Monday, December 26, 2011
Seven-step drop: What's next for Jets?
By James Walker
Here are seven notes and observations after Week 16 in the AFC East:
New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan will not be on the hot seat. I already hear grumblings coming from Jets Nation, but it's not going to happen. Ryan is too good a coach. He led the Jets to back-to-back AFC title games in his first two years. Ryan is not the issue in New York. His problem is his brash trash-talking makes him an easy target. I can go down a list of many things that went wrong with the Jets this year before I get to Ryan. But his boastful ways place the biggest spotlight on him when things go bad.
Mark Sanchez still must prove he's the long-term answer at quarterback for the Jets.
If quarterback Mark Sanchez doesn't improve his accuracy next offseason, he's going to have a hard time proving he's the long-term solution in New York. Most great quarterbacks complete about 60-65 percent of their passes. Sanchez has been hovering around the mid-50s his entire career and hasn't shown much improvement in three seasons. Sanchez misses too many open receivers, particularly deep, which either leads to interceptions or leaves big plays on the field. Sanchez has some strengths, but accuracy is a major weakness that is hard for teams to overcome. He threw a career-high 59 times Saturday against the New York Giants and only completed 30 passes for a 50.8 completion percentage.
The New England Patriots got the best of both worlds against the Miami Dolphins. New England received a scare by falling behind 17-0 at halftime, but rallied to win, maintaining the inside track on home-field advantage. This game was enough to serve as a wake-up call for the Patriots. Despite seven straight wins, they cannot go on cruise control. It was a good learning tool that head coach Bill Belichick can build on late in the season.
Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo had his best all-around game of the season against Miami. He led New England with 13 tackles, two sacks and two additional hits on the quarterback. I like the idea of giving Mayo more opportunities to get to the quarterback. Mayo is at his best when he's attacking, as oppose to reacting. Saturday's game marked Mayo's first two sacks of the season. Mayo only has 5.5 for his career.
Jake Long tearing his biceps was the worst possible news for the Dolphins' left tackle. Long is going into a contract year in 2012. Any chance he had of Miami giving him an extension this offseason might have ended with this season-ending injury in December. Long will miss the Dolphins' final game and has a lengthy rehabilitation process ahead. Miami would be wise to let Long play out the final year of his contract and see how he bounces back from this major injury. Eventually, Long will be looking to become one of the NFL's highest-paid offensive linemen.
With the Detroit Lions clinching a playoff spot last weekend, the Buffalo Bills are alone with the longest non-playoff streak in the NFL. It will be a dozen years and counting for the Bills since they last made the postseason. This season, Buffalo got off to a fast start but fizzled down the stretch. According to ESPN's Stats and Information, the teams with the second and third longest streaks are the Houston Texans (nine seasons) and San Francisco 49ers (eight seasons). Both will make the playoffs this season, leaving a huge gap between Buffalo and the next team -- the Cleveland Browns (eight seasons).
Finally, parity is alive and well in the NFL. The league is doing exactly what its supposed to, considering the amount of average teams. An astounding 14 clubs are in position to finish 8-8 or 7-9 this season. Other than the Green Bay Packers (14-1), there are no true dominant teams. Fans love that nearly every team has a shot. There is a fine line for most teams being in or out the playoffs.