J-E-T-S� Jets Jets Jets?
AFC Championship Pre-Read
January 21, 2011
Just so you know: I had been working for almost two months on a commentary for this week featuring New England as the opponent, figuring back then that the Stillers and Patriots would be headed for a re-match. Everything was there including an idea for a defense designed specifically to stop Brady and his smurfs. Then, the amazing happened. J-E-T-S? You gotta be kidding!
This left me scrambling, but, fortunately, I see a good number of Jets games each year, so I�m fairly familiar with the team. With that in mind, I give you three keys for a Stillers� win this Sunday � hit all three, and I�m pretty confident the team will win. Hit less than three, and you�ve got yourself a real barn-burning struggle.
- Don�t allow points on anything but offense: In the first meeting, the Stillers� advantage as the superior offensive squad was negated by a kick-return touchdown. If the Steelers don�t allow points from the Jets� special teams or defense, they stand a good shot of winning this one. I don�t believe the Jets can win simply based on points scored from their offense: they�ll need extra help. Don�t give it to them � squib the kick-offs if you have to. A defensive or special-teams TD takes the pressure off Mark Sanchez, something we�ll get to in our next key�
- Pick off Sanchez: Lost in all the hoopla over what the Jets� defense did last week, was the fact that their QB didn�t turn the ball over. The Jets don�t ask Sanchez to win games, but simply make key throws and avoid interceptions. A sure sign the Stillers are winning would be for Sanchez to throw at least one pick. Keep this stat in mind: Sanchez has thrown 22 TDs vs. just 7 interceptions in Jet wins. However he�s thrown just 7 TDs vs. 24 interceptions in games the Jets have lost � practically the mirror opposite! Whether or not Sanchez gets picked tells a lot about who�s going to win the game.
- Forget �balance,� put the game in Roethlisberger�s hands: You�ll hear the same old clich�s trotted out about the Stillers, including the old (and wrong) �Pittsburgh runs the ball and plays defense.� Forget all that � the biggest advantage the Stillers have is at the QB position. The biggest play in the Ravens game � the bomb to Antonio Brown � was made because Roethlisberger changed the routes from 15-yard in�s to 50-yard go�s. Yes, Mendenhall will have his chances, but the Stillers don�t need to run to win. They do need to pass. Even if that means more than 50 percent of the time.
You�ll hear how effective Mendenhall was running the ball last time vs. the Jets. But running the ball is what the Jets want the Stillers to do � it allows them to play their game by eating clock and keeping the score close. The Patriots fell right into this trap by taking the short runs the Jets conceded, resulting in mind-boggling time-chewing clusterfucks. Go for the win, not the run stats � that means some quick-strike scoring.
A lot will be mentioned about Darrelle Revis and Mike Wallace. I believe, however, that the Jets will mostly cover Ward with Revis, and put Cromartie on Wallace (with safety help over the top). Our �Young Money� crew of Sanders and Brown will have big-play opportunities. Note: should Revis ever match up one-on-one with Wallace, go immediately to an inside route (slant or post). I�ve seen Revis struggle with both.
Rex Ryan did a masterful job of confounding both Peyton Manning and Brady with pre-snap looks. However this time he�ll face a quarterback who excels as much after the ball has been snapped. Disguise all you want, Rex, we�ll see how you fare this time against ramblin� Ben and his full complement of receivers including Miller.
Don�t Get Too Caught Up in What the Jets Did to the Patriots
The Jets did a number on the Patriots by activating 11 DBs and playing tight man coverage on the outside. Keep in mind, though, that the Stillers WRs are stronger and faster than both the Patriots� smurfs and the M*A*S*H unit Indianapolis was forced to field. Remember last game the numerous times that Jets DBs were grabbing the Stillers WRs� jersey from behind; they seemed to get beaten all game.
Much was made of Polamalu�s absence last game, but to me the even bigger story was Heath Miller. Without Matt Spaeth to play nickel back for the Jets, they�ll have a tougher time stopping the Stillers passing attack. We�ll see how they respond mentally, too, especially on a short week after whooping it up. ��
The Stillers have the better offense. The Stillers have the better defense, too, though I�d give them more of an edge if the Stillers offensive line didn�t help the opponent so much. The Jets� big advantage lies with their superb special teams (Brad Smith led the league in kick-return average). Make enough plays there, and they could win. However, I believe this game will come down to an intangible: the Stillers� tougher, more physical style of play compared to both New England and Indianapolis.
The Jets did what I thought you should do against New England: bang their smallish receivers off their routes, rather than play mind games with soft zones. Stiller WRs can expect the same treatment. It�s up to them to be more physical than the Pats� smurfs.
I can tell you from watching the Jets their offensive line is terrific -- certainly better than the Ravens. That�s why the Jets were able to run on the Stillers with a bit more success than most teams. This situation will have to reverse so that Sanchez can be put into third-and-long situations.
Making Sanchez Dirty
Sanchez registered a blistering 127 rating last week, but he can have stinkers: he put up 43 and 45 rating games vs. Green Bay and Miami this year. (Ben by contrast didn�t even come close to sinking that low.)� The Jets put up a whopping 6 points combined in those games. Sanchez hasn�t had to come back from, say, two touchdowns in either playoff game; forcing the game onto his shoulders would be ideal from the Stillers� point of view.
The Stillers can win the 34-31 shootout; likewise they can prevail in the 17-13 slugfest. I�m not sure that holds true for the Jets� last two opponents. The Jets beat a wildly overrated Pats team that hasn�t won a championship since 2004. (The Jets were dead in the water against a crippled Colts team if not for a last-minute kick return.) We�ll see how they fare this week against a tougher team just two years removed from its last Super Bowl win. Attention TV hypesters: the Steelers are the team that�s won 2 of the last 5 Super Bowls.
The Stillers have two players on defense that can take over games: Troy Polamalu and James Harrison. The Patriots have exactly zero of those guys. You do the math.
Some Favorable Match-Ups for the Stillers
Looking at the stats, the Jets have blitzed considerably less than they did last year. Remember though, Rex Ryan has a fetish for two things: toes, and blitzing. When they do bring it, they are more effective blitzing into the middle rather than off the edges. This plays into the strength of the Stillers� offensive line, where Pouncey resides. The Jets also send their DBs on blitzes more than any other team. Again, this plays into the Stillers hands, as Ben is the league�s highest-rated passer vs. defensive-back blitzing.
And for those who think Roethlisberger is �only a scrambler� (I�m talking to you, Steve Young), chew on this: Roethlisberger has the second-highest yards-per-attempt rating in football --inside the pocket -- with a 102.8 passer rating. Unlike Brady and Manning, he can kill you from both within the pocket and on the run.
The Jets not only have refrained from talking trash about the Stillers, they�ve practically slathered them with praise. Don�t believe for a minute, though, that Ryan isn�t shrieking up a storm behind the scenes, and playing the disrespect card. Knowing the Jets, they�ll have at least one �rub-in� play designed for Santonio Holmes. Let�s hope the Stillers don�t end up regretting dumping him by the end of the night.
The Bottom Line
If you�ve read my commentaries before, you�ll know I�ve said one thing above all: �the Stillers will go as far as their offense will take them.� That still holds true. I generally don�t worry about the defense, regardless of how many yards they give up, as they shine in the most important stat of all: points allowed. The offense, though, inconsistent as it�s been at times, is another story.
If the offense stops slopping it up the first half (as they did last Saturday) and puts together a complete game, the Stillers will be almost unstoppable. If they continue to wait til the second half to execute, we�ll have another nail-biter. Likewise, should the offense statistically dominate the first half, the point total must reflect it.
The Stillers are 60 complete minutes of offense away from a trip to Dallas and every Cowboy fan�s worst nightmare. J-E-T-S? Golf! Golf! Golf!
I�d like to close with a special love note to Deion Branch, who complained about the �no class� Jets celebrating on his home field after Sunday�s loss. If you attended the 2005 AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field, you�ll remember this guy � he holds a special place in the hearts of Stillers fans. (If not, check out http://nwe.scout.com/2/709741.html and scroll down towards the bottom of the page.) Said Deion after the game: �that stuff comes back to bite you.� It sure does, Deion, it sure does.
And for those of you disrespecting the Terrible Towel (a group which right now includes some Jet fans), you might want to take a look-see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDj6kywTm50&feature=player_embedded
Here we go Stillers here we go!