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In the end, the New York Jets probably won't get where they thought they would this season -- the Super Bowl.
And it probably won't be because they have a loud-mouth coach in Rex Ryan. Or because NFL America officially hates this franchise now because of all the hype. Or because they foolishly allowed their team to be featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks." Or even because their best player, Darrelle Revis, missed all of training camp and the preseason.
|So reaching the AFC title game makes the Super Bowl a logical destination for the following season? If only it were that easy for Mark Sanchez & Co.|
Ultimately, it might simply be that the Jets had too many things go right for them toward the end of last season and the chance of everything falling into place again seems unlikely.
That doesn't mean they aren't a good team and won't be in the mix for the top spot in the AFC. They indeed will. Baltimore and New England aren't miles ahead of the Jets. Both squads have issues, too. And then there are the Colts. There's no reason to believe they won't be the team you will have to slay to get to the Super Bowl.
From all we've heard -- from the minute after they lost to the Colts in the 2009 conference championship -- the Jets believe they will be the last team standing in AFC in the 2010 NFL season. And most of that thinking comes from the fact that they led the Colts 17-13 at halftime in Indy's building. This time around, the Jets believe they can advance.
But it's not automatic, taking the next step from conference championship game to Super Bowl, simply because of what you accomplished the season before. And let's be honest. They didn't exactly blow people away.
There were some dog games, including that 10-7 loss to the Falcons at Giants Stadium.
The Jets rallied to finish 9-7, and they needed help to get to the postseason. The Colts and the Bengals, both division winners and preparing for the playoffs, took their feet off the gas. They let up and didn't put up much of a fight as the Jets defeated them in the final two weeks of the regular season.
The Jets beat the Bengals 24-14 in the wild-card round. They beat the Chargers 17-14 in the divisional playoffs. Then they lost 30-17 to the Colts in the AFC title game.
You can understand why Ryan went public with his love for his team. The first-year coach was so close to pulling off a miracle, getting the Jets back to the Super Bowl for the first time since their only time, when they shocked Baltimore in 1969 to win it all.
Because of that, there is reason for optimism.
It's easy to assume you will build off all the good things that happened last season. Plus, you come into the season with a lot of confidence. That's always a good thing. The Jets overachieved in 2009, but they have to feel with all that experience from a long playoff run under their belts that they have as good a shot as anyone to win a championship.
No one can bash the Jets for feeling that. It would have been cool, though, to have turned down the volume a bit publicly on all the talk about the Super Bowl.
You're counting on a young, second-year running back in Shonn Greene, who was a monster in the postseason as a rookie.
Last season, the Jets ran the ball more than any other team (607) and for more yards (2,756). But you can't imagine that defensive coordinators will not make them into a throwing team this season after all the success they had on the ground. The odds of the Jets, even with the addition of veteran LaDainian Tomlinson, leading the league in yards on the ground seem slim.
Speaking of throwing the ball, enter second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Jets were second to last in passing, averaging just 149 yards a game. Only Cleveland with 130 yards a game was worse.
A lot of whether the Jets will be a one-year surprise or the real deal will hinge on Sanchez's improvement. If he plays better, the Jets will have a real shot. If not, .500 might be more realistic. Yes, 8-8.
And that defense, which allowed just 14.8 points per game last season, isn't going to sneak up on anybody. The word is out, and offensive coordinators will be working overtime to attack it differently than in 2009.
For sure, it will be no easy task at a repeat performance for the J-E-T-S. That's why there's doubt about 2010.
Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.
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