By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts green grocer
Ten things we learned from the Jets' impressive 24-14 win at Cincinnati Saturday in the wildcard round:
1. If they play like that three more times, the J-E-T-S could win the B-O-W-L. If the Jets truly have the best defense in the league, as every major statistical indicator would suggest, then this first win stands as their blueprint to win three more games. If you can stop their run, which is coming at you 30-40 times (38 times Saturday), you can beat them. If you can't, well, your quarterback better be able to play the game of his life. Depending on the Ravens-Patriots result, Peyton Manning or Philip Rivers will be the next QB to try. They're both extremely capable, but it's tough to imagine either player was rooting for the Jets to win this one.
2. Darrelle Revis showed exactly while he'll be the Defensive Player of the Year. Revis wasn't the only Jets defender to have a great game, but it's clear how much the Jets lean on him to make everything else work. Chad Ochocinco had just two catches for 28 yards, the first 48 minutes into the game. And although Revis was called for a pass-interference call that put the Bengals in scoring range, his leaping, twisting interception in the first half more or less put 85's day into the negative range.
A decade ago, Revis might have lost out for the top defensive honor to Jared Allen or someone who played a more obvious role. Fortunately, genius stat geeks like us (Hi Mom!) have flooded the market with sense, and Revis' job this year has been well-covered. Much like the receivers he faced. Now if we can figure out why Peyton Manning won the MVP in the "Year of the Quarterback" despite ranking sixth in passer rating.
3. Early coaching challenges are almost always a mistake. You see it all the time. Early in the game, there's a pivotal third-down call that could have gone the other way and here comes the red flag. Always a mistake. Unless you're sure as sugar, which Cincy coach Marvin Lewis wasn't when he challenged a Laveranues Coles fumble on the first drive, you've put yourself at a huge disadvantage. If you miss it, as Lewis did, you now have one more challenge and then you're done, right or wrong. He threw the flag again in the first half (wrong again), and although there were no real bad calls the rest of the way there surely could have been.
4. D'Brickashaw Ferguson deserves his Pro Bowl add. The Jets ran left all day vs. Cincy, and most of their 171 yards on the ground came with LT Ferguson absolutely dominanting an overmatched Bengals defender. Ferguson was in bust jeopardy in his early career, but his performance Saturday reinforced his status as one of the best. (Still, we can't believe Tennessee tackle Michael Roos, who paved the way for Chris Johnson's big year and gave Vince Young time to succeed, isn't going to Miami).
5. Jets OC Brian Schottenheimer won the battle of great coordinators, and it wasn't even close. If you can figure out a way to dominate a game by running the ball 41 times and pass 15 – on the road, against a good defensive team, in the playoffs – you are one hell of a coordinator. Mike Zimmer's Bengals had a great season and showed plenty of heart, but they were one step behind the Jets all night long. Schottenheimer avoided Cincy corners Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall and went to TE Dustin Keller instead, and the Jets' use of Shonn Greene instead of a healthy Thomas Jones looked like genius after Greene's 21-carry, 135-yard performance. Get that man a head-coaching job!
6. Carson Palmer is not an elite quarterback. Great quarterbacks found a way to have success against the Jets this year. Tom Brady beat them. Drew Brees beat them. Peyton Manning ... well, he beat them for 3 quarters or so. But despite a great performance from the offensive line, Palmer looked like he'd had a Hollywood-style soul switch with Mark Sanchez before the game. Palmer had exactly one game all year with a passer rating over 100, and his regular-season average of 83.6 was 16th. His numbers have been similarly average since coming back from his 2006 playoff injury, and he doesn't show any sign of coming back to his pre-injury form.
7. Steve Weatherford is no Dick Butkus. We're still trying to figure out what type of "illness" would have had New York's punter on the sidelines in sweatpants. Jay Feely had a legendary game as the fill-in punter/kickoff man/field goal guy, but how could it come to that? In a game that hinged on field position, how could you have that happen on game day? Not a banner day for the football operations guys. Note to the Jets – there's always another punter out there. If you've got one that's broke, get one that ain't.
(For the record, word came in later that Weatherford had an irregular heartbeat. But we have no sympathy. We have irregular hearbeats, too, and that doesn't keep us from the job of sitting in front of a computer all day, completely motionless, save for the frequent bend of an elbow.)
8. The "Big Mac snack wrap" is a great idea. Fast-fooders were pitching their new gastronomic innovations throughout the first NBC telecast, but the Big Mac snack wrap was the most intriguing. It didn't actually look too appealing – kind of like a falafel that had been left out in the sun for a few hours – but the promise of Big Mac taste in a $1.49 wrap will be too much for drive-thru addicts to resist. Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba, we're lovin' it!
9. The Theismann-Gibbs broadcast combo was a throwback to the good old days of the 1980s and The Last Old-School Team. Were these old Redskins legends great as NBC's emergency No. 2 broadcasting team? Not really. But anytime you hear stories (during hte AFC playoffs, no less) about Washington's glory days, it's not half bad. Gibbs was actually pretty informative, Theismann was Theismann, and only the absence of Joe Jacoby, Russ Grimm and some guy in a dress and pig snout kept us from being in Hog Heaven.
10. Scientists need to do some testing and make sure this Cedric Benson is the same guy who used to play in Chicago. It's not as if Benson's success Saturday was a surprise, but the power, speed and enthusiasm are always shocking to those who saw his last season in Chicago (3.4 YPA, 3 fumbles in 11 games, embarrassing run-ins with the law). His 21 carry, 169-yard game was the only thing that kept Cincy in the game deep into the second half.