New York Jets: Why the Jets Will Finally Become AFC Champions This Season

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New York Jets: Why the Jets Will Finally Become AFC Champions This Season
Al Bello/Getty Images
Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez celebrating after beating the Patriots in the 2011 playoffs.

As most people know, for the last two years, the New York Jets have come short of making it back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1969.

In the 2010 playoffs, they played one bad half of football that allowed Peyton Manning and the Colts to advance and play against the Saints in Super Bowl 44. The Jets had another chance to make the big game earlier this year, because of a terrible first half, the Jets were not able to advance again as they could not pull of the comeback victory against the Steelers.

Fans and those in the Jets organization are hoping for a more positive result as the Jets look to make the playoffs for a third year in a row and hopefully advance to the Super Bowl this time. 

It comes as no surprise that head coach Rex Ryan has already made his annual guarantee that the Jets will win the Super Bowl this year. He may not be Joe Namath but Ryan does know what he is talking about; the Jets are a talented team and this year could be their year (if the lockout ends in time).

Although they are having minor problems with their receiving corps, the Jets offense will be even better than it has been the last two years.

Entering his third year as the Jets starting quarterback is Mark Sanchez. Sanchez has had two rough seasons after being drafted, as he has had to deal with the harsh New York media from time to time, a knee injury in 2009 and an injury to his throwing shoulder last season. Even with all that, the young quarterback is maturing, skill-wise and mentally. 

During his rookie year, Sanchez threw more interceptions (20) than touchdowns (12). Since then, he has become a smarter quarterback by not trying to force the ball into tight spaces and learning not to make stupid throws. In 2010, he threw 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. 

Returning for his fourth year as a New York Jet is tight end Dustin Keller; since Sanchez’s rookie season, Keller has been a favorite target as he has speed and the ability to catch the ball; this combination could be seen put to use perfectly when the Jets ran bootlegs especially designed so that Sanchez could get the ball to Keller downfield, which would produce big plays.

The Jets running game has not missed a beat since they released Thomas Jones after the 2009 season. Last season, LaDainian Tomlinson proved to the Jets and the rest of the NFL that he still had some gas in the tank as he ran for nearly 1,000 yards while sharing carries with Shonn Greene. 

This will likely be Greene’s first full year at the starting position. In the last two years the Jets have been in the playoffs, he has shown that he can be of help to the team by running through defensive players while showing his elusiveness and breaking into the open field.

Greene is a great combination that is a perfect-fit for the Jets running game. His clutch plays in the last two divisional playoff games capture this dual-threat he has well. Against San Diego and New England he was able to break away from the defenses and score touchdowns that would put the Jets’ opponents away, allowing them to advance to championship game.

As long as Greene keeps his fumbling problem under control, he will likely start and make a big impact in his first year as a starter.

As always, the Jets offensive line will be one of the many reasons why the running game will be successful this year. While Eric Mangini did not do very well as the head coach of the Jets, one of the more successful things he did, along with General Manager Mike Tannenbaum, was drafting young and talented offensive lineman. 

The two that stand out most are center Nick Mangold and left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson.  The two have anchored the offensive line since 2006 as they have protected for Brett Favre, Chad Pennington, Mark Sanchez and several others.

This year there should be no drop-off in terms of production from the offensive line as left guard, Matt Slauson (entering his second year) has proven to be a quality lineman and Brandon Moore is still a great right guard. 

The only position that is up for grabs this year is right tackle. Last year, Damien Woody endured several knee injuries which kept him out of games late in the season. As of right now, there are two very capable candidates for the position: Vladimir Ducasse (entering his second year) and Wayne Hunter (entering his eighth year).

Over the last two years, the Jets defense has needed no introduction. After the second week of the 2009 season, most of America knew that the Jets defense was not one to be reckoned with as they held Tom Brady and the Patriots to nine points in the Jets' first home victory against the Patriots since 2001. 

This year, the Jets will likely re-sign cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who will complement Darrelle Revis (otherwise known as Revis Island). Aside from the 45-3 massacre by the Patriots and the loss in the AFC title game, the Revis-Cromartie duo has locked down receivers like Chad Ochocinco, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson and several others. 

The linebacker corps has pulled its weight since Day 1. The combination of Bart Scott and David Harris contains opponents’ offenses and run the defense. Scott is best known for his big hit on Ben Rothlisberger in 2006 and his catch phrase “Can’t Wait!” which he coined in an emotional postgame interview after the Jets beat the Patriots earlier this year in the divisional round of the playoffs. 

Looked at as the quiet but deadly one is David Harris. While he may not have had an emotional interview with ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio, he did lead the league with the most tackles during the postseason, proving that he plays a large role in how successful the Jets defense is and has been over the last two years.

Many players on the defensive line are starting to lose their luster because of age or injury, but through the 2011 NFL draft, the Jets have found some solutions to their problems. 

For the last two years, defensive tackle Kristopher Jenkins has injured his knees, preventing him from playing a full season, which is why the Jets will not try to re-sign him once there is no lockout.

In order to replace the skill Jenkins brought, the Jets drafted Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson. The New Jersey native is a bully when he is in the trenches. He is the kind of player Rex Ryan wants on his team; not only does he have the raw talent to be successful with the Jets, he is familiar with the type of defense Ryan plays. 

The Jets also drafted Hampton’s Kenrick Ellis. Like Wilkerson, Ellis is a hard-nosed player that can be physical when coming off the line of scrimmage and make plays or create plays for his teammates that will benefit the Jets. Both will be great additions to the defensive line. Their skill will help create a balanced defense that can handle attacks on all fronts.

The last two years the Jets have been playing in the playoffs, they have been road warriors; without a single home playoff game, they have still managed to be 4-2 in the last two years.  Entering the divisional round the last two years, the Jets were considered to be giant underdogs as they faced talented teams like the Chargers and Patriots.

Somehow, Ryan and his coaching staff were able to look past the disadvantages at hand and try come up with a game plan that would help lead the team to victory. They were successful in their attempts to get past the David and Goliath divisional round matchups but have yet to conquer the AFC title game. 

This year will be much different, though. With the addition of two young defensive lineman, the defense that Rex Ryan has worked on for the last two years is near completion.

What most people do not notice about Mark Sanchez in the playoffs and in tough situations is that he produces a lot more. In the several comeback games in 2010, it was always a great pass from Sanchez that would set up Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards momentum swinging receptions. 

With a clutch and more mature Sanchez throwing to talented receivers like Dustin Keller or Santonio Holmes* and handing the ball off to great rushers like Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson, the Jets should be able to get past the competition in the NFL. 

The New York Jets will finally have an all-around team that has the best chance of making a run at the Super Bowl. It will not be an easy feat, with the talent they have and spectacular coaching, they should be able to win a vast majority of their games and make the playoffs. 

Unlike the last two years, there are no longer any giant holes in the Jets roster that would keep them from advancing past the title game, and there is a very good chance that Rex Ryan was right in saying the Jets will win Super Bowl 46 and bring the Lombardi Trophy back to New York City.

 

*The Jets will likely re-sign Holmes once the lockout is over because Edwards violated his probation in Cleveland with his DUI in New York in September of 2010 and could go to jail.

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