Mark Sanchez has not had the type of statistics that make him a Fantasy Football favorite, but the guy finds a way to win the big game. Well, almost all of the time. It’s still hard to fault a guy who left college early, started in the pros from Day One and has brought his team to within one game of a Super Bowl appearance in two consecutive years. And to make it even harder, he’s done all of that on the road.
The young quarterback will have a slightly different arsenal this year to throw to. Santonio Holmes is back, but Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason have replaced Braylon Edwards and Jericho Cotchery. Tight end Dustin Keller has been Sanchez’s favorite target and that should continue to reap benefits.
Thought of as a running team, the Jets need to find out if Shonn Greene is ready to make the jump as an every down back. The three-year veteran has shown moments of greatness but has been very inconsistent. LaDainian Tomlinson returns in case Greene stumbles.
Part of what will make the ground game go is the five monsters up front. Damien Woody retired so Wayne Hunter will be the starter. He did an admirable job in filling in during Woody’s absence, so the line should be fine. But the main concern is depth.
Rex Ryan’s forte is this side of the ball, so the head coach takes great pride into making this group one of the league’s best. They are a little thin up front but have had a number of role players fill in and do what was needed. That should be the case again, with Mike DeVito and Sione Pouha using their size to clog the middle. First round draft pick Muhammad Wilkerson gets the nod to start and the Jets need him to hone his pass rush skills right away.
The linebackers are the bread and butter of the Jets 3-4 defense and Bart Scott leads the way. The former Raven followed Ryan to the Big Apple and took charge. David Harris, Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace all contribute in many ways to make this unit one of the better ones in the AFC.
When you can put Darrelle Revis on the opponent’s top wideout, it makes everyone else’s job a lot easier. The shutdown corner just continues to be the best year in and year out. Antonio Cromartie will see more action on the other side and can handle the workload just fine.
The Jets missed Jim Leonard after he suffered a broken leg last season. The veteran returns and should pick up right where he left off. Eric Smith has proven he can be a starter and will get that opportunity now.
Mike Westoff is arguably the top Special Teams coach in the NFL and gets the most out of this unit. They’ll be some new faces this time around, as T.J. Conley takes over for Steve Weatherford at punter and rookie Jeremy Kerley inherits the returner’s job from the departed Brad Smith. Cromartie should also see action here. Nick Folk is the placekicker for now, but he didn’t have an overly impressive preseason and can be replaced if he continues to struggle.
The Jets are good. Real good – but not great just yet. Having to beat out the New England Patriots to get a home postseason game will be tough and even though they will make the playoffs again, it may be too much to ask Sanchez to win three on the road.
10-6, AFC Wild Card