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New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview

The time is here. Gameday. 60 minutes separate the Jets and the Super Bowl. They came oh so close last year and now one year later, they return. The team has a different look from last year. No Thomas Jones, Kerry Rhodes, Alan Faneca, or Jay Feely, but they have plenty of new faces. Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Jason Taylor will look to make their mark and prove that Mike Tannenbaum and the Jets made the right decisions. Is this the Jets year? Will they overcome the demons that have haunted them since their last Super Bowl appearance in 1969? We will find out tonight in Pittsburgh.

Heading up to gametime, here are some of my final thoughts on the matchup:

Protect the Football– Their Week 15 win over the Steelers and their win last week against the Patriots have one thing in common: the Jets didn’t turn the ball over. Playing mistake free football isn’t easy, but it is imperative if the Jets want to play for the Lombardi trophy. A key turnover can swing the momentum of game. Just look at Ray Rice’s fumble last week or David Harris’ interception early on that set the tone for the Jets.

Don’t Rely on Ground and Pound– The Jets ran for over 100 yards in Week 15, but to expect them to do that again would be asking for a lot. This Pittsburgh run defense allows just over 60 yards per game, one of the stingiest in history. Running the ball will be key to take some pressure off Mark Sanchez, but they won’t win running the ball. All that talk about controlling the time of possession is hog wash. That’s all I heard leading up to the game last week against the Patriots, and guess what, the Jets lost the T.O.P. battle 34:56 to 25:04 and still won. Time of possession means nothing, it’s all about what you do when you have the ball.

On the Mark– Last week I said Mark Sanchez needed to step up and “make plays, no excuses.” Well after clutch passes to Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards and others, you can confidently say Mark Sanchez outplayed Tom Brady. He needs to play that way once again. As inconsistent as he has been in his young career, he has shown a tendency to show up in big spots. Today is the biggest spot of them all.

The Return of Troy– In the Jets 22-17 victory over the Steelers, a certain player wasn’t in action and his name is Troy Polamalu. If you don’t think that was a big deal, you need to read this article. The differences are astounding. However, he definitely isn’t 100 percent healthy and you could see that last week. Regardless, the Jets need to account for his presence on every play. He is the ultimate game changer on defense.

Revis Island?– Last week, the Jets used a different approach on defense. Instead of having Darrelle Revis shadow one receiver the whole game, they moved him around on different receivers. From Deion Brach to Wes Welker to even Danny Woodhead, Revis was everywhere. It will be interesting to see how the Jets use him this week. When they faced off in Week 15, he shadowed Hines Ward and essentially cancelled him out. Will they do that again? Will he cover Mike Wallace? Or a combination? A note about Wallace. The Ravens limited to only 20 yards on 3 catches, maybe they can mimic what they did.

What about Big Ben?– The Steelers QB is a terror for any defense to gameplan against. Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine has done a masterful job the past two weeks devising gameplans to confuse and stymie two of the game’s best , Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. The task doesn’t get any easier this week with Roethlisberger. He is known for his ability to extend plays and escape the blitz. Do the Jets gamble and send the house at him or play a mix of coverages and hope their defensive line can generate pressure.

What the Folk?– Being completely honest, Nick Folk scares the crap about me and I’m sure most Jets fan would agree with me. Missing a 30 yarder last week didn’t help the least. Plus, add in the fact that kickers are making only 71.8 percent of kicks at Heinz field this year (79.7 percent league wide) and there have only been 2 field goals over 5o yards made at Heinz Field ever. The Jets need to seriously consider going for it on fourth down over opting for a longer field goal attempt. They also need to convert when they’re in the red zone. The were 4-5 (4 td’s) last week and that was a key reason in why they won.

Don’t forget about Heath– Lost in the shuffle this week is that Troy Polamalu wasn’t the only player to miss the Week 15 clash between the teams. Also missing was tight end Heath Miller, who was out with a concussion. Matt Spaeth filled in for Miller and dropped two passes in the end zone. Miller has always been a great safety valve for Roethlisberger and the Jets have struggled defending the tight end this season. With most of the attention on Hines Ward and Mike Wallace, the Jets can’t forget about Miller.

The time is now. Last year it was great just to see the Jets in the AFC Championship Game. This year, it’s different. The Steelers are beatable and the Jets have the team to do it. All that’s left is to go out there and execute.

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