues: “He’s got to get that out… he knows how carry the football… the kid never fumbled in college. Mentally he’s got to know he isn’t a fumbler.”

James Ihedigbo suffered a stinger in practice but eventually returned for full participation.

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On behalf of myself, and JetsInsider.com, I send my condolences to the Johnson family in this difficult time.

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