After they made the playoffs, Rex Ryan was touting his NY Jets as the favorites to win the Super Bowl (even though he thought they were mathematically eliminated a few weeks before the end of the season). Well, as we all know the Jets didn't make it to the Super Bowl.
Now after a decent offseason and a few trades some "experts" are already starting to jump on the Jets bandwagon for the 2010-11 season. Way back in February, Herm Edwards (who coached the Jets from 2001-05) picked the Jets as the team to beat in the AFC.
Every time you turn on the NFL Network, it seems like someone is being asked the question, "Are the Jets the team to beat in the AFC?"
Well, here is the answer...NO!
Sure, the Jets played great defense, but that's no surprise, the Ryan boys have been defensive masterminds for decades. Rex's twin brother Rob is the defensive coordinator for the Browns and their father Buddy Ryan was not only a head coach (Arizona Cardinals), but he also helped design the defensive game plan that held the Baltimore Colts to seven points in Super Bowl III.
But, is great defense enough?
Last year's great Jets defense only managed to win nine games. The only reason they made the playoffs was because the Colts rested their starters in their Week 16 matchup.
Maybe the other reason the Jets are getting a lot of press is because people believe the offense will be significantly better. Mark Sanchez played well for a rookie signal caller and he'll probably be better this year—unless he hits a sophomore slump like Matt Ryan (Falcons).
If he matures the Jets air attack could be sensational; you've got an athletic tight end in Dustin Keller and a former top-five pick in wide receiver Braylon Edwards. But you've also got to deal with Santonio Holmes, and by the time he gets on the field (first, he's got to serve a four-game suspension) all of his off-the-field baggage is likely to catch up to him.
Plus, there's no guarantee that talent will translate into chemistry.
The running game could take a step backwards, too. LaDainian Tomlinson was the best running back in the league...five years ago. Now he's 31 and a shell of his former self. He's definitely not a step up from Thomas Jones.
Maybe Shonn Greene is ready to be the workhorse back of this team, but part of the reason he was so good in the playoffs this year was because his legs were fresh (Jones had most of the carries during the regular season).
How good will he be in the playoffs next year after taking the bulk of the carries for this club for 16 games?
And what about the teams that are always considered the elite teams in the AFC?
So the Jets managed to beat the rust out of the Chargers in the second round of the playoffs. Phillip Rivers and company have been stewing over that loss for months now. Not only that, but the Bolts reloaded this offseason.
They lost one of the greatest running backs ever to play the game (LaDainian Tomlinson), but they moved up in the draft to get another stud ball carrier from the WAC, Ryan Mathews (TCU was part of the WAC when LT played for them in 2000).
Rex Ryan and the Jets probably won't catch the Chargers off their game in the playoffs two years in a row.
The Jets managed to beat the Colts in the regular season, but in the playoffs when the game really mattered, the Colts didn't go down so easy. The Jets had an 11-point lead at the half, but in the end four-time MVP Peyton Manning and the Colts torched the Jets with a final score of 30-17.
And they did it while starting a pair of rookie corners—those guys (Jacob Lacey and Jerraud Powers) will probably mature just as much as Sanchez in their second season.
The Jets play in the AFC East and that division belongs to the Patriots. In fact, there have only been three years this decade that the Pats have not won the AFC East title (and one of those years was 2008 when Tom Brady went down with a knee injury in Week One).
Last year the Jets split the series with Pats, but don't look for the Patriots to lay down and give the AFC East to the Jets without a fight.
Playing in the AFC East might cause even more problems for the Jets. So the Jets made some moves in the offseason to get better—that's what most teams do (except maybe the Bills).
That's what the Miami Dolphins did. The Dolphins probably weren't that worried about the Jets in the offseason anyway. They swept the Jets last season putting up at least 30 points in both matches.
They did that without a go-to wide receiver. This year they have Brandon Marshall who is easily one of the top-five receivers in the league. The Fins have their own young quarterback too, Chad Henne, and he's got a canon for an arm—so the Dolphins offense should make a big leap in production in 2010.
So, can the Jets make the playoffs next year?
Sure, it's possible, but before Jets fans get the anointing oil out for Sanchez—and before they buy their plane tickets to Dallas—they should see how this season plays out because there's a whole lot of football to be played before the Super Bowl in 2011.