AFC Championship Game: Are the Jets the Real Deal?By Ben Kamisar on January 23, 2011 at 12:02 am in Featured, Jets
To be honest, I never expected the Jets to make it to a second consecutive AFC championship; realistically, almost no one did. But now the Jets sit on the precipice of the Super Bowl, having defeated two of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL along the way, and have proved to the doubters that they are one of the elite teams in the league. Of course, a Super Bowl appearance isn’t anything but a lock, as the Jets must go through yet another elite quarterback on a top AFC team in Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. But after watching the Jets take down the Colts and the Patriots with their season on the line, I may finally be convinced to jump on the bandwagon.
This game will come down to how the defenses perform; the old adage about defenses winning championships will prove true. What the Jets’ defense has been able to do over the past two weeks has been incredible. Holding Peyton Manning to 225 yards and only one touchdown in the first round and keeping the Patriots’ potent offense from exploding like they did against the Jets in week 13 are incredible tasks. It is essential that the Jets play with the same passion that they have shown throughout this postseason in order for them to stay successful. But the Steelers have their own incredible defense, one that allows the fewest rushing yards per game in the league, something that could prove deadly for the Jets. This postseason, the running game decided to reappear for the Jets, as LaDanian Tomlinson is running with his old spark again. The Jets were able to rush for an astounding 163 yards and 120 yards against the Colts and Patriots respectively, something that was able to open the field up for Mark Sanchez to make plays. If the Steelers are able to thwart the run game and force Sanchez to throw, the Jets will undoubtedly be playing from a position of strength.
This brings up the interesting topic of Sanchez himself. No one will argue that Mark Sanchez is an incredible quarterback, but what has become apparent is that he knows exactly how he fits into the Jets’ plan to win games. Sanchez does not need to throw bombs down the field and he knows that. Tough, physical football wins the Jets games and for Sanchez to play effectively furthers this goal. But to Sanchez’s credit, he is definitely developing as a quarterback and he proved as much last week at the end of the third quarter. After a beautifully orchestrated drive by the Patriots ended in a touchdown and two point conversion, the Jets were only up 14-11. The Jets needed to score at this point to keep it a two possession game. It would have been incredibly dangerous for the Jets to put the ball into Tom Brady’s hands down the stretch within one score. Where a relatively inexperienced quarterback should have failed, Sanchez stood cool in the pocket and delivered a strike to Jerricho Cotchery that went for 58 yards and put the Jets well into Patriots territory. A few minutes later, Sanchez got the ball into the end zone with a great pass to Santonio Holmes, keeping the Jets in the driver’s seat down the stretch. Drives like these are what Sanchez needs to do in order to prove that he has matured and I believe that he will continue to evolve into an above average NFL quarterback. But with the level of talent that this defense has, I think this may spell the end for the Jets incredible season.
Prediction: 17-14 Steelers
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