Monday, December 27, 2010

Jets back in, Giants back out?

This just in: A strong-armed quarterback plus two of the league's fastest receivers beats man coverage. At least that's what the Bears were able to do against the Jets on Sunday.

The Jets pressured Jay Cutler into an early pick-six but from then on it was all Cutler to Johnny Knox and Devin Hester, who consistently got downfield behind the Jets secondary for three touchdowns (2 from Knox, 1 from Hester). Few people expected a shootout between two teams with good defenses and the potential to struggle offensively, but based on the matchups it shouldn't have been too surprising.

I discussed why the Bears were able to rack up the points (not to mention Matt Forte had a field day on the ground) but Chicago's defense generally allows teams to throw downfield, something Jets fans know is a better fit for Mark Sanchez than a team that only allows the underneath stuff. Even with a supposedly sore shoulder, Sanchez had one of his better games of the season (24-37, 269 yards, TD, INT) and was an impressive 13-for-15 in the first half.

That interception was a killer though, as it shut down a potential game-winning drive from the Jets. Sanchez was unable to recognize the Bears' Cover 3 and his pump fake did nothing to freeze safety Chris Harris, who jumped in front of Santonio Holmes to seal the game. If Harris isn't there, the Jets take a 41-38 lead and might have clinched a playoff spot themselves.

Instead, they had to rely on a Redskins victory over the Jaguars to get in by default. And while that should allow the Jets to rest guys like the aging LaDainian Tomlinson and possibly the injured Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes, I'm sure Rex Ryan and company would rather have gotten in with a win.

Speaking of Ryan, a questionable coaching move probably cost the Jets the game. A fake punt on fourth-and-three from his own 40 resulted in a dropped pass and a Bears touchdown on the next play, while kicking to Devin Hester on the next possession led to a 38-yard return and a 25-yard touchdown to Hester a few plays later.

But the Jets are in and that's really all that matters. The AFC playoffs are set except for the AFC South, but the Colts are in complete control there after Jacksonville's second straight loss. The Giants, on the other hand, need lots of help after their turnover-filled 45-17 loss to Green Bay.

Four Eli Manning interceptions proved that he really does miss Steve Smith and a fumble each from Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs doomed the Giants against Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 404 yards and 4 touchdowns to put Green Bay in the driver's seat for the final Wild Card spot.

There really isn't too much more to say about that game, but possibilities still exist for the Giants to make the playoffs. If they beat the Redskins and the Packers lose to the Bears, they're in. If they win and the Saints lose to the Falcons tonight and the Bucs next week, they're in.

Right now New Orleans (even with a loss tonight) and Green Bay control their own Wild Card destinies. But both have tough matchups next weekend, much tougher than New York's. It's not all over just yet for the Giants and all they really need to do to beat a Rex Grossman-led Washington team is limit turnovers. Take care of the football and your talent will win out. Too bad it may not be enough for the team that many considered the league's best after a 6-2 start.

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