NFL Playoff Predictions: Can Mark Sanchez Lead the New York Jets to Dallas?

Thomas CopainCorrespondent IJanuary 13, 2011

NFL Playoff Predictions: Can Mark Sanchez Lead the New York Jets to Dallas?

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    NFL Playoff Predictions continue to roll off the line as the Divisional Round gets closer and closer.

    Of the eight playoff teams left, the New York Jets are an interesting case. They're very talented, with playmakers on each side of the ball. Yet they play this rope-a-dope style, somehow finding ways to win and win late.

    A lot of that comes down to Mark Sanchez, who's growing into the role, and while he's making mistakes, he's still finding ways to win. That makes whether or not the Jets can make a run so intriguing, because no one really knows which Jets will show up each week.

    With that in mind, here are some reasons why and why not the Jets can make a run.

Reason Why No. 5: Sanchez and His Receivers

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    Sanchez has a pretty good receiving corps around him, namely Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, not to mention a good tight end in Dustin Keller.

    Sanchez is young and still learning, but many times this season his receivers have been able to save him. It's a pretty good safety blanket to have when the Jets can go downfield.

Reason Why Not No. 5: Inconsistency

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    Sanchez is a young quarterback, but he's still growing and maturing into the position. With Sanchez' growing pains, the Jets offense has gone up and down all season. When we mentioned which Jets will show up each week, the offense and the passing game is a big part of that.

Reason Why No. 4: Help from the Running Game

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    Sanchez can be very good when he's getting help from his running game, and when Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson are playing well, like they were at the beginning of the season, Sanchez flourishes as well.

    Run the ball effectively, and Sanchez is free to pick and choose when he wants to throw and can play much better.

Reason Why Not No. 4: Becoming a Pass-Heavy Offense

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    It's no surprise that as the running game slowed down, Sanchez started to throw more and threw more interceptions.

    Making the offense one-dimensional puts a lot of pressure on Sanchez, as it does every quarterback, but especially a young quarterback like Sanchez, as it can force him to throw more and try to do more.

Reason Why No. 3: Short Passes to Manage Game

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    The Jets went with more of a short passing attack last week against Indianapolis, and Sanchez was somewhat successful.

    One would think that as the Jets move forward, the coaching staff will rely more on those short passes and dump-offs to get Sanchez into the game and into a rhythm as they move forward.

Reason Why Not No. 3: Sanchez' Right Shoulder

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    Sanchez has been hampered with a bum shoulder the last couple of weeks, which made the Jets' short game last week so much more logical.

    Sanchez has come out and said his shoulder his fine, but one has to wonder if it will become an issue if the Jets would like to go downfield with their two big-play receivers.

Reason Why No. 2: He's a Winner

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    In his short career, Sanchez has taken on the personality of the rest of his Jets teammates, and that's a fight to the bitter end type of team.

    Already this year, Sanchez has led fourth quarter game-winning drives against Cleveland, Houston and Indianapolis, and he's proven he finds ways to win games. That kind of intangible can be a big asset to any team.

Reason Why Not No. 2: Who Is He Playing Against?

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    Sanchez has beaten some good teams in his couple of years in the league, but the road to the Super Bowl will be very tough.

    If the Jets can get by the Patriots this week, then the Jets will see either Baltimore or Pittsburgh. Sanchez has beaten the Steelers, but he struggled mightily against the Ravens. Truth is either one of those defenses knows how to shut down a young quarterback.

Reason Why No. 1: Confidence

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    Despite the growing pains he has had, Sanchez has never lost his confidence, and his coach has never lost confidence in him. That kind of confidence allows him to make throws like he did on the last drive Saturday against the Colts and make some of the throws that veterans are supposed to make.

    Talent can only take someone so far; the confidence has to be there too.

Reason Why Not No. 1: Turnovers

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    But confidence also doesn't help that he can be interception-prone at times, and New England's, Pittsburgh's and Baltimore's respective defenses are all aggressive and feed off creating and capitalizing on mistakes.

    Sanchez will have to be smart to get the Jets to the promised land, and it will be hard enough without him turning it over. 

The Verdict

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    As we've seen so far in these playoffs, anything can and will happen. With how crazy these playoffs have been so far, the Jets have a good chance. They probably have the toughest route, along with Baltimore, of getting there, but they can get there.

    Like we said earlier, it will all depend on which Jets team will show up this week against New England and which Mark Sanchez shows up. He's going to be a good quarterback, and the tools are all there for him to be successful for a long time. I just don't think it happens this year.