JEROME BETTIS BLOG: JETS ARE ABOUT TO BLOW SKY HIGH
By JEROME BETTIS
The first thing that has to be discussed this week is the Jets debacle. What can you say about them? They came out like gangbusters in Week 1 and surprised a lot of people, but now all of a sudden the wheels come off against the 49ers.
For me, I think we're starting to see the destruction of Mark Sanchez. I think it's a problem Sanchez foresaw when they brought in Tim Tebow. Sanchez said all the right things and did all the right things, but in the back of his mind he knew that if the Jets had a terrible loss and he played poorly that all those Tebow rooters would surface, and that's exactly what has happened.
Rex Ryan says he's sticking with Sanchez, but it hasn't exactly been a ringing endorsement. And the immediate future doesn't look good for Sanchez because he's going to be under the microscope, and any mistakes will be magnified. Meanwhile, New York has lost Santonio Holmes, its only marquee player on offense. Now young receivers have to carry the load, which could hurt Sanchez more, because he'll be saddled with all their mistakes too.
So Tebow will probably get a chance, but the only problem with that is the Jets will be putting their hopes on a backup quarterback who isn't that good.
What it all tells me is the season is now officially going downhill for the Jets. The fuse has been lit and is burning, and unfortunately for the Jets the bomb is going to blow. It's just a matter of time.
As for how the Jets locker room is dealing with all of this, here's my guess: It's not there yet, but it's pretty close to being a deal where the players will feel it's every man for himself. Guys will say, "I have to take care of my game, because pretty soon heads are going to start rolling." You start to become a selfish team.
ARE PATRIOTS THAT GOOD, OR ARE BILLS THAT BAD?
New England had an amazing second half but I don't think it was all the Patriots. Some of it was the Bills, too.
Let's look at New England first. After losing two games in a row this kind of game was to be expected from New England. Bill Belichick is known for bouncing back quickly after just one loss, so you knew there was no way the Patriots would lose three straight. You knew they were going to be so inspired that Buffalo would be overwhelmed. In the first half you wondered what was going on, but then they came out in the second half and went ballistic, scoring 45 points. And they showed a different game, with two guys running for more than 100 yards apiece. That alone is mind-boggling, because historically New England isn't much of a running team.
Obviously, I think they're back on track and they're definitely the favorites to win the AFC East, but they do have a tough game coming up against Denver.
With Buffalo, the Bills now have to wonder if all the expensive moves they made in the offseason were the right moves. Did they go out and waste almost $200 million? Did they just blow that? The answer is that it looks like it.
Most of the money they spent was to revamp the defense, and the way they built that defense was to stop the Patriots. When you design your team to beat an opponent, and then that opponent puts up 45 points on you in a half, well, the plan you had is pretty much toast. And how do you go back to the drawing board now when you already committed so much cash?
If the Bills don't bounce back we can assume that Sunday's second half pretty much destroyed their confidence. This game will be one we circle, and if we see a Buffalo losing streak we'll be able to say that not only did the Patriots win, but they also took the will of the Buffalo Bills with them.
ATLANTA THRIVING AS MATT RYAN SILENCES HIS DOUBTERS
Atlanta is still undefeated and playing extremely well, and Matt Ryan has matured into a really outstanding quarterback. There were all kinds of question marks about Ryan when he came out of Boston College. A lot of people said "He's a smart quarterback," but that's football code for saying he makes good decisions but lacks ability. Those are the key words the experts use when they feel a quarterback is not top flight. They weren't saying he was athletic or had a big arm.
I think that was some of the baggage Ryan brought, and people weren't really sold on him as he tried to replace Michael Vick as the face of the franchise. But I think Atlanta's new offensive coordinator has been good for him and the passing game has opened up. Now I look at Ryan and say he's on the cusp of reaching the next level. I wouldn't say he's at the elite level yet, but that level right before it, where he needs to get in the playoffs and take the next step. I think he's really close to that.
DREW BREES HASN'T BEEN SHARP ENOUGH
Now that we've talked about a 4-0 team, let's look at one that's 0-4, the New Orleans Saints. Where do you point the blame? The easy answer is the interim head coach, but I think you also must look at the quarterback. Drew Brees hasn't been the same, and New Orleans isn't winning the close games the way it did last year.
Brees is still throwing for TDs and lots of yards, but he's also throwing interceptions at key times. New Orleans plays with the philosophy that they're going to outscore the opponent, and if that's how you're going to win the offense has to be pretty flawless. And it doesn't look like that defense can stop people, so I don't see this losing streak stopping any time soon.
MENDENHALL'S RETURN ISN'T A GUARANTEED FIX FOR MY STEELERS
The Steelers haven't been able to run the ball at all this season, and I'm not overly optimistic that will change this week when Rashard Mendenhall returns to the field. It's hard to tell if he'll have much impact, because a torn ACL is the most difficult injury to come back from for a running back. It affects your fast-twitch muscles, and the ability to make cuts and have explosiveness are the things that come back last. The other problem is that the offensive line has been banged up, with guys playing multiple positions, and you must have the O-line playing well to have a chance running the ball.
ARIZONA IS THE ONE 4-0 TEAM I HAVE DOUBTS ABOUT
The Arizona Cardinals, are they for real? I'm still not sure about that 4-0 team. They had two big wins in games they weren't supposed to win, against New England and Philadelphia. But then they play a Miami team you'd expect them to blow out, and they have to go into overtime to win, at home. You wonder if maybe they've become a little too confident, too early. The Cardinals are a team that historically hasn't done well a lot of the time, and has been a doormat many years. They've had some fortunate bounces, and if you ask me if they're as tough a 4-0 team as the Falcons and Texans I'd have to say no, and that they're the one who are primed to lose a game first.
VIKINGS AND BENGALS AREN'T GOING AWAY
Two teams that are probably a surprise to many for starting 3-1 are the Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings. I see some similarities, in that they both have young quarterbacks that are developing well, although I think Andy Dalton is coming along a little faster in Cincinnati than Christian Ponder is in Minnesota. But I see a lot of upside for Ponder as well.
Dalton has the best receiver in A.J. Green, even though Percy Harvin has been really good. At running back, I think Minnesota clearly has the edge, with Adrian Peterson surprising people at how well he has rebounded from ACL surgery. The Minnesota defense is very underrated, but they're making plays. Cincinnati's defense is the same, getting after the quarterback much better than most people would have guessed.
I say these two teams are going to be a factor when we get to playoff time. I don't think they'll win their divisions, but they'll have a big say on who does win, and who gets the wild card spots.
IT'S ALWAYS GOING TO BE NASTY IN THE PILEUPS
There have been some complaints and accusations here and there about dirty play, with much of that happening in the pileups. That's nothing new. You're always going to have testy moments in there, with guys trying to twist a leg or bend an arm back. That's just the nature of the game. And while guys complain, trust me, if you run the tape for the entire season you're going to see every guy do something that's questionable. You got guys that are pinching guys, trying to get payback that way, and you never forget the guys who are doing it to you, because you want to get them back.
The worst thing that ever happened to me in a pileup was when I got punched in the stomach. I'm looking dead at the guy, and he clearly punched me in the stomach. I was irate, because this was a guy I thought was a friend. We had hung out together in the offseason. I said we could take it off the field, that's how upset I was. But I've also looked at guys and said, "I'm going to get you." So I've been on both sides. I've been targeted, and I've targeted as well.
GET WELL, CHUCK PAGANO, AND TAKE CARE
I want to sign off this week by sending best wishes to Chuck Pagano and his family. We're all praying for a full recovery. But I'd say one other thing to Indianapolis' coach, and to all NFL coaches, really. Don't be in a rush to get back on the field. I'm hoping you'll make sure you're ready to get back in the game of life before you start worrying about football. I think so many times that NFL coaches don't take enough time to look at themselves, physically and mentally. This game takes a lot out of you, and it's not forgiving. You and all the coaches need to look at yourself, because sometimes you're so caught up with building men that you don't take enough time to take care of yourself.
The NFL's No. 6 rusher all-time reviews each week's action with his "Around the League with Jerome Bettis" blog. Bettis retired after his Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XL in 2006 and The Bus is expected to be a strong candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in January's voting. Bettis was a six-time Pro Bowler and since 1996 his The Bus Stops Here foundation has worked to help underprivileged children in inner cities.