As many of you have heard, it is Armageddon in New England this weekend.
The Indianapolis Colts and the New York Jets are facing off in the AFC title game this Sunday. For many Pats fans, including this one, there is no worse scenario in the AFC than these two teams playing for a chance to go to the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, the Pats lost at home on the opening weekend of the playoffs this season in embarrassing fashion. Many of the local media, led by Michael “The Sky Is Falling” Felger and Tony “Why Don’t All the Boston Teams Simply Contract” Massarotti, have deemed that the Patriots may be done and that the Jets have surpassed their rivals on the pecking order in the AFC.
Whoa, slow down.
The Jets are in the AFC title game because they have a very good team. They have Darrelle Revis, who may be playing as well right now as any corner I have ever seen. They have a ton of play-makers on defense, and it is nearly impossible to throw on them.
They were also a Curtis Painter appearance away from being home for the playoffs. Following a tough home loss to the Falcons in Week 15, even ultra-confident Jets coach Rex Ryan ruled the playoffs impossible for his own squad. The Jets won their last two games against the half-in, half-out Colts, and the play-it-cautious Bengals in Week 17.
The Jets proved their worth by defeating the Bengals in the wild card round, and played very well in defeating a red-hot Chargers team in the divisional round. They earned their win, and no one can take anything away from them.
However, if Nate Kaeding did not fold like a tent, the Jets would be home this weekend along with the rest of the NFL. All told, there have been five missed field goals in the first two weeks of the playoffs against the Jets.
Of course, to be clear, there is never anything wrong with a little luck on your side. I will never forget 2001, when David Patten got knocked out in Buffalo on a vicious hit and fumbled the ball. Patten was out cold, but because his leg was touching the ball, the play was ruled deal. The Patriots maintained possession and went on to win a must-win game.
But for people to overreact and say the Jets are all set for the future and the Patriots are second-class is simply short-sighted. The Jets are on a very nice run right now and are playing with a world of confidence. They have a lot of youth on defense, led by all-world 25-year-old Revis, and are definitely set up nicely for the future.
They may or may not win this Sunday, but they will be a threat in the AFC East, as well as the AFC, for the foreseeable future. But let’s not lump them in with the Steelers of the 1970s just yet.
And make no mistake about it, the Patriots had a lackluster 2009 season. Brady looked rusty at times, and Bill Belichick did not have his best season, to put it mildly. There are holes on defense, and other than safety and QB, the Pats, like most teams, could use help at virtually every position.
However, let’s not forget that the last time the Jets and Pats played each other, the Patriots prevailed 31-14, and made Mark Sanchez, who does have a very promising future, look horrendous (four picks, 37.1 QB rating). The Patriots had a better record than the Jets this season, but everyone knows the playoffs are what is really important.
The Patriots have set themselves up nicely for the future, with four picks in the top 53. In 14 months, they have the Oakland Raiders’ first-round pick, and if recent history is any indicator, that will be a top-10 pick.
If they use those picks wisely, as well as find some gems in the later rounds, the team will be able to rebuild on the fly. If they continue to pick the likes of Terrence Wheatley, Ron Brace, Matthew Slater, or Kevin O’Connell, well, let’s just say the ring Tom Brady won in 2004 will end up being the last.
We live in a knee-jerk society, but let’s give the Jets credit where credit is due. They identified quarterback as a need and aggressively made a move to trade up to get Mark Sanchez. They liked the looks of Shonn Greene (even though running back was already in good hands with Thomas Jones and Leon Washington) and moved up to draft him with the first pick of Day Two this year. They signed Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard.
But for the Felgers and Mazzes of the world to insinuate the balance of power has changed, well, it may be a tad early to make that proclamation. Both teams should be fine in the upcoming years, and it should make for some interesting races.