The New York Jets will make it to the Super Bowl this year because of two words: Buddy Ball.
I'm not speaking about just New York Jets coach, Rex Ryan; I'm also speaking of his father, Buddy Ryan.
Buddy developed a simple strategy. Sack, hit, and pressure the opposing quarterback enough while containing the opposing running game and you can beat anyone.
His philosophy doesn't require a great quarterback, just one who can protect the ball and manage the game.
A solid running game to dominate time of possession, keeping the defense fresh while wearing down the opposition, and an attacking defense will consistently win games. Add talent to that equation, and that will win Super Bowls.
The Chicago Bears in 1985 epitomized this philosophy.
The team was built around defense. With defensive players like Mike Singletary (MLB), Richard Dent (DE), Otis Wilson (LB), Wilbur Marshall (LB), Dan Hampton (DL), and Dave Duerson (SS); combined with a powerful running game led by the great Walter Payton, they decimated the league.
Holding teams to a touchdown or less six times during the regular season that year, and shutting out the New York Giants (21-0) and the Los Angeles Rams (24-0) on the way to defeating the New England Patriots (46-10) in the Super Bowl, they showed what Buddy Ball could do.
Rex Ryan learned the lessons from his father well. Though hosting last year's best defense, the Jets still lacked one thing: defensive scoring. Darrelle Revis shut down the opposing team's best receivers, but the other corner positions lacked punch.
They also didn't pressure the quarterback as effectively as Buddy Ball requires.
In order for "Buddy Ball" to work, you need pressure and ball hawks. Rex's answer? Trade for Antonino Cromartie, and draft possibly the best corner in the draft, Kyle Wilson, while adding a situational pure pass rusher in Jason Taylor and moving Vernon Gholston to the line, where he has flashed his collegiate form in the offseason this year.
With Bart Scott quarterbacking the defense from the linebacker position, teams have no where to throw and nowhere to run.
Getting younger on the offensive line and drafting a blocking full-back, Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson should present a challenge for any defense.
Greene proved that he could carry a solid load last year with occasional relief. LT wants to show that he still has the ability to help a team win, and he is hungry to get a Super Bowl before his career ends.
A year under his belt, quarterback Mark Sanchez doesn't have to be spectacular, just accurate. New receiver Santonio Holmes (an absolute steal) gives Sanchez a player who can get open and gain yards after the catch. His presence will also take attention off of the talented but under-performing Braylon Edwards, letting him face more single coverage.
If you're a defensive coordinator, who do you stop?
Santonio will make defenses pay if they stack the line, and more than anything that singular move on offense will pay great dividends late in the season and into the playoffs.
"Revis Island" has help.
Cromartie is a cover corner with elite "press defense" skills. In 2007, playing a press defense, he claimed 10 interceptions in the regular season, and two more in the playoffs.
When they changed the defense his numbers suffered, claiming a total of five picks over next two years.
Now playing in a defense that fits his natural skill set, he will cause offensive coordinators and opposing quarterbacks alike to have sleepless nights.
Adding Wilson, who is also a natural press coverage corner back, makes playing multiple wide receiver sets against them, nebulous at best.
With pressure coming from every side in the Buddy system, which corner do you challenge? Will the quarterback have a choice while running for his life?
The "Rex Factor"
With a virtual Pro-Bowl team, the question becomes, "how do they hold it all together?" "How will they create and maintain chemistry?"
The answer: Rex Ryan.
His personality made a good team over-achieve last year.
Players buy into his system, but they also buy into him.
Strong coaching personalities can be glue for teams, and Rex's knowledge-base and gregarious demeanor is what sets the culture for the team.
The best defense in the league last year just got markedly better. The players required to make Buddy Ball work are all in place. The offense is challenging enough that defensive coordinators have to pick their poison, and Sanchez has a year already under his belt. These Jets are for real.
You can take this to the bank. Not only will the New York Jets get to the Super Bowl...they will win it.