What Year Did He Win His Ring?

With the absurdity that is Tim Tebow to the Jets insanity, I just thought it would be interesting to see how long it took for each Super Bowl winning QB to win his first Lombardi Trophy.  So before the Jets decide to bail on Mark Sanchez, perhaps they should consider that two AFC Championship appearances in three years is excellent work for a player entering his fourth season.  I went back twenty Super Bowls to see how long it took each Super Bowl winning quarterback to win his first ring.

Five QBs in the past twenty years have multiple rings: Troy Aikman and Tom Brady, three; Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and John Elway, two.  Among those five players, the average time it took them to win a Super Bowl as a starter is 5 seasons.  Without Elway’s 15 starting years included, the average among the four remaining drops to 2.5 years (John Elway’s first SB appearance was in his fourth season and also fourth starting). Do you or I think Sanchez is any of the aforementioned yet or ever will be? Including all the players listed below, the rough average of starting season prior to a championship season was 5.07 years.

In other words, Sanchez wouldn’t even be due to hoist the Lombardi Trophy until the end of the 2013 season. Ironically, if this were to actually happen with the Jets, Mark Sanchez would be lifting the trophy at Metlife Stadium after Super Bowl XLVIII. Forgetting that dream scenario, what today’s “what have you done for me lately” NFL mentality shows is that patience is a vice. Winning now or soon is far more preferable. Nevermind the talent and team unity you need to do so. The Jets will have none of that.

But take some guys on this list, including Giants QB Eli Manning. Eli was selected with the first pick in the 2004 draft. If anyone remembers, many Giants fans were calling for Manning’s removal because of his rocky starts. Hell, Eli had some crappy games this season! But finally, in season four, he won his ring. This, a year after his brother, the legend that is Peyton, took home his first ring after waiting nine years! I am not comparing Mark Sanchez to either Manning, or anyone else who’s won a Super Bowl. The case I’m making is that Sanchez’s inconsistencies are in-line with other quarterbacks who’ve won in the past.

The ultimate question that must be asked is whether you think, with the right pieces and the right system, Mark Sanchez can be on this list? I believe he can. It’s blatantly obvious from their actions this week that Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan and Woody Johnson are agnostic to the idea that Sanchez will ever win a championship anywhere. Funny, because that’s what I think of their chances in their current roles as GM, head coach and owner, too.

Super Bowl winning QBs, how long it took them and what starting year it was when they won their first championship: (bold italicsmultiple winner)

  • XLV: Aaron Rodgers (6th season, 3rd as starter)
  • XLIV: Drew Brees (9th season, 8th as starter)
  • XLII: Eli Manning (4th season, 3rd as starter)
  • XLI: Peyton Manning (9th season, 9th as starter)
  • XL: Ben Roethlisberger (2nd season, 2nd as starter)
  • XXXVII: Brad Johnson (9th season, 6th as starter*)
  • XXXVI: Tom Brady (2nd season, 1st as starter)
  • XXXV: Trent Dilfer (7th season, 6th as starter)
  • XXXIV: Kurt Warner (2nd NFL season, 1st as starter)
  • XXXII: John Elway (15th season, 15th as starter)
  • XXXI: Brett Favre (6th season, 5th as starter)
  • XXIX: Steve Young (10th NFL season, 5th as starter*)
  • XXVII: Troy Aikman (4th season, 4th as starter)
  • XXVI: Mark Rypien (4th season, 3rd as starter*)

Screwing Sanchez: The Ultimate Story of the Jets Inferiority Complex

Two consecutive AFC title games are never enough for the reactionary Jets front office. Sanchez’s stats in his first three seasons are virtually identical to Giants QB Eli Manning but that means nothing. Lest I remind everyone of how many rings Eli Manning now possesses. A terrible O-Line that almost got Sanchez killed last season is not a concern. A play-action-oriented QB with no run game to speak of is not an issue. A trouble-making receiver had nothing to do with it. What does everyone say? Sanchez will never win and must go. Patience is a word Jets fans abhor and quite frankly, don’t understand.

Jets fans are uncomfortable, miserable people. They believe the football gods have conspired against them in favor of anyone else. Joe Willie Namath was from an alternate universe. They have no grasp of football reality. Jets LB Mo Lewis knocks out Drew Bledsoe and ushers in the Tom Brady era. “Cursed Jets we are,” the fans say. 3-13, it can’t get any worse. Ha! Oh yes it can. Thanks Kotite.

The run-of-the-mill Jets fan immediately bought into Rex Ryan’s “Super Bowl or bust” mentality. Of course they would. Look at them all. I’m guilty too. Desperation makes fools of people, especially Jets fans. The Jets were one of the last four standing two years in a row, thanks partly to Mark’s great post-season play, on the road, when he was a rookie! But naturally, there was no Super Bowl. Jets fans began to panic once again. Then the Jets fell apart last season, Rex’s bombastic attitude allowed his players to rebel, they missed the playoffs while our crosstown rivals both knocked the Jets out and then defeated Tom Brady’s Patriots in the Super Bowl, again. It was all Sanchez. Look at the facts and you will see that is not true. But Jets fans are blinded by the truth. Jets fans say, “Next!”

You know what would make Mark Sanchez a better leader and football player? Practice, patience and weapons. Two sets of offenses will make Sanchez worse, not better. It will also make the team worse. Schotty was an anchor to Sanchez’s success and so too will Tebow’s “Wildcat packages.” These gimmicky offenses never last long. Who wins Super Bowls? Legendary defenses and prolific offenses. The Wildcat as our saving grace is a joke and bringing in this Tebow media circus is equally hilarious.

I have been a Jets fan my entire life but I am prepared to dump these guys if Tebow starts. This front office has no real aspirations to win with Mark Sanchez, the better quarterback. They are willing to forgo winning in exchange for a publicity hog whom everyone has bought into as some saintly figure. Denver gave you a choice. Why’d you pick my beloved New York over your hometown, Tim? Jacksonville is sight unseen. NYC is bright lights, big city.

Look, I don’t know if Tim Tebow is truly a good person. Same goes for Mark Sanchez. Take emotion out of it. Who’s the better QB that could lead your team to the Super Bowl with the right constituent parts around him? Tebow fans are blinded by some ridiculous notion that God is divinely making him win. If that’s the case, Eli Manning is the Jesus of New York. Mark Sanchez has the tools to lead a pro-style offense to the big game. In his first two seasons, we were sixty minutes away because of him. The odds Tebow can do the same are farcical. His arm in a pass-oriented league is an indictment of his skill set. Tim Tebow has the ability to play in the NFL but not as a starting quarterback. I do not accept the premise that Tebow’s last season proves he is a viable starter. I also reject that same fact about Sanchez. Who’s better?! Mark Sanchez. And Mark will start… for a while.

Go ahead Rex, play Tebow. Start him. Let Tebow play against the Niners, Texans and Steelers. Try this hybrid, two-QB garbage against the Bills’ Mario Williams with our current offensive line. Was the Patriots mediocre defense’s domination of Tebow not enough proof? This is desperation to the highest degree. Every team you face will smell the blood and sense the fear.

Driven by the greatest inferiority complex in football, the Jets act as if the fates have already declared them irrelevant. In response, the Jets create a media circus with all the trimmings. Gang Green has become relevant again! Yes, relevant in the minds of delusional Jets fans and Tebow lovers. People with blind faith are irrational people. Tebow followers have an unbreakable allegiance to him. No matter his flaws, it will never be Tim Tebow’s fault. But a lucky gust of wind that inexplicably blows a field goal through the uprights is all Timmy.

My disgust for the Jets exists on so many levels today. From a business standpoint to how I believe this will impact the chalkboard X’s and O’s, Jets fans should be universally calling for front office heads to roll. But they aren’t because some actually believe this will work. If it does, I will apologize for this rant. But it won’t. I don’t see the evidence. Show me the facts that indicate we will be closer to winning a Super Bowl with Tim Tebow taking reps away from our starter. How does a gimmick offense win a Lombardi Trophy?! It doesn’t. How does a gimmick-oriented player like Tim Tebow win Super Bowls? He never will.

Randy Moss Will Be Back

Does anyone truly believe Randy has said goodbye to football?  I think not.  Randy Moss is dramatic and arrogant.  I have no doubt this is a stunt because Randy can’t find a suitable partner.  Once the calendar turns from August to September, there will be gaping holes in more than a few teams receiver positions.  They’ll be a taker somewhere and Moss will be up to his old antics within days.  His new team will regret their purchase and wonder if they can trade the troublemaker for draft picks.  Oh wait, the Patriots pulled off that maneuver last season while Titans looked like morons holding the bag.  Make no mistake: Randy Moss will be catching footballs… or riding the pine in September.

Past Their Prime – Episode 7

Talk about a late start this week. Between Passover and the Celtics kicking ass, we haven’t had a chance to record and post this thing until now. Well, it was recorded on Wednesday, but you get the idea.

Here’s what you have in store for your listening pleasure – Lee and Jesse break down the NBA Playoffs, discuss the most American football matchup ever and Lee makes a prediction about Jesus . . . Shuttlesworth. Plus Jesse sends his condolences to Cameraman Kevin.

Be a part of the show! Submit your questions to PastTheirPrime@gmail.com and you could be a winner too.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter at @_PastTheirPrime.

Listen to this episode

To My Fellow Jets Fans: They Are Who They Are…

It would have been better if the game ended at halftime.  We wouldn’t feel like we do today.  Now all the questions and anger surrounding another year without a Super Bowl appearance will fester.  Rex Ryan will be villianized.  Mark Sanchez’s worth will be scrutinized.  Schotty’s play-calling will be analyzed.  The entire team’s heart will be questioned.  This is the nature of sport, especially in New York.

As a New Yorker, I always find it laughable that we expect the world to owe us so much.  What is it about us that makes us resilient?  We are a diverse nation unto ourselves, perhaps.  The Tri-State area is the home to more different walks of life than anywhere.  So true is that with our sports teams as well.  We have our historically rich teams, the upstart expansion teams, the old-school disappointments and even those teams that moved away long ago.

My only thought after last night’s gut-wrenching defeat is that no Jets fan should take it so tough.  The lesson learned is that if you team is a perennial loser, they will likely stay that way.  And if they manage to redefine themselves, the likelihood is that the foundations of that team are still based on a previous core of frustration and dread.  Inevitably, you are what you are.

Every sports fan finds that one connection, linking you with your team forever.  With my Mets, it was watching Jesse Orosco strike out Marty Barrett to end the 1986 World Series.  He threw his glove in the air and it never came down.  Done: Mets fan for life.  At the age of six; I didn’t pick the Mets, the Mets picked me.

With the Jets, it was different.  I grew up in a Cowboys household on Long Island in the 80s.  Rooting for the Giants was certainly not an option (meanwhile, they were awesome).  At around the same time as my Mets affinity was forming, those Cowboys stunk.  At the ages of six and seven, when I truly remember watching my first Super Bowls and rooting like crazy for John Elway to knock off the G-Men and the Skins (remember, Cowboy house), I had no real connection to a football team.  After the Mets won it all in 1986, I set my football sights on rooting for my hometown Jets.  The Jets didn’t pick me, I picked the Jets.

The Tortured Past

[If you are not a Jets fan, reading this section will give you a general idea of our pain but skip to a Murky Future if you do not feel compelled to live that life.  If you are a Jets fan, there is no point reading this.  You’ve been through it all before.  But by all means, if you want to feel absolutely horrible afterward, then please, read on.]

And so began a torturous relationship, watching the tail end of a disappointing Joe Walton era, followed by four years of Bruce Coslet (26-38 as Jets HC) and one lucky 8-8 team that got into the playoffs.  Pete Carroll followed him for a single season (I remember this 6-10 year mostly because of Boomer).  Then came what is widely considered to be the worst two years in Jets history.

Rich Kotite was hired in 1995.  The sense of doom was palpable.  The Jets went 3-13.  Now, I swear on all that is football holy that I said this to my parents after the last game of the season when the Jets were shut out by the Saints on Christmas Eve: “At least they can’t get any worse.”  And so 1996 came around, the worst season in Gang Green’s history: 1-15.

I remember it well.  I actually went to the Eagles-Jets game at Giants Stadium in December.  It was raining.  The crappy weather was swirling and the stadium was pathetically empty, although sold out.  My friends and I moved up to the first row, around one of the endzones.  There we saw Keyshawn Johnson, just a rookie, make a sensation TD catch.  It was all downhill from there.  The Jets fired Kotite and brought in a proven winner.  Tuna arrived.

Immediately, we saw results.  Bill Parcells turned the Jets from losers to winners in one year.  In 1998, the Jets went 12-4 and played in the AFC Championship against the Broncos.  We led 10-0 at halftime.  You knew that Elway had something left.  The Jets didn’t score again.  The Broncos won Super Bowl XXXIII and Elway rode off in the sunset.  The Jets were now the concensus favorites the next season to finally win the Lombardi Trophy.

But just as there is hope, there is also despair.  Vinny Testaverde went back to pass in the 2nd Quarter of the first game and fell to the ground.  His Achilles tendon was ripped to shreds.  The season was over.  Parcells would leave at years end, the Belichick fiasco would soon follow.  Al Groh would fill in for 2000, then leave.  Following him was Herm Edwards and then Mangini, who brought us very little, maybe an exciting moment or two (the end of 2002).  Finally to 2009 and literally one big change.

The Murky Future: Will It Ever Happen For Us?

Rex Ryan is now here and we’ve been treated to two consecutive AFC title games.  In your wildest dreams could any of us Jets fans imagine such a thing?  We have a great team and a young player that will, barring injury, be our our quarterback for years to come.  But even if you are the best team on the planet, you will never be guaranteed a Super Bowl ring, let alone a chance to play for one.  The Jets will always either be a pathetic, bumbling, stumbling mess or the team that is always close but never reaches the promised land.  The Jets greatest moment will always be Super Bowl III and that is also their curse.  No Jets team can ever live up to surpassing it, so how will any Jets team ever be able attain another title of equal status?

Joe Namath is a living god to Jets fans.  He took down the NFL’s mighty Colts.  His team legitimized the AFL and the merger.  He played an entire career with a bum knee and a golden arm.  He is the gold-standard for Jets QBs and a Hall of Famer.  How do you surplant a god?  How do you surpass a legacy that is insurpassable?  You don’t.  Super Bowl III will always define the New York Jets.  That is the lesson Jets fans must learn today.

You are what you are in sports.  There are some anomalies but generally that notion holds true.  The Jets will never be a legendary franchise.  The Jets have never been to the playoffs three seasons in a row.  After this gruesome defeat, how many of you truly think they can rebound and knock off the Patriots, who will be out for revenge next season?  Do you truly think another 11-5 season is in the offering?  It’s ok, I know your answer.  Don’t be ashamed.  The Jets are what they are.  We root for them despite what they will do to us.  That’s what you do with loved ones.  In spite of everything they have ever done wrong, you always support them.

We are loyal Jets fans, always wearing our green with pride.  Wayne Chrebet (Hofstra’s own) is my favorite all-time Jet and I wear #80 every autumn Sunday.  My Chrebet jersey is getting old from the wears and tears of broken promises and unfulfilled dreams.  The New York Jets, like other franchises in any sport, are not destined for amazing things.  We will always have great memories, our unsung heroes, numerous traditions and one fireman’s chant.  What we won’t have are many Super Bowl rings.  It has been 42 years since that January Sunday in Miami when Joe Namath put his finger in the air, stating unequivocally that the Jets were champions of the world.  No one has uttered Jets and champions in the same sentence since and may never again.

They are who they are, my fellow Jets fans.  We will always be thrilled by their championship runs, only to be frustrated by their collapses.  We will never be surprised by their failures if they go 1-15 again and again.  We will be perplexed by their ability to always pull at our heart-strings; the Cardiac Jets coming from behind, then losing or blowing a huge lead, then winning.  We will always thank the powers that be that we can actually say our team is undefeated in the Super Bowl.  It was a fun two years for our Jets but history always repeats itself.  I love my Jets but inevitably, they are who they are.  The Same Old Jets.

P.S.: Rex, feel free to prove me wrong on this one, if three times is really a charm.

Championship Sunday

I am the first one to admit it: I have been wrong about the Jets all playoffs long. Each week, facing an elite QB and a dominant offense, the Jets D has stepped up. While the Jets offense hasn’t been spectacular, they are doing just enough to score points and eliminate turnovers. This team is starting to remind me a bit of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens- amazing defense, great special teams, “smart” offense. It is hard not to be impressed with the way they are playing right now.

One the other side of the bracket, the Packers remind me of the 2007 Giants – road warriors. They finished the season playing great football and went into the playoffs as the hottest team in football. Their #6 seeding is only a number, as they have proven they are the #1 team in the NFC. They have already beaten the Bears this season, so can they do it again and head to Dallas next week?

On to the picks…

When I look at the Bears, I see one of the most over-rated teams to be a #2 seed. They have major issues with QB decision making, so they will need a dominant performance on defense to stand a chance. Meanwhile, the Packers have elite WRs, a stud QB and an aggressive defense that does not give up points very easily. It is hard to see the Bears putting up many points, so if GB can score 14+ points, I think they win this game. My Pick: Packers 17 – Bears 10

The AFC Championship game is shaping up to be one of the best games in years. These teams played at the end of the regular season and there is no love lost between many of the players. This is the first game the Jets are playing this postseason against a team with a steller defense AND stellar offense. Are they up to the task? Mark Sanchez has been a rock the last few games, so he will need another Broadway Joe-like performance to put up points. This seems like the type of game that will be played between the 30-yard lines, so special teams could be a huge factor. Brad Smith is a welcome return for the Jets, as he can change the field position game in a heartbeat. This game will be close till the very end, and overtime is a strong possibility. The Jets better hope the game does not come down to the leg of Nick Folk. My Pick: Steelers 20 – Jets 17

NFL Playoffs: The I-80 & I-94 Guys Championship Editions?

The NFL’s Final Four have been determined.  Three of the four are from the Midwest.  The lone exception is the only Final Four holdover from last season, the New York Jets.  Despite the NFL’s prayers that New England and Pittsburgh would face off in the AFC Championship, they may have received a blessing in disguise.  As for the first Green Bay-Chicago playoff game in 70 years, can we around the country agree that this matchup was exactly what the NFC needed after a lackluster season.  These games are both replays from the regular season.  The Packers and Bears have played twice, and as division rivals, know virtually everything about one another.  The Jets and Steelers played in Pittsburgh in December with Gang Green winning a nail-biter.  Time for perspective.

BILLY’S AFC AND NFC CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTIONS

6 Green Bay (12-6) at 2 Chicago (12-5) [+3.5]: For this segment, this website will be known as The I-94 Guys.  As I said before, the Packers and Bears will face one another for the first time in the playoffs since 1941.  December 14, 1941, exactly one week after Pearl Harbor was attacked.  Chicago holds the overall series lead 92-83-5 which began 90 years ago in November 1921.  Recently, counting a full 16-game schedule’s worth against each other, the Packers have won eight and the Bears, 8.  Dead even – just like this season.

Now they face off again, for the 181st time.  The quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler, have different strengths but one of them has a glaring weakness.  This isn’t Seattle, Cutler.  Green Bay’s secondary is playing out of their minds.  If Clay Matthews can penetrate what is still, despite massive improvements, a relatively weak offensive line, he will force the Bears QB to throw numerous interceptions.  In fact, I suspect that Cutler will throw at least two picks.  Cutler’s performance last week shows us nothing.  A single game against a sub-.500 team tells us nothing about what he will do in a championship setting against a top-tier defense.  Cutler will be disappointing.

Green Bay’s offense held a clinic against Atlanta last week.  That tells me nothing also.  I thought the Falcons were sheep in wolves’ clothing.  Atlanta’s defense is weaker than Chicago’s.  Don’t expect Rodgers to have the freedom he had last weekend.  Chicago’s D will create havoc in the passing game.

As for Devin Hester….  He will be a non-factor.  The Packers will kick the ball far away from him, relying on their defense in cases where the punts are less than stellar.  Although, I’m guessing Green Bay punter Tim Masthay has been practicing his coffin kicks all week, and his tackling just in case.

By no means do I think Green Bay will dominate.  When it comes to division matchups, all bets are off.  These teams defenses will decide a FG game.  Rodgers will play a quality game, somewhere in between his performances in Philly and Atlanta, probably closer to his effort at Philadelphia.  A Cutler errant interception could decide the game.  Although, I’m leaning toward Aaron Rodgers marching his team down the field late, leading to a near end-of-game field goal.  My NFC pick moves on to the Super Bowl.

Packers 23 – Bears 20

6 New York (13-5) at 2 Pittsburgh (13-4) [-3.5]: If the Jets were driving to Pittsburgh, they would take I-80 through Pennsylvania.  Gang Green have been road warriors the past two years, going 15-6.  That’s pretty impressive considering they have a second-year coach and a sophomore quarterback.  They have defeated, in consecutive weeks, the two best quarterbacks of this generation.  They have a great defense and an offense that is just ready to break out at some point.

As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, here’s some historical perspective…

 

 

These are obviously Pittsburgh’s six Super Bowl rings.  The first four were won over the span of six years.  The fifth and sixth have been won in the last five years.  A seven addition to this collection would nearly rival the ’70s Steelers dynasty.  This Steelers is amassing some clout that could rival Chuck Noll’s great teams, eventually.  A showdown for the ages would certainly be Green Bay versus Pittsburgh.

Ben Roethlisberger shows up in the big spots.  It is because he is literally huge.  Big Ben has salvaged so many broken plays by being able to stand against enormous pressure.  The Jets defense will need everything they have physically to bring him and his offense down.  The Jets are playing lights out in the secondary.  Whichever receiver, Mike Williams or Heinz Ward, who is lucky to draw Revis coverage, will be shutout.  It will come down to Ben’s ability to get the ball down the middle and whether Mendenhall can establish himself rushing the ball.

Sanchez, on the other hand, will need his offensive line to play the game of their lives.  He needs enough time to get the ball to his receivers.  They will be charged with limiting their QB’s mistakes by running nearly flawless routes.  LT and Shonn Greene need to run hard, not by finesse.  This Steelers team can tackle.  Only by smash-mouth running will either of them get those crucial extra yards.

This game will be just as close as the NFC Championship.  The defenses are playing incredibly well.  Pittsburgh has the advantage on offense and the Jets, a minute advantage on special teams, not counting Nick Folk, who will need to pray to the football gods.  He will need to be perfect in a venue that is the worst possible stadium in which to kick.  This game will come down to the final drive.  Brad Smith will put the Jets in position to tie the game and that they will in the final seconds of regulation.  In overtime, after the Jets and Steelers trade punts, Sanchez will drive his team down the field, setting up a 45-yard field goal for Folk.  It’s up and it’s GOOD!  My AFC pick goes to the Super Bowl for the first time since January 1969 and exorcises the demons from the 2004 Divisional and puts an end to 40-plus years of waiting.  I can dream can’t I?  Someone has to pick the Jets, it might as well be a Jets fan.

Jets 20 – Steelers 17

NFL Divisional: Sunday Silence Edition

The Jets are moving on to Pittsburgh. And we also get an epic Packers-Bears match-up.

Let us catch our collective breaths.  After what could have been the biggest stunner of the season, we need to silence our emotions, one way or another, in order to look at it objectively.  One thing is for certain, the NFL never ceases to amaze any of us.  Strangely enough, both conferences set up exactly the same way.  Both top seeds went down this weekend and both second seeds will host the bottom seeds for their respective conference titles.  What a weekend.  Let’s begin with the Seahawks-Bears recap.

Was it a surprise to anyone that Seattle would eventually go down?  They are 8-9, including their win against the Saints.  Yeah, yeah.  Billy’s on another, “Seattle doesn’t belong in the playoffs” rants.  Yes, because they don’t and the Bears happily showed us why.  Chicago held the ball for 37 minutes.  Cutler scored 4 TD against Seattle; two passing and 2 rushing.  Pete Carroll’s squad failed to make any substantial gains on offense.  Seattle was held to a mere 34 yards rushing while Chicago ran for 176.  Chicago stood upright while not one, but two, Seahawks were concussed.  This game was essentially Sunday practice for the Bears.  A tune-up for the Packers.  But we’ll have to wait until next Sunday for that.  Oh yeah, Third Bird Victims: Seahawks.

The Main Event

The Jets defense stifled Brady’s offense.  Jets DE Shaun Ellis, who was made a fool of in December during that 45-3 drubbing, was a man possessed.  He, like his teammates, were determined to keep Tom Brady at bay.  Mark Sanchez played better than last week and had the best QB rating of the season.  From a coaching perspective, both Rex Ryan and Brian Schottenheimer called great games.  Belichick, despite what Rex said, was out-coached.  The Jets put their best “foot” forward and beat their nemesis – in their house.  Santonio Holmes should only make receptions in the back of endzones.  Cromartie’s mouth equaled the Jets’ play.  And Bart Scott?

I don’t need to remind any football fan of the genius that is NFL divisional alignment.  The Bills, Dolphins, Jets and Patriots have been playing each other for 50 years.  Regardless of what happens next week, this win by the Jets exorcises many demons.  Rex Ryan, Mike Tannenbaum and Jets owner Woody Johnson expect this team to compete for world championships, not division titles.  Defeating the top-seeded Patriots – in Foxboro – in the playoffs – is a very – big – deal.

Where the Patriots go from here is a question that will be asked the entire off-season.  Since the Pats lost Super Bowl XLII to the Giants, which ruined their undefeated season, the Pats have not returned to the conference championship game.  Albeit, Brady was injured the entire 2008 season and no one expected him to return to top-form.  2010 was the year Tom Brady would return to true prominence, and he did.  New England’s future doesn’t lie in their quarterback.  In fact, their offense will be just as good next season.  The defense is young.  Is Belichick willing to pull the trigger during the draft?  They have 6 picks in the first three rounds.  Pats fans are becoming restless and are waiting for their maniacal genius to make some huge draft selections.

Stock and stunned silence prevails throughout New England today.  I expect Bob Kraft, Belichick and the front office are already forming ideas for next season.  This three year hiccup is just that.  The Patriots are still an incredibly well-coached football team.  This loss certainly sets the stage for next season (here’s hoping that the 2011 season occurs).  Be ready for a close division race next year.  A razor-thin margin for error will be required.

The Jets are off to Pittsburgh but are surprisingly silent about their new opponents so far.  I liken this experience to the 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Sunday Silence.  Sunday Silence and Easy Goer were betting rivals going into the Derby.  Easy Goer was the favorite to take the Triple Crown that racing season.  What happened next was Sunday Silence took the first two jewels of the crown.  Just as the Colts and Pats were favored, the Jets took it to two Super Bowl champion QBs and beat them.

Finally, the Belmont was next but it would be Easy Goer that would blow away Sunday Silence in the second-fastest Stakes in history (fastest was Secretariat).  Will this be the Jets’ Triple Crown or their disappointing almost but no cigar?  One thing is for certain, these Jets are definitely not silent on Sundays, or any other day.

I’m So Excited! I’m So Excited! I’m So… Scared.

For those of you who are of age to appreciate this clip from Saved by the Bell, it is pretty much how every Jets fan, including myself, feels right about now.  (AND YES, sleeping pill addiction is a serious problem.  Please take it from the viewpoint of a comical perspective as many of us 30-somethings now use it.)

J! E! T! S! JETS! JETS! JETS!

NFL Playoffs: It’s “Divisional” Time

We’re down to the NFL’s Elite Eight. How many members of last year’s final eight are playing tomorrow and Sunday?  Two, both I-95ers.  The Ravens and Jets.  No teams from the NFC.  How wide open is that conference?  Very.  Next year, if Washington, Detroit, Carolina and St. Louis are not the NFC division champs, I will be quite upset.

Anyway, last week’s games were a mixed bag.  The Saturday games were spectacular.  Sunday’s match-ups were disappointing (except for last few minutes of Packers-Eagles).  This week could be the most riveting playoff weekend in many years.  Both AFC Divisionals are rubber games and as well as I-95 games.  Can Seattle actually host the NFC Championship?  Are the Falcons unstoppable at home?  Has Rex’s mouth run just too much?  The games begin Saturday at 4.30p in Pittsburgh.  Let’s begin there…

BILLY’S NFL DIVISIONAL ROUND PREDICTIONS

5 Baltimore (13-4) at 2 Pittsburgh (12-4): Book-ending this weekend are the two AFC intradivisional rematches.  The AFC North is the first of those games and promises to be a bloodbath.  I make no guarantees that someone might die during this game.  These two defenses are going to rip each other.  Since 2008 – Mike Tomlin versus John Harbaugh – the Steelers are 5-2 versus the Ravens.  Remove 2008, these two teams are even closer.  Against one another, they have split both regular season series including one OT game (’09 Bal 20-17 win).  The point differential in those 4 games: zero!  How hard is it to pick a winner in this one, given recent history?  Damn near impossible.

Big Ben has two rings; Flacco, none.  Tomlin versus Harbaugh, a wash.  Their defenses are equally brutal.  Just look how close these two teams have played each other, their division counterparts and the conference as a whole the past three seasons.  Pittsburgh was fortunate to have won more division games than Baltimore thus getting a bye and one guaranteed home game.  The Ravens are not on a full week’s rest and the Steelers have had 13 days although I doubt this will play a huge factor.  Baltimore will be there.  I suspect this bloodbath will be played in snow (as per the forecast).  And I have a strange feeling this game will go to overtime.  In 2008, Pittsburgh defeated Baltimore to win a spot in Super Bowl XLIII.  They won that Super Bowl.  I said the survivor of this game will beat the Pats in the AFC Championship.  Tom Brady, are you ready for the Steel Curtain?

Steelers 23 – Ravens 17

6 Green Bay (11-6) at 1 Atlanta (13-3): Everyone loves the Packers in this game.  Everyone.  Nevermind Matty Ice is 20-2 at home.  But that doesn’t matter.  I underestimated my NFC Super Bowl pick last week thinking the Eagles would scratch out a last second victory.  Damn you Vick.  This time, I’m getting back on the Green Bay bandwagon.  Aaron Rodgers is turning it on.  He’ll be on this week as well.  He has found his postseason swagger.  The Falcons defense has been flaky at times and Green Bay’s D will be lights out.

The Falcons are sheep in wolves clothing.  Perhaps it’s the fact their regular season, all 13 wins of it, was littered with one possession games.  Fair, they won nearly all of them but sometimes you give up the goose.  Green Bay has found a foundation for winning games.  If they keep running the ball strong and play stout defense they will win.  Look for Matt Ryan to play average and Roddy White to be less effective.  Rodgers will continue adding to his postseason TD totals.  This year, America loves Wisconsin.  Matty Ice, not quite yet for you.

Packers 30 – Falcons 17

4 Seattle (8-9)* at 2 Chicago (11-5): The ultimate question here is which Jay Cutler is going to show up?  Since their bye week, Chicago is 7-2.  Their two losses were that embarrassment at the hands of New England and their Week 17 loss to Green Bay which meant nothing to the Bears.  The Bears are 4th in overall defense.  Briggs, Peppers, Urlacher.  It’ll be bitter cold and I expect Cutler to launch a few over the heads of his receivers.  Actually, I can see one or two tipped INTs for him.  I’m not big on Chicago but their defense is well fortified.  How could anyone not be thrilled by drawing Seattle?  What luck!  Perhaps not?

The Seahawks (* – still under .500) have made the final eight.  Wow!  I was wrong.  Luckily, the entire sports community was wrong too.  Fortunately for all of us pundits, we have an out.  The Saints defense played like complete dog doo-doo.  Lynch’s earthquake-causing run was all about heart… and extremely bad tackling.  New Orleans offense was fantastic as was Drew Brees.  Albeit, Hasselbeck played inspired football while the Hawks defense floundered.  The Seahawks have beaten these Bears in Chicago too – this year in fact.  Don’t expect a repeat or another Lynch run because Chicago’s run defense is second in the NFL.  Pete Carroll has also decided to kick to Hester.  Dumb move.  If this holds true, expect Devin to score a touchdown – or two (not saying both will be on special teams but you never know).  Seattle finally shows its true nature.  See the asterisk.

Bears 24 – Seahawks 10

6 New York (12-5) at 1 New England (14-2) : So has Rex said something else?  How about Cro?  Crickets in Foxboro?  I bet.  I’m glad these teams have stayed the course.  We should have expected as much.  They are who they are.  But enough of the “@*#!% Brady” comments.  On to the game.  [DISCLOSURE- I am a Jets fan.]

Forget the Jets 28-14 win in Week 2.  Forget the Pats 42-point domination in Week 13 on MNF.  This game is going to make the Pats cry, eventually with tears of joy.  A young, inexperienced defense will hold its own.  The Jets offense will play surprisingly better than against Indy but not score.  It will be a relatively low-scoring affair.  Rex Ryan has showed that his ego isn’t as big as we thought when it comes to calling defense.  Tom Brady will be frustrated but not flustered.  Mark Sanchez will play like he did in San Diego last postseason.  He will be effective, making incredibly smart throws with occasional gotta-have pass completions.

The Patriots and Jets hate each other.  There is no love lost on this part of I-95 (like how I did that right).  Tom Brady has been here a thousand times and is usually victorious.  He has the hardware and doesn’t need to say a word.  In a close but mostly defensive game, Brady’s way of saying “&%$# the Jets” will be a 25-yard slant TD pass to Welker mid-fourth quarter.  New England’s defense then holds, forcing the Jets to kick a field goal.  Gang Green never gets the ball back.  My AFC Super Bowl pick is sent packing.  Pats in victory formation.  New England says, without saying anything, “Bring it Pittsburgh.”

Patriots 17 – Jets 13

[Alternate History for Sunday: Tom Brady is being blitzed from all directions.  The Pats O-line has been dominated the entire day.  The Jets pass defense has shut down #12’s TE options.  Deion Branch has been completely shut out on Revis Island.  Danny Woodhead has been ineffective against his old team.  Mark Sanchez looks like Broadway Joe, picking apart the Pats inexperienced defense.  LT finally sticks it to New England with a TD run and a long breakaway jaunt setting up a Sanchez to Keller TD pass.  Brady makes one last desperate attempt to get his Pats in the game but throws a pick six to Lowery who faked a blitz.  With about five minutes left, New England, losing by 14, are just about done.  A last gasp fourth down just outside FG range fails, dooming New England.  Jets in victory formation.  After the game, Rex Ryan says that it’s “personal” because in 2008, Pittsburgh swept his Ravens defense in three games, including the AFC Championship.  Here we go again.]

[Jets 27 – Patriots 13]

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