TORONTO - The NFL playoffs don’t begin today, but if they did both the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens would be on the outside looking in.
Pretty safe bet that 10 weeks from today both will have righted the ship.
The Jets in fact may already have gone to great lengths to do just that.
The Ravens will need at least one more credible performance before anyone forgets they somehow went into Jacksonville on a Monday night and lost to the Jaguars.
For the Jets though, all signs point to Rex’s rascals having somehow righted the listing ship in just a couple of weeks.
Plenty will point to the come-from-behind win over the Chargers but the real moment came a few weeks back when Rex Ryan and company got back to the ground and pound game that had worked so effectively for this team that somehow got it in its head that it could just bring in a few receivers and suddenly become a passing game.
That didn’t work for a few reasons, chief among them being that Mark Sanchez is not the type of quarterback who can make that work.
The other being that a passing team is more of an all or nothing outfit. When it works (see Green Bay and New Orleans) it’s a thing of beauty with the points building quickly and opponents quickly losing hope and interest in the game.
When it doesn’t it means your defence is spending a lot of time on the field and tiring and becoming less effective with each and every unsuccessful pass thrown.
The Jets have a very stingy pass defence, with its strength primarily in its secondary where Darrelle Revis and, to a lesser extent, Antonio Cromartie can shut down even the most effective receivers assuming the pass rush remains consistent.
The longer the Jets defence is on the field, the less effective that pass rush becomes which ultimately puts more and more of the onus on a secondary.
Revis individually more often than not will shut down a receiver by himself for the duration of game regardless of the circumstances, but give a decent quarterback enough chances and he’ll find holes in the coverage of safeties Eric Smith and Jim Leonhard.
But pound the ball and play a ball control game like they have proven to be adept at with Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson and that defence once again becomes the team’s strength.
Ryan was basically the teenager who is handed that tricked-out Mustang at the age of 16 with all that horsepower and all those bells and whistles. In his case it was veteran receivers Derek Mason and Plaxico Burress joining Santonio Holmes.
The test drive though turned out to be a dud. Sanchez wasn’t up to maximizing all that talent or dealing with all the options such a plethora of receivers entails.
Give Ryan and his coaching staff credit for recognizing this early. He did so after a Week 4 loss to Baltimore. The Jets still lost their week 5 matchup in New England but have since won two in a row and more importantly are looking more and more like the Jets team Ryan boasted would win it all.
We’re not sure we would agree with Ryan about that at this point, but we do believe they will at least find a way back into the playoffs to take a shot at it.
THIRD AND SHORT
Shawne Merriman’s season is over. The Bills placed the veteran linebacker on injured reserve on Tuesday thereby ending his 2011 season. His Achilles, an injury that kept him off the field all of last season too, flared up in practice recently and is not responding to treatment ... Normally a break from all the bruising and banging football players endure in a season is a good thing, but not this season. With actual hitting in practice limited to 14 days a season under the new collective bargaining agreement, the last thing a team needs these days is time off. The 12 teams who have already had their bye weeks will attest to that. Those teams are 3-9 following their bye week.
SUGGS ON CAMERON LIKE RAY ON RICE
There really is no excuse for laying the kind of offensive egg the Ravens did Monday night in Jacksonville.
And normally we would chastise a player like Terrell Suggs for breaking ranks and points fingers, but in this case he just happens to be 100% correct.
“It baffles me that Ray Rice only had (eight) carries,” the Ravens linebacker said before the assembled media. “This is a Pro Bowl running back you’re talking about. They fed their horse. We have to feed our horse.”
Suggs and company did their job holding the Jags to four field goals, but he clearly didn’t believe offensive coordinator Cam Cameron did the team any favours with his strategy.
“I don’t really know what the game plan was,” Suggs said. “When I have a Pro Bowl running back, and he’s not getting his touches, I’m going to feel some kind of way about it. He wants the ball. And I think we should feed him. Ray Rice is a phenomenal player. You have to use your phenomenal players. I have to question how many touches Anquan [Boldin] had. We’ve got guys on this team that can do some great things. We have to use those guys. It’s that simple.”
For the record Boldin was targeted 12 times and caught four of them. Rice had eight opportunities to rush the ball and was targeted another eight times as a receiver. Management may not like players questioning the coaching staff so openly, but in this case it was warranted.