Monday, September 29, 2014

After Geno-Led Nightmare vs. Lions, Jets Season Is Heading for Tailspin

LIONS 24
JETS 17

The circus has once again arrived in town. Forget about the fact that the Jets lost this game to a very good Detroit Lions team by seven points, because in retrospect it felt more like a 31-point deficit than a single touchdown. The Jets were outplayed, out-coached, out-hustled, and out-classed by the Lions in every aspect of the football game on Sunday.

Not once did it ever feel that the Jets were in the game, nor did it ever feel they had the capability of coming back and making it interesting. If they did, it would have been a crime since it would have masked this Phantom of the Gridiron disaster show. The Jets lost because they are, sadly, the New York Jets.

They lost for the same reason they lost last week to the Bears; the same reason they lost the week before to the Packers, and every loss for that matter during the Rex Ryan era. The Jets lost because as a team they lack discipline and the proper coaching, and they lost because they STILL do not have a quarterback.  (A story that is now decades old).

Mark Sanchez? Substitute him with Geno Smith, because the output is exactly the same. Nada.

To say Geno Smith was bad on Sunday is an understatement. He was woeful, and confirmed to the masses that the Jets need a quarterback change not next week, not two weeks from now, but right now.

On Sunday, Smith was 17-of-33 for 209 yards a touchdown, an interception and a lost fumble. In the first half the struggling QB threw for only 32 yards, ruffling the feathers of the Jets faithful. By the third quarter chants of "We want Vick" echoed through the entire stadium.

To make matters worse Smith threw a costly interception while being dragged down from behind on the Jets first drive after Matthew Stafford scored a touchdown to make it 24-10. Smith then fumbled the football back to Detroit after the Lions missed a field goal on their previous drive.

Smith then committed the biggest snafu of his young career, yelling obscenities back to a hecklers in the stadium. 

Only the Jets could create such drama. Geno Smith is done; he's a lost soul, whose NFL and Jets career is now an insipid path. 

The chants grew louder and louder to get Geno out of the game. Yet Rex Ryan didn't hear them, or, maybe he didn't want to. Ryan decided to back up his quarterback by telling the press after the game that he believes Geno Smith can "win games," and believes that he is the "guy" for the Jets -- refrains that we are used to hearing from Ryan -- because he used it just about every week in his bizarre defense of Mark Sanchez.

This is now the second time Ryan has watched a young quarterback wilt under the pressure of New York and become a virtual pinata for the fan-base to pick on. First it was Sanchez, who's proclivity for turning the football over and making "rookie" mistakes as a veteran quarterback became a thing of legend, and finally a thing of infamy after the "butt-fumble" of 2012.

Ryan defended Sanchez that night much the same way he's defending Geno Smith now: with nothing but the utmost confidence when we all know better that it is time for the Jets the part ways.

Not only is Geno Smith's Jets clock ticking, but so is Ryan's clock. And you might as well throw in Offensive Coordinator Marty Morhinweg and General Manager Jon Idzik into that fray too, because now it is up to Woody Johnson to sit back and realize that he needs to clean house.

Everyone got excited about a mediocre season last year that ended much the same way the previous two seasons ended -- out of the playoffs. Yet Ryan and the Jets treated the final two wins of 2013 against the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins as if it were the AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl. They weren't and those fans who clamored that Rex should stay are once again proven wrong.

Ryan should have been let go then, because if this thing spirals out of control now, he will be let go at the end of this season. Remember when Ryan admitted after the 2012 season that he didn't have the pulse of the team? Well, it appears he still doesn't have that pulse now.

Ryan doesn't seem to have the pulse of his offense, and has left in the hands of Morhinweg, who has done a terrible job of both running the offense and tutoring the young quarterback. Morhinweg should be out the door too.

Sadly today's events do not help Rex at all.

Geno Smith should know better than to yell at the fans, and defensive end Sheldon Richardson shouldn't be adding to it by telling the fans to "shut up" when it comes to critiquing the team.  This behavior makes the Jets look like a circus.

Ryan needs to get this group under control.

And how about Idzik? It was Jon Idzik who forced fed Ryan and Woody Johnson Geno Smith, drafting him as the guy to push Sanchez out the door as the "next franchise quarterback of the NYJ." It was Idzik who drafted Dee Milliner. It was Idzik who decided not to spend the $20 million in cap space this past off-season on free agents, and it was Idzik who decided not to bring back Darrelle Revis, and decided to pass up on every top free agent corner on the market this year. 

If Rex Ryan takes the fall for a season that appears heading for Rich Kotite-like proportions, Idzik shouldn't be far behind. If the Jets fans can't trust Idzik when it comes to picking players, how can they trust him with the next HC of the NYJ?

The sad joke in all of this is that Michael Vick is not going to solve the Jets quarterback ills either. He might make it exciting for a quarter, maybe a game, but not the season. He's old, brittle and diminished. There is a reason why the Eagles were willing to release him in the off-season.

The Jets have the same problem they have always had: they do not have a quarterback. It is amazing how one franchise still can't get one position right after all these years and all these decades. The names on the back of the jersey change, but the output at quarterback - for the most part - has been the same.

So, with a schedule of at San Diego, Denver, at New England, Buffalo, at Kansas City, and Pittsburgh coming up the Jets look destined for 2-8 or 1-9 before their bye week, especially if they play like this.

The season is falling apart.  It is time for Woody Johnson to assess, and make moves to put new football people in charge who will light a fire into the building and the fan base. Leon Hess waited a very long time before he let Bill Parcells "shop for the groceries." Woody Johnson needs to find his Parcells.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Jeter Ends Yankee Stadium Career in Grand Fashion

Derek Jeter ended his brilliant career as a New York Yankee the only way he could. With the chants of "Derek Jeter" and "Thank You Jeter" roaring through the entire stadium, Jeter came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning in a game that was already tied at five. Two men were on, there was one out.

Jeter didn't wait to suspend the drama any further. It was his last game at Yankee Stadium, likely the last game he would ever play. He's been in these situations his entire career -- another pressure situation is nothing to him. He lined the first pitch he saw from Evan Meek to right field with that ever familiar pull swing that has been a trademark of his 20-year career. The hit was deep enough to drive in Antoan Richardson with the winning run to make it 6-5.

Jeter extended his arms into the air as his teammates mobbed him, soaking it all in with him. After hugging each of his teammates, he began to walk toward the dugout, before catching a glance of his old teammates waiting and watching in the wings. Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams and former manager Joe Torre were waiting for Jeter. Jeter didn't break down when he saw them, but I'm sure he was tearing up inside.

He then took a walk around the infield, and around the park tipping his cap to the Yankee fans he entertained for so many years. The run was now over.

WATCH JETER's WALK OFF SINGLE!



Photo Gallery.

While he wasn't the best player to ever play the position, statistically, Jeter was the last connection the fans had to the club's championship days of the late 90s-early 2000's. He was the face of the franchise for an entire generation, especially one that grew up watching him play every single day. 2015 will be weird for those Yankees fans under 30 who are not used to the Yankees without Jeter in the lineup.

From the Flip play to the walk-off home runs in the playoffs against the Orioles and Diamondbacks; homeruns against the Mets in the World Series -- he had a lot of big moments for a era of Yankees baseball steeped in winning. As the most popular of those teams, among Yankees fans, it is fitting that he was the last of this group to retire, and did so in dramatic fashion.

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Now that Jeter has walked into sunset, so does the overlong and stretched out Derek Jeter Retirement Tour that after a while hit a point of ridiculousness. From teams bending over backwards to shower Jeter with one bizarre gift after another (i.e. the NY Yankees cowboy boots from the Rangers, surf boards from the Rays, and Angles, I could go on), to the ludicrous gushing by fan, pundits and commercials as if Jeter was the only great player to ever retire -- the tour became a bit much.

Perhaps the Jeter-phenomenon that grabbed the nation has its roots in many different aspects of our culture. For starters, he was the face of the most recognized franchise in baseball -- a clean cut image of success, and Jeter's persona embodied that. He kept himself off Page Six; never drank or fooled around in Alex Rodriguez fashion.

Also a big part of the celebration of his career might stem from baseball fans' reaction and rejection of the steroid era. Jeter is the third straight player who played in the era, and considered clean, to retire. Before him Chipper Jones and Mariano Rivera retired in consecutive years to similar fanfare and parades. Thanks to the steroid boys McGuire, Sosa, Clemens and A-Rod, fans wanted to wrap their hands around someone who was good and decent from that time period, and Jeter is it.

 Like George C. Scott said in the opening monoluge to Patton, "America loves a winner." Jeter won a lot, but now it is time to move on. Baseball will survive. The Yankees will survive, and Jeter will survive. The memories he left Yankees fans will live on forever -- and I can guarantee he will show up at Yankees Stadium from time to time.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Manning and Giants Clobber Happless Skins

GIANTS 45
REDSKINS 14

Any doubts about the efficiency of the New York Giants offense were finally put to rest in a convincing 45-14 victory over the Redskins in Landover, Maryland on Thursday. The Giants rolled up 441 yards of offense on the Redskins, with Eli Manning proving to be the star of the show, zinging the football all over the ball park for 300 yards and five total touchdowns.

The Giants set the tone early. A sack and fumble of Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins set the Giants up at the Washington 32, and it didn't take long for Eli Manning to do his thing. After a couple quick completions, Manning hit tight end Larry Donnell from five yards out to give New York a 7-0 lead.

After a Redskins three and out, Manning hit a streaking Victor Cruz for 36 yards down the sideline to the Washington 39. After a couple of Rashad Jennings carries, Manning hit Donnell for eight more to the Redskins 14, before connecting with Donnell two plays later for a six yard touchdown to make it 14-0, Big Blue.

Manning was incredible in the first half. He completed 16-of-18 passes and three scores before the two minute warning in the second quarter.

After Washington got a touchdown to cut the Giants lead in half, Manning engineered a 12-play 67 yard drive for another score. The big play coming on a 27 yard go-route to Ruben Randel to the Washington 28 yard line. Six plays later Manning found Donnell again from six yards out in the corner of the end zone to make it 21-7.

For Donnell he went from unknown quantity to fantasy football option in one night.

As for the Giants defense they destroyed the confidence of Kirk Cousins. While the stats say he was sacked only twice, he was under duress for the entire ball game. In the fourth quarter the Giants got to Cousins as he threw four second half interceptions, three of them coming in the third quarter.

Cousins threw a pick to Prince Amukamara, who brought the ball all the back to the Redskins 28. The Giants couldn't take advantage as Brandon Meriweather jarred a touchdown catch out of the hands of Ruben Randall for a Redskins pick. The Giants made for that gaff quickly when Quentin Demps picked off Cousins.

Manning then found Dan Fells from two yards out to push the Giants ahead 31-14.

Manning capped off his night with a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter to make it 38-14.

So who is still panicking that the Giants are doomed? Who is still wondering whether Eli Manning still has it? Nobody? No hands? Figured.

The Giants (2-2) are right in the thick of the NFC East, their season is very much alive. If the Giants continue to play this way they are going to be a very, very big threat in the NFL this season.

Return of Alderson and Collins echos Mets Satisfaction with Mediocrity

Inspite of four straight losing seasons, little major league talent with the big club, and a nearly 3/4 empty stadium for much of the past few seasons, it doesn't seem to matter at all to Fred and Jeff Wilpon: they have endorsed the efforts of Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins, signing both of them to extensions beyond 2015. 

Mediocrity is bliss when it comes to the Mets. As long as the team shows some progress, but not enough progress to get a fan base excited is good enough for ownership as well as the number of delusional Met fans that STILL believe Alderson is the next Frank Cashen.

Granted the Mets have played better -- somewhat -- in the second half of 2014. Their pitching staff carried them for much of the second half of the year. In fact that is where the kudos begin and end regarding Alderson.

Alderson came to New York and was asked to rebuild the farm system, and did so especially with the starting pitching staff. The Mets will head into 2015 with a strong starting rotation intact. From Matt Harvey, who needs to show he is back from Tommy Johns Surgery, to Jacob DeGrom, Zach Wheeler, and Jon Niese, the Mets are set here. Plus the Mets expect top prospect Noah Syndergaard to be a big part of the rotation in 2015 as well.

But that is where all the accolades end for the Mets. Alderson and Collins have done little else that should give fans confidence that this is a ball club that is ready to challenge for a playoff spot come next year.  Forget for a moment that the Mets play in a rather weak division; remember this is an organization that has told its fan base every year that: 'next year is the year we turn it around.'

We are still waiting for next year.

Remember when 2013 was supposed to be the year the Mets shed all of the weights from the Bernie Madoff mess, would open the pocket books and spend, spend, spend? Well, that day never arrived. Then the Mets, with Alderson its biggest cheerleader, told us that 2014 would be the year that the team would turn it around.

The Mets have won 79 games and spent much of the year either in third or fourth place. So much for 2014 being the year of the turnaround.

In both of these years Alderson didn't make a move at the trade deadline; in the off-season he did even worse with one questionable free agent signing after another. Chris Young, Jose Valverde, Kyle Farnsworth, and Frank Francisco are just an example of the kind of free agents that Alderson has brought in, all of them have failed to one degree or another. Alderson also passed on potential free agents who could have helped the team, i.e. Nelson Cruz. Do these moves, or lack thereof justify a three year extension?

As for Collins while he is a very good man, he isn't the right guy for the job. Never has been. Collins have been critiqued for his lack of fire, and poor handling with lineups and the bullpen over the years -- yet, even though he has managed a team that seems steadfast in mediocrity, he's done enough in the eyes of the Wilpons to warrant a return.

Yet here we are the Mets head toward 2015 and beyond with the same crew steering the ship.

While the starting staff looks good, the rest of the roster is very questionable. Mets' fans would say the bullpen is ready to go for 2015 with Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia leading the way, but anyone who knows baseball knows that bullpens are a year-to-year evaluation. While the young pitchers in the Mets pen did a solid job down the stretch in 2014, it does not mean they will be lights out in 2015. The Mets could do themselves a big favor by getting a couple free agent veteran relievers for that pen if they want to be taken seriously.

Then there is the lineup that hit .239 with a .309 on base percentage as a team this year. Not good. One glance at the Mets current lineup of hitters and it is fair to say there are legitimate questions at every position.

The Mets don't know if Daniel Murphy will be their second baseman next year and beyond; will it be Murphy or Daniel Herrera?  Murphy was the Mets best hitter in 2014, but they might be inclined to trade him, opening up the spot for the untested Herrara. Yes, another Met minor leaguer trying to make it in the big leagues.

They have a big question mark at short stop between Ruben Tejada and Wilmur Flores. Neither player distinguished himself this season, and the Mets need to either, A) get a short stop in free agency, or B) bite the bullet with these two once more.

Questions abound about the competency of Lucas Duda at first base and Travis d'Arnaut at catcher for the long term; David Wright's health is also a legitimate concern moving forward, especially at 32 years old.

And don't forget the outfield where the Mets have no answers. Curtis Granderson hit .229; Eric Young Jr. hit .232 and Jaun Lageras is as light hitting as they come even though he hit the best of this group at .281. None of them inspire much confidence either.

So if the Mets are going to trust Alderson and Collins again for a few more years, they better get some players this time around, because the mediocrity is too much to bare. But then again, don't tell that to the Wilpons.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Geno Smith's Miscues Cost Jets in Loss to Bears

BEARS 27
JETS 19 

It didn't take long for the Jets to put themselves in a proverbial hole that they would never dig themselves out of. On the second play of the game, Jets quarterback Geno Smith faked a screen to the left, turned around to his right, and tried to pitch a screen pass, but instead of finding number 21, Chris Johnson, he found number 21, Ryan Munday of the Chicago Bears. Munday went 45 yards for the game's opening touchdown to put the Bears up 7-0, setting the tone for the next three hours.

Geno Smith was bad. He cost the Jets with turnovers, misreads of the Bears defense, throwing the football off the wrong foot, and throwing incomplete passes that were just past the outstretched hands of his receivers. While the Jets mistakes were team inflicted, it was Smith's errors that stood tall on Monday night.

While the final stat line says Smith threw for 256 yards and two interceptions, it could have been much, much worse. And it felt worse.

On the Jets second possession after the pick-six, Smith had the Jets on a third and three at the New York 39, but he couldn't complete a short pass to Jeremy Kerley, watching it fall incomplete forcing a Jets punt.  The Bears turned that into seven more points. Assisted by a major pass interference call on Darrian Walls that moved the football to the Jets seven-yard line, Jay Cutler hit a wide open Michael Bennett to make it 14-0, Chicago.

The most frustrating part of the night for the Jets was their inability to turn drives into points. Seven times the Jets had the football in the red zone and only once they scored a touchdown. Every other drive either resulted in a field goal, or a turnover on downs.

Here are five of the six most glaring missed opportunities at glory:
1) Late in the first quarter the Jets moved the football all the way down to the Bears 15 yard line, before Smith took a major sack that turned a 2nd and 9 into 3rd and 22. The Jets kicked a field goal.

2) Now down 17-3, Smith decides to dump-off a second down pass to Jeff Cumberland who gains only four yards; then on third down he goes back to Cumberland, with a similar play, but can't complete the short pass. Result: Jets field goal.

3) Midway through the third quarter, Smith piloted the Jets all the way to the Bears 18. Down 24-13, it appeared the Jets were on their way to scoring a touchdown to get back into it, but Smith rolled left, misread the Bears secondary and heaved a pass into the end zone that was picked off by Kyle Fuller who stepped in front of David Nelson at the right moment.

4) After the Jets get great field position thanks to a Bears three-and-out that ended in a unnecessary roughness penalty that put the ball on the Chicago 28, the Jets still couldn't get the ball over the pylon. Smith dinked and dunked inside the ten yard line, and was tackled for a loss on a misguided quarterback keeper at the Bears two yard line. Result? You guessed it, Jets field goal.

5) Now down 27-19 in the wanning minutes the Jets needed one really good drive and a touchdown to have a shot at forcing overtime. Before the drive ever began Smith almost threw it away when he dumped the ball into the hands of linebacker Jon Bostic, who couldn't hold onto the interception. That would have ended the game right there.

Smith did make one good play on the drive when he hit Greg Salas on the sideline, before Salas took it down field 51-yards to put the Jets in great position at the Chicago 20-yard line. Once again the red zone was Geno's kryptonite. He threw three dreary incompletions, before throwing a pass to Kerely out of bounds in the back of the end zone, in very tight coverage ending the game in Chicago's favor.

A few thoughts: 1) Not only was Geno Smith's execution poor, but the play calling was very strange. Marty Morninhweg's strategy did not work. His play call to have Smith run a quarterback draw at the two-yard line when everyone expected it was a horrible decision. Not to mention Morninhweg has gone away from the Jets running attack of Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory. Between the two of them, Ivory and Johnson had only 20 combined carries.

2) The refs may have played a roll in the game. While there were plenty of questionable calls or even non-calls throughout the night on both sides, the biggest gaff came on the Jay Cutler fumble.

Cutler fumbled the football at the Jets 44 yard line in the final seconds of the second quarter. DeMario Davis picked it up and went all the way for the touchdown, but it was ruled down by contact. After the officials reviewed it, they overturned it as a fumble recovery, but by rule couldn't give the Jets a touchdown.

That was a mistake by the officials, but the Jets had the chance to overcome the officials gaff and never did. The Jets went three-and-out after the fumble recovery, and watched Cutler lead another touchdown drive on Chicago's opening drive of the third quarter to make it 24-13 Bears.

The Jets (1-2) are in big trouble. Smith once again showed a lot of poor decision making in this game, and the calls for Michael Vick are already beginning. The Jets drafted Smith in the second round of the 2013 draft as a guy to push Mark Sanchez. As we all know, Smith was forced into the starting role last year and the Jets have convinced themselves he's a franchise quarterback. So far Rex Ryan, Jon Idzik and company are coming up snake eyes. For Rex Ryan, it would be the second time he was wrong on a young quarterback.

Smith and the Jets have to rebound this week against the Detroit Lions, otherwise the negativity will continue to build, and with it -- the end of the Geno Smith experiment won't be far behind.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Giants Step Up for Team Win Against Texans

GIANTS 30
TEXANS 17

It's about time. The New York Giants are officially off the schnide after a convincing 30-17 smackdown of the Houston Texans on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, to capture their first victory of the year.

While it wasn't pretty early, the Giants found a way to get past their own mistakes thanks in part to the fact that Houston couldn't get out of their own way either. The Giants fumble the football in the red zone? No problem, the Texans turn it back over on a Ryan Fitzpatrick interception. The Giants botch a field goal attempt? Doesn't matter, the Texans can't move the football on their next possession.

Houston's own incompetence gave the Giants a chance in this game, and with that free ticket, Eli Manning took full advantage. Midway through the second quarter Manning engineered a nine play 83-yard drive that culminated in Manning hitting Victor Cruz in the flat for a 26-yard touchdown. It was the first touchdown of the year for Cruz -- but -- in a lot of ways, it relaxed the Giants. A wild game that was going at 90 mph, was now under their control and they knew it.

The Giants defense pinned its ears back and harrassed Fitzpatrick. They sacked him for a six-yard loss on first down; then they stuffed the ground game on second down. Finally Antrelle Rolle picked off a Fitzpatrick pass that bounced off the hands of Andre Johnson, setting the Giants up at the Houston two-yard line.

Rashard Jennings finished off the scoring opportunity by plunging in from one and a half yards out on third down to make it Giants 14, Texans 0.

Losing streak? Thing of the past. Mistakes and penalties? Not on this day. Confidence? You betcha.

Come the second half the Giants put the football firmly in the hands of Jennings and the former Raider didn't disappoint. He carried the football on every play of the Giants opening drive of the third quarter for 24 yards to set up a Giants field goal to make it 17-0.

Even when the Texans tried to make a game of it late in the third quarter there was a certain aura around the Giants that they were not going to be denied for the third consecutive week. Manning and Jennings interchanged plays for a combined 38 yards to push the ball to the Houston 39. Lastly, Manning hit Cruz for 12-yards to the 27-yard line and the Giants were set up for another field goal to make it 20-10.

With a ten-point lead the Giants defense needed to make one more big stand and did they ever. With 10:41 to go in the game, the Giants blocked a Shane Lechler punt, retrieving it at the Houston 29. From there Jennings dashed across the left side for 15 yards to the nine. Manning then capped off the drive with a rope to Daniel Fells to push New York ahead 27-10. At this point the game was won.

Jennings was incredible. A week after costing the Giants on a fumble in the fourth quarter, Jennings ran for 176 yards on Sunday. He cut in and out of a usually stiff Texans defense eating up yards and clock in the process. Jennings' big day took a lot of pressure off Manning, who had a solid day completing 21 of 28 passes for 234 yards and two scores.

The Giants (1-2) are no longer on death's door in 2014. They have a heartbeat. A sigh of relief could be seen on the faces of all the players on the New York sideline. Weeks of hard work and stress finally resulted in a big time win for Big Blue.

The Giants will have a very short week before their next game in Washington against the Kirk Cousins-led Redskins on Thursday night. The Giants will look to get back to .500 and 1-0 in their division in week 4.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Giants Trying to Save Season vs. Texans



Texans @ Giants 
1:00 p.m. CBS 

For the second consecutive year the Giants open the season at 0-2, and for the second consecutive season everyone thinks the Giants are on the brink of watching their season fall apart before the month of October.

The Giants didn't look good last week against Arizona. Penalties on defense and mistakes on special teams cost the Giants dearly turning a 14-10 lead into a 25-14 loss last week. Now the Giants have to win against the Texans (2-0) or the calls for Tom Coughlin's head will only get louder, if they are not loud enough already.

Key Match-up: Giants offense against Texans defense. The Giants are ranked 30th in the NFL in total offense. While Eli Manning played better last week, he still has to get on the same page with his receivers, who have let him down with way too many drops. When Larry Donnell, the Giants back-up tight end is leading the team in receiving, you know things are not good for Big Blue. Not to mention, the Giants have to get their running game going, and that starts up front with an offensive line that is still struggling to gel as a unit.

This could get ugly, because the Texans have a lot of talent of the defensive side of the ball. Led by all pro DE, J.J. Watt, the Texans could get a lot of pressure on Manning if his offensive line falters in this game. So if the Giants offense is going to gel, now would be a great time for that to happen.

If Manning gets the time he deserves in the pocket, the veteran quarterback will make big plays in this game, and the Giants could be in line for win number 1.

Don't overlook Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. It was easy to write off the Texans this year as a team that would improve, but not enough to be a serious threat in the AFC because of Fitzpatrick. He has proven to be more of a back-up quarterback in his career than anything else. Yet, this Texans team has more talent for Fitzpatrick to work with than he did in stops at Buffalo and Tennessee. The Texans still have a dynamic receiver in Andre Jonson, and a top back in Arian Foster. In fact Foster has already ran for 241 yards, 4.4 yards per carry.

What to expect: I said it last week and was dead wrong, so for the last time I will go on the line and say the Giants are going to come out on fire in this game. I am not saying they will light up the scoreboard, but I expect the Giants to put forth a determined effort on Sunday against Houston. The Texans will put up points, but if the Giants don't turn it over they will have a great chance in this one.

Prediction: Giants 24, Texans 20: The Giants are going to get off the schnide, and win a game, finally. Eli Manning is going to play extremely well and will carry the Giants on his shoulders in this one. Expect touchdown catches for both Victor Cruz and maybe Ruben Randel. The Texans will have a chance late, but Fitzpatrick will revert to old form and turn it over in a crucial moment.

Jets Defesne Faces Tough Test in Bears Passing Attack

Bears @ Jets
Monday, Sept. 22 - 8:30 p.m. ESPN

One would have to think that Marty Mornhinweg will not be calling time outs this time around in a crucial spot when the Jets take on the Bears on Monday night, at least that's what the Jets should hope. Sunday's heartbreaking loss to the Packers is going to stick to the Jets for a while, even Geno Smith saying it took him longer than usual to get over that loss.

The Jets held a 21-3 lead before watching the Packers take full advantage of both a leaky Jets secondary and some Same Ole' Jets tricks en route to their 31-24 win over Gang Green. Now the Jets (1-1) have to refocus and get ready for another tough task against the high-flying Chicago Bears offense.

Key Match-ups: Jets defense vs. Bears passing attack. Much has been made about the Jets maligned secondary, and the proof was in the pudding last week when the Packers torched the Jets for 346 yards through the air, with 209 of those yards going to receiver Jordy Nelson. It is an understatement to say the Jets must do a better job in coverage this week against a Bears offense that features two gigantic receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

While Marshall and Jeffery's numbers don't jump off the page from last week's win at San Francisco, the fact that Marshall caught three touchdowns in the game does stand out. Therefore there are two keys for the Jets. 1) They the have to cover better and jam these receivers at the line -- obviously.

2) The Jets pass rush must harass Jay Cutler into mistakes. The Jets were able to sack Aaron Rodgers four times on Sunday, but he's Aaron Rodgers -- he doesn't easily get rattled.  Cutler, on the other hand, does. He threw two costly interceptions against the Bills in Week 1 when under duress, and has made a career of throwing big picks in big spots. If the Jets front seven can dominate the Bears at the line of scrimmage it will be a long night for Cuter.

Jets run offense vs. Bears run defense: Did I mention this is a game of the trenches? The Jets must run the football against the Bears, and run successfully if they are going to have a chance in this one. The Bears are 27th in the NFL against the run. They've allowed 320 yards rushing and two scores so far this year, including 64 from Colin Kaepernick last week.

The Jets feature a very solid back field with Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory. Those two must have break out nights for the Jets on Monday if they are to control clock and keep the ball away from Cutler and company.

What to expect: This could be a high scoring game like what we saw in Green Bay last week. The Jets will try to slow the game down on the ground, but it will again be up to Geno Smith in third down situations to convert them and not make a mistake. On the other side, expect the Jets defense to hit Cutler a lot in this game, but he will have a number of chances to make big throws to Jeffery and Marshall during the night. Again, this game has the potential to get pretty crazy.

Prediction: Bears 30, Jets 27. This is a game that I have a really hard time picking. I could easily see the Jets winning this game, since they've had an extra day to rest, and the Bears are making their another road trip -- one week after playing on the other coast. But if Jay Cutler has an opportunity to win the game late with those weapons he will do it. Both Cutler and Geno Smith will make their fair share of mistakes in this game. This will be a tough loss for either team.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Jets Blow 18-Point Lead in "Time Out-Gate" Game at Green Bay

PACKERS 31
JETS 24

Here's the bright side Jets fans, nobody expected Gang Green to win this game.

For two quarters the Jets had us all tricked. They were rushing Aaron Rodgers all over the field; forced him into a turnover on the opening play of the game, and cashed it in for six on a Geno Smith scramble. They sacked Rodgers two more times, and cashed that in for six more points, when Smith hit a wide open Eric Decker streaking down the sideline to make it 14-0, Jets.

Before anyone knew it, Gang Green held a 21-3 lead over Green Bay. Talk about stunning.

Then the Jets decided to be the Jets, and the Packers decided to be, well, the Packers. Green Bay hit a couple of field goals, and all of a sudden 21-3 became 21-9 and things didn't look so bleak for the Green Bay.

The Jets helped ... a lot.

Geno Smith threw a pick inside the red zone, and the Packers took full advantage as the first half drew to a close. The dagger coming when Rodgers hit Davante Adams for 24-yards from the Jets 30 to put Green Bay right on the door step at the New York six-yard line. Two plays later Green Bay scored on a six-yard pass from Rodgers to Randall Cobb, and all of a sudden the Packers went from getting their doors blown off to being right in it with the Jets down 21-16.

For the Jets the game went from a pleasant surprise, to another sad and sickening chapter in a long line of dumbfounding chapters in team history with the second half taking the cake.

After Geno Smith proved he couldn't handle the pressure on a couple of Jets drives in the third quarter, Rodgers proceeded to pick apart the leaky Jets secondary. He hit Jordy Nelson for 11 yards to the Green Bay 44. Later, he found Nelson again for 33 yards to the Jets 10-yard line. Finally Rodgers found Cobb one more time open in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown to make it 22-21, Packers.

Here is when the Jets went from playing lousy football to playing dumb football. Green Bay converted the two point conversion, and all of sudden the Jets decided to start throwing punches at the Packers. While several Green Bay players were involved in the skirmish as well, the Jets started it. Sheldon Richard and Muhammad Wilkerson, two of the Jets leaders on the defense were very much involved; in fact Wilkerson got ejected for the incident, and even smiled and gestured to the crowd as he walked off the field.

Yet, even with this moment of infamy, and even with the fact that Jordy Nelson added an 80-yard touchdown catch and run to give Green Bay the lead; nothing could top what the Jets did to themselves in the fourth quarter.

For a franchise known for the Mud Bowl; the Gastaneau hit on the Browns' Bernie Kosar, and most recently in the Rex Ryan era: foot-gate, and the butt-fumble -- this finish joined that exclusive group.

Even though the Jets had blown an 18-point lead, they still had a fighting chance. Geno Smith was playing pretty solid football without his top wide receiving target in Eric Decker, who left with a hamstring.

Smith had New York at the Packers 37-yard line, and for the first time in his 2-year career delivered the most clutch, and, maybe the best throw of his entire Jets career, lofting a bomb into the corner of the end zone, into the hands of Jeremy Kerely for the tying touchdown.

The Jets were alive. It was going to be 31-31. A game once thought over was likely heading for overtime. But wait, the Jets called a time out before the play ever happened.

Who called it? It was not Rex Ryan. Ryan was screaming at the officials that he never called the timeout to negate what was the best play by the Jets in more than three seasons. The guilty party: offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.  Mornhingweg ran down the sideline calling time out before Nick Mangold ever snapped the football to Geno Smith. Even Sheldon Richardson leaned over to the line judge and said that Marty was calling a timeout and to blow the whistle.

Talk about stupid Jets tricks. Marty Mornhinweg, the man best known for imploding the Detroit Lions when he was their head coach a decade ago, imploded the Jets chances on Sunday. Sure you can fault Sheldon Richardson for leaning over to the side judge to make him aware that Mornhinweg was called a T.O., but he's just a player trying to do what his coaches tell him.

The fault rests at Mornhinweg's feet. He most have forgotten he was an assistant coach not an head coach on Sunday afternoon. The fault also rests at Rex Ryan's feet. Ryan should have full autonomy over his assistants, and should be the only one to call a time out. In fact, blame everyone on the Jets sideline, because someone should have known the rules that ONLY the head coach can call a time out.

The fact that Ryan didn't even know who called the time out is comical, since Mornhinweg was running near him. Then again, this is the Jets we are talking about.

Result: another sad loss for the New York Jets.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Don't Blame Eli for This One, Giants D and Specials Stink it Up

CARDINALS 22
GIANTS 14 

The Giants are back in a very dark place right now; a place they are all too familiar with after last season's 7-9 disaster, which began with a hideous 0-6 start.

Once again the Giants are wondering when they will ever win a game. This year's Giants are now 0-2 after losing inexplicably to the Arizona Cardinals at MetLife Stadium. Those ready to throw Eli Manning under the bus as if he were the Big Blue version of Mark Sanchez better hold off. This loss is not because of Manning, it has everything to do with the guys around him. The receivers who can't hold onto the football; the defense that can't avoid holding penalties if their lives depended on it, and a special teams unit that couldn't run down a turtle, let alone Ted Ginn Jr.

The Giants lost this game as a team, not because of one man.

Manning put the Giants in position to win this game many times over, and each time his teammates failed him.

Starting with the defense, they allowed a back-up quarterback in Drew Stanton to have his way in leading the Cardinals offense up and down the field routinely throughout the afternoon.

As soon as Big Blue found out that it would Stanton, not Carson Palmer leading Arizona, they allowed Arizona to score immediately on the opening drive of the game. Two huge penalties on Big Blue certainly helped as Jameel McClain was called for roughing the passer and Dominque Rodgers-Cromarie was called for illegal contact to move the ball to the Giants four-yard line. Jonathan Dwyer caped off the drive, plunging in from one-yard out to give the Cardinals a 7-0 lead.

Soon Eli Manning did everything he could to try to get his team back in the game. He led an inspired 13 play, 90-yard drive for a touchdown to get the Giants back into the game, trailing only 10-7. He completed five of six passes on the drive, hit Victor Cruz three different times on the drive, before dropping a dime into the hands of a waiting Ruben Randall for the score.

Finally in the third quarter, Manning started finding his usually invisible tight ends. He connected with Larry Donnell twice, one for 11 yards another for 13 more. Manning then found Rashad Jennings for 15 more down the sideline, and Victor Cruz down the middle to push New York to the Arizona 26. The connection with Cruz forced a pass interference call on Patrick Peterson setting the Giants up at the one-yard line where Manning connected with Dan Fells for the score to put New York up 14-10.

From that point on it got extremely ugly for the Giants.

On Arizona's next drive the Giants were flagged three times for illegal contact and holding, which extended a Cardinal drive that would have ended a long time ago, because there was nothing that Drew Stanton was doing to beat the Giants. Instead Big Blue beat themselves, and it put the Cards in position to kick a field goal to get within 14-13.

Finally all Hell broke loose on an unassuming punt to Ted Ginn Jr. at the Arizona 29. The speedster stutter-stepped a couple of Giants, broke containment and beat out the Giants punter for a long 71-yard touchdown return to put Arizona up 19-14.

The buffoonery didn't stop there. On the kick-off the Giants fumbled the football right back to the Cardinals, who iced the game with a field goal to make it 22-14.

To make matters worse, Manning actually got the Giants into position to score a touchdown to get back into the thing, but Jennings cost the Giants dearly when he fumbled the football at the Cardinals 17-yard line, killing both the drive and the Giants chances on the afternoon.

So those who have been wanting the head of Eli Manning, you have no leg to stand on. Sunday's epic collapse to the Cardinals was a classic example of a bad football team double pumping the break too much on the way to a potential victory. This was a game that the Giants needed. This was a game the Giants should have won. Yet they didn't, and because of it they are now 0-2 and starring at a very uncertain future for the organization moving forward.

Tom Coughlin can do headstands in the meeting and film rooms, it's not going to change this clubs lack of fundamental football.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Jets Will Try to Slow to Down Rodgers and Pack

Jets @ Packers - 4:25 CBS 

After stumbling and bumbling their way to a 19-14 victory over the Raiders on Opening Day, the Jets are going to need their best effort on Sunday against the Packers. While Green Bay lost their opener to Seattle, they are still the Packers. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers, and when given the opportunity, have the best passing attack in the league. 

This is a tall task for a Jets secondary that is still beaten up by injuries and lack of depth. Dee Milliner will not start on Sunday, but might see some action on Sunday. That is little consultation. Milliner didn't light up the world last year, although he did play well the last couple games of the year. He has had a hard time getting on the field this year with a high ankle sprain, and chasing Packer receivers isn't exactly the right method of rehab. 

Antonio Allen and Darrin Walls who both played well against the Raiders will get the start against the Packers. Key world, they played well against ... THE RAIDERS!

Key Match-ups: Other than the Jets secondary against the Packers receivers, how the Jets front seven squares off with Rodgers and the Packer ground attack will play a huge roll in this game. The Packers ran the ball for only 80 yards last week, and Eddie Lacey is coming off a concussion. Not to mention Rodgers was sacked three times by the Seahawks front seven. 

The Jets take great pride in rushing the passer. We have seen this group make life miserable for Tom Bardy and Drew Brees last season; who's to say they can't put some heat on Rodgers in this one? 

Geno Smith vs. Geno Smith. That is not a typo. I actually mean it. Which Geno Smith decides to show up will decide whether this is even a contest come the fourth quarter. While Smith passed for a high completion percentage last week, he still made a ton of mistakes last week, including throwing a pick, fumbling twice and taking bad sacks.

While the Jets have convinced themselves that Smith is a franchise quarterback, the rest of us are still waiting for Smith to become that kind of player. So far he's been nothing short of average. If Smith has it in him to play a smart, clean football game this will be the opportune time to show it. Then again, it might be asking a lot, even if he's facing a bad Packers defense. 

What to expect: The Packers are going to come out of the tunnel fired up to open up their home schedule in grand style after a 36-16 thrashing on the road to Seattle. The Jets could match that intensity early, especially with their defensive front seven, but slowly Aaron Rodgers will make the big plays. 

Prediction: Packers 31, Jets 10. The Jets will jump out to a quick 3-0 lead, and never see the lead again after that. Aaron Rodgers will get enough time in the pocket as the game moves on, and will pick apart a leaky secondary. By the third quarter Green Bay will hold a 24-3 lead, en route to a fairly easy victory.

Giants Need to Show Up Against Cardinals

Cardinals @ Giants - 1:00 FOX

The Giants cannot be encouraged coming into their week 2 battle with the Arizona Cardinals. They heard all summer that their offense was dreadful, and it showed in a big and disturbing way on Monday night against the Lions.

The Giants couldn't do anything offensively. Every time Eli Manning set back to throw he was either under tremendous duress, or throwing costly interceptions. Manning threw two picks against Detroit; one of them a miscommunication between Manning and his receiver, the other a bad job on Manning's part not reading the safety.

The West Coast Offense that had been installed by new OC Ben McAdoo is now under fire, and many people are wondering why the Giants even changed their philosophy, or whether Manning is washed up as a quarterback. Just look at this classic overreaction by one Giants Fan: Giants' Fan Burns Jersey.

To say that the Giants need a victory on Sunday would be the biggest understatement of the year, but it is true. Another loss and a 0-2 start for the second straight year will get the Coughlin/Manning hunters running to phones asking for their axing before the game ends.

The Cardinals, well, they come into town with little drama. They had a nice come from behind win against the Chargers last Monday night, and look poised to contend with Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West. This will be a tough test for them, because the Cardinals usually struggle on the East Coast.

Key Match-ups: Larry Fitzgerald vs. Giants secondary. How the Cardinals pass the football on Sunday will go a long way in determining the winner. The Giants believed they had a stout secondary coming into this season, but it didn't look like it as Matthew Stafford threw for 346 yards and Calvin Johnson had 164 yards receiving and two touchdowns. The Giants secondary and defense is vulnerable, and could get picked apart by quarterback Carson Palmer and receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

Eli Manning vs. Cardinals pass Rush: Like we mentioned before, Manning has to figure it out this week. Either the Cardinals are going to beat him, or Manning and company will beat themselves. The turnovers must stop, and the Giants have to establish a ground attack on the Cardinals. Easier said than done. The Cardinals stuffed the Chargers ground game in week 1, and put a lot of pressure on Phillip Rivers as the fourth quarter played out. Watch out for this match-up; the game is on the line here.

What to Expect: The Giants are home and have been hearing about how they are about to become a mega disaster this year. Expect Big Blue to come out and play well against the Cardinals. Arizona will keep it close and may even see the lead at points in the game. This has the earmarks of a back-n-forth affair.

Prediction: Giants 23, Cardinals 16. The Giants will trail early, comeback thanks to Manning finally finding Victor Cruz. The Giants take the lead mid-way through the third quarter, and ice it on a couple of field goals.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Geno Smith Unimpressive In Jets Opening Win

JETS 19
RAIDERS 14

It wasn't the prettiest of efforts but the New York Jets found a way to get a victory on Opening Day, outlasting the equally mediocre Raiders 19-14 at the Meadowlands on Sunday.

The Good: The Jets defense was as stout as predicted. They suffocated the Raiders offense, holding them to only 25 yards rushing, and had rookie quarterback Derek Carr running for his life for much of the afternoon.

With the exception on an early touchdown pass to Rod Streater and a last minute heave to James Jones, the secondary played fairly well. They did a great job in tackling and held Carr to only 151 yards passing.

However, the one big concern for Gang Green: the offense. The Jets were flagged for 11 penalties, eight of them coming on the offensive side of the ball. Offensive guard Willie Colon was flagged three times by himself, which hurt a couple of Jet drives.

As for Geno Smith the stats say he completed 23 of 28 passes for 221 yards, but outside of a crisp opening drive that led to a Jet field goal, he didn't play all that well. Smith turned the ball over twice. He threw an interception into the hands of Charles Woodson that led to a Raiders touchdown, and he fumbled the football on a a scramble toward the end zone at the Raiders' five yard line killing a drive. Overall Smith fumbled the ball twice. He also took a hideous 19-yard sack in the fourth quarter with the Jets leading 13-7, giving the ball back to Oakland with plenty of time remaining.

If the Jets had been playing a better team, they would have lost this game going away.

Smith's erratic play makes one wonder how long he is going to be holding onto the starting job. Michael Vick saw action for a couple of gimmick wild cat plays, harkening back to the days of Tebow Time, and that was it. If Smith struggles the way he did against the Raiders, the calls for Michael Vick will become more pronounced and louder.

The Jets are entering a tough part of their schedule with good offensive ball clubs coming up in Green Bay, Detroit, Chicago, San Diego, Denver and New England. If the Jets have plans on winning most of those games they are going to have to get better play out of the quarterback position than what they got on Sunday afternoon.

While Smith may have dazzled and silenced the critics in the pre-season, those same critics will jump on him very quickly if the poor play continues.

This is a storyline that could be brewing in New York very quickly here.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Kick-off 2014: Football is Back and We Can't Wait

Glory Hallelujah! The NFL is back for real this time, and with it all of the good things that come with it. From Football Friday's, to Fantasy Football; Football Sunday; pregame shows (i.e. Open Mike on MTRradio at 11 a.m. ;-) ; tailgating, and everything in between, it has been too long since football fans have enjoyed a Sunday afternoon.

This season the Seattle Seahawks come into 2014 both the reigning champion and favorite to win it all again. It has been 10 seasons since the New England Patriots repeated as Super Bowl champion, and many expect the Seahawks to become the first team since those '04 Patriots to accomplish the feat.

Will they do it? Can Peyton Manning and the Broncos rebound from a humiliating Super Bowl loss? Do the Patriots have anything left? Can the Bengals get over the playoff hump? Will the Cardinals overtake San Francisco and Seattle for a playoff spot?

Here are my predictions:

AFC East:
1) New England Patriots, 11 - 5: Tom Brady might be getting old, and the supporting cast is not that great for the second straight year, but in the AFC Least the Patriots will be favorites once again to get to the posteason. The keys: Rob Gronkowski returns to old form after missing most of the 2013 season, and Darrelle Revis helps to reinvigorate a poor pass defense. Plus, as long as Brady and Bill Belicheck are around, the Pats always have a great shot at the brass ring.

2) NY Jets, 8 - 8: Another season of boastful proclamations from Rex Ryan, and another disappointing season for Gang Green. The Jets have forced themselves into believing Geno Smith is a franchise quarterback; but outside of Eric Decker, he has no weapons to throw to, unless you are excited about Jeremy Kerley. The Jets front seven will be tough to run on, but quarterbacks will have a lot of fun throwing on that secondary. Will another 8-8 finish be the end of Rex Ryan? Depends on Woody Johnson. But the real hot seat belongs to John Idzik.

3) Buffalo Bills, 6 - 10: It's never a good sign when a team goes out and signs a quarterback who just retired an insurance for an under-performing player, but that is what the Bills did. Buffalo signed Kyle Orton to back up E.J. Manuel. Manuel, the first QB taken in the 2013 draft now has more pressure on him. At least he has Sammy Watkins to throw to.

 4) Miami Dolphins, 6 - 10: The Dolphins come into 2014 hoping to rid themselves of last year's locker room disgrace. They've been preaching team work and communication all summer. Will it be enough to win games, and save Joe Philbin's job? That's another question.

AFC North:
1) Baltimore Ravens, 12 - 4: No way the Ravens miss the playoffs for the second straight season. Joe Flacco has Dennis Pita back for a full season at tight end, and the Ravens added solid vets in tight end Owen Daniels and wide receiver Steve Smith. The Ravens D is always good, even if the golden days are behind them. They get both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh right out of the gate, both at home; so the Ravens could pace the division early.

2) Pittsburgh Steelers, 10 - 6: Like the Ravens, the Steelers are coming off a disappointing 2013 campaign. The main characters from Mike Tomlin to Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu are still there, but for Pittsburgh to have success they must establish a strong running attack this year to take pressure off Big Ben. The Steelers should be a playoff contender this year.

3) Cincinnati Bengals, 9 - 7: The Bengals are 0-4 in the playoffs under Marvin Lewis, yet the guy getting all the grief is the quarterback Andy Dalton, who lost three of those games. Keep in mind two of those losses were on the road against a very good Houston team, but last year's loss to San Diego at home was inexcusable. However, I think at the end of the day it will be Lewis who ultimately pays the price. He doesn't have his star coordinators with him anymore, so this is all on him.

4) Cleveland Browns, 4 - 12: The Johnny Manziels are going to be awful this year. Not only will Manziel eat more grass this season than he will sporting his ridiculous money, money sign but, the Browns will see why he dropped all the way to 22nd in the draft. Here's a tip Cleveland, don't fire your coach at the end of one season this time.

AFC South
1) Indianapolis Colts, 11 - 5: The Colts are going to win the south, no shocker there. Here is the key for Indy this year, can Andrew Luck, who is and will be a excellent quarterback in this league for a long time put his playoff struggles behind him. Luck threw seven picks in the postseason last year; that better change if the Colts want to be a Super Bowl team.

2) Houston Texans, 7 - 9: The Texans could be the year's surprise team. They have the talent on both sides of the ball to win a lot of games this season. Jadevon Clowney is a beast. JJ Watt is super human, that's the best 1-2 punch on a defensive line in football already. Plus they still have Arian Foster and Andre Johsnon. Here's the problem: no quarterback. The Texans will not win many games with Ryan Fitzpatrick as its quarterback.

3) Jacksonville Jaguars, 5 - 11: Yes, the Jaguars are in third place. But they win only five games this year in the horrific AFC South. The Jags might have a franchise quarterback in Blake Bortles, now they have to build around him as the season moves along. Don't fire Guss Bradley yet, he could use another year or two with this very young group.

4) Tennessee Titans, 4 - 12: The Titans don't have bad talent, they just don't have a quarterback who I have a lot of confidence in in Jake Locker. Can this guy stay healthy is the biggest question. Not to mention is he a good fit for Ken Whisenhunt's offense. The Titans will be a project for Whisenhunt in year one.

AFC West
1) Denver Broncos, 13 - 3: They lose the Super Bowl 43-8, and go ahead and rebuild their defense with veteran's Demarcus Ware and Aquib Talib. The Broncos should have a much better defense this season as a result. Oh, and did I mention they have some quarterback named Peyton Manning? Yeah, nuff said. The Broncos are going to be very, very good again this year.

2) Kansas City Chiefs, 10 - 6: Andy Reid proved to be the right fit for the Chiefs last year, as he led their turnaround back to the postseason. The Chiefs have a solid field general in Alex Smith who doesn't turn the ball over, and Jammal Charles should have another big year on the ground. The Chiefs were +18 in turnovers last year. With Reid and Smith in charge that should continue. Maybe the Chiefs can finally win a playoff game this time around.

3) San Diego Chargers, 7 - 9: Why do I have a feeling that the Chargers could be that team that slips up this year. This is not a knock on their talent, they have a lot of it. This is not a knock on Philip Rivers, but someone has to have a down year, and it seems the Chargers are ripe for the picking. Facing the NFC West won't be easy either for the Bolts.

4) Oakland Raiders, 5 - 11: So Derek Carr is now the man in Oakland. Dennis Allen better be right after the Fresno State rookie lit up third and fourth stringers in the final preseason game, or he will ... ah never mind, Allen is getting fired anyway.

NFC East
1) Philadelphia Eagles, 10 - 6: I hate this pick, but until the Giants and Cowboys show me something I have to go with the Eagles in the East. Nick Foles was incredible last year; although I don't expect him to duplicate those numbers in 2014, he should be a stable force for the Eagles offense if healthy. LeSean McCoy is as dangerous as the come in the backfield. The Eagles will be in a tug of war all year in the East. This will go down to a week 17 match-up with the Giants. BTW, Foles better stay healthy, otherwise the Eagles have to rely on Mark Sanchez, meaning that record you see there will be flipped to 6-10 or worse.

2) NY Giants,  9 - 7: The Giants offense look putrid in the preseason. Were they holding back, or was that the real NY Giants this summer? We will find out soon, but Eli Manning better figure out Ben McAdoo's offense fast. It doesn't help that the Giants O-line is in tatters, and outside of Victor Cruz they are desperate for receiver help. The Giants ground game and beefed up defense will keep them in a lot of games. Once they figure out that offense, watch out the Giants could be a playoff contender.

3) Dallas Cowboys,  9 - 7: Hey the Boys won't go 8-8 this year. Now will they ever make the playoffs under Jason Garret and Tony Romo? I know, I know everyone likes to make fun of the Boys because they are the Cowboys, but eventually they will break through and make it to serious January football. What they do there is another story.

4) Washington Redskins, 7 - 9: RGIII got his wish, Mike Shananhan was fired. Enter Jay Gruden (Jon's brother) as the HC of DC. Can the Skins and Griffin III get back on track? They could be the most fascinating story of the year. It's boom or bust right for the quarterback.

NFC North
1) Green Bay Packers 12 - 4: Ok, so the Packers lose the opener in Seattle. So what? This is still a very good football team. The Packers need to get Eddie Lacey back from his concussion in order to take some pressure off Aaron Rodgers. The question with the Pack is the credibility of that defense. The D could be Green Bay's Waterloo.

2) Chicago Bears 11 - 5: A lot of people are on the Bears bandwagon for this season, and count me in; although I won't go as far as to say Jay Cutler is an MVP candidate. Cutler and the Bears offense was not the main culprit last year, it was their 25th ranked defense. Jared Allen's addition will help, but the defense overall has to play better.

The Bears offense will score a lot of points, especially with the talent they have on offense. From Culter to Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, the Bears will compete with some of the best this year.

3) Minnesota Vikings 7 - 9: My sleeper team of 2014. Mike Zimmer is going to instill an tenacity on defense that has lacked in years past, and offensive coordinator Norv Turner should settle things down for either Matt Cassel or Teddy Bridgewater. I like the Vikings starting Cassel first. This team is in a win now mentality, partly because the best running back in football, Adrian Peterson is not getting any younger.

4) Detroit Lions 6 - 10: The Lions scare me. Not from a playoff contender standpoint, but I just don't trust this group. The club struggled with discipline issues the last few years under Jim Schwartz, hence his firing last January. However, is Jim Caldwell that much better. Caldwell is a good offensive coordinator, but not a great head coach. He might fix some of Matt Stafford's mechanics, but I don't see Detroit taking a big jump here.

NFC South
1) New Orleans Saints 11 - 5: Drew Brees is still there as is a happy Jimmy Graham. The Saints defense was vastly improved under Rob Ryan last year, and should get better this year. It would take catastrophic injuries or misfortune to derail this Saints season.

2) Atlanta Falcons 9 - 7: The Falcons are coming off a bitter 4-12 season, and need to rebound this year. Mike Smith was not totally on the hot seat last year; he will be if the Dirty Birds struggle this year. They have to stay healthy this year, and must generate a pass rush this season to be successful. Matt Ryan and the offense will be fine. Expect Atlanta to be competitive this year.

3) Carolina Panthers 8 - 8: The Panthers lost a lot of talent at wide receiver from Steve Smith to Brandon LaFell. Plus Smith was a emotional leader on this ball club for many years, now he is out of the picture. Already Cam Newton has been dealing with a rib injury. Count the Panthers as a favorite to NOT return to the postseason.

4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6 - 10: They now have a respected head coach in Lovie Smith, who inherits a young and potentially good football team. Lovie still needs pieces to make it move in the right direction in the next few years.

NFC West
1) Seattle Seahawks 12 - 4: The world champions looked the part on Thursday against Green Bay. Russell Wilson is in year three of his career in a system that fits his skills set perfectly. While they have lost a couple pieces, Seattle's vaunted defense will be excellent once again this year. The Seahawks are a very live threat to repeat this season.

2) San Francisco 49ers 11 - 5: The Niners had their share of off-season headlines. From players getting in trouble off the field, to rumors that coach Jim Harbaugh is having issues with the front office, many expect San Fran to take a step back. It could happen, but until I see it, I'll believe that this is still a playoff team in 2014.

3) Arizona Cardinals 7 - 9: Everyone's favorite pick to make the playoffs this year. The Cardinals were 10-6 last year and that close to a playoff spot in 2013. Granted Bruce Arians is a very good head coach, I just don't trust Carson Palmer over the course of a long season. The Cards will make noise, but not the kind of noise people think.

4) St. Louis Rams 5 - 11:Losing Sam Bradford again is going to hurt this team. Shaun Hill is no Kurt Warner, so this should be a very rough season for Jeff Fisher and company.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Jets Set to Take on Raiders in Opener

Jets vs. Raiders
Sunday 1:00 p.m. ET
TV CBS

The wait is finally over, the preseason is now to the side and finally the real thing is about to begin. Football returns this weekend with a full slate of action, and now we are going to find out whether or not the retooled New York Jets are as good as they've been talking about all summer long.

The Jets have talked, and talked, and talked that they are ready to become a playoff team again, harkening back to the days of 2009, 2010 and 2011 when Rex Ryan couldn't help himself but make one bold proclamation after another, no matter how foolish it made him look in the end.

After walking the John Idzik tightrope last season, Ryan and the Jets are back to their old tricks. Just take their recent missives to the media this week as they prepare for the Oakland Raiders in Week 1.

" Woody Johnson is on record that he is not satisfied with 8-8.
“Hell no, I want to be better than that,” Ryan said, “and we’re gonna be better than that.
“I don’t care what the schedule, what this, who’s out, who’s not — doesn’t matter. There’s no excuses. We know what we’re capable of doing, and the great thing is it starts Sunday, and we’ll see who’s right and who’s wrong.”
Ryan is no longer the only one who isn’t interested in kissing Bill Belichick’s rings.
“I think this team is great,” Quinton Coples told The Post’s Brian Costello, “think this team is built to go to war with anybody.
“Can we stand up to them? Can we play them? Will we go out and give them our best shot? Yeah, I think so. I think we’re the team to do it.“
Ryan told his team at the start of training camp that his plan to knock off the Patriots involved sweeping them in the regular season and then welcoming them to MetLife for a playoff game," (Steve Serby, New York Post 9/5/14).

So there you have it, just another example of the Jets hubris coming into 2014. They have high expectations, and why not? The Jets are coming off a shocking 8-8 season in 2013 that saved Ryan from the firing squad last year inspite of a lackluster offense and a rookie quarterback in Geno Smith.

This season the Jets bring back a fierce front seven led by lineman Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. Richardson was the defensive rookie of the year last year. The Jets should have one of the better defensive fronts in the NFL, but their biggest concern will be the secondary.

Starting on Sunday against the Raiders, the Jets will be without Dee Millner who is out with a high ankle sprain. Dimitri Paterson, who the Jets brought in during training camp was cut because he went AWOL during the Giants preseason game, and gave no good reason for missing that contest. Therefore, the club is forced to start Antonio Allen and Darrin Walls at corner. 

If the Jets are going to have one weakness against Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr it is that secondary, which he can exploit. Even looking beyond the Raiders game, it will be very hard for the Jets to keep teams from raking up yards and points on them through the air. Milliner didn't exactly light the league on fire last year; Kyle Wilson is a bust, and Allen and Walls lack experience.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Jets are hoping that Geno Smith can translate his performance in the preseason into the regular season. This summer, Smith was much more poised and confident in the pocket. He was hitting his receivers at a very high rate, and looks much more comfortable in Marty Mornhinweg's offense.

While it remains to be seen if Smith can play well enough to keep the starting job, he's gotta like the fact he has Chris Johnson behind him. Johnson, AKA CJ2K was a big time running back for the Tennessee Titans before his release in the offseason. Look for Johnson to have a big impact on the Jets throughout the course of 2014. He will also give a break to Chris Ivory, who was terrific last season for New York when he rushed for over 800 yards.

WHAT TO EXPECT SUNDAY: Expect the Jets to rely heavily on their ground attack of Johnson and Ivory on Sunday against the Raiders. The Raiders gave up 3.9 yards a carry and 15 rushing touchdowns last season. Even though Oakland has added a lot of veteran pieces, they aren't that good defensively and could get exposed if the Jets run wild on Sunday.

The Jets passing attack might be New York's biggest weakness, since outside of Eric Decker they lack any real NFL experience and depth at the position.

Meanwhile for the Raiders, it will be fascinating to see how Carr handles his first NFL start. He lit it up in preseason and won the starting job from Matt Schaubb after ripping apart the Seahawks 3rd string defense. I don't know if that's a good thing or another mistake by embattled Raider coach Dennis Allen. Carr looks like one of the more polished rookie quarterbacks coming into the league this year, but handling a Rex Ryan blitz package might be a rough start.

The only way the Raiders can succeed is if Carr can find enough time to hit his receivers and let them run wild on a porous Jets secondary. 

Inside the Series: The Jets meet the Raiders for the second consecutive year at the Meadowlands. It is the first time since the 2005-2006 seasons that the Jets hosted the Raiders back-to-back years.

Since 1997, the Jets have face the Raiders only four times at home. New York is 4-0 in those games. The Jets are 3-7 against the Raiders at the Coliseum since 1999.

Sunday's season opener will be fifth straight season the Jets open at home. New York is 3-1 in their last four season/home openers. 

PREDICTION: JETS 27, RAIDERS 20: This will turn out to be a pretty competitive football game between two teams that are likely heading for mediocre results in 2014. Geno Smith will play well enough to lead the Jets to a late touchdown drive to pull away from Oakland. As for the Raiders, Carr will struggle early, but should come on in the second half and play a little bit better to keep the Raiders within shouting distance. Expect the Jets to get at least four sacks of the rookie, Sunday afternoon.