If you look at it on paper, the Jets have a pretty decent chance on Sunday against the Patriots. New England averages 364 yards a game on offense to the Jets 351, a negligible difference. In fact, not so big a difference as their defenses: the Pats allowed 366 yards a game on defense, the Jets just 291.
The big thing left out of that equation is all the other ways the Patriots can win a football game besides outgaining you. For instance, in beating Miami on October 4, New England scored a touchdown five different ways, including a kickoff return for a touchdown, a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown, and an interception returned for a touchdown. Given the Jets’ numerous lapses this season on special teams, it doesn’t look good.
Here’s another ominous statistic: the Patriots intercepted 25 passes over the season and ran four back for TDs. Both of those numbers were highest in the league.
On the other side of the ball, Tom Brady has now gone 11 games without an interception. (Mark Sanchez threw 13 over the course of the year, while Brady threw just four.)
All of this suggests that even if the Jets match the Patriots scrimmage-for-scrimmage, they could still get beat, and beat badly, even if the yardage is about even.
And yet … as Damon Hack points out on Si.com: “Mark Sanchez doesn’t scare easily. In just his second season, Sanchez has already played in four playoff games (he’s 3-1), getting the kind of exposure to big-time pressure that many quarterbacks don’t face until deep into their careers. Sanchez’s Jets have now defeated Carson Palmer, Phillip Rivers, and Peyton Manning in the postseason.” And “Sanchez has shown remarkable poise in hostile environments. (Heinz Field in December, Lucas Oil Stadium in January …)”
Also, as Mike Lupica points out in today’s Daily News, “The current players on the Patriots have a combined 101 games of playoff experience … the Jets, as Ryan points out, have 196.”
Taking these things into consideration gives one pause. This Patriots team has been more dominant over its last eight games (margin of victory 21.4 points) than the Patriots team that went unbeaten into the 2008 Super Bowl. But you’ll remember what happened then, and this Jets team has a better record than the Giants going into that game, and much more relative playoff experience than the giants had. And Mark Sanchez is at least as good a quarterback at this point in his career than Eli Manning was then – or possibly even now.
That said, did someone pop a fizzie in Gary Myers’s diet Coke while he was compiling his “Top Ten QBs of All-Time?” He has Joe Montana number one – hard to quarrel with), Tom Brady number two, Johnny Unitas three, Dan Marino four, John Elway five, Peyton Manning six, Troy Aikman seven, Brett Favre eight, Terry Bradshaw nine, and Otto Graham ten. Has Myers heard of a quarterback named Bart Starr, who won more championships, five, than anyone on that list except Graham (whose great feats were accomplished in the relative dead-ball era of the NFL, before 1960).
Starr, by the way, dominated Johnny Unitas in their own time; after beating the Giants in 1959, Johnny U. never won another title.
And how about Kurt Warner over most of the guys on that list, particularly, Brett Favre? Warner didn’t get a shot to start in the NFL until he was 28 years old but took his team to the Super Bowl three times.
Make the teams even and I’ll take Warner over Favre (and over Marino, Elway, Aikman, or Bradshaw) on any field.