The saga begins . . . again

197883.jpg

The saga begins . . . again

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

Jets Week, Vol. 3 officially starts Monday, but it wont take long for the hype to reach maximum velocity.

Actually, in the time it took for you to read that first sentence, it happened.

HYPE.

Lets get it going with a four mini-columns (some mini-er than others) on four story lines born from the Wild Card Weekend. Think of it as a quick refresher until the Jets re-open their mouths and crank up the machine. And away we go . . .

Its Not Put Up or Shut Up

Back in 2004, Curt Schilling sought out to shut up 55,000 New Yorkers.

On Sunday, the Pats will settle for silencing one New York coach.

But when it comes to quieting down Rex Ryan, you have wonder:

Is it even possible?

Since the playoff started, some in the New York media have called this postseason Put Up or Shut up time for Ryan. Basically, theyve questioned, and perhaps justifiably so, how anyone can take his act seriously if hes sent home early for a second straight year. No ones suggesting that hes coaching for his job, but instead, that if the Jets lose, Ryan will have no choice but to scale back the big talk.

To that, I say, Disagree!

Far be it from me to pretend like I can predict Rex Ryans behavior. I mean, when you're talking about the James Cameron of the foot fetish industry, you're talking about a serious wild card. Who knows what he might do? But with that being said, I dont think anything that happens this season will change who Ryan is. Even if the Jets go out and get killed on Sunday, youll have a better chance of convincing Bill Belichick to take the podium in a bikini top than you will of seeing Rex pipe down. Its just his way. Its all he knows, and its damn sure what he believes in.

And not only will he continue to talk, but hell continue to bring in players who fit that same mold, too. Basically, he has his vision for the Jets, and its instilled too deeply to just pump the breaks and hope for the best.

Its too late for put up or shut up. Now its sink or swim.

Dont mind LT. Hes just being LT.

The funny thing is, I remember late in the fourth quarter as the Patriots were talking and yapping about the game that night, and I said to a couple of guys, 'Guys, we'll be back. You guys got us tonight, but we'll be back.' And so for us, we're waiting on this opportunity.
Ladainian Tomlinson, after the Jets 17-16 win over Indianapolis.

OK, let me start with a disclaimer: In his prime, Ladainian Tomlinson was probably the deadliest running back Ive ever seen. I recognize that he was an all-time talent and is a Hall of Famer. Yada yada yada. End disclaimer.

But with all due respect to his greatness, is there anything funnier than LTs ever-expanding role as the Paper Champion of the Patriots Dynasty?

First, hes never beaten New England when it mattered most. A few times, he hasnt even showed up. In fact, besides Joey Porter, no other player in the league has been embarrassed by the Pats with more consistency.

On top of it all, LTs obsessed with this embarrassment. When hes trying to give his bulletin board material, its never: This is our game! Were the better team! Instead, its usually They were mean! They have no class! They ran up the score! They stole my friends dance!

Theres always something the Patriots have done to earn his disapproval, but theres nothing he can do about it except make passive aggressive threats about getting even for something that only he cares about.

Braylon has something to say (again)

All you hatin a people.... J-E-T-S. And let new England know we are coming.

Braylon Edwards via Twitter

So, Braylon Edwards is already talking his game. Fair enough. I guess thats about what youd expect. But heres my question: Do you think he remembers how close he came to fumbling away the entire season? Not that he should harp on it; after all, he did have the huge play down the stretch. But do you think there was any point where he thought, Damn you know what? I was one funny bounce away from letting everyone down . . . maybe I should just hold off on this ridiculous tweet and enjoy the moment.

Who knows? Maybe he did. Maybe his attitude isnt as entirely awful as it comes across. But either way, on the field, Edwards does create some scary match-ups for the Pats, and because hes such a royal pain in the ass, theres no one on that team who Patriots fans will be less excited to see in the end zone. He is salt to the wound.

Hell have to catch the ball first, though.

Spread Em.
The Patriots were favored by eight or more points three times in the regular season both games against Buffalo (-14.5 and -9 points, respectively) and in the Sunday night game against the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers (-14). In those games, they were only 1-2 vs. the spread.

Why do you care? Because the Pats are favored by 8.5 points on Sunday.

At first that seemed a little high. I was thinking maybe somewhere around 6.5 considering the familiarity, the fact that Revis is healthy, Shonn Greenes running better, the Jets have a ton momentum and so on but after one week hiatus I guess its easy to lose sight of just how dominant the Patriots have been this season.

I'm sure we'll be reminded all week. You know Rex will probably bring it up a few times. You know that every analyst on every station is going to pick the Pats to win. You know that Mike Mayock's going to do a 20-minute film session breaking down Tom Brady's near perfect decision making. And after all is said and done, by the time Sunday rolls around, 8.5 might not feel like enough.

Either way, glad I'm not picking until Friday. And in the meantime, enjoy the hype.

From here, it's every man for himself.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.