Here we go again! After yet another disappointing loss, the New York Jets have backed into the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
On Sunday, January 2nd of 2011, the Buffalo Bills will head in to New Meadowlands Stadium for the Jets regular season finale.
While this game seems like a throw-away with no playoff implications pending, and the Jets can afford to take it lightly, I think it behooves them to go out and play a hard fought game for their eleventh win of the season.
The Jets have nothing to play for and at the same time, neither do the Bills... except for perhaps playing for a loss. Currently the Bills are 4-11 and in a three-way tie (with the Broncos and Bengals) for the second worse record in the league. A loss will all but assure them the second overall pick in the 2011 draft.
Yep, this game has all the makings of a real snoozer.
Here are 10 things to watch for in one of the most uninteresting games of Week 17.
After Rex Ryan heard the news that the Jets were in the post-season, regardless of their loss in Chicago, he immediately decided that Mark Sanchez would not play in Week 17. Sanchez has been dealing with shoulder issues and Rex thought he should rest up his QB for the playoffs.
But recently, Rex is back-tracking.
Rex had this to say about the situation: "Now, obviously, his health is the number one concern. It’s kind of fine line because he is hot right now. We can’t afford for him to take a dip. We need him to stay at this level. Those are things we’ll definitely consider. I don’t want to say 100 percent he’s out or he’s in, to be honest with you. That’s what I’m weighing right now."
Sanchez's thoughts are: “I need as many reps as possible, but with the situation we’re in now with my shoulder, I want to see how it reacts to the game and then we’ll take it from there. But we’re going to do whatever’s best for me and the team.”
If Sanchez can play, he should play. He needs to stay in this groove going into the post-season. If the Jets break out to huge lead early in the game, then send in Brunell for garbage time.
If Sanchez is indeed inactive for this game, we'll get our first look at 40-year-old Mark Brunell this season.
Even if Sanchez doesn't start, I expect Brunell to see some playing time anyway. Brunell did start the last regular season game for the Saints last season (a loss) as Drew Brees was rested for the playoffs.
With Sanchez's shoulder ailing, a potential season ending, or game ending, injury is very possible. This game will give the Jets' coaches and fans a good look at what to expect if the worst happens.
There are a slew of Jets players who have been dealing with nagging injuries all season. It would be a safe assumption that some of these guys are going to get their rest in Week 17.
Rex already confirmed that safety, James Ihedigbo, will not be playing.
Some other notable players who've been dealing with injuries are: Nick Mangold, Trevor Pryce, Damien Woody, Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Brad Smith, Santonio Holmes, Eric Smith and Drew Coleman.
Woody, Pryce and Smith did not play against Chicago and probably won't play against the Bills. I think Mangold could possibly see some rest as well.
After totaling an anemic nine points in weeks 13 and 14, the Jets' offense exploded for 47 total points in weeks 15 and 16.
Mark Sanchez played better and talks of benching him were forgotten.
Brian Schottenheimer's play calling improved and calls for his head subsided as well.
The offense seems to be clicking at the right time and it needs to follow this trend. Another dismal offensive outing in the last week of the season, especially against a terrible defense, could spell doom in the post-season.
Even if Mark Sanchez and a handful of others don't play, Mark Brunell and co. should still be able to put up respectable numbers against one of the league's worst defenses.
One Jet who is sure to play in this game is LT.
Tomlinson is 86 yards short of his ninth 1000 yard rushing season. I expect the game plan to heavily involve handing the rock to LT early and often.
Considering that LT ran for 133 yards against the Bills in their first meeting, 86 yards doesn't seem like an impossible feat.
LT earns his ninth 1000 yard season on Sunday.
Since the season-ending injury to Jim Leonhard and the 45 point shellacking from the Patriots, the concerns that were once whispered about the defense have become full-fledged problems.
The serious lack of an effective pass rush is taking it's toll. The more Rex uses his all out blitzing schemes, the more teams are figuring out how to effectively handle it. Seven guys are rushing the QB, none of them are getting to him and the result it a long completion or TD pass. Just look at what Cutler did last week.
The secondary, which was such an asset last season, has become a liability. Without Leonhard to quarterback the defense and with opposing QBs avoiding Revis' side of the field like the plague, the rest of the secondary has been ineffective in stopping anything.
Antonio Cromartie has been feast or famine. Some games he is completely shut-down, other games he's getting torched by the likes of Brandon Marshall, Brandon Tate and Johnny Knox. This trend can't continue in the post-season.
Ok, so I said in the intro that the Jets are already in the playoffs and the Bills can't change that.
But what they can do is prevent the Jets from a potential fifth seed as opposed to the sixth seed.
If the Jets lock up the fifth seed they would potentially play a weak Jaguars team or an ailing Colts team in the first round. But a loss to the Bills would mean the sixth seed and a date with the Chiefs in Kansas City... and the Chiefs are currently undefeated in Arrowhead.
A win over the Bills would earn the Jets their eleventh win of the season. Since the Jets' first season in 1960 they have only won eleven or more games three times (1968, 1985 & 1998).
An eleventh win would be a feather in Rex Ryan's cap.
While the Jets don't need this win for the playoffs, I think they need it for momentum.
Whether or not they rest starters, the Jets need to win this game (in convincing fashion) to keep the momentum going into the playoffs.
Losing again to another inferior opponent could carry an air of failure into the playoffs. This is the last thing the Jets needs.
Like I stated earlier, there is really no excitement surrounding this game. The only way this game becomes exciting would be a very bad scenario for the Jets...it would mean that the Bills either keep this game close or force the Jets to come from behind and/or pull off a game-winning drive.
Either way, it spells bad news for Gang Green.
But in the end, I think the Jets will manhandle the Bills either with their starters or not. LT will run all over Buffalo earning his ninth 1000 yard season.
Jets win 27-10.