By Steve Kallas
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THE NEW YORK JETS
Did you really expect the Jets, off one of the worst offensive performances ever against the Baltimore Ravens, to actually beat the New England Patriots in Foxboro? Neither did I. The Jets are light years away from where they were last postseason, when they stunned the Patriots up in New England.
But that was then. This is now.
The Jets are not as good defensively as they were last year. The Jets are not as good offensively as they were last year. But it’s worse than that. The Jets are not as cohesive in the locker room as they were a year ago. Look who’s gone from the highly successful team of the last two years: Thomas Jones, Shaun Ellis, Jerricho Cotchery, Alan Faneca, Brad Smith, to name a few. But the biggest loss, from a team perspective, might very well be Tony Richardson. Richardson, an acknowledged leader of the Jets, actually groomed “The Terminator” (although he hasn’t necessarily lived up to his nickname), John Conner, to take his place.
The Jets simply haven’t coped well with these losses, both on and off the field.
Throw in three consecutive losses (yes, to very good teams) and the whole Derrick Mason fiasco (Rex Ryan apparently has admitted that he had a “private conversation” with Mason after denying any such conversation took place) and you have a recipe for disaster.
Is it Brian Schottenheimer’s fault? Well, in this writer’s opinion, he protected Mark Sanchez the first two years, giving him great play calls to make not-so-difficult throws off of play action or roll-outs or moving pockets. But this year, there hasn’t been the improvement one would hope for from a third-year starting QB in the NFL. While the great Bill Parcells still (correctly) calls Sanchez a “young” QB, the reality is that the arrow on the improvement meter is simply not going up.
Already, it looks like Schottenheimer will take the fall if the Jets’ season goes south.
The other problem for the Jets is the emergence of the Buffalo Bills as the Tampa Bay Rays. The past couple of years the Jets and the Patriots have played, from a playoff perspective, the roles of the Red Sox and the Yankees. When Tampa Bay entered the picture, that meant that the Yankees or the Red Sox could be (and sometimes were) the odd team out. Now, with the Bills maybe heeding Rex’s request for someone besides the Jets “to beat the Patriots,” (be careful what you wish for), the Jets could be the team on the outside looking in come playoff time (yes, there is one more wild card in football than in baseball – at least for now – but you get the point).
This could go from bad to worse very quickly.
THE NEW YORK GIANTS
Well, it was ugly out at the Meadowlands last Sunday as well. The Giants, who many believed could sleepwalk in this game and still beat the lowly Seahawks, came out flat, were very fortunate to be in the game, had a big chance to win late despite a poor performance and lost all chance late on another Eli Manning interception (off another tipped ball).
Tom Coughlin’s absurd words from years ago about limiting injuries, etc. have certainly come back to haunt him this season. A walking injured roster, you don’t know who can play for this team until game day. What you do know is that, for whatever reason, plenty of these guys simply can’t get on the field. While former Giant Antonio Pierce can criticize his old teammates for not being on the field as much as he wants, the reality is that you just don’t know if guys who aren’t on the field should be on the field.
And it’s really hard for the retired Pierce, or anyone, to question that.
Having said all of this, to this writer, the Seahawks actually played very well. And many people, including this writer, think that Charlie Whitehurst is a better NFL QB than Tarvaris Jackson. We’ll see forward-looking if the Seahawks, who were woeful offensively before the Giant game, have actually gotten better. But either way, it’s too late for the Giants in a game they had to have, given their incredibly tough second-half schedule.
The good thing for the Giants is that they are actually in a strange, not-as-good-as-you-thought NFC East. Nobody other than Rex Grossman really thinks that the Redskins are going to win the NFC East (even though they are in first). The Dallas Cowboys could win the Super Bowl or they could be a sub-.500 team, much of it depending on whether the good Tony Romo or the bad Tony Romo shows up on game day. And the Eagles, at 1-4, will either make a run or drift into oblivion as their margin for error has become very small, very early.
All in all, a wacky division.
THE NEW YORK YANKEES
Well, what can you say? Another year with questionable pitching, with the greatest ninth-inning closer who can’t help you and with a string of “stars” who simply can’t hit in that short sample that is the post-season. The five-game series in the first round really does make the first round a bit of a crapshoot, no matter what you might hear from the experts (funny, in New York, you never heard anything about the post season being a crapshoot from 1996-2001, did you?).
The reality is that everything, not surprisingly, is magnified ten-fold (100-fold?) in the playoffs. With the inclusion of the wild card (for the first time, in baseball, losers could win the World Series) and the expansion to three rounds of playoffs, the winning of the World Series became infinitely harder. The importance of the regular season became less important as teams locked into the wild card wouldn’t even try to win the division (and why should they?).
But guys like Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have proven, with rare exceptions, that they can’t hit in the post-season.
And that’s a problem (in addition to a lack of top-tier pitching after the about-to-opt-out Sabathia) that will be very hard to fix.
THE NEW YORK RANGERS
It’s hard to get on the New York Rangers after only two games in Sweden, even if they are the only team in the Atlantic Division without a win. These trips, to Sweden or wherever, never seem to help the teams that go on them.
And if you were a Ranger fan in July 2007, you might have bought into the fact that the Rangers became “instant” Stanley Cup contenders when they signed both Chris Drury and Scott Gomez away from rivals.
We all know how that worked out.
So, yes, Brad Richards is a great signing by the Rangers and is a better player than either Gomez or Drury was when they came to the Rangers. But the Rangers have a habit of wearing down King Henrik to the point that he is tired down the stretch and in the playoffs (when they make the playoffs). Bringing in Marty Biron last season was a good move (until he got hurt, of course) and maybe he can give The King much-needed rest during the regular season.
Even the great Lundqvist, however, makes a mistake from time to time. Allowing the second (and game-tying) goal late in the third period in the Rangers’ opening game overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings, Lundqvist mistakenly left the right post to move to the middle of the net, probably expecting a cross-ice pass. But Mike Richards swooped in and tipped the puck up high to the exact spot near the post that The King had just vacated. While Lundqvist seemed to immediately realize his mistake (by slumping his head after lunging back towards the vacated post in vain), it seemed to escape the announcers who continued to laud his great play.
And make no mistake – Lundqvist did play great, standing on his head at times in both weekend losses. But with no Marc Staal (concussion), The King has to be even greater, if that’s possible.
Hopefully the Rangers can be more competitive, earn a playoff spot prior to the last few days of the season, get The King some much-needed rest late in the season and make a deep playoff run with one of the three best goaltenders in hockey.
THE NEW YORK KNICKS AND THE NEW JERSEY NETS
Well, it was a losing NBA week for all fans. The Knicks and Nets, like every other team, now will not play the first two weeks of the regular season as those games were already cancelled by Davis Stern. The Nets, of course, are going nowhere (except to Brooklyn) unless they convince Deron Williams to stay and HE convinces a superstar (Dwight Howard?) to come to the New York area.
The Knicks, now with two (offensive) superstars in Carmelo and Amar’e, will need better role players and some commitment to defense by their superstars to make much noise. They’ve moved themselves away from the “can they be the eighth playoff seed?” conversation that has annually taken place in New York for the last decade or so. But they haven’t moved themselves into the “here are the six or so teams that can win the NBA title this year” conversation.
Remember, the last time (1999) that a work stoppage caused a shortened NBA season, the Knicks made an unlikely run from the number eight seed to the NBA Finals (to lose to the Spurs).
But it says here that, with NBA owners closer to the NHL model (“let’s miss a season if we have to”) than the NFL model (“let’s not kill the goose that laid the golden egg”), it’s much more likely that the NBA hard-core owners will decide to miss all or virtually all of a season than it is to expect an almost full season in 2011-2012.
In that case, from a fan’s perspective, everybody loses.
Rough week in New York, agreed? Leave a comment below.