In the End, It All Comes Back to Mark Sanchez

Rookie quarterback hits the big stage

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    We've wasted enough time this week discussing whether or not the Jets deserve to be in the playoffs and whether or not Rex Ryan is a lunatic because he believes that his team can win a game, now it's time to actually get down to the business of discussing the game against the Bengals.

    It's impossible to get too far into that discussion without getting stuck on Mark Sanchez.

    It is easy to simply say that Sanchez can only lose the game for the Jets. When the Jets have been unable to ride their running game and defense this season, Sanchez has proven time and again that he's not yet ready to put a team on his back and carry them to victory. Good people can debate his ability to do that in the future, but it's pretty clear right now that any game plan that calls for Sanchez to win the game is a losing one.

    The Jets coaching staff took forever to figure that out -- they played the role of the female lead in a thriller who didn't share the audience's ability that the mysterious handsome guy was actually the guy stalking and planning to kill her -- but they finally came around. So, just keep doing that and hope for the best, right? 

    It's not that simple, unfortunately. The Bengals, just like everyone else in the football watching world, knows what the Jets want to do on offense and aren't going to let them do it. That essentially forces the Jets to try and make plays in the passing game in the early going so that the Bengals have to, at the very least, cover themselves in that eventuality. If the Jets can hit one play down the field, just one, it will make things so much easier for them because it will open not only the running game but also the Brad Smith (it wouldn't hurt to have the old college QB make a throw or two either) packages that have been so successful.

    So, you see, it's a little more complicated than saying Sanchez can only lose the game for the Jets. The play may be a 22-yard completion that leads to a field goal or it could be a 68-yard play to Braylon Edwards for a touchdown, but if the Jets are going to win Sanchez is going to have to make a play.

    And that leaves us right where we were on draft day. This is Sanchez's team and he'll determine if they live or die.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.