New York Jets Must Beat Buffalo Bills To Keep Their Playoff Hopes Alive

Victoria SterlingCorrespondent INovember 21, 2011

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 17:  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets rolls out of the pocket to pass in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

It's depressing watching your team throw away their playoff hopes. Yes, throw away. Because that's what the New York Jets did in Denver. Sure I know mathematically they're still alive, but this isn't a playoff team—let alone a championship team.

The person who is going to absorb the most immediate heat is Mark Sanchez. That pick-six was inexcusable. The timeout snafu at New England was a misdemeanor compared to that pick. 

When Sanchez forgets about eye discipline and stares down his receiver like he is on a date with a supermodel, only bad things can happen. I know Mark feels pressure to get the ball to Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress. The funny thing is, I don't think those two care that much as long as the team is winning.  

Once again, matters were made worse right before the half when Sanchez lined up the Jets to try to run a play with the clock running down. He should have spiked the ball. Then they could have run one good play and set up for a field goal. Completely botched. 

This, like last week, is a textbook case of not understanding situational football. Tedy Bruschi railed on ESPN about it after the game and he was right. Sanchez says they rep things like that, but I don’t know that it is getting through to everyone. 

Another example—in this case Sanchez did understand the situation—was the big catch by Plax where it was dicey if he got both feet down in bounds. Sanchez immediately knew to line up and run a play, any play, to avoid a possible challenge. The problem is the rest of the team were discombobulated getting back in position. A wasted couple of seconds and there came the challenge flag.

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 17:  Quarterback Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets hands off to running back Joe McKnight #25 of the New York Jets against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Bro
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

There are too many veterans on this team for that to happen. 

But these are minor compared to the big-picture problem: the offensive line. For the last two years, the offensive line has been one of the best in football. It took me til now to figure out why. This line is great at blocking for the run. That’s mostly what they Jets offense has been the past two years.

But they are awful at pass blocking. Especially on the edges.  

Sanchez was worried enough about it to comment on Denver’s pass-rushers at his weekly press conference. He knew Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil were going to tee off. And sure enough, what happens on the very first pass play of the game? Sanchez is flattened in the backfield. 

A turnstile would be a better O-line than this one against the pass rush. A lot of Jets fans (OK, me!) complain that the Jets never throw the long ball. Well they can’t, because the line can’t hold the protection long enough for the receivers to get downfield. So the play-calling gets predictable and the offense stagnates. 

And then there’s the run game. Ground-and-pound is great. But let’s be honest: The Jets don’t have a premier running back. There’s no Arian Foster or Darren McFadden or Matt Forte on their roster.

The obvious solution is to run more play-action. That’s what happened at the beginning of the second half in Denver and voila…the chains started to move. And then inexplicably Schotty went away from it. He started calling more pure passes and Mark started to get hammered. 

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 17:  The New York Jets offense huddles up against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Jets 17-13.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Once again, Sanchez took some brutal hits. He almost didn’t get up from the Von Miller hit from behind. And there was no flag. It was a blatant hit after the throw.

In that moment the cameras flashed at Brunell and I hope that every Jets fan who complains about Sanchez viscerally understood that the only alternative to Sanchez is Mark Brunell. If Brunell had taken that hit, he would have to have been carted off. But the Jets coaching staff were cavalier on the sidelines as if the hit was no big deal. 

Incredibly, Mark came back in. 

All this talk about Sanchez’s lack of passing ability misses the point. Sanchez is getting hammered in the pocket on pass plays because opposing defenses know he is a threat to pass. It is also not lost on opponents that there is no viable option on the depth chart behind Sanchez. I mean, if you’re playing to win a championship, the quickest route to neutralize the Jets is to sideline Sanchez. Not a very nice sentiment, but there you are. 

In the end, all roads lead back to coaching. This team has an assortment of world-class athletes that on paper should scare any other team. But the coaching staff doesn't seem to have the vision to use them correctly. They are slow to react, both week to week and in-game.

The simplest thing is to adjust the play-calling to put the players in position to succeed. It’s disheartening to watch the conservative repetitious play-calling on both sides of the ball get beat by smarter teams. 

I hate that I had to spend all Sunday watching football and performing advanced calculus as each game’s score rolled in trying to figure out what helps and hurts the Jets' tie-breaker scenarios. 

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 17:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets reacts as he coaches in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

That should be the first tipoff that you don’t have a very good team. Winning teams chart their own destiny; they don’t rely on others. But the Jets got lucky on Sunday. The Raiders won and put more distance between themselves and the rest of the AFC West. Cincinnati lost and so did Tennessee

And Buffalo lost. Which brings us to next weekend: Bills at Jets. This is just the kind of game that terrifies me. It’s basically an elimination game for both teams.

The Jets need to take a long look in the mirror and decide if they are a playoff contender or the bumbling, mistake-prone squad that has shown up the past two games. 

Sometimes I wonder how a season that started off with such promise is now on life support. But add up stupid football, missed tackles, the inability to block and dumb play-calling, and you’ve got yourself a .500 squad. 

It’s up to the Jets themselves what they want to do about that. 

The rest of us will be watching to find out on Sunday.