Just over nine months ago, rookie Mark Sanchez walked off the field looking defeated after a loss to the Colts in the AFC Championship Game. A mediocre season by the fifth overall draft pick had exploded into a Wild Card playoff run.
Statistically, the New York Jets were a much better team last season. They had the league's top defense and run game. That isn't the case this year, but a more well-rounded New York squad now has a passing game that it can rely on.
Sanchez has reached 12 touchdowns—his total from last season—through just 10 weeks this season. And the interceptions have been cut down as well. He amassed 20 picks last season; he's on pace for half of that this year. He is making smarter decisions and winning more games.
Everything he has dreamed about since his career at USC began just two years ago is well within his grasp at the age of 24. He has some talented targets at his disposal and a surrounding cast with few holes.
Critics have argued that his completion percentage is not improved much from last year. They say that his inflated stat line is a result of more pass attempts. While that may be partially true, he is making noticeably impressive throws and he learned to throw the ball away. He is throwing less interceptions, so in turn, he's throwing the ball away more.
Sanchez is also throwing the ball downfield more often. This leads to more touchdowns and more yards, but long passes are typically broken up as they are low-percentage attempts. His completion percentage may be at the bottom of the league, but he stacks up pretty well in other categories.
He ranks 12th in passing yards, beating out his young counterparts: Josh Freeman, Jay Cutler and Sam Bradford. Joe Flacco has just 141 more yards than Sanchez. Unfortunately for all of the quarterbacks playing better than him, there's only one stat that truly matters.
Mark Sanchez has brought the Jets to a league-best 7-2 record that is matched by the Atlanta Falcons and the winner of tonight's Patriots-Steelers matchup. The Jets have sole ownership of first place in the AFC East, as well as a first seed in the conference if the playoffs were to start today.
Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez had a goal for this team—the best record in the league and a Super Bowl victory.
As of right now, they are on pace to do just that. With a perfect 3-0 division record, the AFC East is theirs to lose. Sanchez is calmly dropping back in the pocket, eyeing a championship wide open downfield; all he has to do is pull the trigger.