(Just a note, I wrote this for another blog before the Jets loss to the Colts. I still think without the injuries we would have won.)
For the last two years, an underdog team not expected to get out of the wildcard round has gotten to the Super Bowl. Two years ago it was the Giants. Last year it was the Cardinals. Can the Jets be the third straight wildcard team to beat all the odds and make it to the Super Bowl?
Most of us remember two years ago. Who can forget the Patriots 16-0 season? They steamrolled just about everyone in their way to one of the greatest regular seasons of all time. The Giants were an up and down team, Eli Manning was getting booed. Their retired star running back, Tiki Barber, claimed that the team lacked leadership. Tom Coughlin was under fire to get anything done, and just to make sure he knew he was on the chopping block the team replaced his OC and DC with their picks. Going into the playoffs after a close loss (two late Eli interceptions sealed the game) to the Patriots, the Giants were underdogs against the NFC South Winning Buccaneers. Yet they came out and after a week first half stomped them into the ground. Then against the heavily favored Cowboys, the defense stepped up and intercepted Romo on the last drive of the game in the endzone to seal a victory. Finally playing in Lambeau in what was the third coldest game in NFL history, another interception in OT lead to the longest visitors field goal in Lambeau History at 47 yards. Finally, a rematch with the Patriots. Extreme underdogs, Patriots QB Brady laughed when Burress predicted they would only score 17 points. In the end its considered one of the biggest Super Bowl upsets of all time as the Giants won.
Last year, the Cardinals found themselves ridiculed. Losing three straight after clinching their division, they were considerable underdogs to the Atlanta Falcons in the opening round. Yet the Arizona offense came alive, and the defense played on a level they hadn’t reached all season. In upset after upset long suffering Arizona took out the heavily favored Falcons, Panthers and Eagles to make their way to the Super Bowl. The victory over the Eagles in Philadelphia was even more stunning since the Eagles had stomped the Cardinals and put 52 points on the board earlier in the season. The defense though managed to force twelve turnovers in three playoff games and were a bit of the unsung heroes in the run. Although underdogs once again to the Steelers, some questionable officiating in the Super Bowl ended up doing the Cardinals in, but the game was far closer then anyone had predicted.
This year the Jets went into the playoffs questionably. Their rookie coach Rex Ryan had already proclaimed them out of the playoffs. If not for the Colts surrendering a perfect season, and the Bengals possibly not giving everything they had in the final mostly meaningless game for them, the Jets would have been on the outside looking in when it came to the playoffs. Yet some crazy math and some extreme luck found the Jets at 9-7 and inside the nice warm comfy playoff bubble. All the overpaid talking heads gathered around and proclaimed that the Jets didn’t deserve it. That they didn’t earn the playoff spot, and that the Bengals playing their full game would take care of the upstarts. Yet it was the Jets who came out firing on all cylinders and made the Bengals look like pretenders. Again underdogs against the “Too Many Weapons” Chargers, everyone predicted a beat down for the Jets and their Rookie QB and Coach. It seemed almost destined to happen as every home team won their game leading up to the Jets at Chargers. Yet the Jets came out and played a masterpiece of a game defensively, and the ground and pound of the Jets finally put it away. So now, once again for a third year in a row you have an underdog facing a huge favorite at home. Someone that shouldn’t be there against someone that’s always there.
So what does the future hold? To see the future, one must only look into the past. A Colts team with an in his prime Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James, a younger Reggie Wayne and Peyton Manning facing off against the Chad Pennington (His first Playoff appearance) led Jets. It was supposed to be a walk in the park for Manning and the Colts. Manning finished the season with 4,200 yards passing, 27 passing TDs. Harrison was coming off a career best year in Catches and Yards. Although not one of his better years, James was still one of the best and brightest young RBs and a threat all over the field. In his second season, Wayne was making his way up the Depth chart and had doubled his rookie output. With all this on the field the Jets couldn’t stand a chance against the Colts. At the end of the day the score was 41-0, as Chad Pennington in his first playoff appearance led the Jets to one of their finest victories since the 99 Playoffs.
And now, with the best running game in the league, the best defense in the league, one of the hottest up and coming rookie RBs in Shohn Greene, we face the Colts. Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne are older and wiser. But Revis has already shut down everyone that’s come his way. Addai is no Edge in his prime. History seems primed to repeat itself one more time. There’s just one more hurdle that needs to be jumped, one more upset that everyone in Jet Nation is just licking their lips over. Forty One years is a long time. That’s thirteen more years then I’ve been alive. Since I’ve been born this is only the third AFC Championship game the Jets have gotten to. One a decade it seems. Unlike the Eagles, Cowboys, Colts or Steelers this isn’t something that’s automatic next season or even the year after. Now’s the time, just one more upset to go.