The New York Jets are in the AFC Championship game for the second time in as many years. Only this time, they stand a much better chance. Or do they?
Coming into the season the Jets were viewed as one of the favorites to go to Dallas for the Super Bowl. After completing an 11-5 regular season, sneaking by the Colts in the Wild Card, and “upsetting” the mighty Belichickians in the Divisional Round, they are one game away from meeting those predictions. The only thing that stands in their way are the battle-tested, 12-4 Pittsburgh Steelers. Do the Jets stand a chance? After all, they didn’t stand much of a chance against the 14-2 Patriots last week.
There is good news for the Jets. Santonio Holmes is sure to have another breakout performance, as is the norm for him in the playoffs. The bad news for the Jets. Mark Sanchez, Holmes, and company will not be playing New England’s defense this week. It’s up to Rex Ryan and the wunderkind Sanchez to put together an offensive game that resembles their performance against the Patriots to get the best of Pittsburgh’s staunch defense. The Steelers defense is superb at virtually every position, so mental lapses cannot be tolerated.
Unlike the previous two weeks, the Jets are erring on the side of respect in the media. No cheap shots on the opposing quarterback’s preparation habits, no “this is personal” statements, no inflammatory remarks. Instead, they are likening Ben Roethlisberger to a polar bear when describing the difficulty in bringing the 6′5′ 240-pound quarterback to the ground. Wait a minute, is this the same team?
The Jets already defeated the Steelers in their Week 15 matchup 22-17. Perhaps they don’t feel a need to provoke them. After all, the Jets were licking their wounds from the 45-3 shellacking they took at the hands of the Patriots in the regular season and the AFC Championship Game defeat last year at the hands of the Colts. They were ready to avenge those losses. So ready that they felt the need to relay their swagger through trash talk. They’ve already conquered the Steelers, now they just have to do it again. Plus they are getting their kick return and wildcat specialist Brad Smith back.
Rex Ryan and Mike Tomlin have expressed their admiration and respect for each other. So where was that last week against the Patriots? I guess there’s no room for admiration and respect when it comes to your divisional rival.
So why taunt someone who’s already been defeated? Could their quietness possibly be because they don’t want to wake a sleeping giant? New York better be ready to play this time, because the Steelers’ defense is just as good, if not better, than their offense. It should be a good one. And it’ll be trash talk free, the way it should be.