Listen, I’m not going to sit here and tell Patriots fans that they need to root for the Jets Sunday because a New York Super Bowl win would really light a fire under the New England front office. That would be like telling Red Sox fans they should have pulled for the Yankees in last October’s World Series, which is…you know, a ludicrous idea.
But confession time here; I kind of like the Jets.
True, if they were playing a team with more universal appeal for New Englanders than the hated Colts, I might not be as open with my affection for Rex Ryan’s Boys of Wonder. But dust off the New York-New Jersey aspect of the Jets, and it’s hard to argue with the compelling entertainment factor that they provide.
After all, aren’t the Jets what the Patriots used to be?
Despite the NFL’s shift to a passing league full of style and interference flags, the Jets are old-school. Run the football up the gut and play dominant defense. Imagine how dangerous they would be with a more seasoned quarterback and a wide receiver that didn’t drop everything thrown his way.
The Patriots, meanwhile, have morphed from that sort of team to a pass-happy squad at a crossroads on the defensive side of the ball. They are Colts-lite, without the added advantage of playing indoors half the year. Imagine where they’d be with Mark Sanchez lining up behind center. The thought isn’t pretty.
The 2009 Jets are younger, more complete, and more exciting. They’re probably going to be the favorites next season in the AFC East.
And to think, they lucked their way into the playoffs.
Of course, a lot of that has to do with Indy’s decision to lay down in Week 16, lest the Colts risk Peyton Manning getting a boo-boo. Now, karma could come back and bite them, a scenario most pundits aren’t willing to forecast.
If it weren’t for the green uniforms, this Jersey football team would probably be an adopted favorite for idle Patriots fans, reminding them of their own glory days. Certainly, it’s a bit disconcerting that the Jets have gotten this good this quickly, building shrewdly through the draft while Chad Jackson is probably selling cars somewhere.
But you can’t argue that they’re a fun playoff team to watch. The Patriots once were too.
Can they find a way to win at Indy Sunday? It took the Colts disgracing the NFL the last time around. But even against a high-powered attack like the Colts, defense tends to set the tone in the playoffs, whether it is a shut-down unit, or one that utilizes the breaks given to it. After all, who knows how the complexion of Saturday night’s game would have changed had Ed Reed been able to hang onto the ball?
Darrelle Revis vs. Reggie Wayne is going to be a fascinating matchup. The conflicting coaching styles of Ryan and Jim Caldwell could be telling. The Colts’ run defense, long a problem until the surge out of nowhere during their Super Bowl run, could be in for a long day against the Jets, who will try to control the clock by pounding the football over and over again.
If the Colts stop the run, they win the game. Easy.
The Jets don’t look like a Super Bowl winner, and in fact are lucky just to be here. But the 2001 Patriots looked like they were a year away from being a Super Bowl contender. They didn’t have any luck in the snow at Foxborough Stadium, right?
Better to be lucky than good sometimes. The Jets might be both.