Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Jets, and Their Offseason Problems

There is plenty of speculation on why the Jets missed the playoffs after being 8-3, then finishing 9-7. Was it Favre? NO, it was no Favre's fault. Yes, he made bad decisions but we must blame the play calling of both the offensive and defensive coordinator.

Brian Schottenheimer was giddy with Brett Favre mania he seemed to lose sight of the fact the New York Jets were built for the run.

I will take the last game against Miami as my example. First, several situations called for the run, especially third and fourth down and short to go. The pass was used, which is OK once or twice, but not three or four times with the AFC's leading rusher.

Next, you have two great tailbacks including Jones the AFC leading rusher. In the shadow of Jones was Leon Washington who was underutilized in the second half of the season. He played a large role in the Titans game in which he went 8 carries, 82 yards, and two touchdowns including a 60 yd. TD run.

In the last five games after that, he only had 17 carries with two TDs. Against Denver, he only had two carries in a game that was influenced by heavy rain and a struggling Brett Favre.

I know that the Jets had Jones, who proved to be a great tailback and was able to pound the ball for decent YPC. But I feel the Jets should have taken the Giants' approach with different styles of tailbacks that can give a change of pace.

Instead, Washington was underused down the stretch, which led to the Jets' demise and i blame Schottenheimer for it. Also, he didn't realize that Favre just doesn't have the big play arm anymore. In the beginning of the season they kept the passes in mid-range, between five and 10 yards and allowing the receivers to get the YAC.

As the season progressed, they extended the field and Favre's weaker arm was not able to deliver the zip and accuracy he used to.

This obviously contributed to the nine INTs down the stretch because they felt they could take advantage of "weaker" defenses. This was not the case.

While the defense was less the issue down the stretch it certainly could have been used to their advantage. Sutton, the defensive coordinator, refused to use the blitz which is redundant in a 3-4 defense. I understand having faith in your down lineman but the blitz wasn't even used against a Seattle offensive line that was inexperienced and unprepared.

If they blitzed then they would have given Wallace less time to throw. While i still stand by my opinion that the offense was the problem against the Hawks which failed to score a big touchdown early after a great opening drive.

Favre was awful down the stretch, but at least give the play calling its fair share of blame. If this team was well coached they would have been playing bonus football in the playoffs and may even be playing right now in the AFC Championship game. But since they failed late Mangini is out and Favre looks like he is on his way out, too.

This, to me, opens the opportunity of a fresh start by letting Brett Ratliff be the QB and incorporating the 4-3 defense which relies less on speed on our linebackers, and that is something the Jets don't have, speed.

Sean Avery Will be a New York Ranger

There is a lot of speculation as to what the Rangers will do after losing out on Sundin to the Canucks.

Well, I have the answer for you.

Sean Avery will become a New York Ranger—and the Rangers just barely have the cap space to achieve this.

Last season, when Avery was in the lineup, the Rangers were 33-14-10 opposed to the record of 9-13-3 when he was out.

Currently the Rangers are first in the Atlantic division and are third in the East with 56 points, but seem to be missing a spark in their game. We all know that Avery can handle the New York press and attention, and he has made the team better in the past.

So why not?

Yes, he may have issues with some teammates—but remember that Drury and Gomez are the leaders of the Rangers now. They dealt with Avery last season, and would know how to deal with him again.

I am not worried that Avery would divide the locker room.

We all know he is good for annoying the enemy and getting into their heads, but do we forget that he is a goal scorer too? Last season with the Rangers, he put away 15 goals and 18 assists in just 57 games played, while putting in four goals home in the playoffs.

It seems to me that the benefits outweigh the costs, and I for one would love to see Avery on Broadway again.

Will the New York Rangers follow through on this rumor? I think and hope so.

Who is the Team to Beat in the NL EAST

Right off the bat, I'll tell you who it is, its the Phillies. And i will tell you why, they won the World Series. That is why the Giants were the team to beat this past season in the NFL and why the Red Wings are still the team to beat in hockey.

While they may be the team to beat in the NL East, it does not mean they will win the NL East. Go ahead and say I'm just being a fan, but I legitimately believe the Mets will win this division this season and will remove the title of "choke artist" from their history as Cole Hamels so eloquently labeled them on WFAN with Joe and Evan.

Its hard to disagree with him, after all two straight season of disappointment, pain, and failure will reinforce his statement. But next season is a new season, with an entirely new look.

The first place in which the Mets are better is in the coaching area. Willie Randolph is a great manager, but he tried to run the Mets like they were the New York Yankees. You cant do that because even i will admit the Yankees are in a class of their own. Willie Randolph was too strict for their own good. It was like trying to run a public school like a military academy, and you saw it day after day.

Then while the Mets were on the west coast against the Angels, Willie lost his position as head coach and Jerry Manuel took his spot and after the team began to win because of his laid back way of managing while keeping a stern grip on the attitude of his players. You saw it the first game he was manager when Jose Reyes refused to come out of a game for an injury but Manuel refused to be talked to and took him out.

Other things began to happen when Manuel took over. First, Delgado went off the charts and had a great second half of the season. Then, with a new pitching coach, Mike Pelfrey had a rebirth because he was finally allowed to mix in his breaking and off speed pitches in with his sinking fastball, which is why he was so difficult to figure out. So it was obvious the new coaching change was a positive for the Mets, but the only problem was it didn't prevent a miniature collapse this past year.

The next way in which the Mets will win the division is because of the new personel added to the roster. I will begin with the bullpen.

First thing is first, understand what last years bullpen did to the Mets last season. 29 time the Mets had a lead after 6 innings, and lost the game. This was because the Mets had one of the worst bullpens in history filled with poor pitching and injuries.If the games ended after 8 innings, the Mets would have won the NL east by 6 games over the WS champion Philadelphia Phillies.

To solve their problems in the bullpen, the Mets added J.J Putz and saves leader last season K-ROD. Putz will act as a set up man while K-Rod will of course be the closer.

Putz had some injury problems last season, which could end up being a problem for the Mets down the road but he still posted decent numbers. In 47 games, Putz was 6-5 with 15 saves and an ERA of 3.88. K-ROD played in 76 games last season where he posted a 2-3 record, 62 saves, and a 2.24 ERA. Those are your 8th and 9th inning men Mets fans, and it is hard to argue that they wont make the difference.

One major move that was made was not an addition, but a subtraction. Aaron Heilman and Scott Schoeneweis were sent packing and the guys that will be in their spots are Connor Robertson and Sean Green. These are two young arms that will certainly not bring the same pain the the two that left gave Mets fans. The bullpen is revamped and will be looking to be a asset opposed to a liability.

We cant forget what the Phillies have done this offseason too, that helps and hurts the Mets Pat Burrell is no longer a Philly, and he is known among Mets fans as a Mets killer.

It seems in every big situation he is at bat and he is the reason the Mets lose to the Phils. As a Mets fan i am happy he is gone, but i feel his replacement has the potential to be a new Mets killer. Raul Ibanez played 162 games last season where he scored 85 runs, 23 home runs, 110 RBI's, a .293 BA, and an OBP of .358. Those numbers scare any fan of the opposing team.

One problems the Phillies do have, which i dont think will influence their on the field play, is the fact that half their team is on arbitration, looking for more money. This group includes Ryan Howard, who will let his numbers do the negotiating for him.

Real quick before i wrap it up i want to go through position, starting 5, and bullpen to see which team have the advantages and where.

At short stop, the Mets have the advantage with Jose Reyes over Jimmy Rollins. Rollins had an off year and he cant give the speed, runs scored, and stolen bases that Reyes can.

After hitting 30 HR's the season before last, Rollins' HR's dropped to just 11 in the championship year. He dropped from 94 to 59 in RBI, 139 to 76 in runs, and .296 to .277 in BA. I am aware that it was a year of injury, but that doesn't hurt your BA. Reyes increased in almost every category including HR's, RBI, hits, BA, and OBP. So i feel the edge goes to the Mets.

At first and second base it isnt even a contest, the Phillies rule with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. While Utley will be hurt and out in the beginning of this season i still think he will have a solid year and Howard will continue to build on success and will lower his strike out numbers.

At catcher, its hard to argue either way. I like Castro and Schneider, especially since Schneider improved slightly on his power numbers later in the season. Ruiz hits for low average with almost no power, so in my opinion i will make this one a wash, neither give their team any major advantage.

In the outfield the Phillies spot Ibanez, who i said will be a major force, as well as Victorino and Werth. Those last two are only going to get better as their careers move on. Werth hit 24 HR's last season with 67 RBI's and a .273 BA. Victorino hit .293 and had 36 SB, showing near Reyes speed.

The Mets outfield is still a question. Beltran and Church will be in center field and right, but it seems they will be platooning the left field position which has caused them some trouble in recent years with the likes of Alou.

It looks like Nick Evans, Daniel Murphy, and Fernando Tatis will each take turns in left until a definite role is taken by one of those three players. Because of this uncertainty in left field and the consistent play out of Werth and Victorino, i will give the outfield to the Phillies.

Like first and second base was totally dominated by the Phillies, i will do the same for the Mets at third base. Pedro Feliz is a very good player, but hes no David Wright. Wright hit .302, 33 HR's, 124 RBI, and 115 runs scored. I will take David Wrights offensive numbers with his par defense any day, and I hope Philly fans would agree.

The starting rotation is key for both teams, because pitching wins championships. I would take Santana over Hamels because Santana was so clutch down the stretch, it was not his fault the offense couldn't come through.

Also, take into consideration that whenever Santana pitched, it was like the bullpen couldn't wait to blow the game for him. Finally, Santana refused to be taken out and began finishing his own games not caring about rest, he didn't need it. He finished the season 16-7 with a 2.53 ERA.Hamels finished 14-10 with a 3.09 ERA and a much better bullpen.

The rest of the bullpen are fairly even. Phillies have Myers, Blanton, Moyer, and Kendrick and the Mets will show Redding, Pelfrey, Maine, and most likely Perez with the idea he will sign now that Lowe is out of the picture with the Braves. I'm concerned with Moyer and i honestly don't believe he will have the same kind of season he just had.

I call it the Tom Glavine, because older pitchers need to change their style to accuracy over speed and it works initially, but eventually good hitters will catch on and they will begin to be hit harder.

The final spot is the bullpen and because it changes to frequently, and how were still about a month away from pitchers and catchers on spring training, i will stick with the closer. K-Rod or Lidge?

Either way i can guarantee neither one will be able to give the same production as this past season. K-Rod led the league in saves but Lidge had 15 more strikeouts then K-ROD at 92. I feel Lidge would have had more saves if he had more opportunities, with that lineup a lot of games tend to be a blow out by the time it would be his time to come in. But the addition of Putz gives the edge to the Mets, but if it were strictly by closers i would have to give it to Lidge, hes too good.

So I do believe the Mets will win a tight race for the division. I know i will have one or two Braves fans saying they are in the running for the division but i just don't see how they could make a real playoff push, yet. The Marlins keep trading their players and Washington is still just a mess.

Prediction. Mets will win 96 games, Phillies 94, Braves 86, Marlins 78, and Washington 70. Agree or disagree, but i like the Mets' chances and really believe they will win the division and the Phillies will win the Wild Card, and these two teams will meet in the NLCS.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Jets and the offseaon problems.

First, the quarter back position poses many possibilities for the Jets. First is Brett Favre and the possibility of him coming back. I think Favre has too much pride to end his career the way he did with nine interceptions in the remaining games after the win in Tennessee. Favre will take a month to figure out what is best for him and his family but if he goes by what the fans want, he will not return. I think he wants to play but not for NY. The fans made it obvious they do not want him to return with the boo's that fell from the stadium during that last game against Miami, in which I attended. He is too old and just does not have the arm strength to throw down field anymore, but why does that have to be the game plan? The Jets game plan grew further and further away from the mid range passes and allowing the receivers to get YAC. They also played further away from the run when this team was built to run the football, especially with the AFC leading rusher and an explosive secondary back that made it obvious that he can score touchdowns from 30+ yards out of the end zone. Favre was not the problem, the play calling and utilization of the players around him was the problem. Where did Dustin Keller go? It seems after the dropped ball against SF Mangini decided to not use him and it was a tool Favre missed in the later stages of the season. So is Favre to blame? Yes and no. He was horrible down the stretch but so was everyone else. Jenkins got no penetration on the Dline on either the pass rush or run defense. Harris, who was Vilma's replacement, did nothing the second half after being injured and limited in the first half. In addition, Ty Law was a signing that was almost invisible after the Pats game in New England. Favre was not THE issue but was an issue. So will Favre return? No, I do not think he wants to be apart of the NYJ family any longer, like most of its fans. So then, what are the other options? My personal recommendation is Brett Ratliff. I know he is unproven from not playing in the regular season but if you watched him in the preseason last year, you saw he was calm and collective with an understanding of time and presence in the pocket. He reminded me of Flacco this season. He has a zip on the ball that was not seen by Favre or Chad in recent years and I love his attitude. As a fan, I am willing to concede next season to develop him because in all honesty, I feel that they could be a much better team with a far worse record because of their schedule. The Jets must face the AFC and NFC south next season and it seems every team in those divisions is on the rise. When the Saints are the worst team in the NFC South, there is a problem. Take a year to develop him and if all works well then he may lead them to a decent season looking forward.

The next question is the coaching position. Mangini lost his job not only because of their record down the stretch but also because of the decisions made during that time. First, there were no half time adjustments and it was obvious when they were outplayed in the second half by team like the Bills, Seahawks, 49ers, and Dolphins. The Jets refused to blitz frequently which lead to giving quarterbacks more time to find an open receiver. The longer it takes A QB to be hit the better the chance of a completion. A perfect example is against Seattle where Wallace was given all day to find his receivers. Mangini felt the Jets front D line was good enough to penetrate the inexperience of Seattle’s O-Line. At the half it was apparent that the D-Line was not getting any penetration and no adjustment to blitz was made, therefore Wallace was able to move the ball at will and in the very least allow the Seahawks to win the battle of field position. Many other questionable calls in the Seahawks game led to his demise, which included not going for a TD on the Jets first possession. If the Jets won that game their fate was in their own hands and Mangini was excessively conservative early and way too risky late. Not going for the first down with four and one inside the Seahawks 5 yard line was a mistake, especially with the AFC leading rusher who running at will during that possession. Later, Feeley made a field goal that would have been good from 60 yards out, but a false start penalty brought it back 5 yards and Mangini optioned to punt. Those 3 points turned it into a 2-possession game later on when it could have been a one-possession game. This leads me to my last decision. Mangini with two timeouts and before the 2-minute warning decided to go for 4th and long while being deep inside their own territory and he decided to go for it, which was a bad decision obviously because they didn’t get it, and it led to a Seattle field goal which made it a 2 possession game. Citing the earlier FG, it still would have been a one-possession game if they had gone for it.

So who will replace Mangini? Well I want it to be Spagnuolo. He has the aggressive personality that Mangini lacked and has a great defensive mind that is not afraid to blitz. I think he could bring pressure on a QB that Jets fans have not seen since the New York Sack Exchange. I know he would make the teamwork hard and would get a consistent performance out of them week after week. Players said Mangini eased his training camp to be less strict and less demanding, which leads me to believe that the team’s endurance was not as good as it was when he first started coaching. Spagnuolo would get consistent play out of the team and would not let small feuds with players get in the way of the teams performance, like Mangini and Keller. If the Jets cannot get him, I would hope they would go after Rex Ryan. He has a great defense mind like Spagnuolo and would give the defense the aggressive attitude the Jets' defense needs. The major difference is that Spagnuolo has won a Super Bowl and put out a defense in 2008 that lost major elements to its success and still made them a major part element of the Giants success. The Jets need a championship winning mentality.

The Jets need help in other places too. First, they need to get rid of the 3-4 defense and go back to the 4-3. It works so much better and it relies less on speed and more on being big up front, which the Jets have. The 3-4 works if you blitz and give many different looks to the offense. The 3-4 is used to confuse the offense and that is impossible when you give them the same look. Using the 4-3 will allow them to remain a good run stopping team while being able to better defend the short range and screen passes. The linebackers are simply not fast enough for the 3-4. This brings me to my next problem, which are the linebackers. The Jets have decent linebackers but anyone who has the ability to be involved in every play like a Lewis or a Farrior. They need to draft a linebacker who has speed, and can stop the run while being able to cover the pass. Next, the Jets need a safety. I do not care who it is but i am sick of seeing the Jets safety playing back in a kind of "safe" coverage that would assure the tackle but never the interception or incompletion.


This past week we saw a surprising win for Carolina, an upset win for the Eagles, a Ravens QB who is the first one ever to win their first two-playoff games, and a Steelers team who is getting healthier and more dangerous with every round of the playoffs. The first match up I will review is the NFC championship game with has two teams that no one thought would be in this position, especially earlier in the season The Eagles came off a somewhat surprising win in a game that many believed they would win but also they were the underdog. The Cardinals are coming off a win, which no one, including myself, gave them a chance to win. It is hard to decipher if the Cardinals won that game or if Delhomme lost it because his performance was absolutely pathetic. Looking forward to this Sunday's match up, I would figure to give the Eagles the edge because of their momentum but then again the Cardinals are on just as much of a high right now. The first area I will break this game down is the Eagles defense against the Cardinals offense. This is the match up, which will most likely decide the outcome of the game because they are the two team’s biggest strengths. Against the Giants, the Eagles did not have to worry as much about the passing game because without a big time WR in Plaxico there was no big time threat and no need for a double team on any one receiver This allowed the Eagles to use the blitz more often or allowed them to cover up the middle of the field where someone like Kevin Boss or a tailback on a screen would have the most success. This week, there will be many instances where Larry Fitzgerald will need to be double teamed which will open these options for guys like James, Hightower, or Pope. With the game that Fitzgerald had against the Panthers, which included eight catches for 166 yds and a touchdown, it is hard to believe that this receiver with big play capability will not constantly have a corner and a safety on him with every play. One can look at the box score for the Giants Eagles game and say that the secondary for the Eagles were able to keep the Giants receivers as bay, which was not the case. Eli Manning had a very hard time throwing in the swirling winds of the Meadowlands and looked like he was uncoordinated. Do not make the mistake thinking the secondary did a good job of keeping the receivers in check because Hixon, Toomer, Smith were wide open on many occasions. I fully expect the same to happen in Arizona this week. If the Eagles front 4 does not manage to get to Warner on a regular basis, it could be a very easy road to the Super Bowl for the Cards. Advantage Cards. On the other side of the football is a deadly running attack of Westbrook and Buckhalter while the passing game lacks the explosiveness that Arizona has. Jackson is a rookie who has proven himself a threat down the field, Curtis is always a scary WR, Buckhalter and Westbrook have big play capability from the screen pass, and Smith is there for third and long plays to convert the first downs. The biggest key to this offense is obviously Mcnabb. We saw his ability to not only lead, but also adjust, which I what he did so very well against the Giants this past week. Also, he can not only beat you with his strong arm but also his ability to move outside the pocket and give his receivers more time to get open downfield. When he is hot, he is red hot. However, we have seen his red-hot spells be quickly put out with a horrific cold stretch like earlier in the season when he was benched at halftime while being down by only three against the Ravens, a team they could end up seeing in the Super Bowl. If Mcnabb is the same man who converted a long 3rd and 20 while being hit and throwing across his body, then I cannot see him being stopped by the Cardinals defense if the Giants defense could do it. Advantage Eagles when they have the ball. Overall, I look for a high scoring game even though I feel the Eagles want to keep it low to prevent a shootout. I have the Cardinals winning though and going to the Super Bowl. 31-24.

The next match up is even better then the first. The Baltimore Ravens go into Pitt to face the Steelers in a game that will certainly be a defensive struggle. Both defenses have been among the elite of the NFL all season. Baltimore's defense is led by interception and touchdown machine Ed Reed and the man who leads the Ravens in tackles in the playoffs with 20, Ray Lewis. These two teams know each other well and I expect the Ravens defense to know what Pitt will throw at them. The only problem I have with the Ravens defense was their inability to get at Collins this past week where they recorded only one sack and one interception. I know complaining about just one interception may seem odd, a lot of times teams go weeks without interceptions But it is different for this team because they depend on their defense, and their sacks, and their turnovers. Sacks and turnovers create good field position while keeping the other team off the board, and a rookie QB needs good field position in order to have success. If Baltimore wants, any chance in this game, their defense needs at least three turnovers and 4-5 sacks. The Steelers defense is almost as good as the Ravens, but they did give up three TD's through the air last week, which shows some vulnerability in the air. This team forced two turnovers against the Chargers including a Rivers interception and a Weddle fumble. They also were contained by the Chargers O-line while Rivers were sacked only once and were able to stand in the pocket for over 300 yards. The biggest difference in the two defenses is that the Steelers do want their defense to come up big and take pressure off the offense, but they are less dependant on the defense because the offense is more likely to win a game for the Steelers, unlike the Ravens. Advantage on defense defiantly goes to the Ravens, and if they have a big game as they did against the fish, they will win this game. The other side of the ball shows two very different offenses. Pitt has a veteran QB who has won big games before where Flacco does not have this kind of experience of pressure before. Flacco has not really experienced a hostile environment yet. Miami is relatively easy to play compared to other places and while Tennessee is aggressive, it is nothing compared to what the Pitt fans will be. Big Ben will not give you a 250-yard game with three TD's but he will do enough to win. He has a lot more targets then Flacco does in Ward, Miller, Washington, and Holmes, all of which can make big plays and generate large YAC. Flacco on the other hand does not have as many weapons. He does have Mason who had five catches and a TD last week in Tennessee but he had Clayton and Heap who also can make big plays. On the running game, I think I must give the advantage to the Steelers because Parker is getting healthier and Moor is always a capable second back. Parker ran at will against the Chargers with 146 yards and two TD's and Moore seems to be used more for screen plays as opposed to rushing the ball. For the Raven, Mcgahee and McClain only combined last week for 44 yards, which means that the offense relied on Flacco more and more. Do not get me wrong, Flacco has done a great job and seems to have all the confidence in the world, but I do not think the game can be put on his shoulders without a legitimate and successful running attack. Advantage on offense goes to Pitt. Therefore, my prediction is simple. Two great defenses with one offense better then the other, I will give this game to the Steelers 16-10 in a low scoring defensive struggle. This means I believe it will be a Cardinals-Steelers Super Bowl, which would be amazing. A high-powered offense that is beginning to have a great running attack and explosive passing abilities and a team with a stellar defense. Should be interesting to say the least.