Is There A Defensive Sleeper?

Bears?

During this week last year there wasn’t a soul who liked the Jets.  If you remember they snuck into the playoffs thanks to the Colts resting their starters and with a rookie QB everyone was expecting a quick exit.  I know I was.  I was counting on it, but the Jets won a game, then another, and they even hung around for a half with Indy in the AFC Championship game.  It was quite a run, because before the playoffs started it felt like it was going to be an offensive show.  This is ultimately what would happen, but the Jets provided a glimmer of hope for teams that didn’t throw the ball 40 times a game to an endless assortment of receiving weapons.  With the Pats looking like the favorites this time around, and their status as the elite offensive team in the league, the question is, can anyone do what New York did last year?  Run the ball, slow down the great offenses?

The logical choice would of course be New York again.  It’s the same team.  One year removed, but the same staff and the same general philosophy.  The Jets will get tested right out of the gate with the Colts.  Indianapolis isn’t the team that it was last year when it went to the Super Bowl, but they’ll still be firing away on offense, trying to follow the plan the Pats laid down when they torched New York for 40.  The problem for the Jets is, they don’t do what they did last year as well right now.  The two pronged rushing attack of Greene and Jones has become the less effective duo of Greene and Tomlinson and lacks an identity.  Their shutdown defense from last year looks less stout as well.  As unlikely as the Jets appearance was in the AFC title game last season, I’d be even more surprised if they make it back this year.  For this year’s Jets we’ll have to look elsewhere.

The team that jumps out in the AFC is Kansas City.  There are a lot of parallels between this team and the Jets from last season.  Unexpected good start, a lot of doubters, a little lull in the middle and then they end up in the post-season looking a bit like fodder for the big boys.  The Chiefs won their division, and they’ll get to host Baltimore, but the Ravens are one of the road favorites in round one.  The Chiefs are certainly the most run oriented team in the playoffs.  They’ll pound the ball with Charles, and interestingly enough compliment him with Thomas Jones, who was in New York last year.  The Chiefs passing game is more advanced than the Jets with the presence of Dwayne Bowe, but where they are lacking a bit is on the defensive side of the ball.  I’m not sure the Chiefs can shutdown the AFC’s top offensives enough to make a serious run.

The real answer to the question, who will be this year’s Jets may be the team I love to hate on from the NFC, the Bears.  That would fit the anecdotal part of the equation.  Which team do I give no shot whatsoever?  Last year that was New York, and now I feel that way about Chicago.  What leads me to Chicago is their performance last week against Green Bay (along with other defensive efforts throughout the year).  Playing for nothing, against a Packers team that desperately needed a win, their defense kept them in the game.  Finally the Packers got the score they needed, but holding Green Bay to 10 points was an achievement.  It’s the kind of effort they’ll eventually need against Atlanta, New Orleans or Philly.  Now, the Bears have a bye, so getting to the NFC title game would only take one win, but if they do make it, I think they’ll be looked at as this year’s party crashers.

In the end, though, I think we’ll be looking at the same scenario as last year.  The two teams left will be ones that pile up points.  I think the days of a defense alone carrying a team to a Super Bowl are about extinct.

 

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