Jets Shock San Diego To Keep Super Bowl Dreams Alive
By Michael Avallone
Wild Card weekend certainly lived up to its billing. Whether it was Randy Moss’ hair and his…ahem…celebration routine during the Vikings upset of the Packers or the Jets thrilling win over the San Diego Chargers, the first round of the NFL Playoffs had a little bit of everything. Next week, the more intense matchups begin as the remaining eight teams march towards Jacksonville for Super Bowl XXXIX.
New York Jets
PASSING OFFENSE (A-) – QB Chad Pennington responded to criticism about his less-than stellar play of late with an excellent game. The Jets’ QB completed 23-of-33 pass attempts – including 10 straight to open the second half – en route to 279 yards and two TDs. The wideouts combined for 13 receptions, eight by WR Justin McCareins (87 yards) and four by WR Santana Moss (100 yards, 1 TD). Geez Paul Hackett, where has this game plan been all year?
RUSHING OFFENSE (B-) – With the unusual rainy weather in San Diego, the running game was expected to struggle and to some extent it did. Despite a sub-par game from RB Curtis Martin (18 carries, 66 yards), Gang Green did manage a respectable 126 yards on the ground. Thanks to backup RB LaMont Jordan’s 50 yards on just seven attempts – including a huge 19-yard scamper on the winning drive – New York was able to hang tough against a good run-defense.
PASS DEFENSE (C) – Boy how would things have changed had the Chargers won this game. Jets’ LB Eric Barton’s inane personal foul on Chargers’ QB Drew Brees (31-for-42, 319 yards, 2 TDs, 1INT) gave San Diego new life with just seconds remaining in the game eventually allowing the Bolts to tie the score. Gang Green’s secondary allowed TE Antonio Gates to catch six passes for 89 yards, but 44 of them came on one catch, albeit on the game-tying drive.
RUSH DEFENSE (B+) – New York’s run defense has been solid all year, and they continued that trend with a strong effort against San Diego. Star RB LaDanian Tomlinson was held to just 80 yards on 26 carries and more importantly, he was kept out of the endzone. Led by the NFL Defensive Rookie-of-the-Year, Jonathan Vilma (13 tackles), the Jets’ LBs and tackles clogged the inside, allowing Tomlinson no room to maneuver. Averaging just 3.1 yards per carry, LT’s longest run was for only 12 yards.
Although the Jets were no pushovers coming in, most people (myself included) did not give them much of a chance in this game. San Diego’s overall offense and defense seemed to be too much for Gang Green to handle. However, New York showed its mettle and will now face an even tougher test against the league’s best team (record-wise), the Pittsburgh Steelers. Do the Jets have another trick or two up their sleeves or will Offensive Rookie-of-the-Year Ben Roethlisberger lead his team to a 15th consecutive win?
Up Next : @ PIT (15-1) Prediction : PIT 21, NYJ 10.
Other Predictions :
IND 31, NE 24
The Pats reign stops here. Even with a defensive genius as head coach, a decimated New England secondary means no stopping the wideouts MVP Peyton Manning has at his disposal. The Pats should be able to score some points on Indy’s “D” but Manning is just too hot right now to overcome.
ATL 24, STL 17
Atlanta QB Michael Vick will make all the difference in this one. The Rams defense may be poor, but the only true threat the Falcons have is the man behind center. If the Rams can shut Vick down, an upset is possible. Expect decent production from St. Louis QB Marc Bulger and WRs Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt but the “D” won’t come up big when it matters.
MIN 27, PHI 20
Yes, I’m picking the upset (have to have SOME fun here). Don’t read too much into the Eagles struggles the last two games. They weren’t trying, no matter what they say. However, no T.O. means a heavy burden on Philly QB Donavan McNabb and RB Brian Westbrook. If Vikings’ QB Daunte Culpepper can avoid turnovers and WR Randy Moss can keep his pants on, Minnesota has a very good chance at leaving the City of Brotherly Love with a huge upset.