Sanchez kills the Jets

I’m just going to be blunt: Mark Sanchez isn’t a particularly good quarterback. Never has been. It’s easy to say that after what happened this afternoon at MetLife Stadium, but the numbers indicate it’s always been the case.

But I was still surprised to see how terribly Sanchez played in the Jets’ biggest game of the season, with their playoff lives on the line against their biggest geographical rival.

I hate putting a win or a loss on a quarterback, because this is the ultimate team game, but Sanchez made mistake after mistake against the Giants. He looked shaky in the pocket, and in over his head as a starting NFL quarterback. It was one of the worst games I’ve seen him play. I felt like I was watching a rookie.

As a result, the Jets, who have now lost back-to-back games in rather embarrassing fashion, will now need to win and get help next weekend to make the playoffs.

The Giants gave the Jets every opportunity in the world to win this game, but Sanchez keep shutting every open window on his own fingers. He lost on Saturday to a quarterback, Eli Manning, who completed just nine of his 27 passes. Aside from a 99-yard Manning-to-Victor Cruz touchdown pass, the Giants were pretty much ineffective on offense, but the Jets still failed to take advantage.

In Sanchez’s defense, his offensive line struggled against a depleted pass rush, surrendering five sacks and an abundance of pressure as the game wore on. But the Jets drafted him fifth overall in 2009 and tabbed him as the “Sanchize” with the impression that he’d become a quarterback who could help win games like these, rather than simply playing the role of caretaker.

On Saturday, he failed to show up in either role. Instead, he got in the way. And as a result, the Jets might be golfing in January.

Giants don’t look like a playoff team either

Steve Weatherford punted as many times as Eli Manning completed passes. That’s right, 9-9 tie there. Disgusting offense, and the pass rush saves the day again. Will that be enough to beat the Cowboys at home and clinch a playoff spot? Maybe, but it’ll be a “by default” division title if I’ve ever seen one.

This has the looks of a team that should probably be seen as an underdog in the first round of the playoffs, regardless of where the game is. They have big-play ability on both offense and defense, and Jason Pierre-Paul has been a revelation. But they’re an all-or-nothing team, which doesn’t bode well for their chances in January against stiffer competition.

Considering the injuries they’ve dealt with, the Giants might have done enough to save Tom Coughlin’s job. Still, this is a team that will require some serious tweaking in the 2012 offseason.

Is #TebowTime over?

The Broncos only need to beat the Chiefs next weekend to capture the AFC West crown. In fact, there’s a decent chance they still grab that No. 4 seed in the AFC with a loss in Week 17. That said, the Tim Tebow bandwagon is losing quite a lot of steam.

Tebow had the worst performance of his career today in Buffalo, throwing four interceptions and pick sixes on back-to-back plays as the Broncos fell for the second time in as many games.

Although it came against a really bad footbal team, Tebow’s poor performance shouldn’t shock anyone. He’s the kind of quarterback who’s going to have duds. And although his mistakes took center stage, this loss isn’t only on his shoulders.

When Tebow was winning at a rate that had him gaining MVP steam, he was getting better support from his teammates and had luck on his side. Karma has become somewhat of an equalizer.

Not helping the cause, the Broncos, who gave up 15 or fewer points in five of Tebow’s seven wins, have surrendered 81 points in their last two losses. That supposedly scary defense hasn’t forced a single turnover and has recorded just three sacks in the last two weeks. Elvis Dumervil isn’t getting a lot of support, and Von Miller has faded.

The Broncos can still recover, but they’re no longer flying under the radar and teams are no longer looking past them. No one wants to lose to Tebow and the Broncos, and so they’re preparing better for the unique veer offense and a pass rush that put significant fear into offensive coordinators in October and November.

The NFL regular season is both short and long. Short enough that it seems to pass in the blink of an eye, but long enough that no team is immune to speed bumps. It’ll be interesting to see how the Broncos recover after hitting this one at light speed.

Playoff races are a freakin’ mess

I just spent nearly 800 words essentially destroying three teams, all of whom might end up playing on wild-card weekend. So as you could probably guess, the race for playoff spots in both the AFC and NFC is a mess.

In the AFC, No. 3 seed Houston lost to the one-win Colts, No. 4 seed Denver was crushed by a slumping Bills team and No. 6 seed New York had another abysmal performance in a home loss. Other contenders Cincinnati and Tennessee survived despite mediocre performances. The Raiders needed overtime to eliminate the Chiefs, busting out of a three-game losing streak in unimpressive fashion. As In write this, the Chargers are getting killed in Detroit. Even the top-seeded Patriots and second-seeded Ravens needed to work far too hard to overcome sub-.500 opponents.

In the NFC, we saw how badly the Giants played despite the victory over the Jets. They’re still alive, and can capture the division with a win against Dallas next weekend. The jury’s still out on the rest of the NFC playoff competitors, but no one aside from maybe Detroit and New Orleans is probably thrilled with the way in which they’ve played of late.

What this means: wild-card weekend truly could be wild. Would it really surprise anyone to see Atlanta or Detroit beat the Cowboys or Giants? And does anyone feel confident in the Texans’ or Broncos’ chances against the Steelers, or even the Bengals, Jets, Titans or Raiders?

What it also means: the Lombardi Trophy is up for grabs. The Patriots, Packers and Saints are weak on defense, and Pittsburgh might be stuck having to play on the road throughout January. The Ravens are inconsistent. No one is dominant enough to emerge as the clear-cut favorite.

It feels as though this year has been exceptionally sloppy and unpredictable, which might make sense considering the lack of pre-season preparation. The lockout still looms over the NFL and its 32 teams.