How good is Rex Ryan feeling? He has to be at one of those points in life where the apex of good feeling stays for awhile. He accomplished a personal goal by beating Peyton Manning.
A stubborn guy, Ryan loathes taking consistent butt-kickings. By mixing pass coverage schemes against Indianapolis last week, his squad finally did it for him.
Playing the spoiler role by depriving America of yet another classic Indianapolis-New England playoff game, the Jets keep flying. To the ball in the opponent’s grips and to the lightning rod of controversy, they keep flying. It’s what drives them—being the villain to Tom Brady’s Captain American Patriot image.
Trash-talking Antonio Cromartie doesn’t like Brady’s showboating and he lets the media know. He called the quarterback an unflattering expletive. He’s lucky he didn’t snap back with a remark about Cromartie’s fatherhood skills. Brady deflected the comment with a back-handed slap.
The commentary could have gotten very ugly and heated. Even Terrell “T. Sizzle” Suggs—a veteran of heated rivalries—knows the Jet-Patriots have a “legitimate beef.”
Brady doesn’t see Cromartie as a rival on par with cornerback Darrellle Revis “Island.” The two teammates will try to shut Brady down like they did Reggie Wayne and Manning. “Cromartie’s a good player. Revis is a great player,” Brady said.
That comment could be taken as a slap in the face to the ultra-athletic Cromartie, who probably considers himself second to none. He already picked Brady off once this season. The comment was definitely more wood for this rivalry’s fire.
I don’t see the Jets-Patriots as a rivalry on par with the Ravens-Steelers. I see New York-New England as a heated rivalry with one team owning three Super Bowls in this era. These two teams, though, even dislike each other's organizational images.
"Sexy Rexy" has a different coaching philosophy than the pristine and media-controlling—allegedly—Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “We don’t have to be all lovey-dovey and say he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Ryan said in reference to Brady.
Ryan could be trying to talk the Patriots into a war of words. He took the blame for the blowout loss against them earlier this season. He’s now saying it’s personal between him and Belichick—that the Jets players had little to do with the loss. He deflected attention away from his players.
Brady freely admits he hates them—at least earlier this season he did. He also respects Cromartie’s ball skills—allegedly. Like other NFL teams, the Pats get fueled by other teams talking trash to them, but the Jets take it to another level.
Like many competitors on this level, Ryan is good at shutting opponents up and ripping their hearts and wills out with silent words after victories.
The Colts aren’t talking about losing to the Jets—not to the Jets. Nick Folk kicked a 32-yard field goal as time expired last Saturday night. He fueled the New York Jets 17-16 win. Indy (11-6) believed they had it after Adam Vinatieri's 50-yarder. With 53 seconds left, it was his longest kick since 2008.
The Jets got a 47-yard kickoff return from Cromartie, and Mark Sanchez set Folk up with an 18-yard strike to Braylon Edwards. With the rock at the Colts’ 14, New York called timeout with three seconds left, and Folk served Indianapolis with the stunner.
In serving Peyton Manning, Ryan got rid of one playoff nemesis and now has a chance to rid another. They jetted from Indianapolis, and we’ll find out what the Jets are really made of on Sunday.
They were embarrassed by Belichick and the Patriots, 45-3, in their last meeting. New York (12-5) now heads to Foxboro, Mass. Rain, sleet or snow, Brady and the Patriots offense will be in the comfortable confines of their turf. This meeting is the last of the 2011 NFL Divisional Playoffs.
If you believe Ryan is smart, then you believe he’ll let Sanchez air it shootout style. Why would he do that? The Patriots ranked No. 30 of 32 NFL teams in defense against the forward pass.
His game-planning against Indy forced them to run the ball, and the Jets took the air out of it. The Colts are notoriously generous in run defense while being explosive on offense. The Jets ran the ball, therefore, and controlled the clock. LaDainian Tomlinson scored twice.
The Jets have the No. 1 rushing offense remaining in the playoffs. The Patriots defense ranked No. 25 in total defense and No. 11 against the rush.
Every defender standing and two of them rushing could be one of the plethora of Jets looks. Brady’s probably seen them all and should be prepared. Through research and patience, I’m prepared to give my prognostication on this game.
Lineman Damien Woody’s injury changes things. If the Patriots can exploit his replacements, then they could shut down the Jets running game. Sanchez could be forced to pass.
He won’t be allowed to get involved in a shootout with Tom Brady, though, unless the Jets are losing big. With his receivers, Sanchez will shock the NFL world and torch the Pats secondary if he’s let loose.
Santonio Holmes is a former Super Bowl MVP, and he is accustomed to getting loose at the highest levels. He probably welcomes a shootout. Reporter Inez Saenz predicted Sanchez will do it and opened a whole other can of worms.
Dustin Keller could easily worm his way to a great game. He lit the Pats up for 115 yards in the Jets 28-14 win on Sept. 19, 2010 in East Rutherford, N.J. Saenz lit the Jets locker room up earlier this season and was in the middle of a sexual harassment controversy. She was there to interview Sanchez. Keller is his favorite target and could establish Jets dominance over the middle of the field.
In the middle, up the seams and on the edges, Brady will go after Cromartie more than Revis. Just on good principle, he’ll try Cromartie on a fly-route or two.
Brady tried Revis against Randy Moss, but it’s a better matchup for the Jets with him covering wide receiver Wes Welker.
New York will try to keep the Pats quick-passing game in check and prevent them from scoring touchdowns early.
Belichick wants to open up at least a lead of 17-points to draw Sanchez into a shootout with Brady. That’s something Sanchez will lose—Belichick believes.
Kick returner Brad Smith believes he can score against any special teams unit. He’ll play a key role for the Jets by setting them up in good field position. He could score at least once on a runningback or a rush.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored 13 touchdowns this season—tied for second in the NFL behind Arian Foster. Ellis is underrated; he should be able to set the Jets up pass plays and also rack some nice total yardage.
Belichick will have tricks up his sleeves to gain big chunks at a time. A slip screen or flea-flicker, for instance, could catch the Jets with their pants down. I don’t think it will. The Jets coaches could pull out their bag of trick plays from former quarterback Smith's arsenal. Tomlinson can throw it as well when ready.
Ryan will have his No. 3-ranked rushing defense ready. He'll have his offense trying to take the air out of the ball early. If that doesn’t work, then he could unleash Sanchez—good or bad.
There's no question who the better quarterback is in this game, but it didn't stop the Jets from beating Peyton Manning and the Colts.
Brady is 14-4 in the playoffs and coming off his worst playoff loss—33-14 to the Ravens last year. He's motivated to bounce back in a big way. A lot of snow fell on Foxboro this week and the Patriots excel in snowy weather, wind and cold. New England will remain institutionally not rattled by the trash-talk and slosh their way to a victory if they have to.