Monday, September 27, 2010

Jets, Yanks both pick up big wins

There was a point last night where the Jets or Dolphins would run a play and I would change the channel to Yankees-Red Sox. Someone would throw a pitch (or call timeout and step out of the box) and I would change back. This went on for about half an hour, which goes to show you how great (and how important) both games were.

With a win, the Jets could take over first in the AFC East, something many didn't foresee after an abysmal offensive performance in the opening week. They are still tied at 2-1 with both Miami and New England but are in the driver's seat with head-to-head victories over both and a matchup with division cellar-dwellar Buffalo next weekend.

If the Yankees lost to Boston, they would have gotten swept and held just a 4.5-game lead over the Red Sox in the Wild Card standings. And with their final 3 games of the season coming in Boston, that could have potentially turned scary.

Instead, the Yanks fought back twice in the final three innings. Alex Rodriguez's two-run home run put New York up 2-1 after seven but after Mariano Rivera blew a four-out save, the Yanks needed a Robinson Cano single with the bases loaded to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th off of Jonathan Papelbon. The Yanks loaded the bases again in the 10th and a walk to Juan Miranda sealed a very important win for the Yanks.

New York is just a half-game behind Tampa Bay for the AL East lead now and their magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 1 (as is Tampa's). Barring a winless stretch from either squad and an undefeated stretch run for Boston, the only playoff races worth watching are in the National League.

The Jets, on the other hand, are far from the stretch run. But that doesn't make last night's victory over Miami any less important. Losing to Miami would've put the Jets two games behind the Dolphins and essentially 2.5, as Rex Ryan said before the game.

Now the Jets are essentially a half-game ahead. A three-game swing, no matter at what point of the season, is important to any team's playoff hopes. As well as the confidence of beating a good-looking division foe on the road.

Mark Sanchez had his second straight 3-touchdown, no-interception week, although he could've thrown two in the fourth quarter alone. Jason Allen nearly intercepted an overthrown ball from Sanchez and Kendall Langford dropped a gift pick-six from the Jets quarterback on an attempted screen pass.

Sanchez still has some work to do, but given the time to go downfield he throws a great ball. He fit some balls into tight spaces like his second touchdown pass to Dustin Keller and made some great back-shoulder throws to Keller on his first touchdown and Edwards on a key third down in the fourth quarter.

Through three weeks, it's obvious this is LaDainian Tomlinson's backfield and Shonn Greene is just a change of pace. As great as Tomlinson looks now let's not forget the tread on his tires; Greene will be a factor late in the season and if the Jets make the playoffs, similar to last season when Thomas Jones wore down. But considering Tomlinson hasn't had more than 15 carries in a game this season, maybe LT will last all year.

The defense isn't as stifling as it was last season but they still stop the run very well, although their pass defense has left a lot to be desired. The Jets have already allowed more 100-yard receivers this season (3) than they did all of last season (1). And every time, it's been the opponents' top target (Anquan Boldin, Randy Moss and Brandon Marshall).

You can argue that those three receivers make up 60 percent of the top five players at their position, but the absence of a healthy and effective Darrelle Revis (thanks to a prolonged preseason holdout that ended just in time for the finale of "Hard Knocks;" coincidence? I hope so) at the start of the season is obvious.

If he returns healthy, presumably in two weeks when the Jets face Minnesota, the Jets pass defense should improve exponentially. Antonio Cromartie allowed Brandon Marshall to catch 10 balls for 166 yards but came up with some big plays when necessary and should be a good matchup against opponents' second receivers. Rookie Kyle Wilson has struggled but there's nowhere to go but up, right?

The bottom line is this: The Jets look good. Week 1 seems like the aberration so far and while Sanchez won't throw for three scores every week, he doesn't have to. Consider this team will be getting three Pro Bowl-caliber players back in the next few weeks (Revis, Santonio Holmes and Calvin Pace) and things are only looking up for the Jets.

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