Brace yourselves for a bit of generic sportswriter analysis. Anybody can talk about how important quarterback play is in the NFL. We can break down all of the matchups. We can talk about many areas where the Jets have an edge. Arguably the most important key to the game for Gang Green will be Mark Sanchez having a good night.
It has been an up and down year for Sanchez. There have been games where he has looked like a developing franchise quarterback. There are games where he has looked as helpless as he did during his worst stretches as a rookie. It is part of the maturity process for a young quarterback. Sanchez is a bit of an unusual commodity. Very few quarterbacks held in regard as high have had such sparse game experience. Mark only had 16 college starts. Most other hot commodities have much more game experience. Don't sell game experience in college short. It is very instructive on how to play the game. Think of any task. If you conquer something on easy difficulty aren't you in better shape to start medium difficulty than somebody without experience on easy? The same concept is at play here. Sanchez natural ability shines at times. As time has progressed, it has happened more frequently. He is still learning a lot of things, though, because he didn't fully master the college game. We see games like a week ago where he struggles, making poor throws and bad decisions.
If he plays like he did against the Bengals, all of the edges the Jets have on paper offensively go out the window. It doesn't matter when a receiver gets open if the quarterback cannot identify it and consistently deliver accurate throws on time.
Sanchez during his career has been at his best in big games. He seems to elevate his game when the stakes are highest. That's a good thing. The game speeds up for some guys in that spot. Sanchez seems confident. He threw 4 touchdowns against Penn State in the Rose Bowl. He posted a 92.7 rating in the Playoffs last year. Combine the Playoffs with the last two games of the regular season when a loss meant elimination, and Mark had a 2 to 1 touchdown to interception rate. There was also his clutch play against Detroit, Cleveland, and Houston.
The Jets need more of that tonight. If they don't get it, victory is a difficult scenario to imagine.