LaDainian Tomlinson (21) of the New York Jets is brought down by LaMarr Woodley (56) of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23 2011 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Jets Pick Up The Pieces After AFC Championship Game Loss To Steelers

Complete coverage of the Jets' second consecutive trip to the AFC Championship Game -- Jets-Steelers history -- Jets Talent and Depth is Super Bowl Quality -- A Defensive Game Plan for the Jets -- An Offensive Game Plan for the Jets

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Decisions Forthcoming For Jets

A quick overview of some key decisions the Jets will have to make this off-season before getting in-depth in the coming weeks

Holmes or Edwards? - Or both. It will be interesting to see how Mike Tannenbaum approaches attempting to sign both of the Jets premier wide receivers. From everything I have heard and read, Holmes is a bigger priority but it will be hard to let Edwards walk after the type of season he put together.

No Country for Old Men - It sounds like Jason Taylor, Mark Brunell and Trevor Pryce are both going to retire. LaDainian Tomlinson will likely be back to finish out his contract but with a reduced role in the offense. Kris Jenkins will have to take a big pay cut to stick around, and the same might go for Damien Woody. The Jets will have a very tough decision to make on defensive lineman Shaun Ellis, the longest tenured player on the team. Also expect to see fullback Tony Richardson retire and be replaced by John Conner.

No-Cro - Originally most people assumed Antonio Cromartie would only be around one year and then Kyle Wilson would take over at corner opposite Darrelle Revis. However, since Wilson's most memorable play was an easy interception slamming off his face-mask in the AFC Championship Game, that decision may not be so cut and dry. 

Tiger Formation - Brad Smith is also a free agent who will be tough to keep around, especially if the Jets attempt to bring both Edwards and Holmes back. Smith is valuable on both offense and special teams and would be very difficult to replace.

McKnight Time - With LaDainian Tomlinson a year older and Brad Smith potentially leaving, Joe McKnight better be ready to take on a bigger role on this team.


Mark Sanchez 'Optimistic' About Injured Shoulder

Here is the transcript of New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez’s press conference today, the day after the Jets fell one game short of reaching the Super Bowl for the second straight season. Sanchez said he was “optimistic” about his injured shoulder.

On his development this season…
The most important thing, personally, was trying to cut down on interceptions. I cut down on turnovers (and) ball security (issues). To improve like we did, to jump as many spots as we did in third-down conversions, on red zone efficiency, everything we improved in as an offense. That just comes with experience. I’m really proud of the coaches and the players for improving like we promised each other we would on this day last year. We talked about getting a little bit better and we did. At this point, we’re right there. We’re so close. As hard as it is, we’re just knocking on the door. We’re the only team to make it back in that final four of teams and that’s unbelievable. There is something to be said for that. It’s just really too bad that we didn’t make it all the way.

On the importance of re-signing Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes…
I felt great with both of them. They both have big play-making ability, obviously. They both can change the dynamic of a game. They helped me out tremendously in their own ways, by just talking or playing, they’ve helped me. I’d love to get them back. This is the worst part because you go from, growing closer together, we’re as tight as we can possibly be right now, then you move to (the) business side of things and it’s harder. It becomes black and white. That’s just the way it goes. Things happen. Guys change teams. Who knows? It’s really too bad, I’ll stay positive and I hope we can get everybody back, but I know that is not realistic. We’ll work with what we’ve got and stay in contact with them and I’ll do everything I can possibly do to help.

On if he feels there will be a lot of changes to the team next season…
I don’t know. I just feel like there are probably more than a handful of guys, at least 10, that won’t be playing (here) next year because of contracts deals or age. Guys have played a long time and they’ve had great careers. LT (LaDainian Tomlinson) and Jason Taylor, I mean those guys are great competitors. They are nearing the end of their career, (but) I hope we get them back, I hope they have one more year in them because they’ve helped me. The reality is this is a tough game and these guys have played a long time, so we’ll see what happens.

On if this team is built for the long-haul…
Absolutely. The nucleus of this team will be here and we’ll keep as many guys as possible. I know they’ll do that, management wise, we’ll be smart about it and do what’s best for us. I’m confident in Rex (Ryan), in Mike Tannenbaum and Mr. Johnson doing the very best they can to keep our guys.

On the status of his shoulder…

I’ll still talk to the doctors about it, we did our exit physicals and they are thrilled about the progress I’ve made in the last couple of weeks. Things are pointing in the right direction. If there was something serious, I think (things) would have declined. Things could have gotten worse, I wouldn’t have been able to practice. If anything, it just got better. That’s a good sign. I’ll just take it from there, talk to the doctors, get a couple of opinions on it, try to get it looked at and we’ll take it from there. I’m optimistic about everything and hopefully nothing needs to be done. A little rest and I’ll be ready to go again.

On if he has an appointment set up with Dr. James Andrews for his shoulder yet…
No, not yet.

On if he has plans to set up an appointment with Dr. Andrews…
I don’t know, last year it was definitely something that needed to be looked at, kind of hands on. This is something that can be looked at through an MRI or X-Ray (slide), so we’ll see what happens.

On what exactly his shoulder injury is…

I think it’s just sore and recovering. (laughing) It feels good. I think it’s healed now.

On next season…
I feel like we’re so close. You just can’t start that slow in a game (AFC Championship game at Pittsburgh) like that. I’m proud of our guys for the way that we improved last year but we’re going to need a little more. That’s the only thing I can think of right now, just a little bit more, out of me, as a leader, as a quarterback, just getting completions and taking care of the ball even better next year. There is going to be more of an emphasis on taking control and assuming command of this team and this organization, that’s just the way I feel. (We have to get) everybody on board, the new guys that we bring in, we’ve got to get them right, we’ve got to get them playing like a Jet from day one. That’ll be our goal, but we’ve got a great group. I’m thrilled about playing with these guys. I definitely got better from playing with them and being around them. I’m wearing gang green with pride, I’m thrilled about being here and we’ll take it one game at a time.

On what the playoff run did for his development…
I don’t think I’ve been more focused, maybe in my life. I don’t think I’ve been more prepared. I just felt good about the plan. I was seeing things before they happened. The game started to slow down. I felt great. It really did and it just felt good being with this team and just being in the team meeting rooms. Every time we would get in the team meeting rooms and I’d see Rex talk, it was just like, ‘This is it. We’re going. This is our year. It’s going to happen,’ and it’s just too bad.

On how badly he wanted the ball in his hands with a chance to win the game…
That’s all you want. It’s a tough way to go out, but we fought hard in the second half. It was too bad we didn’t have that effort in the first half. We’ll regroup, figure it out and get a little better all offseason. We have a great group, so we’ll take it from here. It is too bad. We wanted that one last opportunity.

On what the team needs to do to reach the next level…
We’re so close. It’s going to be about everybody committing to this team with an unsure future. That’s hard, but I think we have the guys that can stay committed. We have the guys that can work out on their own if there are no offseason workouts. Who knows what’s going to happen, so we’re going to need guys to get together on their own, study on their own and be ready to go as soon as the season starts up again. Hopefully, it’s right on schedule, but we’re just going to have to get a little better individually. We’ll make the right changes on offense, defense and special teams. We’ll get better, but I’m proud of our effort. I’m proud our coaches and our players. It was a great year, a tough way to go out, but I’m proud of our guys.

On whether the loss is something you have to shake off or something you have to remember…
Inevitably, you’re going to think about it. I’ll think about it tomorrow morning and for the next few months, but it’s supposed to hurt. It can’t feel good. It’s too bad. We have a good group.

On whether he worries the window of opportunity is closing for this team…
I don’t think that, not with Rex (Ryan), not with the kind of management we have (and) not with the players we seem to get every year. I know there is a lot of turnover each year. Who knows who is going to be back? Who knows when the season is going to start? I’m confident we have the right people in place, from the trainers to the equipment managers to the coaches, and we’ll get the right players and we’ll figure it out. We’ll get a little bit better. We’ll be ready to play next year.

On Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes…
They’re a quarterback’s best friend. Them, a great defense (and) a good running game like we had, it makes it easy on a quarterback. We’ll do our best to keep them. I know it’s not totally realistic to be able to keep both, but we’ll figure it out and I’m confident in Mike Tannenbaum trying to get the best players back.

On how his shoulder is feeling…
I’m feeling good. The exit physical went really well. The doctors are pleased, so we’ll just take it from there. I’ll probably get it looked at these next couple of days, but the most important thing is that it got better every week. That’s huge. We’re very positive about it. We’ll just get it looked at and move on from there, but I’m optimistic.

On whether it is too soon to put his first two seasons in perspective and be proud of them…
Sure, I’m proud to be a Jet. I’m proud to be in this building and come to work here every day. There is nothing to hang our heads about. It’s a tough way to go out, but we have a great group and we’ll be right back next year and, hopefully, we’ll be a little better. It’s a little too early for me to reflect on everything, but I’m happy to be here. I love it here. (We’ll) get a little better.


Rex Ryan: ' In My Heart, I Believe We'll Be Champs'

Here are some excerpts from New York Jets coach Rex Ryan’s press conference today, the day following his team’s second consecutive loss in an AFC Championship Game.

Opening remarks:

First off, I want to thank everybody for your coverage of our team. Most of the time they were good comments, not always, but sometimes we deserved those bad ones (smile). I do want to thank you for the coverage that you guys give us in this organization.

After looking at that game, boy, it was brutal to watch. That first half in particular, it wasn’t like we changed a whole lot of calls defensively, it was we changed the way we played. I’m kind of at a loss for words on why we played that poorly. You’ve got to give them credit. (Rashard) Mendenhall made some great runs. We had him hit in the backfield a number of times and he’d spin out for nine (or) 10 yards. It was uncharacteristic of our team. We got it together. I was proud and I think we all recognized the heart of our football team (with the way) that we responded. We thought we were going to win the game in the second half, but to their credit, they made enough plays at the end of the game. One thing I told our players was to be proud to be a Jet. There’s a lot to be proud of. The fact that we didn’t reach our goal this year, clearly that’s a disappointment, but it doesn’t mean we had a bad season. We had a heck of a season when you look at it. How close are we to realizing our goal? We’re pretty darn close. We’re the only team of the final four teams that went (to the Conference Championship Games) last year, to make it back to the final four. I think that’s something for (to be optimistic about) that we’re a pretty good football team. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. Now, we weren’t good enough to get it done (this year), but that doesn’t mean we won’t be good enough to get it done next year. We beat some pretty good teams along the way. I think the fact that we played five road games out of the last six, including trips to Chicago, Pittsburgh twice, New England, Indianapolis, that’s about as tough as it gets. We have ourselves to blame.

We’ve got to find a way to win our division and that’s no easy task. This isn’t just about beating New England because, quite honestly, we’ve done a pretty good job of it. It seems like nobody else in the league can beat them, so we’ve got to find ways to beat Green Bay, to beat Baltimore, to beat these other teams that we lost to. I think that’s going to be a huge challenge to us. I challenged our guys, with the uncertainty of the CBA, to hold each other accountable, to talk to each other, to stay in touch, (and) to do those things. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Nobody does. But, (I told them) to hold each other accountable and that you represent yourself, (but) you also represent this organization on and off the field. I have to be mindful of that as well, obviously, with my past history. Be proud to be a Jet because I know I am.

On if he is optimistic that the team will be able to keep their core together for next season:

I don’t think there’s any doubt. I would love to have our entire 53 guys back. Is that realistic? No. We all know that’s not realistic. There’s going to be some guys that are going to make a lot more money than we can afford to pay, but it doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate them, because we do. There’s probably going to be a guy who may retire (and) a guy that for whatever reason we move on from. I think this is a heck of a football team, and I would love to have this entire group back next season. I recognize that’s not realistic.

On if it is important for the players to shake off the loss or if he wants them to hold on to it:

I think you want to look at both ends of it. I think you want to realize how close we are and watch the Super Bowl game. I’ve taken the opposite approach. I haven’t watched the last two of them because of the pain of it. But in a way, you’ve got to appreciate where you were and the kind of season you had and realize how close it is. Is that team really that much better than us? I don’t believe that’s the case. Let it drive you into realizing that it’s not a fluke that we’re the only team to go back-to-back in the final four. That’s not a fluke. That means we’re a heck of a football team. It means we’re a consistent football team. The great thing is, I think we’re on the uphill climb, not the downhill. Everything that talks about winning, we’ve won 13 games this year. The fact that we beat Indy at Indy, the fact we beat New England at New England, there are a lot of positives to take from this season and things that I would be encouraged about. Are we guaranteed we’re going to go to the Super Bowl? Maybe not. Maybe when I said that, “Soon to be champs,” I just don’t know when that (will be), but I believe it. In my heart, I believe we’ll be champs.


Rex Ryan Calls His Post-Game Rant 'Ridiculous'

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan is certainly never dull, including today -- the day after his team lost its second straight AFC championship game. With a night to think about, Ryan was critical today of his own post-game remarks, in which he said people "have no right" to be critical of his team.

"That was a ridiculous statement" said Ryan.

Here is what Ryan had said Sunday night.

“Our goal for next year, I got news for you,” Ryan said.  “It won’t change.  And it’ll never change.  We’re gonna chase that Super Bowl.  We’re gonna chase it until we get it, and then we’ll chase it after that again.  But that’s it.  People wanna criticize us, then you go ahead, but you really got no right.”

Good to see that Ryan, as brash as he is, recognized how silly that sounded. Ryan also still seemed shocked by how badly his team played in falling behind 24-0.

“I’m at a loss for words for why we played that poorly,” Ryan said.  “We were missing tackles all over the place.  Our tackling was so poor it’s hard to imagine.”

Well, he now has a nice, long offseason to think about it.


New York Jets' Post-Mortem: Reaction To Another AFC Title Game Defeat

Here is some of the reaction from around the Inter-Google to the New York Jets' 24-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday in the AFC Championship Game.

Rex Ryan did not get the New York Jets ready to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and it cost his team its season - ESPN New York
After pushing all the right human buttons in Rounds 1 and 2, inspiring his Jets to knock out Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, Ryan suddenly lost the pulse of his team. The stunning disconnect between coach and player allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers to score the first 24 points of the game, and ultimately guaranteed that a second-half rally would save face, but not the season.

"We played a good half," an emotional Ryan said. "We just never played a good game."

Rex has to take the fall for that. His chief responsibility as head coach is to have his team ready to play, and yet the Jets were a lifeless mess in the first half, finding inspiration in absolutely nothing. ...

"To come out as flat as we did against such a great franchise and such a great team," Mark Sanchez said, "a tough team, one of the toughest -- if not the toughest -- we played all year, it just doesn't work."

New York Jets Suffer Black-and-Gold Blitzkrieg: Scott Soshnick - Businessweek
Lay this loss, New York’s second straight AFC title game disappointment, on the ballyhooed defense, the brain trust of the coach who likes to tell the world just how good his guys are. Winning works, too.

"We played a good half. We just didn’t play a good game," was the verbal autopsy from Ryan, who, insert yawn here, began boasting of better things to come next season. "If you plan on beating them, you better put four quarters together. We didn’t do that."

The Steelers accumulated 135 rushing yards in the first half against a defense that prides itself on bullying. Well, the bully got popped in the mouth.

Rex Ryan's defense can't stop Steelers when Jets coach trusts unit on coin toss, game's final drive
Remember how the Jets kept telling everybody all week that they were ready, screaming how they can't wait for their championship moment? Somehow, the Jets' defense required the entire first half before an alarm rang. By then it was simply too late.

"It goes back to basics, and basics is tackling," said nose tackle Sione Pouha. "I didn't do my job. We didn't get it done, and the most heartbreaking thing now is knowing this locker room is never going to be the same."

Brian Schottenheimer lacks sense of urgency as play-calling dooms Jets on Steelers' goal-line stand
So many times this season Schottenheimer's play-calling had been perplexing. In the biggest spot of the season, he forgot what the Jets do best. "Well, we tried to score," Ryan said. "That team right there is pretty tough. But, obviously they made some good plays on us. You don't design any play to fail."

NFL Playoffs: New York Jets' inability to score TD from 2 yards out was unacceptable - ESPN New York
The New York Jets couldn't make two yards in four plays, and they ended up six feet under.

You could almost hear the angry mob, screaming for Brian Schottenheimer's head. The second-guessers will be screaming long into the offseason because of what transpired at the Pittsburgh Steelers' goal line with under eight minutes to play Sunday night in the AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field.

Schottenheimer's play calling over the four-play sequence was questionable, and it loomed large in the Jets' crushing 24-19 loss to the Steelers.

After Shonn Greene rushed for 1 yard, Schottenheimer called two straight pass plays from the 1-yard line -- a rollout to Dustin Keller and a quick slant to Santonio Holmes that hit linebacker LaMarr Woodley in the chest. On fourth down, Schottenheimer sent LaDainian Tomlinson into the line for no gain.

It was a brutal sequence. Instead of getting cute with a rollout to Keller, Schottenheimer should've sent the 230-pound Greene into the line again. Moments earlier, he ran for 16 yards against a Pittsburgh run defense that was sucking wind.

Schottenheimer isn't going to get fired, which may disappoint a lot of Jets fans. Just the other day, Ryan was raving about Schottenheimer, calling him a future head-coaching star. Schottenheimer staged a late-season rally, as the Jets averaged 29 points over the previous five games. He doesn't deserve to get fired, but the goal-line sequence was inexcusable.

"It was really deflating," left guard Matt Slauson said. "It's really tough to take as an offensive line because we pride ourselves on that."

Except Schottenheimer took it out of the line's hands for those two pass plays.

Has Rex Ryan Set the Bar Too High? -
If the Jets enter next season declaring that the only acceptable result is a trip to the Super Bowl, what happens if — goodness gracious! — they go back to the A.F.C. championship game again? And lose again?

Coaches have been fired for being persistently almost good enough. Marty Schottenheimer made a career out of it.

Ryan should get full credit for raising the expectations of his players, his staff and Jets fans. But he should also take note of what the Jets owner Woody Johnson said after Sunday’s loss.

“We had a great season,” Johnson said. “We got down to the final four. But it’s not good enough.”


AFC Championship Game: Jets At Steelers, Predictions And Previews

As I write this, we are only a few hours away from kickoff New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game. Let's look around the Inter-Google at some of the previews being written and predictions being made as game time approaches.

The Jets are finding a surprising ally today in Boston Glove columnist Dan Shaughnessy, who thinks New England Patriots fans should be rooting for the Jets today. He makes a compelling case for why, which basically comes down to the Patriots organization needing a kick in the pants:

J . . . E . . . T . . . S.

Jets! Jets! Jets!

I’m in. I’m on the Jets bandwagon. I’ve been carrying Fireman Ed on my shoulders all over Pittsburgh, and let me tell you, he’s heavier than he looks.

The Jets are fun. The Jets have a coach who says what he thinks without regard for the consequences. The Jets lack self-importance. They do backflips in the end zone.

Oh, and the Jets have fans who have suffered for years, just like Red Sox fans up until 2004.

If you are a Patriots fan still smarting from the shocker last Sunday, you should be rooting for the Jets tonight. The better the Jets do, the more the Patriots will be driven to beat them. If the Jets win the AFC Championship at Heinz Field, perhaps the Krafts will be inspired to spend a little more money on payroll next year (are we supposed to feel good that the Patriots have the third-lowest payroll in the NFL?).

Maybe New England will stop trading down to get "value’’ for high draft picks. Maybe New England will seek more talent. Maybe the Patriots will go for broke next year, while Tom Brady is still at the height of his powers.

So, yes, the Jets are my team. I hope they go on to win the Super Bowl in Dallas in two weeks. Perhaps that will motivate people back at Patriot Place.

Even former Steelers coach Bill Cowher is on the Jets' bandwagon today.

"Well, I’ll tell you what, Pittsburgh will have some issues this weekend," Cowher said. "The way the Jets are playing, I’m telling you this is going to be a game, I think it will be a classic game, and I like the Jets.

"They made a believer out of me last week with what they did, I think they match up well. I think it’s going to be a tough ballgame, but they certainly have all the ingredients."

Matt Bowen of the National Football Post breaks down some of the keys to the game, and's Damon Hack refuses to join the Jets parade, instead picking Pittsburgh to win. While we are still talking predictions, can't go without hearing from Jet legend Joe Namath. No guarantees from Joe, but still fun.

Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi writes that failure is not an option for the Jets today.

Everyone remembers who plays in the Super Bowl. The only people who remember who loses in the AFC title game are the losers themselves. And they tend to remember for a very, very long time.

This is the fourth time the Jets have reached this game since winning Super Bowl III. They have lost the previous three — after the 1982, 1998 and 2009 seasons — and time does not heal the wounds.

"I wish we didn’t have a chance," Victor Green said, a safety on the ’98 team that lost in Denver. "I wish we had gotten blown out. The fact we were up 10-0, it makes it even harder."

At LoHud, Brian Heyman thinks this could finally be the Jets time.

Is it finally the Jets' turn again?

The playoff appearances have been coming more frequently. They have made the postseason just 14 times since the franchise kicked off as the Titans in 1960, but seven of those berths have come in the last 13 seasons (the same as the Steelers in that span).

These are not the "Same Old Jets" in the sense that this is the first time they have made back-to-back trips to the final four. They are 12-12 overall in postseason play, but they have won four road playoff games the last two years. This is just the fourth time they have won two playoff games.


Hines Ward Doesn't Want To See The Jets Celebrating

Veteran Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward lived through one AFC Championship Game celebration at Heinz Field by an opposing team. He doesn’t want to live through another one.

“I don’t want to lose another AFC Championship Game at home. That’s the worst feeling ever,” Ward said. "I remember just like yesterday when the Patriots were celebrating on our field (2005) and that was the worst feeling ever. So hopefully we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen with the Jets.”

Ward appeared this week on ESPN Radio New York with Bonnie Bernstein and Greg Buttle. Sports Radio Interviews has the full transcript.

The Jets defeated Pittsburgh, 22-17, in Pittsburgh during the regular season.

“When we played the Jets the first time, we didn’t’ have (safety) Troy [Polamalu], we didn’t have (tight end) Heath Miller. And those are two Pro Bowl players and having them back with us definitely makes us a better team,” Ward said.

Ward thinks Miller can be a difference-maker for the Steelers this time.

“He impacts our offense tremendously, especially if they play a lot of man-to-man coverage. It’s all about match ups," Ward said. “[Darrelle] Revis and [Antonio] Cromartie will probably be on myself and Mike Wallace, so having Emmanuel Sanders and Heath Miller on the other side will probably create some opportunities for those guys to make some plays.”

Ward figures he is likely to be covered by Revis, and knows he won’t see the ball very often.

“I’m always going to have my battles with Revis. I’m a big fan of his and he definitely makes it hard because even when I do get open, the quarterback’s not even looking on that side because he doesn’t even want to mess around with Revis. So I can’t get frustrated. I can see how Reggie Wayne and some of those guys got frustrated with their attempts, but that’s just the way it is,” he said. “I’ll have to find another way to make an impact on the game, and if that’s by springing a block to help Mendenhall get in with a touchdown, or running the best decoy I can to help somebody else get open, then so be it.”


New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers - Comparing the Special Teams

Comparing the special teams units for the AFC Championship Game -

Jets -

Kicker - Nick Folk is going to give all of us a heart attack. I can promise you I had at least three nightmares this week about him pulling a Doug Brien in Pittsburgh. Folk's inconsistencies are even more of a reason the Jets need to finish drives with touchdowns and not field goal attempts.

Punter - Steve Weatherford was a machine at pinning opponents inside the 10 all regular season and now that the playoffs have started he is looking like Matt Dodge...well maybe not that bad, but still...Weatherford needs to help the Jets out with field position, in what should be a close, low-scoring game.

Returns - For God's sake keep Jerricho Cotchery and nobody else back on punts. I can't watch Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie playing "how close can I get to the ball without touching it." On kick returns, I expect a mix of Brad Smith and Cromartie, either way the opportunity will be there for big plays considering the Steelers coverage units.

Steelers -

Kicker - I feel a little better about Nick Folk when I realize Pittsburgh has the immortal Shaun Suisham kicking for them. Don't tell me you can't see Suisham getting tight in a big spot and hooking a few key field goals...wishful thinking? Maybe.

Punter - Daniel Sepulveda...statistically he has had a good year and honestly that is all I can tell you about the guy.

Returns - Emmanuel Sanders is fairly explosive on kick returns but hasn't broken one yet this season. Antonio Brown is deep on punts and is a rookie so that could be something to keep an eye on.


Advantage - Jets - We saw it in the previous meeting and there is no reason they can't duplicate their efforts this week.


New York Jets At Pittsburgh Steelers - Comparing the Defenses

Comparing the two defenses that will face off in the AFC Championship Game...

When the Jets are on defense -

200.6 passing yards allowed per game - 6th in the NFL

90.9 rushing yards allowed per game - 3rd in the NFL

Defensive Line - They didn't put forth their best effort in the earlier meeting between these two teams, however for the most part Sione Pouha, Mike DeVito, and Shaun Ellis have been solid against the run all year. Ellis is also coming off a career effort against the Patriots, where he recorded 2 sacks and was constantly in Tom Brady's face. Trevor Pryce will also be a factor in the rotation. It will be interesting to see if the Jets activate another defensive lineman like Marcus Dixon or Vernon Gholston, considering how much Pittsburgh runs the ball compared to the previous two teams the Jets faced in the playoffs.

Linebackers - David Harris and Calvin Pace came up with big plays last week and will need to do the same against Pittsburgh. Jason Taylor probably had his most memorable moment as a Jet in the December meeting of these two teams with his 4th quarter safety. He has been invisible in the playoffs so far and needs to get after the quarterback in this game.

Secondary - Darrelle Revis is playing at the level he did last year, which is bad news for opposing receivers and cornerbacks. It remains to be seen how Rex Ryan will use him this week. Antonio Cromartie must continue to be physical, especially against these Pittsburgh receivers who have more size and strength than New England's. Eric Smith and Brodney Pool have been playing much better lately and need to key in on Heath Miller and provide support in the rushing defense. Drew Coleman had a big game against the Steelers in the previous meeting with 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles but needs to step up his coverage against Pittsburgh's slot receivers.

When the Steelers are on defense -

214.1 passing yards allowed per game - 12th in the NFL

62.8 rushing yards allowed per game - 1st in the NFL

Defensive Line - Big Casey Hamption leads the way up front on Pittsburgh's stellar run defense. Defensive end Aaron Smith isn't going to play this Sunday. Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood both have had strong seasons up front, supporting Hampton.

Linebackers - Pittsburgh has one hell of a collection of play-making linebackers. Lawrence Timmons finished with 135 tackles, 3 sacks and 2 interceptions, James Farrior also had over 100 tackles and 6 sacks. James Harrison finished with 10.5 sacks and had 3 in last week's divisional round game. Lamar Woodley finished with 10 sacks and 50 tackles to round this impressive group.

Secondary - Bryant McFadden and Ike Taylor are a good, but not great starting duo of corners and can be beat down the field. Troy Polamalu didn't play in the previous match-up and is arguably the best defensive player in football. He didn't look 100 percent healthy last week but is always a threat when he is out there. Ryan Clark finished with 90 tackles and 2 interceptions at the other safety spot.


Advantage - Steelers - By a slight margin, their front seven has an advantage over the Jets and if Polamalu is healthy, their secondary matches the Jets in talent.


Santonio Holmes Says It's Not Personal This Time

What is going on with the New York Jets this week? No trash talk from coach Rex Ryan. Instead, it’s been all compliments and bouquets sent in the direction of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday’s foe in the AFC Championship Game.

Even former Steeler Santonio Holmes, traded unceremoniously from Pittsburgh to the Jets before the season started, is getting into the spirit, saying this meeting in Pittsburgh is not personal.

“I think the personal game is out of the way. The personal game was (Week 15) when we played the Steelers. We got that game out of the way. I got a chance to beat those guys the first time around. This time it means everything, everything for myself, for this team, for this organization. We’re trying to get to the Super Bowl. I don’t care about the Steelers right now. Those guys are in my team’s way, which is the New York Jets. We have one goal, which is to beat those guys, and everything personal that happened (will be reflected) two or three weeks after,” Holmes said. " If we win the Super Bowl, then everything is personal. That’s a slap back in those guys’ face for trading me. Right now, it’s not even a focus of mine, and it shouldn’t be the focus of any one of my teammates or anyone in this organization."

Holmes was the 2009 Super Bowl MVP for the Steelers.

“These type of things happen to big-time players. All you can do is just keep replenishing your career,” Holmes said. “If you get an opportunity to move somewhere else, don’t give up on yourself because someone else did. That’s exactly what I didn’t do.”

Holmes caught 52 passes in 12 games for the Jets. He missed the first four games while serving a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.


LaMarr Woodley On Mark Sanchez: 'We've Got To Hit Him Hard'

Like most blossoming young quarterbacks, New York Jets second-year man Mark Sanchez has been a bit Jekyll and Hyde this season. There has been 'Good Mark,' like last week against New England when he went 16-of-25 and tossed three touchdown passes. There has also been plenty of 'Bard Mark,' like the 17-for-44 effort in December against the Miami Dolphins.

LaMarr Woodley and the Pittsburgh Steelers hope to do everything they can Sunday to bring out 'Bad Mark' in the AFC Championship Game.

"He’s a quarterback who can move around in the pocket so he’s just not going to stand back there and take a hit. So I just think we have to do a good job getting pressure on him, and when we get back there we’ve got to hit him hard,' Woodley said during on appearance on the Colin Cowherd Show on ESPN Radio. "Hey, that's what the Pittsburgh Steelers do best. We apply pressure on quarterbacks and when you apply pressure on quarterbacks and hit them, that's when turnovers happen; that's when our secondary goes back there and makes plays."

Woodley pointed out that star safety Troy Polamalu did not play earlier this season when the Jets defeated Pittsburgh, 22-17.

"This time we're going to have Troy Polamalu back there, and you know how the defense runs when he's back there," Woodley said.

-- Read the whole transcript at Sports Radio Interviews.

Passing Rushing Sacks
G Rating Comp Att Pct Yds Y/G Y/A TD INT Rush Yds Y/G Avg TD Sack YdsL
2010 - Mark Sanchez 16 75.3 278 507 54.8 3291 205.7 6.5 17 13 30 105 6.6 3.5 3 27 171


New York Jets At Pittsburgh Steelers: Comparing the Offenses

Let's take a look at the two offenses that will be competing in the AFC Championship Game and who has an advantage on this side of the football:

When the Jets have the ball...

202.6 passing yards per game - 22nd in the NFL

148.4 rushing yards per game - 4th in the NFL

Quarterback - Mark Sanchez played one of his best games last week in New England, throwing three touchdowns and completing 16-of-25 passes. The Jets are extremely difficult to beat when he is protecting the football and making the type of plays he was last week. Sanchez has developed into a legitimate play-maker when he breaks the pocket. He must put forth another confident, poised effort similar to the one he did last week and the one he did last time the Jets played in Pittsburgh.

Running Backs - Shonn Greene looked strong last week and took the bulk of the carries. I wouldn't expect that to change this week. LaDainian Tomlinson was productive against the Steelers in their previous meeting but should be more effective with 10-12 carries, along with a few receptions. The Jets can't shy away from their running game despite Pittsburgh's dominant performance this season against opposing team's ground attack. They finished with 106 yards in the last meeting and there is no reason they can't repeat the performance.

Wide Receivers - All three of the Jets receivers played at a high level last week and if they can replicate their performance with Sanchez continuing to play well, they are impossible to match up with. Braylon Edwards had a big game against the Steelers secondary in the previous meeting and you know former Steeler Santonio Holmes will be jacked up for this game. There is no reason to hesitate taking chances down the field with Edwards and Holmes on the outside. Jerricho Cotchery should continue to find favorable match-ups on the inside and remain a key weapon on third downs. It will be interesting to see if Brad Smith plays and if he does how much he factors into the game-plan.

Tight Ends - Dustin Keller was relatively quiet last week and didn't do much in the previous meeting either. Sanchez overshot Keller down the seam last week and he hasn't been much of a factor in the vertical passing game lately. He is a weapon down the field the Jets shouldn't hesitate to take advantage of.

Offensive Line - This unit has played terrific the previous two weeks. It has been even more impressive considering there was no drop off from Damien Woody to his replacement Wayne Hunter at right tackle. Matt Slauson has also been quietly playing very well.

When the Steelers have the ball...

225.1 passing yards per game - 14th in the NFL

120.3 rushing yards per game - 11th in the NFL

Quarterback - Ben Roethlisberger is a much different quarterback than Peyton Manning and Tom Brady but no less dangerous. The Jets need to be disciplined to keep him in the pocket, while the secondary remains disciplined to cover down the field after he breaks the pocket. Roethlisberger can make something out of nothing and leads a dangerous vertical passing attack. He struggled against the Jets in the previous match-up, barely completing 50 percent of his passes and being sacked three times.

Running Backs - Rashard Mendenhall is the best back the Jets have faced so far in these playoffs and he did rack up 99 yards and a touchdown against them in December. The Jets have been conceding the run lately but will likely take a different approach this week, considering how much Pittsburgh likes to run the football. Mendenhall only had 46 yards on 20 carries against Baltimore last week.

Wide Receivers - Mike Wallace is the home run threat, who has the ability to break any game open. I would expect Darrelle Revis to get the assignment on him. Hines Ward is a cagey, physical veteran who is a very good possession receiver. Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown have turned into weapons in the slot for Pittsburgh and will need to have big games against Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery if the Steelers want to produce points on offense.

Tight Ends - Heath Miller didn't play in the previous match-up and is a threat catching the football, despite having a somewhat quiet year. I am sure Pittsburgh took notice of the success backup Matt Spaeth had against the Jets secondary back in December and won't hesitate to target Miller often.

Offensive Line - Jonathan Scott and Flozell Adams have struggled at tackle throughout the year and both were banged up last week. They have dealt with plenty of injuries throughout the year and the Jets should be able to take advantage of this unit, even with their inconsistent pass rush.


Advantage - Jets - Yes, the Jets, by a very slight margin. They have a far superior offensive line, and a better overall group of receivers. Mendenhall has been the most productive back all year but the Jets have a better 1-2 punch. Obviously, Roethlisberger gets the nod over Sanchez.


AFC Championship Game: Ryan Clark, James Farrior Familiar Faces To Giants, Jets Fans

When the New York Jets have the football Sunday in the AFC Championship Game fans of the Jets and New York Giants will be able to look across the line of scrimmage and see a couple of familiar players. Starting safety Ryan Clark (Giants) and linebacker James Farrior (Jets) began their NFL careers in New York.

Clark is a nine-year veteran who made the Giants’ roster as an undrafted free agent in 2002 and spent two years with the Giants, starting four games. He was released by New York and spent two years with the Washington Redskins.

Clark then found a home in Pittsburgh, where he has been a starter for the Steelers since 2006. He is ‘the other safety’ next to Troy Palomalu.

Farrior is a 14-year veteran drafted in the first round (8th overall) by the Jets in 1997. He spent five seasons with the Jets before leaving as a free agent and signing with the Steelers. He has made the Pro Bowl twice in Pittsburgh. This season he compiled 138 tackles and six quarterback sacks.


Rex Ryan: 'I'm An Excellent Football Coach'

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan visited with Michael Kay on ESPN Radio New York this week. Ryan’s Jets, of course, are in the AFC Championship Game this weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ryan, as entertaining as ever even if he wasn’t full of braggadoccio this time, touched on a wide range of topics. Sports Radio Interviews has the full transcript. Here are some excerpts.

On how he takes the blame when the Jets lose, but passes the praise to the players when they win:

"I really think that if you’re a competitor, that’s how you look at things. The job of a coach is to prepare your players, get them ready each week. Clearly, I thought we were out-prepared … that Monday night game. … But the players came back and did a great job executing the plan. Their effort was tremendous."

My take: Are you reading this, Tom Coughlin? Giants safety Antrel Rolle wants you to take notes. Let’s see … prepare players … get them ready each week … take the blame when you lose and give players credit when you win … hmmm, at 64 I’m amazed you haven’t learned these things already, Tom. Or, maybe Rolle should just shut his trap.

If it feels different going to the AFC title game this year as opposed to last:

"It does feel different. Last time, we were new to it. We had a rookie quarterback, obviously a rookie head coach, and it was like we had something to prove to the league. Even though we believed in ourself, we might not have been built to go all the way. … I still think our passing game is at a different level now than it was back then. … Last year we were just built on running it."

On the extended chat at midfield with Belichick after the game:

"I really don’t want to get into the specifics of it, but he knows that I have a great deal of respect for him and I don’t think that he has the same respect for me, but maybe one day he will. I know he respects the fact that I am a real football coach and he knows I’m going to give everything I can to the team."

Whether he’s bothered by the fact that the attention of him being a great football coach is sometimes hidden by the fact that everyone sees him as a boisterous guy:

"No. Again, I’m not in it for that. I don’t need credit, I don’t need anything. I’ve been assistant coach of the year before, I’ve done different things. I think when you look at my background, the numbers may give you a different story than what you believe. My numbers, statistically, on defense, will stack up with anybody that’s ever coached this game. I understand I’m an excellent football coach, but the reason I’m an excellent coach is the fact that I work with great assistant coaches … and the players, most importantly."

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