There's nothing more that Chad Pennington would love to do than rip the hearts out of Jets fans on Sunday.
It’s early August, you’re going over the 2008 schedule and you notice Week 17 against Miami. You say to yourself, “Favre will make em’ look like sliced halibut that weekend.” Sounds like a good NFL TV commercial doesn’t it? Well Jets fans, this game, even though Gang Green needs help (a win and a New England or Baltimore loss) is the game that will determine whether or not they have the wherewithal to ignore all the naysayers and take it to the Miami Dolphins (10-5) and former Jets helmsman Chad Pennington. This game will say if they realize that it’s time for the Jets to go back to basics and redefine the identity of this franchise.
The Jets (9-6) have done next to nothing the last three weeks facing teams that will not sniff the postseason this year. The floundered against the 49ers, played down to Buffalo in a win and looked lost against the Seahawks. QB Seneca Wallace looked like Randall Cunningham and made his receivers look like perennial Pro Bowlers. Imagine what the Jets will need to do when they have to contend with WR Ted Ginn Jr. and RB Ronnie Brown this Sunday? It’s almost too good to be true. The man they kicked out the door may close it on the Jets playoff hopes this Sunday. Miami can clinch the AFC East with a win.
The keys to a Jets victory on Sunday: no turnovers, power running game, third down conversions, an effective passing attack and pressure on Pennington. They’ve done none of the three over the past three weeks against opposing teams. Favre hasn’t done what he was brought here to do which was win big games in the month of December. Pennington and the Fins on the other hand have won eight of their last nine.
The Dolphins have a +14 turnover differential and Pennington has thrown for 3,453 yards this season. He’s only thrown over 3,300 yards once in his nine year NFL career and that was in 2006 when the Jets made the playoffs. Pennington also holds a 96.4 passer rating which is second only to San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers. But that wasn’t enough to garner a Pro Bowl roster spot this coming February. Brett Favre got a second alternate spot.
For Favre and the Jets to stop Gang Green fans from popping Alka Seltzer this Sunday at 4:15, they need to come out with a fiery spunk they haven’t showed since the win over Tennessee four weeks ago. The Jets have to attack one of the Dolphins few weaknesses on defense: the secondary. Miami is ranked 25th in pass defense, giving up 226.2 YPG. It’s not much better than the Jets secondary giving up 237.3 YPG (29th) and Favre hasn’t shown much over the past three weeks with his dwindling rocket of an arm. However, remember week one? Yes it was a while ago but remember Favre to Cotchery? Enough said.
“It’s a little bit wacky how everything (has) played out, but it’s the National Football League. All types of things happen in the National Football League,” OL Damien Woody said. “Now, we are in a situation where we have to win and we have to count on somebody else to help us to get into the postseason. We don’t have anybody to blame but ourselves, but even at 9-6, we are in a position where all is still not lost. We have to come back to work tomorrow and have the resolve of a professional.”
The Jets, just like Woody said, have no one to complain to but themselves. They have to come out and hook the Fins and reel them in. Anything short of that will lead to (it already has) the calling for the heads of coaches and coordinators in the offseason. The Jets are “still” in it and already local newspapers are playing up the Bill Cowher situation.
“We want to finish what we started,” FB Tony Richardson said. “We want to finish it on a positive note. One way to do that is to get a victory. Granted, we can get a victory and things still may not go our way, but at least we finished what we started.”
To all of Jets faithful, they should’ve begun finishing what they started against Denver, San Francisco and Seattle. Now they have to beat arguably the hottest team in the NFL. And it’s almost a definite that Pennington and the Dolphins will come out blazing against a reeling Jets defense that has a few nicks and dents on it. Most notably NT Kris Jenkins. Also, don’t forget that Pennington although being away from East Rutherford for a whole season now, still knows some of the nooks and crannies of the Jets offense.
“He studied our defense as well as our offense because he always wanted to understand how he was going to be attacked, why certain things were played a certain way,” head coach Eric Mangini said. “I really like when the offensive players take that perspective. It’s a different level of understanding. When you have that, you can attack things much more aggressively because you truly understand what the defense is trying to get done as opposed to speculating on what they’re trying to get done.”
What Pennington is trying to get done is stick it to the franchise who thought he was on the decline this past summer. Before the season started, this game looked like nothing more than a regular division game. The “experts” felt the Dolphins would be better this year but would not take the next step yet. They took the next step weeks ago. Now, even though the game wasn’t flexed, looks more and more like the closing pages of a novel that haven’t been written yet. Chapter 17 is coming up. What do you think might happen?
Jets Offense v. Dolphins Defense
The Jets will need to be firing on all cylinders this Sunday to beat the red hot Dolphins and pray that Buffalo or Jacksonville will play the role of spoiler. Player to Watch: TE Dustin Keller. He was non-existent in Week one and should play a vital role if Coles and Cotchery are locked down by double teams. Don’t forget about sack machine LB Joey Porter. He hasn’t sniffed the playoffs since his days in Pittsburgh and would love to take the air out of the Jets playoff hopes this Sunday. With the way the Jets are playing lately, it just might happen.
Jets Defense v. Dolphins Offense
Chad Pennington has something up his sleeve this weekend. In case you didn’t know, he declined to speak to New York media this week, something he didn’t do back in September. So to say he doesn’t have something else vested in this game is ludicrous. It’s almost guaranteed that Miami will use the “Wildcat” formation more than once this Sunday. It always seems to stump the Jets (see last week against the Jets). If Ted Ginn Jr. has the game he had last week, it’ll be another long day for the Jets secondary. However, the Jets aren’t going to just let them run all over them. But it’ll be hard to stop them if Jenkins can’t go on Sunday. Look for DE Shaun Ellis to give a little more this Sunday. Don’t forget about TE Anthony Fasano. He’s been lights out during the Dolphins run towards January.
No more talk. No more side stepping the obvious. The Jets need to show why they spent over $140 million this offseason and put it to good use.
Dolphins 14 Jets 7
Game time is at 4:15 PM local time on CBS TV. Local radio is on 1050 AM ESPN and 103.9 WRCN Long Island. Be sure to log on to JI after the game for a complete recap!