Winning Two of Three Will Be Tough Task For Free-Falling New York Jets

Sammy Makki@sammymetsfanAnalyst IDecember 14, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 12:  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets against the Miami Dolphins at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 12, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The Jets had everything going for them. They were the talk of the town in New York City, for a rare time taking the spotlight away from the New York Giants.

Why not? They were the boisterous bunch back in preseason and had gotten off to an historical start by their standards.

At 9-2, they were looking like the best team in the entire league and on their way to a Super Bowl in Dallas. But, just like old times, the Jets came back down to earth to shatter all discussion of a potential championship.

All of a sudden, it's the Giants versus Eagles match-up that's getting more hype than this upcoming Jets versus Steelers game. All of a sudden, the talk has gone from Super Bowl to whether they can avoid their second collapse in three seasons.

The Jets were in this position in 2008 with Brett Favre. They were 8-3 through 11 games opposed to 9-2 and went 1-4 to finish the season. There's no reason to believe they won't finish this season 1-4. They're already 0-2 and one would think will go 1-2 in these final three weeks.

If they finish losing four out of five to end up 10-6, it would be as disappointing a season in Jets history, considering it's coming off a season with an AFC Championship Game appearance.

Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Nothing is a given in the NFL and on any given Sunday, anything can happen. But, the next two games on the schedule are going to be brutal.

Not only do they face the first-place Steelers and Bears, but both on the road. The Jets were undefeated on the road before their drubbing to the Patriots last week.

Now, they enter Pittsburgh—having never won at Heinz Field—looking not to lose all hope for a 2010 that had the most hope since 1999.

The Steelers are perhaps the toughest team in football. Not in the matter of being the toughest to beat, but the most hard-nosed.

They have a pretty good defense, although it's only effective against the run, and they have Ben Roethlisberger who never lets up for any team.

If the Jets are going to have a chance at beating the Steelers, they'll have to stick to passing the ball. There are plenty of issues regarding that plan though.

The Jets have been debating all along whether or not they've become a pass-first team or still a ground and pound team. There is no such term "ground and pound" when facing a Steelers defense that's best in the league in stopping the run.

They only allow an average of 60 yards per game rushing, so the duo of Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson will most likely be ineffective throughout the game.

The problem with passing all day long, which can be done against the Steelers—they rank 23rd against the pass—is that Mark Sanchez is coming off three consecutive poor performances. If he has as bad a game as he did against the Dolphins, completing only 17-of-44 passes, the Jets won't have a shot at winning.

Sanchez should still pass the ball an equal amount of times as against Miami, but he has to complete at least 23 of his passes. Anything under 50 percent against a great run defense will be unacceptable. Plus, unlike the Dolphins, the Steelers won't drop every interception they make.

If the Jets don't beat the Steelers, it's on to Chicago. The Bears got crushed at home to the Patriots, but the Jets aren't the Patriots, as we saw.

You think the Steelers have a good run defense? How about the second-best run defense in the league as the Bears allow only 88 yards per game on the ground.

This is the problem the Jets are about to run into over the next two weeks. Their running game has began to stall at the same time that their quarterback has begun to regress. If Sanchez was playing like he did for a while earlier in the season, they'd be in a good position, but he isn't and they aren't.

Shonn Greene rushed for a grand total of 17 yards on eight carries against the Dolphins, an absolute putrid number that must increase dramatically. Only it won't happen until at least Week 17 if not in the playoffs, if they even get there.

The Jets should be able to handle the Bills to close the season, being they already crushed them in Buffalo, but that game might be hard as well. If the Jets enter that game having lost four straight, the Bills with nothing to play for could be dangerous trying to play spoiler.

If the Jets are only 9-6 entering that game, they may need it to reach the playoffs over teams like the Colts, Chargers and Dolphins.

The bottom line is the Jets are in a little bit of trouble heading down the final stretch. The schedule isn't easy and they aren't helping themselves with their poor play.

If the Jets are going to recapture all the glory from the season's first 11 weeks, they better pull off some stunners here and there. Otherwise, the playoffs may only be a dream after all.