Three strikes and you're out.
That's a baseball saying, but there's no better way to state what is on the table for Rex Ryan and the Jets this season. The last two seasons have been merry little surprises thanks to unexpected runs to the AFC Championship game, but those surprises have turned into expectations as we enter year three of the Ryan era.
Now there's not much chance that Ryan will actually be out if the Jets fail to finally slay the last dragon in their path, but the feeling about the team will be much different if they lose in that round once agan and doubly so if they fail to even equal the standard set in the last two postseasons. The Jets now have an established a level for themselves and failing to exceed it will be met with much disappointment from Jets fans and glee from those tired of hearing Ryan talk about going to the White House.
All of the sideshows are amusing when the Jets accomplish big things, but they'll become irksome if they are unable to build on previous success and get the trophy they've been chasing for more than 40 years. You can't swagger around like the biggest kid on the block when you aren't, in fact, the biggest kid on the block, a truism the Jets will have pounded into their head if they fail to meet the lofty expectations they've set for themselves this season.
Here are three reasons to believe they can get the job done, as well as three reasons to hold off on printing that Jets jersey with President Obama's name on the back.
Super Bowl Champs
1. There are more weapons on this offense than there have been at any point in the last two years, assuming Derrick Mason and Plaxico Burress perform to their previous levels. Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith were good, but the current group is better and they should be a more balanced attack that makes it very hard for opposing defenses to shut down the offense.
2. The defense is equally loaded, even without any sign that the team can generate a consistent pass rush without sending the house. It's a real concern, but it is one that's mitigated by the fact that the defense has been great for the last two seasons under the same circumstances.
3. Mark Sanchez's flaws (more on those coming up) serve to overshadow the fact that the guy has won a lot of big games in his two years as a quarterback. All of that experience should be enough for Sanchez to be quarterback enough to lead the Jets on another deep playoff run.
Same Old Chumps
1. The key word in that previous paragraph is should, because Sanchez remains tragically prone to have games when it looks like he can't complete a single pass. That impacts the ability of the team to grab home field advantage, forcing them into the difficult runs that they've had to make the last two seasons.
2. There isn't a single position where the Jets look like they'd be able to swallow an injury and keep on playing at the same level. Two key reserves from the start of last season -- Wayne Hunter and Sione Pouha -- are now starters, leaving a perilous state of affairs should a key starter go down at some point this season.
3. Ryan and his staff have done a terrific job over the last two years, but they still have a propensity to make baffling choices in games that help set the team up for losses. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, in particular, has a habit of devising game plans that seem to play right into the hands of the opposition.