‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
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Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.” He’ll be covering football throughout the season.
Thanks to Christmas Eve’s 29-14 loss to the Giants, the 8-7 Jets are in a heck of a fix right now. And it’s all their fault.
Oh, they can still make the playoffs if they beat Miami. They just need Cincinnati, Tennessee and Oakland to lose. Not much of a problem there, right?
They could have made this road so much simpler had they just kept their minds on their own business and beat the Giants. But that’s not the Jets’ way. In fact, they’ve botched this season in a number of different ways.
Owning the pessimism common to most journalists, this guy is saying the Jets wind up out of the postseason for the first time in the Buddy, er, Rex Ryan era. Here are three big reasons for that.
OH, REX: Bless that little heart in his tubby body, he does fill a reporter’s notebook. But that’s half the problem. Ryan put tremendous pressure on his team this whole season with his Super Bowl promises and such. And just when the Jets could have used a respite to focus and prepare for the Giants game, Rex turned up the heat with a steady stream of trash talk.
Of course, players follow their coach and many joined in the nonsense about becoming the big brother in town. First off, the Jets are about three Super Bowl victories away from that goal. Second, wouldn’t it have been enough to recognize this game as a continuance of their playoff lives? Did Rex and company have to elevate it to some stupid platitude about conquering the hearts and minds of New York?
Predictably, some Giants responded in less breathless manner. Tom Coughlin, a classy guy, didn’t want to hear any noise at all. “Talk is Cheap, Play the Game” was his mantra, and it worked. The Giants went through the week’s practices with so much extra energy — energy not spent on yapping — that Coughlin was actually surprised by it.
The results are obvious. The bulk of the Giants’ talking came after the clock hit 0:00. Jacobs threatened to punch Ryan and called him a “disrespectful bastard.” David Diehl ripped down the black coverings the Jets organization put over their Super Bowl insignias. The players laughed and had a good old time.
Meanwhile, nobody feels for Ryan. You want to talk, you’d better back it up. And putting immense heat on one’s team is no way to do it.
SWINGING GATES: The Jets’ offensive line has had problems all season, and Saturday was no exception. They run-blocked OK, but everybody does that against the Giants’ defense. But the pass protection? Didn’t exist. Five sacks against Mark Sanchez, including two from the league’s most electric young player Jason Pierre-Paul. Even Justin Tuck, almost invisible much of the season due to injuries, had a sack.
The situation won’t change much against Miami, which is not an easy out at this point. They only lost by three to New England Saturday, and they were up 17-0 at halftime. They’d like nothing better than to put an end to the Jets. So right tackle Wayne Hunter and that rickety inside blocking had better figure something out quickly.
THE REST OF THE LEAGUE: As enumerated up top, the Jets need Cincinnati (9-6), Tennessee (8-7) and Oakland (8-7) all to lose in combination with a Jets’ win. Or, Cincinnati and Tennessee lose, Oakland wins, and Denver loses to give the Raiders the AFC West title.
They might just get two out of the four in that equation, but it won’t be enough. Cincinnati faces a tough Baltimore squad that they’ve lost to once already, though they carry a two-game winning streak into that game. If Baltimore goes in full strength, the Bengals will probably lose. But the Ravens having already clinched at least a playoff spot with Pittsburgh, they could rest some key players to create an opening for Cincinnati. That’s not likely, though, since the Ravens are battling the Steelers for the division title and a home playoff game. So put Cincinnati down for a loss.
Tennessee could mess things up as they face a Houston squad that has locked up the AFC South. The Texans could play their starters a half and then cruise through the second half. A real possibility there. But Tennessee has been so up-and-down this year that they could easily fold.
The worst shot comes in Oakland, which plays a 7-8 San Diego squad that is likely to lose its coach. The Chargers come off a 38-10 wailing by the Lions, and they’ll probably be in no mood to play this meaningless game. The Raiders, however, have an outside shot at a wildcard spot, so they’ll be jacked.
Definitely put the Raiders down for a win.
Denver, going against Kansas City with a chance for a division title, already has a win over the Chiefs. Granted, the Chiefs are playing better, but you’ve got to go with Tebow and company on this one. So figure that scenario is out the window.
Definitely put Ryan and the Jets down for a long offseason for which they’ll have no one to blame but themselves.
Is Rex to blame for the Jets woes? The offensive line? Leave a comment below.