CINCINNATI -- Jets head coach
Ryan may be presumptuous, but so far, the Jets are following his itinerary to the letter. The team that supposedly did not deserve to be in the playoffs thumped the Cincinnati Bengals in the first-round, 24-14, and no one can say they did not earn it.
The Jets might have been gifted a game two weeks ago in Indianapolis, and again last week against the Bengals at the Meadowlands, but they won all on their own Saturday night. They did it with a rookie coach, a rookie quarterback, a second-string running back and a kicker moonlighting as a punter.
Three first-round playoff games feature rematches from last week, and if the opener is any indication, momentum really does matter. After being blown out by the Jets six days ago, the Bengals convinced themselves that they had not been trying. They could not make the same case twice.
On a day that USC coach
Sanchez thoroughly outplayed his elder, completing 12 of 15 passes for 182 yards, while becoming the first-ever rookie to pass for better than 70 percent in a playoff game. But the most important number on Sanchez's stat sheet was 0. After leading the AFC this season with 20 interceptions, Sanchez has now gone three straight games without a pick.
The Jets have the running game to protect Sanchez -- second-string tailback
Keller has come to represent a safe place for Sanchez. When the Jets' lead was cut to seven in the fourth quarter, Sanchez again looked for Keller and found him for a 43-yard catch-and-run.
Much has been made of the playoff drought in Dallas, which dates back to 1996, but Cincinnati's extends much farther. The Bengals have not won a postseason game since 1990, and this was their first chance since 2006, when Palmer tore his ACL on the first pass he threw -- a 66-yarder to rookie receiver
The Bengals became one of the sweetest stories in the NFL this season, due in part to their underdog status, their roster full of unwanted players, and Henry's death in December. The Bengals hung on to win the AFC North, but at the end, they looked exhausted. In two weeks against the Jets' relentless defense, they managed just two scores.
Like the Bengals, the Jets are also playing for a greater cause. Owner
If the Jets are to honor Johnson and follow Ryan's itinerary for more than another week, they will have to take out either the Colts or the Chargers in the second round. Sanchez, fresh off one upset, will be matched up against MVP Peyton
"They're both easy," Ryan said. "Just kidding."