Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mark Sanchez's Last Stand - Why the Steelers will destroy the Jets

Ladies and gentlemen, you can calm down... the national nightmare will soon be over.  The Jets', and more importantly quarterback Mark Sanchez's, season will finally come to an end Sunday at Heinz Field.  I know you've heard similar false reports like this in recent weeks, but the Steelers are going to triumph Sunday and it's not going to be close.

How can you believe such a claim?  I've done the research, I've looked at the facts, and I may have spoken to the devil, and I can explain to you why it's so wrong that the Jets have made it this far, and why they can't beat the Steelers at Heinz Field this Sunday.

"Wait, Whats Wrong With The Jets?"

...Whats wrong with the Jets?  Simple... Mark Sanchez.  I hate to bash on a guy, but I have to because of how wrong he is for this team.  He undermines both what they try to do on both sides of the ball and what they try to say publicly.

Theoretically, I like the Jets brand of football.  They play ball control, power football on offense and are creative with coverage schemes, blitzes and personnel packages on defense.  But they play Mark Sanchez at quarterback, which works against everything else they try to do.

You can't trust Sanchez with the ball.  Even die hard Jet fans will admit this.  Yeah he might make a big play, but when he does it's a surprise, because you just expect him to throw the ball someplace where he shouldn't. It doesn't work at all with the rest of the teams philosophy.  This team screams for a smart veteran quarterback who takes care of the ball, takes whats given to him and lets his running game and defense take care of things.  Instead, they have Sanchez.

He also is the wrong quarterback for this team's 'persona'.  I don't like it personally, but this team motivates itself through trash talk.  This team is always talking about their opponents and just because they're not doing it this week doesn't excuse a full two seasons of it.  But when the team is talking about it's quarterback, all the talk stops.

Sanchez is supposedly a leader of this team, but never talks trash because he can't back it up.  Instead when the team talks about Sanchez, it's usually embarrassing.  Whether it was the red/yellow/green playcalling system they used or Rex claiming he gave them the best chance to win after a game where he should have been benched, it's always the team attempting to protect him.  The team talks trash about other quarterbacks but knows that it's own quarterback is it's biggest weakness.

"What are the Jets supposed to do about it now?  Aren't they already committed to Sanchez?"

Ideally yes, this would have been something they addressed before the season.  There were a number of guys they could have got in the off season that would have been able to do the job.  Before they traded Whitehurst, I'm sure the Chargers would have been more than willing to part with Billy Volek.  Or maybe try and get the perfect QB for this team, former Jet QB Chad Pennington (before his 5000th shoulder injury).  Hell, I'd even have taken the UFL's own Jeff Garcia.

However, even with those missed opportunities, they could still get out of this and start Mark Brunell.  Brunell in his career has thrown 184 touchdowns to 108 picks, including multiple full seasons of starting with single digit picks.  Sanchez has thrown 29 touchdowns and 33 picks in his career.  It doesn't take a genius to see that Brunell  is the better quarterback for this team.

"So what?  There's no chance of that happening.  And it doesn't matter anyways, the Jets already beat the Steelers this year 22-17.  How can you claim to know the Steelers will win?"

Do you remember what happened that game?  Probably not.  It happened on a Sunday that was stolen by DeSean Jackson's punt return against the Giants.  Click here and get a refresher.  It was one of the many, many games that the Jets have won in spite of Sanchez. 

It started with a kick return for a touchdown and after that the Jets scoring drives weren't very impressive.  They led a few field goal drives before scoring a touchdown on a Sanchez roll-out that doesn't work if anyone on the Steelers' defense stays at home in containment.  Then they got a safety on an absolutely horrible play call of a shotgun draw by the Steelers in their own endzone. And the Steelers still came within 10 yards of scoring the winning touchdown.  

Meanwhile, Sanchez had the ball on the Steelers' 32 yard line on second and five with up by three with three minutes left ready to put the game away.... and promptly threw two straight incomplete passes, forcing them to punt it away.  Then, after the defense got the crucial safety to make it more than a field goal game, Sanchez couldn't convert the third down and three on the following drive, forcing the Jets to punt it back to the Steelers for their last drive.

So the Jets had a special teams touchdown, the defense got them a safety, and they scored on a fluky trick offensive play and Pittsburgh still almost won.  Sanchez got the touchdown, but he didn't do anything amazing, it was all the play call.  The rest of the team did all you could ask of them and they still came within a play of losing.  You can't expect the rest of the team to be that good again. Especially considering the Steelers actually need this game.

"Wait, the Steelers-Jets game in the regular season took place before Pittsburgh had locked up a playoff spot. What do you mean they didn't need it?"

This is the gigantic elephant in the room that no one is talking about.  At the time the Steelers only needed one win to lock up a playoff spot and were playing Carolina at home the next week.  I'm not trying to claim that they took the week off or anything, Mike Tomlin wouldn't allow that, but you know the players and coaches knew they didn't need that game.

The Jets on the other hand, were still on the fringe of the playoffs and had the Chargers breathing down their necks for the last wild card spot.  They needed to get a win against the Steelers or their playoff status would have been in the air until the last week of the season.

"It looked like the Steelers were playing hard to me.  Why wouldn't Jets will be right there with them to the end?"

The Jets played a near perfect game and still almost lost, and this time Pittsburgh will have back two key guys.  One of them is great blocking and underrated receiving tight end Heath Miller and the other is one of the top five defensive players in the league in Troy Polamalu.

Heath Miller is a huge deal in this game for two reasons.  One is that Pittsburgh loves to run the ball and Miller is one of the best blocking tight ends around.  More importantly, in the first game between these two teams, on the last play of the game Roethlisberger threw the ball to back up tight end Matt Spaeth who dropped it.  Heath Miller is one of the more sure-handed tight ends in the league and a favorite target of Roethisberger in crucial situations and would have caught that game winning pass.

Of course, Troy Polamalu's is an even bigger deal than than Miller's.  He makes the Steelers defense much better against both the run and the pass.  When he's out of the line-up they have to run entirely different defenses because there is no one who can make up for what he does out there.

Troy also happens to be a young quarterback's worst nightmare.  With Polamalu out there, it is hard to say for sure what the defense is doing.  Polamalu can line up fifteen yards off the ball but be able to break up passes to the running backs near the line of scrimmage because he is crazy fast.  He is a nightmare to scheme against because the Steelers line him up everywhere on that defense.

Mark Sanchez has a bunch of bad habits and with Troy out there it's not going to be pretty for Jets fans.  Polamalu attacks the line of scrimmage on run plays and will leave the Jets where they don't want to be, in third and long.  Troy knows that Sanchez has a tendency to sail his passes, he'll to be over the top waiting on third downs.  Polamalu also knows that Sanchez loves to throw slants, he'll jump at least one during the game.

All in all, it won't be pretty for Jet fans.  The Jets already played their best game against the Steelers and won't be able to duplicate that performance.  Pittsburgh is going to be close to full strength and playing much harder than last time.  The Jets are going to get crushed.

And at the end of the day, the Jet fans that are currently talking about winning like its a foregone conclusion are going to claim they saw it coming and they'll claim they already knew what this column just explained.  You can win a game with Mark Sanchez at quarterback, but you can't win a Super Bowl.

Pick - Pittsburgh -3.5

Final Score Prediction - Steelers 31 Jets 14

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