Tag:Rex Ryan
Posted on: December 24, 2011 7:37 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 1:43 pm

Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 16: Cam's the GOAT

Posted by Will Brinson

Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action, figures out the winners and losers and asks the big questions. Slightly condensed version this week as it's the holidays. No podcast, no picture of the week and only eight questions. Blame Mrs. Brinson if you're so inclined. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter.

The Greatest Rookie Season Ever?

That's right. The greatest rookie season ever is precisely what Cam Newton's going to wrap up in Week 17 against the Saints a game of no real consequence when it comes to his legacy as the best rookie in NFL history.

There should be no argument that Cam's season, even without the final week, goes down as the greatest season by a rookie quarterback in history. He has the record for most passing yards in a season (again, with a week to go) by a rookie. He has the record for most passing yards in a game by a rookie. He has the record for most rushing touchdowns in a season by any quarterback.

Of the seven rookie quarterbacks with 3,000 passing yards, Newton doesn't have the most passing touchdowns, but he doesn't have the most interceptions either. There shouldn't be any question that his rookie year is the greatest by any quarterback.

As far as other rookies go, you could argue for Eric Dickerson (more than 2,000 total yards and 20 touchdowns in 1983), Dick Lane (14 interceptions, two pick sixes for Night Train in 1952), Randy Moss (17 touchdowns and 1,313 receiving yards in 1998) or Lawrence Taylor (9.5 sacks -- before they were even counted -- in 1981) if you want.

But none of those guys dealt with the complexities of running an offense. None of those guys dealt with a lockout-shortened offseason. None of those guys performed the way they did under the intense scrutiny of 2011 Twitteratiland. None of those guys carried the expectations of the No. 1 overall pick who was supposed to save a franchise ... or cost a GM his job simply because no one was sure how good they'd be. None of those guys inspired the fierce debate that Newton did leading up to being drafted.

Cam's rejuvenated a franchise that was dead in the water and he might be a top-10 quarterback in the NFL right now. It's been a marvel to watch him perform and it's insane to think that there was a debate as to whether or not the Panthers should take him.


Matthew Stafford: The Lions are in the playoffs. That's worthy of "winner inclusion" all by itself. But the Lions were secretly facing a pretty bad situation, with the white-hot Chargers and the very good Packers over the next two weeks. 9-7 and getting snuck out of the playoffs wasn't out of the question at all. Until Stafford got his surgical precision on and shredded the San Diego secondary, going 29 of 36 with 373 yards and three touchdowns. Stafford's next up for the "is he or isn't he elite" debate.

Pete Prisco
: Yes, my CBSSports.com colleague and former life coach (Pete doesn't know it, but I fired him when he suggested I not wear socks with my loafers). Prisco's the only guy that I know of who refused to budge off his negative stance of Tebow during the Broncos winning streak. There might be an argument that Pete's stubborn and you might be inclined to call him a "hater" but with the way that Tebow egged on Saturday, there are going to be a LOT of people ripping him over the next week. And Prisco's the only one of those people who's stood his ground the whole time.

Kevin Kolb:
The Cardinals were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday and that means Kolb avoided his worst possible nightmare. That would be "John Skelton marching Arizona to an improbable postseason run and the team deciding to bail on Kolb's albatross of a contract." Instead, Arizona now plays out the string and regroups for 2012, likely with Kolb as the starting quarterback for at least another year.

Matt Forte
: What's that, you say? Forte didn't play on Saturday. Oh, I know that. I also know that if the Vikings hadn't handed Adrian Peterson a monster contract before the 2011 season, things would be awkward right about now. Over the past month, the Bears have collapsed without Forte and Jay Cutler, meaning he's beefed up his leverage as an important player for the franchise and, with the Peterson injury, justified his rationale for wanting a new contract.

Jerome Simpson: Did you see his touchdown catch?

Turner's time might be up in San Diego. (US Presswire)


Norv Turner: A lot of credit goes to the Lions for the way they played on Saturday. Detroit is a very good team and a formidable opponent. But how can the Chargers not show up, especially knowing that the Broncos lost and that they were either a Bengals/Jets pair of losses or a Broncos loss in Week 17 away from making the playoffs? That's still not "controlling your own destiny" but out of everyone who was gifted an early Christmas present during the early games on Sunday, Turner and the Chargers were probably the luckiest. A 24-0 halftime deficit in the most critical game of the season isn't going to inspire any Spanos family members to keep their pink slips tucked away.

Jason Garrett
: No one's going to blame him for losing to Philly. That's what happens with Stephen McGee under center. But holy cow does Garrett have the hardest decision -- and the most scrutiny -- of his short career coming up over the next week. The Giants and Cowboys will play in Week 17, with a trip to the postseason and a division championship on the line. Tony Romo will almost certainly play, but will he be effective? Can Garrett gameplan in order to play to Romo's injury? Will he cough up a shot at the postseason? These are the ways we will judge him after next week's game. And by "we" I obviously mean "Jerry Jones and his potentially angry family."

Adrian Peterson
: AP's leg injury on Sunday was so brutal that I even feel like a jerk putting him in the "losers" section. But if you saw the horrific nature of Peterson's injury, you know precisely why he's not feeling like a winner right now. The Vikings announced after the game that it was a sprained knee but -- all due respect to Minnesota -- that's just not believable at all. The multiple reports that it's a torn ACL (and potentially worse) make a lot more sense. It's just sad that Peterson could miss significant time because he was playing in a meaningless game for a three-win team.

Rex Ryan: Ryan spent all week running his mouth about the New York-New York rivalry and when push came to shove, his guy Mark Sanchez fumbled on the Giants goal line and threw a "pass" to an offensive lineman that resulted in a safety in a devastating loss on Saturday. The Darrelle Revis/Antonio Cromartie combo got torched by Victor Cruz (that's his name, right?) and Brandon Jacobs got to say "It's time to shut up, fat boy." That's just embarrassing. Oh, right, and the Jets lost control of their own destiny with respect to the playoffs. It wouldn't be nearly as mortifying if Ryan hadn't run his mouth all week.

Pipedreams: Just like San Diego, the Eagles were very much a longshot to make the playoffs. But I'm telling you, there was a chance. Then the Giants killed that chance (adding to their winner-y-ness) with a win over the Jets. That means Week 17 is no longer a dream scenario for fans of long shots, because both early-season favorites are now removed from any chance of a postseason berth. You don't have to root for the Eagles or Chargers. In fact, you can root against them. But if you don't like ridiculous storylines and clowning around with playoff predictors then we're not friends.

The Big Questions

The new Tebow narrative could be awkward. (AP)

1. What's the new Tim Tebow narrative?
No, but it's on life support (and Prisco wants to pull the plug!). Look, Tebow can still win against Kansas City in Week 17, or even lose as long as the Chargers beat the Raiders. But think about how quickly this narrative could be absolutely flipped on its head: if Kyle Orton, the man Tebow replaced, beats Tebow in Week 17 because Tebow can't win late, and the Raiders beat the Chargers and make the playoffs, the Broncos new narrative will be as chokers. No, really, it will. And that is nuts when you consider where we were just two weeks ago.

2. Why does Leslie Frazier keep playing guys who are hurt?
NO CLUE. But this is a story that's flown under the radar for the past few weeks and it culminated with AP's injury against Washington, as well as the concussion that Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder suffered on Saturday. The Vikings are 3-12 after winning on Christmas Eve, but they didn't even need Peterson or Ponder to put up points -- it was all Joe Webb against the Redskins. Of course, winning, at this point, should be secondary. Frazier's top priority should be the health of his franchise quarterback and running back. Instead, these guys keep getting trotted out with injuries late in a lost season. That's not the sort of thing that keeps a job safe for long.

3. Did Raheem Morris get fired on Saturday?

Almost certainly. The Panthers went out and walloped Tampa Bay 48-16 in Charlotte, meaning that the Bucs lost their eighth game in a row.  Worse than the losses is the way they've happened: over the last four games, the Buccaneers have been outscored 158-64. They've given up 40 points to the Panthers and Jaguars and have topped 20 points just once since their trip to London in late October when things really started to unravel. It's an embarrassing collapse down the stretch and it's hard to blame the Glazer family and GM Mark Dominik when (not if) they fire Morris.

4. Anyone else getting fired?
Gotta think that Turner's done in San Diego now and that Romeo Crennel's the only interim hanging around. I can't buy that Jim Caldwell's saving his job so I'd add him to the list too. But I think any questions about Chan Gailey can now be reserved for a while, given the way he dismantled the Broncos on Sunday.

5.  Why should Tom Brady be worried?
Because his offensive lineman are dropping like flies. And while the Patriots are going to continue being good because that's what the Patriots do, there's absolutely cause for concern in New England if Logan Mankins and Matt Light are hurt for any length of time. As you may be aware, this isn't a team predicated on playing any sort of defense, and if they can't protect Tom Brady, there's little chance of them advancing in the postseason.

5. How mad are the 49ers?
Furious. And it doesn't matter that they won, because they gave up a rushing touchdown to Marshawn Lynch. They might hold the record for most games without one, but you know they wanted to make it the entire season. They did not.

6. Am I going to have to watch Matt Flynn on Christmas night?
Not as much as you might have feared. The 49ers won against the Seahawks on Saturday, and that means Green Bay hasn't clinched the top seed yet. Which means that Aaron Rodgers will stay in the game against the Bears for the entire game, barring an absolute Packers blowout.

7. Was Simpson's catch the play of the year?
Yup, it sure was. Maybe not the "play of the century" or anything insane like people are saying, but it was an absolutely bananas catch and it deserves incredible props. Watch -- it's going to be the type of thing you talk with your relatives about on Christmas. That's the way you can truly judge the greatness of a play.

8. Should Ben Roethlisberger play next week?
No. There's just no need. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice handled the Browns just fine in Week 16, and Charlie Batch/Rashard Mendenhall can do the same in Week 17. Rest the guy, run the ball, cross your fingers that Cincy can summon the strength to beat the Ravens on the road and let Roethlisberger rest.


I mean duh. Did you notice I liked it?

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Posted on: December 24, 2011 7:11 pm
Edited on: December 24, 2011 8:10 pm

Brandon Jacobs, Rex Ryan exchange insults

Rex Ryan and B. Jacobs had a confrontation after the game today (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

As we all know, Rex Ryan loves to talk trash. Sometimes, it works for the Jets. Sometimes, it doesn’t. Today, during his squad’s 29-14 loss to the Giants, it didn’t work at all. And Giants running back Brandon Jacobs was happy to tell Ryan exactly what he thought about him afterward.

B. Jacobs and Rex Ryan yelling at each other (US Presswire).After the game was complete, Ryan and Jacobs had a verbal altercation in which cursing from both sides was exchanged and an insulting “fat boy” was thrown around by Jacobs.

According to Jacobs, via Newsday, he did nothing to provoke Ryan, but Jacobs certainly felt the need to defend himself once the two met during postgame handshakes.

"I didn't say too much to him," Jacobs said. "He told me to shut the f--- up and wait until we win the Super Bowl, and I said I would punch him in his face . . . I told him, 'Out of all of these Giants football players on the team, you're talking to the wrong one.'"

Then, apparently, Ryan told Jacobs to go “f--- himself.” Later Jacobs said that Ryan had a “big, fat mouth.”

Aside from the acrimony about the Jets’ trash-talking (though Giants receiver Victor Cruz did some of his own this week), was the report that the Jets, who were the home team, placed black curtains over the Super Bowl championship logos that were painted on the walls of the New Meadowlands. Those curtains are there for all Jets home games, but the Giants thought that the move was disrespectful. Ryan was asked afterward about his confrontation with Jacobs.

"We had a private conversation," he said. "That's all I'll leave it as. Whatever. He doesn't like me. I respect him, but I could care less about him."

Mr. Jacobs, we’ll give you the last word.

"You need to shut up," Jacobs said. "That's that. He's a great coach, comes from a great coaching family, but he needs to shut up."

Follow all the Week 16 action live: Inactives | Scoreboard

1 p.m. ET games:

4 p.m. ET games:

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Posted on: December 23, 2011 5:35 pm

Holmes fined $7,500 for silly celebration penalty


By Josh Katzowitz

Every week, NFL players pull stupid tricks in the name of celebration on the field. But Santonio Holmes gave a praiseworthy performance last Sunday in the Jets loss to the Eagles.

After fumbling a ball that Philadelphia recovered and ran in for the score and then deflecting a pass that landed in the hands of the Eagles for an interception, Holmes caught a nice 25-yard touchdown that cut the Philadelphia lead to 18 points.

That prompted Holmes to put the ball on the turf, place his foot on top of it (thereby using it as a prop) and begin flapping his wings like a maniacal eagle. That led to an unsportsmanlike penalty.

It’s also led to a $7,500 fine from the NFL for excessive celebration, according to Newsday.


Not only was it a silly thing to do in the first place, Holmes is a team captain, as appointed by coach Rex Ryan. Considering his controversies earlier this season when he criticized the Jets offensive line and apparently tried to help lead a mutiny against offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, this is at least the second strike in Holmes’ captaincy tenure. After his celebration last Sunday, Holmes promptly apologized.

“He apologized for that to me but I’ll say this about Santonio and every other player on this team: They have my 100 percent support and we’re in this thing together,” Ryan said.

Holmes' controversy 'flap'
"Are we perfect? No. None of us are perfect, but I'm just saying that you wish that thing never happened. I don't think it will happen again, but again, I have his back, he has mine and this whole team is that way. We just have to come out and fight for each other, we know it was a mistake and we'll learn from it."

After his penalty, Schottenheimer immediately confronted Holmes on the sideline.

“The one thing I said to Tone was ‘We had just gained momentum,’” Schottenheimer said earlier this week. “We made a great play, good throw, great route, great catch, and all I said to him was we’re trying to fight back in this thing and we need to maintain momentum. Don’t give them momentum back, and he agreed.”

As does the NFL apparently. Not that the fine will make a difference in Holmes’ every day life, but it’s a small reminder to Holmes that sometimes stupidity doesn’t only cost you field position. Sometimes, it costs you money as well.

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Posted on: December 21, 2011 3:19 pm

Coughlin on Rex: 'Talk is cheap, play the game'

Tom Coughlin wasn't thrilled with the loss to the Redskins. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Breaking news: Rex Ryan likes to talk about the Jets and how dangerous they are. On Monday, he made sure that the world knows, in advance of a Christmas Eve New York matchup, that while the Giants are an "excellent" team, "I think we're better."

Giants coach Tom Coughlin was asked about Ryan's comments during his Wednesday press conference, and his response was, well, what you'd expect out of Coughlin -- he thinks "talk is cheap."

"I just say, regardless of the talk, it will be decided at one o’clock Saturday afternoon," Coughlin said. "Regardless of what is said. Talk is cheap, play the game."

Coughlin appeared pretty exasperated at his presser, and it's hard to blame him. The Giants breathed new life into their season by taking down the Cowboys two weeks ago, and then turned right back around and tried to kill it off again with a devastating loss to Washington on Sunday.

This Saturday, they're in a full-on elimination match, as a loss would put them at 7-8. Even if the Cowboys lost out, the Eagles (who play Dallas on Saturday) would win the NFC East tiebreaker.

Coughlin knows that, and he's fully aware that engaging in a public war of words won't do his team any good, even though he might use Ryan's willingness to talk to his advantage.

"Perhaps," Coughlin said when asked if he'd used the Jets talk to motivate his team.

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Posted on: December 21, 2011 2:46 pm

Film Room: Jets vs. Giants Christmas eve preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

This Christmas Eve battle carries significant playoff implications for both New York teams. With the hype already built in, we can get right to the breakdown.

1. Rex Ryan
The loquacious third-year head coach has already said his is the better team in this game and if that “better team” loses, the blame will be on him. That would make two weeks in a row.

Rarely do we call out a coaching staff in Film Room posts; it’s dicey given the depth of preparation and various subtle and unknown factors that go into a gameplan. But rarely do we see one staff thoroughly outwit another staff the way Andy Reid and his crew did against Ryan & Co. last week.

The Eagles offensive line and backs had no trouble stoning the Jets’ blitzes. That’s noteworthy given that Philly’s front five and LeSean McCoy have been inconsistent in blitz pickup this season. With Jim Leonhard injured, the Jets had to scale back their coverages. They may have scaled too far back; Michael Vick, a poor field reader, diagnosed the Jets’ secondary with ease.

Afterwards, there were reports that Eagles receivers were calling out the coverages prior to the snap. In most of those instances, the Eagles were aligned in spread formations, which widened the Jets defense. That gave Vick clearer looks and, as NFL Matchup Show executive producer Greg Cosell pointed out, it dictated some favorable blocking advantages for the Eagles run game. Instead of adjusting and being proactive, the Jets stagnated and became reactive.

2. Giants run game vs. Jets D
Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine are two of the best in the business. It’s unlikely they’ll be flat two games in a row. It helps that they’re facing a Giants offense that can’t run the ball. When the Giants do attempt to run (and they will), it won’t be from spread formations like the Eagles. They’re a power run team that girth over quickness up front and relies on fullbacks and tight ends on the edges and lead-blocks.

The Jets are tailored to stop this brand of rushing. Nose tackle Sione Pouha will command extra attention inside, leaving one-on-one mismatches for either Muhammad Wilkerson (a fast-rising rookie with a willowy frame and improved explosiveness) or Mike DeVito (a low-to-the-ground energy guy with an underrated burst).

That’s just in the trenches. At the second level, the Jets linebackers present even greater problems. About the only way to beat them is to make them guess wrong (solid, assertive veteran Bart Scott especially can misdiagnose and overreact at times). The Giants running backs, however, have not proven fleet enough this season to trust on draws, counters or other misdirection runs.
Ballard and Keller have been safety valves for their QBs this season. (Getty Images)

3. Tight Ends
In recent weeks, Jake Ballard has evolved from a lumbering but effective seam pass-catcher to something of a potent all-around receiver. He runs a wider variety of routes than anyone would have guessed and is more than a dumpoff option for Eli Manning. One reason for this could be because defenses have been more inclined to double the Giants receivers outside.

The Jets may not have to double given they can match Darrelle Revis on Hakeem Nicks. But that doesn’t mean Ballard won’t be a significant factor Sunday. The Jets linebackers are not particularly comfortable in coverage, and Manning may even like the matchup of Ballard on safety Eric Smith.

Because the Jets corners play so much man, they’re not going to be too responsive to play-action (the corners are outside and watching the receiver, not inside where they can see the quarterback and linemen carry out fakes). Thus, when Manning does fake a handoff, it’s likely Ballard’s defender is the one he’ll be trying to manipulate.

For the Jets, tight end Dustin Keller is critical because, as you’re about to read, he’s Mark Sanchez’s safety valve.

4. Jets passing game
The Giants are usually willing to cover tight ends with linebackers, especially if nickel ‘backer Jacquian Williams is on the field. It’s possible, though, that they’ll find a way to put a safety on Keller.

He’s often Sanchez’s go-to guy in passing situations. This is gold star for Keller, but more than that, it’s a black checkmark for Sanchez. Because he’s as jittery in the pocket and as unreliable in his progressions as he was his rookie year, the Jets’ passing attack is full of simplified one-read plays. A lot of those one-read plays – rollouts, short drag patterns, flairs to the flats, short hooks, etc. – naturally target a tight end. It helps that Sanchez, for all his short-comings, is superb throwing quickly between the numbers.

The Jets have not been able to consistently incorporate their wide receivers in the passing game this season. Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress have not gone over 50 yards receiving in the same game since Week 1. Four times they’ve both been held to 40 yards or less. Some of that is on them (Burress, in particular, has had trouble getting separation as of late), but most of that is on Sanchez and an offensive line that, thanks to right tackle Wayne Hunter, can’t always sustain protection for a seven-step drop.

Perhaps this is the week the receivers come to life. One of them – likely Holmes – will be blanketed by Corey Webster, but the other will get to face either Aaron Ross or Prince Amukumara, two players who have struggled, especially in man coverage.

5. Jets run game
If turnovers hadn’t put the Jets in such an early hole at Philadelphia, we probably would be talking not about Rex Ryan getting outcoached but about Shonn Greene running all over the Eagles D.

The Jets ground game has had some juice in recent weeks. Greene is finally playing downhill, and the line, anchored by indomitable center Nick Mangold, has done a good job hiding its weaknesses and highlighting its strengths (examples: simple pull-blocks for left guard Matt Slauson, running off and not behind finesse left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, tight ends lining up on the right so that Hunter can maximize his raw strength as a strict north/south blocker, etc.).

The Giants, with their iffy linebacking unit, are not a staunch run defense (though second-year end Jason Pierre-Paul is coming close to singlehandedly changing that).

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 8 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: December 19, 2011 3:37 pm

Rex Ryan: Holmes apologized, I have his back

Holmes has apologized to teammates for his impromptu TD celebration. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The Jets in December are like a rash: they just won't go away. It seems to happen every year -- an inexplicable late-season loss doesn't bounce New York from the playoff hunt and that sliver of hope is all they need. By the time the regular-season ends, the Jets have inevitably earned a wild-card berth on their way to the AFC Championship game.

With that in mind, getting thoroughly manhandled by the Eagles Sunday means little for their postseason hopes and dreams. Heading into Week 15, the Jets were the No. 6 seed, the final wild-card entrant. Monday, thanks to losses by the Titans and Raiders, the Jets … remained the No. 6 seed.

Which means that if they win out, they're headed to the postseason.

But the 2011 version of this team doesn't have the running game or defense of previous Rex Ryan squads. This has put additional pressure on quarterback Mark Sanchez and while he's showed glimpses of franchise QB-promise, in general he hasn't been up to the challenge. It doesn't help when your receivers are dropping passes -- or worse, fumbling them. Or, if you're Santonio Holmes, the Jets' No. 1 wideout, dropping, fumbling, and then getting personal-foul penalties for the balls you do catch.

Against the Eagles, Holmes hauled in a touchdown pass and was promptly flagged for excessive celebration. Makes sense given that the Jets only trailed by three scores at the time.

But there's good news: Holmes has learned his lesson.

Ryan (via the Newark Star-Ledger) said that “He apologized for that to me but I’ll say this about Santonio and every other player on this team: They have my 100 percent support and we’re in this thing together.”

Ryan doesn't expect similar lapses to happen in the future, either. So there's that.

"Are we perfect? No. None of us are perfect, but I'm just saying that you wish that thing never happened," Ryan said. "I don't think it will happen again, but again, I have his back, he has mine and this whole team is that way. We just have to come out and fight for each other, we know it was a mistake and we'll learn from it."

If the Jets are to make the playoffs for the third consecutive year, they'll need to beat the Giants (an equally enigmatic team) and then travel to Miami and beat the Dolphins, quite possibly the best 5-9 club in the history of professional football.

And while the Jets haven't played particularly well recently (beating the Chiefs and Redskins doesn't count), we fully expect them to backdoor their way into the postseason. They have a knack for it.

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Posted on: December 11, 2011 6:41 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2011 6:46 pm

Report: Leonhard tore PCL, done for the season

J. Leonhard might have suffered a PCL tear in his right knee (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

For the second season in a row, it appears that Jets safety Jim Leonhard has suffered a season-ending injury.

That’s what Rapid Reporter Lisa Zimmerman has confirmed, writing that Leonhard is feared to have suffered a PCL tear in his right knee. He’ll undergo an MRI on Monday to make the final determination.

Leonhard was injured in the second quarter of the Jets win against the Chiefs after he intercepted a Tyler Palko pass. As soon as the play was complete, Leonhard needed to be helped off the field -- without putting any weight on his right leg -- and carted away to the locker room.

After the game, cornerback Darrelle Revis told reporters that the rumor on the sideline during the game was that Leonhard had suffered a season-ending injury during his interception.

It’s the same leg Leonhard broke late last year during a Jets practice that kept him out the rest of the season.

"I'm hopeful it's not too bad," coach Rex Ryan told reporters after the game. "But it's never good when you need help coming off (the field)."

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Posted on: December 10, 2011 12:21 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 12:23 pm

Rex Ryan on the Jets: 'If we get in, look out'

Ryan on Sanchez: 'I want everybody to know that (he) is a pretty good quarterback'. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

Two years ago, Rex Ryan's first as the Jets head coach, New York was 6-6 heading into Week 14. They went 3-1 and back-doored their way into the final wild-card spot, making it to the AFC Championship game where they lost to the Colts.

Last season, the Jets started 9-2 before losing three of four. A Week 17 victory against the Bills again landed them in the postseason, and again they made it to the AFC Championship game, this time losing to the Steelers.

New York faces Kansas City Sunday and they're in the familiar position of needing a late-season surge to earn a wild-card berth. As it stands, they're ninth in the conference, behind three teams (Bengals, Titans, Raiders) for the final playoff spot. But the Jets are a persistent bunch, particularly late in the year. Which is why it's reasonable to believe that by the time the Week 17 games conclude, New York will be one of the 12 teams still playing.

That journey starts with the Chiefs. Then the Jets are at the Eagles, host the Giants, and finish at the Dolphins. They'll probably need to go 3-1, maybe 4-0.

“Don’t worry, we’ll take our swing,” head coach Rex Ryan told the New York Daily News' Mike Lupica earlier this week.

Despite Ryan's success in nearly three seasons with the Jets (27-19, two playoff appearances), when the conversation turns to the AFC's elite teams, New York isn't one of them. In recent years, that distinction falls to the Patriots, Steelers and Ravens.

“I understand where people are coming from with that,” Ryan said. “Hey, we’re not in the playoffs yet. But if we get in the playoffs, they’re gonna be talking about four teams. I mean, if we get in, how can you not talk about us? … We can beat all those teams. If we get in, look out.”

(In the Ryan era, the Jets beat the Steelers during Week 15 of the 2010 season, are 3-4 against the Patriots, and are winless in two tries against the Ravens.)

Any success New York has will be because of quarterback Mark Sanchez, who still struggles with consistency, particularly when the Jets are trailing. According to Football Outsiders' passer metrics, Sanchez ranks 19th in total value and 23rd in value per play, just behind Matt Hasselbeck and Cam Newton, and ahead of Josh Freeman and Matt Moore. (In 2010, Sanchez ranked 18th and 28th; in 2009, he was 38th and 35th.)

“I’m not putting him up there with Brady and Manning," Ryan said of Sanchez. "The elite guys. He’s not there yet. But he’s definitely in the next rung.”

The New York Jets will look to stay alive in the AFC playoff hunt when they host the Kansas City Chiefs at Metlife Stadium this Sunday at 1:00 PM ET on CBS. Join Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan for a preview of this game.

Even that's debatable. But the Jets can't rely on 41-year-old Mark Brunell; they're only going as far as Sanchez takes them.

“He's got the same mentality I have,” Ryan said of his quarterback. “You don’t think I can? I’ll show you. This is a guy who outplayed Peyton Manning in a playoff game, outplayed Philip Rivers, outplayed Tom Brady on the biggest possible stage. And then it’s funny, he’s like eighth in Pro Bowl votes or whatever. And I go, really? Give me a quarterback who wins.”

Sanchez does win, although attributing QB success with team victories is both myopic and naive. We suspect Ryan knows this (you don't see the veteran backup getting first-team reps over the franchise quarterback late in the season in Indy, San Diego or New England), but it does no one any good to admit it publicly.

For now, the focus is on the next month of the season. Ryan and the Jets are going to need Sanchez, which is why the head coach wants fans to support the young quarterback.

“I think our fans definitely understand where we are," the head coach said according to NYJets.com. "We’re fighting for our playoff lives, so they understand that. Have we made it easy to be a Jets fan all these weeks? Probably not like we’ve wanted to, but again, the one thing they know from our team is you’re going to get everything we have. Is it going to be good enough? We think it is. Sometimes, it’s not, but we’re going to lay it out there for us and for them. I think that our fans appreciate that. The fact that we’re going to have a double-take on introducing the offense, I want everybody to know that Mark Sanchez is a pretty good quarterback. I think it’ll be good. I think it’ll be a shot in the arm when he comes out to a bunch of applause, because I think that’s what will happen.”

So, please, Jets fans: cheer for Sanchez when he's announced. He'll appreciated it and and at 7-5, New York can use all the help they can get.

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