Peyton Manning and High Expectations Are a Lot for Jets to Overcome All at Once - NBC New York

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Peyton Manning and High Expectations Are a Lot for Jets to Overcome All at Once

The Jets are battling more than just the Colts this weekend.



    Peyton Manning and High Expectations Are a Lot for Jets to Overcome All at Once
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    Do you realize that once the Jets get the ball on Saturday night, only Chad Pennington will have started more playoff games than Mark Sanchez?

    That says about everything you need to know about the history of the Jets franchise, but it also says a lot about the arc of Sanchez's brief career as an NFL quarterback. After one year as a college starter, he's made it to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons. Under almost any circumstances, that would be considered a rousing success. Unfortunately he finds himself in one of those other circumstances.

    The Jets enter Saturday night's game against the Colts with more than just a playoff win on the line. They have a year's worth of hype and expectations staring them right in the eye. Don't feel sorry for them -- Rex Ryan's leadership style means that they did plenty to construct this wall -- but you do have to wonder, at least for a minute, what people might be saying about this Jets team if they had the same results with a mute coach like Jim Caldwell running the show.

    All of that hype and all of those expectations have helped make this Jets season seem like it has been a lot worse than it really was. They won 11 games, impressive in any NFL season, and they improved on offense while remaining one of the league's best defensive teams. Yes, they took a step back defensively in 2010 but, as Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders astutely points out, part of that is because they were so good in 2009.

    The biggest problem is that the defense's biggest flaw is stopping offenses that spread themselves out and throw to receivers other than the one covered by Darrelle Revis. Peyton Manning is the sort of man who knows how to expose that kind of a flaw and all of the hoping and dreaming about a pass rush coming to save the day isn't going to change the fact that Manning will make his plays. 

    Otherwise, though, this Colts team is rather ordinary. Good enough to win their last four games and the division, yes, but not good enough to win those games convincingly against mediocre competition. For all of the compaints and worries about this year's Jets, they were, from top to bottom, a better team than the Colts.

    Which brings us back to Sanchez and the generally tough draw he's gotten in his first two seasons as a pro quarterback. He may play the game of his life on Saturday and still get painted with the loss because the defense, supposedly the team's bread and butter, can't do the job they've been promising to do since seconds after last season came to an end.

    If that happens, and it very well might, this season will be painted as a disappointment. Most will pin that disappointment on the hype, but that's a dodge. The real disappointment will be that it ended with the Jets losing a game they should win.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to and in addition to his duties for You can follow him on Twitter.

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