The New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins. Two AFC East rivals who have played some of the most memorable games in NFL history. They have a lot in common, especially now and in recent years. Both have good coaches, good offensive lines, good running games, solid defenses and some swagger.
And both of them just can't stop talking about the Jets. Funny, when I think of the Dolphins, it's because we're playing them that week. Otherwise, when someone mentions them to me, I think of this...
It's not much of a video clip. It's just audio of T-Pain's Miami Dolphins fight song, and it always makes me laugh. Not as awesome as LaDainian Tomlinson's "LT Slide Electric Glide" video, but really, nothing can touch that one.
But I digress.
The AFC East is shaping up to be one of the best divisions in football this year. Like their NFC counterparts that have fielded multiple serious contenders for years, the AFC East has the potential to send two or three teams to the playoffs again, after the Jets and Patriots made it last year.
I'm not calling my shot on the division winner just yet. It's Memorial Day. We're not even at training camp yet. But that doesn't mean I can't make a bold prediction just for fun.
The New England Patriots will finish third in 2010.
The Jets and Dolphins are just too much for the Patriots to handle this year.
The Jets return nine starters from the top-ranked defense in the NFL. Kerry Rhodes, one of the castaways who was shipped out to Arizona, will not be missed. The Jets plan on using Brodney Pool and Eric Smith at the safety spot opposite undisputed starter Jim Leonhard.
It'll be nice to have guys who are actually eager to learn the defense , as opposed to "Hollywood" Rhodes, who again will be overshadowed by a more talented safety this year, opposite Adrian Wilson. I'm excited to see Brodney Pool in a Jets uniform; he's been an underrated talent with the Browns ever since coming out of Oklahoma in 2005.
Everyone in the Jets universe is aware of how improved the Jets are, after a fantastic rookie season under head coach Rex Ryan and quarterback Mark Sanchez. For the first time in a long time, things are looking up for the green and white (as I noted back in January).
There are some new faces in Santonio Holmes, Jason Taylor, Antonio Cromartie, Kyle Wilson, and Vlad "Big Daddy" Ducasse. And of course some of the familiar ones in Darrelle Revis, Shonn Greene, Nick Mangold, David Harris, and Jerricho Cotchery.
One thing that's pretty amazing is that the team was number one in total defense last year, in just the first year in a new defensive system. It's scary to think how good they'll be in year two. I've looked at the potential depth chart before, and needless to say, it's very exciting to see if they'll be able to improve after building the foundation last year.
The offense is improved after upgrading the offensive line (see ya, Faneca) and the receivers, as well as adding two new running backs in Tomlinson and rookie Joe McKnight. But the key to the success of the offense falls in the hands (and the health of the knee) of Mark Sanchez.
Sanchez had a rookie season to die for last year, but until the playoffs started, he was just your average rookie. He made mistakes, bad reads, and ill-advised throws—totaling 20 interceptions in 15 regular season games, tied for second in the league behind Jay Cutler.
But then it all clicked for the kid once January hit. Sanchez's performance in Cincinnati was one of the great playoff games, statistically, in NFL postseason history. He completed 12 of 15 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown, a 139.4 quarterback rating—one of the highest in a playoff game in the Super Bowl era. One of those three incompletions, for the record, was a dropped touchdown pass in the end zone by Braylon Edwards. Yes, he was one drop away from a perfect rating in his first career playoff game.
Now, does that make Sanchez an elite passer? Far from it. He played well enough to beat the Chargers in his second road playoff win a week later, and he had a fantastic game in Indianapolis. You gotta tip your cap to Peyton Manning, who picked the Jets depleted secondary apart in the AFC title game.
Sanchez does not need to pass for 4000 yards to have a successful season. All he has to do is be the smart game-manager he was towards the end of the season. Of course, the top-ranked rushing offense and an elite offensive line don't hurt. But credit the Jets for giving him the tools he needs to succeed. You don't need to reinvent the wheel, you just gotta keep everything rolling.
Which brings me to my next point. The Jets... and the Dolphins. Yes, we Jet fans will own it. We got swept by Miami last year. If you ask the Dolphins fans, it might have been the highlight of their season. You see, it's hard for them to admit, but, well, clearly the Dolphins, their fans, their players, and their beat writers, live vicariously through the Jets.
Don't take my word for it. Just ask Dolphins' beat writer Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, whose recent Dolphins' piece had all the familiar stink of inferiority complex that Jets fans have come to know and roll their eyes at.
He even had the nerve to take a shot at Ryan's weight , which is pretty low for a team's official beat writer. I mean, I know Dolphins fans spit in Ryan's face at a UFC event a few months ago, but that's because every fan base has scum.
I expect better from a writer.
Why do the Dolphins have to mention the Jets all the time? I ask this seriously, as a Jets fan who only cares about my team and how well WE do next year.
While the Jets have improved a roster that was already a formidable beast, the Dolphins have whined about it. The Jets don't want to be "paper champions," but that's exactly the card the Miami media has thrown out there again. And that's fine. It must be boring to have a football team that no one cares about when they're losing. From a 1-15 season a few years ago to an 11-5 miracle season aided by an easy schedule in 2008, Miami fans have always shown up when there's something in it for them.
Us Jets fans have waited years for a team to be proud of. Now we finally have one.
Not only that, but we have a coach who's not afraid to speak his mind and talk the talk before he walks the walk. Damn right Rex Ryan talks trash about having what he believes is the best team in the NFL. Why the hell should he feel any differently?
In the age of the no-comment, the "next questions," and the intentionally ambiguous language coaches use with the media, as well as the flat-out lies, ("I'm not going to be the Alabama coach" ring any bells, Fins fans?) it's so refreshing to have a coach in Rex Ryan who could not care less if he rubs people the wrong way.
He's already proven in year one that he can walk the walk.
It's not as if Ryan is talking out of his you-know-what. He knows damn well what he's saying and he means every word of it. He takes the pressure off his players so they can just do their thing and run his system, a system that's got a proven track record dating back to the Buddy Ryan days.
And that's just it.
The Jets always talk their team up, while the Dolphins talk our team down, instead of looking themselves in the mirror. Why do Dolphins fans feel so compelled to yap about the Jets all the time? Hell, we're not even the defending division champs, but that's going to be a moot point during the season.
Memo to Fins fans: You guys have a GOOD team. A really good team. A very similar team to the Jets, even. The Dolphins also have a young star-in-the-making at QB. They also have a good offensive line and backfield. They have a young, talented defense and a very good head coach. It's not like you're the Bills, here. But at least the Bills focus on their own team.
The Jets will be dead set on proving all their haters wrong once the season starts, anyway. In the meantime, maybe the Dolphins should focus on their own team, and when we play them twice this year, then we'll start to care what they think. Once those games are down, the Dolphins are irrelevant again.
Don't forget, the Jets may have "snuck into the playoffs" but only because the Dolphins and Steelers CHOKED their spots away. Thanks for playing, boys. Better luck next year. The Jets proved they belonged though, rendering that argument moot, anyway.
In the meantime, we'll continue to be better than them in pretty much everything... including ridiculous hip-hop videos. PLAY 'EM OFF, LT!