Schefter on D&C: Jets must withstand early onslaught
|01.22.10 at 12:48 pm ET|
ESPN.com NFL insider Adam Schefter joined Dennis & Callahan Friday morning to discuss Sunday’s conference championship matchups. Schefter touched on the Jets’ performance in San Diego last weekend and said that if Rex Ryan’s team can keep it a close game again, New York will have a chance for another upset in Indianapolis.
“If the Jets can withstand the early onslaught and not fall behind 10-0, 14-0, and it is a 0-0 game or a 3-3 game, then they are going to have a chance to pull it out in the end again,” Schefter said. “I don’t know if the Colts are going to choke or do dumb things like San Diego did. I have more faith in Peyton Manning and Jim Caldwell than I do in San Diego and some of their troops. But I will tell you that if the Jets win this game, it is going to be because they earned it. And as much as San Diego choked last week, the Jets still made a lot of good plays to win the game.”
Looking ahead to next season, Schefter said that he still believes the Patriots will be the class of the AFC East, even with the Jets’ surprising run to the conference championship game.
“I will always stick my money with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick,” he said. “I look at the upcoming draft and New England is loaded with draft picks in a very deep draft. They had a lot of picks last year, guys will be back with another year of experience, and I think Brady will be healthier next year. I will pick New England next year.”
Despite ranking the Vikings as his top team in the final four, Schefter said the Superdome crowd in New Orleans and some key injuries for Minnesota could be big factors in deciding the outcome of the NFC title game.
Following are highlights from the transcript. To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Could I ask you to seed, in your mind, the four teams in order — 4, 3, 2, 1 — allowing for the fact that everybody, except for Rex Ryan, would say that the Jets would be No. 4 in the tournament at this point? How do you rank them after that, Adam?
That is a great question. After Rex Ryan, we are giving the Jets the top spot — the top seed?
I think you have them at No. 4, do you not?
I think you have to have them at No. 4. Although, I’ll tell you this much, if they win Sunday we are going to elevate them very high. But if I were seeding the teams today, I have thought watching the football season all year long, other than a slip-up at the end, that Minnesota was the most impressive team for a while that I had seen, more impressive than New Orleans. So I would seed Minnesota higher than New Orleans, but that doesn’t mean that Minnesota is going to win because they are going to be playing in an environment that is going to be incredible. You talk about the Superdome, Fox put up a graphic on Sunday that blew me away. The Superdome has hosted 34 Sugar Bowls, six Super Bowls, four Final Fours, one Republican National Convention, a visit from the Pope, the world’s largest indoor concert with the Rolling Stones, Roberto Duran’s “No mas” statement, and they have never hosted, ever, an NFC championship game. And when these fans have all day to get lathered up for that 6:40 start, that place is going to be as loud as any football stadium has ever been for a home team. So, if the Vikings can somehow take them out of the game early on, not fall victim to it, then they can withstand the onslaught. But to go back to your initial point, I thought Minnesota was the most impressive NFC team I had seen this season, taking away the couple of games they had against the Panthers and Cardinals. Now, I go Minnesota, I think I go Indy, I think I go New Orleans, and the Jets then.
When I was looking at the NFC championship, my original thought was in my mind the quarterback and the offenses of Minnesota and the Saints sort of offset each other. Does it then not come down to whose defense can do more damage, but more pressure on the other quarterback, and, as you say, home-field advantage? But given all the injuries to the Vikings and their defensive line, doesn’t that negate some of it? And it seems to me, New Orleans has more than a two-, three-, or four-point advantage?
Well, what worries me is that Kevin Williams hasn’t practiced this week, Ray Edwards hasn’t practiced this week. You take away two of these very good defensive linemen, all the sudden the advantage that the Vikings had isn’t nearly as big it once was. I still think, ultimately, Kevin Williams and Ray Edwards will be out there. That’s my guess. I mean, you are talking about the biggest game they have ever played in their lives. I just don’t know how long they can play and how effective they’ll be, and I think that has to be a concern for the Vikings. And to me that’s where I think that is where Minnesota, ordinarily when all teams are healthy, has an advantage. Because these guys can play run defense, they can rush the quarterback, and New Orleans can do some of those things but their defense has been exploited by big games from running backs this season.
We give the Jets a lot of credit, everyone has been talking about the Cinderella run they are on, Adam. But we all agree the Chargers choked — you know, Norv Turner, Nate Kaeding, Vincent Jackson, stupid penalties and dumb turnovers. Is there any chance that we see that from the Colts this weekend in Indianapolis?
Here is the deal on that game, to me. I remember last week sitting in San Diego watching the game with somebody and he said, “Man, the Jets look like they are not doing anything.” And I said, its 7-0. That is exactly what the Jets want, they are just waiting for San Diego to make a mistake. And I think I carry that over to this game. If the Jets can withstand the early onslaught and not fall behind 10-0, 14-0, and it is a 0-0 game or a 3-3 game, then they are going to have a chance to pull it out in the end again. I don’t know if the Colts are going to choke or do dumb things like San Diego did. I have more faith in Peyton Manning and Jim Caldwell than I do in San Diego and some of their troops. But I will tell you that if the Jets win this game, it is going to be because they earned it. And as much as San Diego choked last week, the Jets still made a lot of good plays to win the game. To win on the road in the playoffs you have to do that. They’ve already taken out the first-place team from the AFC North. They’ve already taken out the first-place team from the AFC West. They are now trying to get the first-place team from the AFC South, which means they would have knocked out everybody except the New England Patriots.
Are they the favorites next year in the division? AFC East next year, are you going to pick the Jets first, Patriots second?
I will always stick my money with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. I look at the upcoming draft and New England is loaded with draft picks in a very deep draft. They had a lot of picks last year, guys will be back with another year of experience, and I think Brady will be healthier next year. I will pick New England next year.
Those who favor the Jets, or think that the Jets have more than a puncher’s chance to win this game vs. the Colts say the two obvious things: Run the football and pressure the quarterback with all the exotic blitzes that Rex can dial up. Does that really seem like a great plan against Peyton Manning? Of all the quarterbacks in the National Football League, including Tom Brady, isn’t Peyton Manning the guy most likely to handle anything he sees and use shorter, quicker routes to offset that?
Rex Ryan has had plenty of opportunities to go up against Peyton Manning when he was with the Ravens with what I think might be better personnel than he has in New York, and he has beat him the last six games. So now you try something new. I think, No. 1 it is very hard to sack Peyton Manning and I think it is very hard to get pressure on him. He gets rid of the ball so quickly and he is so smart and he sees things coming before everybody else. And I’m certainly not smart enough, being that no defensive coordinator in the league is smart enough, to figure out what it is you do to slow down Peyton Manning. I think, when you look at it, he probably reacts better to more pressure, so you are probably better off rushing fewer and leaving more men in coverage. But it’s like picking your poison. There’s no way of shutting the guy down. The one thing you have to do is mix it up. I don’t think you can rely on one thing to beat that guy.
What would the perfect Super Bowl be for ESPN, for CBS who has the game, for fans watching the NFL? If commissioner [Roger] Goodell could say, “This is what I would really like to see,” what two teams would be playing?
That’s a good question. You know I did something for ESPN.com today talking about the four potential Super Bowls and some of the potential storylines that could come out of those games. I think the NFL got really fortunate here. There is not a matchup that could come out of this weekend that the NFL would not approve of. There is not one. Just go through them. Do you think the NFL would be happy about Colts-Saints?
Sure. A lot of offense, great quarterbacks — an established and up-and-coming quarterback.
Colts-Vikings? Sure. I mean, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, damn. You couldn’t ask for more than that. Jets-Vikings? Sure, I mean Favre against the No. 1 media market.
And his old team.
And his old team. I would tell you, there is something about the Jets-Saints that I don’t know about.
Here is how good the final four is: I think the network would be disappointed if the Jets make the Super Bowl. They would rather have Peyton Manning.
Well I think that is probably right, given their choice. But my point to you is, the Jets upset the Colts and it is the Jets vs. whoever. Do you really think the networks mind the Jets — the bombastic Rex Ryan and the New York market?
They don’t mind, but I don’t think it is going to increase their numbers that much. This is, after all, the Super Bowl we are talking about, so I think they are going to watch anyway. I don’t think you are going to get a hell of a lot more converts into the tent just because the Jets are there. They are still going to watch in New York, don’t you think?
Yeah, no argument there, but I come back to this: I think that if the Jets then beat the Colts and they have beaten all those really good teams and they’ve got Rex Ryan basically handing out tickets to the parade while they are in Miami next week, there is an intriguing storyline there. And that’s my whole point: The league is good with any of these matchups.
I think Manning has a real opportunity, and I don’t think he is going to let it slip away because of Rex bleeping Ryan and a 9-7 Jets team. Manning is not going to blow this chance to get back to the Super Bowl.
Listen, its hard to argue with that theory. He is so good and so well-prepared, and despite his mediocre playoff record, if my mortgage is on the line for one game tomorrow I think I would pick Peyton. Because I know the guy is going to be unbelievably well-prepared, I know he is going to be sharp, I know he is going to deliver. It’s hard to pick against him.
Adam, are you such a hardened objective journalist that you don’t root during the games?
It’s funny, a lot of times you don’t know what you will be rooting for that you put it on and you find yourself drifting toward a team. Now, going in, I’m not rooting for anybody in the NFC game and the AFC game, I’m not really rooting for anybody this weekend. But when the game gets going, I will start to feel a sort of emotional tug and I don’t know what it will be.
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