NFL Week 15: Mark Sanchez Is Key to Jets Beating the Steelers

Sammy MakkiAnalyst IDecember 18, 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

It's panic time for the New York Jets and if they lose this huge Week 15 game to the Steelers, their playoff hopes are in jeopardy.

The Jets have never won at Heinz Field and they won't be the favorites for this game. Most people are expecting the "Same Old Jets" to lose, but there is a way they can win this game. The entire key will be the play of Mark Sanchez, especially with Troy Polamalu not playing.

The Jets last season were most successful by going with their ground and pound offense and they tried to stick to it this season. By bringing in Santonio Holmes and bringing back Braylon Edwards, the Jets should be suited better to pass the ball. It hasn't worked as great as their running game did last season, but in this game, it's the key to getting the victory.

Normally, there are at least five keys to a win for a football team in a game, but it's simple against the Steelers: pass the ball all game long. That's not an exaggeration.  Sanchez and his receivers better outperform the duo of Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson.

There is no such term as "ground and pound" when facing a Steelers defense that's the best in the league in stropping the run. The Steelers only alow 60 rushing yards per game, tops in the NFL, and that fact alone should tell the Jets they must eliminate their ground game.

The Jets have scored a total of nine points in their last two games and for whatever reason, their offense has stalled. But, it shouldn't. Not with the talent they have.

Santonio Holmes will be returning to Pittsburgh where he was their Super Bowl XLIII MVP against the Cardinals and hasn't done anything over the last three games.

The last time he was productive was in Week 11 against the Texans when he caught seven passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns. That was when he was in a stretch of three straight games of catching the game-winning or game-deciding play. He hasn't been seen or heard from since, and must be a factor in this game.

Safety Troy Polamalu will be sidelined with an ankle injury and is a major part if not the leader of the Steelers defense. When he doesn't play for Pittsburgh, they tend to play bad.

Mark Sanchez has been turnover prone since an interception-less first five games of the season. In his last eight games starting in Denver, he's thrown 12 interceptions. He was looking like he'd throw zero for the entire season but that's also when the Jets looked like they were going to go 15-1.

Point being about the interceptions is with Polamalu out, the chance of him throwing three or four picks is decreased.

Cornerback Bryant McFadden has not been good this season and Holmes should go up against him and have a field day. It's not the pass defense that's powered the Steelers' defense so this should be a game in which Sanchez puts up at least 300 yards with a couple of touchdowns. If Sanchez doesn't have a big day in the air, the Jets offense could be shut out.

There are four key players the Jets' defense will have to lock down in order to be successful. They are Ben Roethlisberger of course, along with Hines Ward, Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall.

The running back Mendenhall has had a monster season, rushing for close to 1,100 yards. Ward has really been bad this season when he hasn't had a big game. There hasn't been any in between with him.

He's went for over 100 yards receiving four times, but has gone for 54 or less in each of the other nine games. Still, he did go for over 100 yards last week against an awful Bengals defense, and the Jets have to watch out for him along with the more productive receiver Mike Wallace.

This has the makings of a low-scoring game with both teams having better defenses than offenses, and if the Jets want to outscore the Steelers, they better get a huge passing game out of Sanchez.

Otherwise they'll be staring at three straight losses at the worst time to enter a prolonged losing streak.