Broadway Joe takes his Jets, too
If you want an idea of just how good this Jets team has become after back-to-back road playoff wins over Peyton Manning's Colts and Tom Brady's Patriots, let the only man to ever lead the Jets to a Super Bowl championship tell you.
"I would expect this Jets team to be one of the best we've ever seen," Joe Namath said Tuesday.
And by "best we've ever seen," the answer is yes: as good — or maybe better — than Namath's Super Bowl III championship team.
"They've certainly outmanned our Super Bowl team with ability and speed," Namath said. "You have to feel good about this team. When I look at the physical abilities of the players, there's no doubt they're bigger and faster and stronger than we were."
Namath feels so good about the Jets that he believes they're about to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since the former quarterback's 1968 team got to the title game. Broadway Joe guaranteed a Super Bowl victory over the Colts and delivered with a 16-7 win 42 years ago.
"This team's better than last year's team, and it's doable," he said of the possibility of beating the Steelers in Sunday's AFC Championship Game. "I really do feel better about this game, about the team, and we all know what it takes. They have to play the best game they've played in terms of execution and self-discipline. Now, to play together collectively as a group, win a championship game against the kind of opponent you're faced with, it takes a special effort. You're not only trying to beat an opponent, you have to play smart football."
Namath gives the Jets the edge Sunday, in part because of their 22-17 win over the Steelers on Dec. 19 at Heinz Field. But he knows it will take another huge effort, especially now that All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu, who missed last month's game with a leg injury, is back.
"I expect them to win because they're playing better than they've played all season long, and they've made a nice habit of winning games they're not expected to win, and winning on the road, too," Namath said. "They travel well. I know these players expect to win."
Another factor that bodes well for the Jets, according to Broadway Joe: the vastly improved play of quarterback Mark Sanchez, whose swagger is in many ways reminiscent of Namath's demeanor. Sanchez has won four playoff games — all on the road. That's twice as many career playoff wins for Namath and tied for the most road playoff wins by a quarterback in NFL history.
"We sometimes forget Sanchez is in his second year, but this young man already has experience in big games," Namath said. "So, I don't think the jitters are anything big here, and I don't think it will affect the way Sanchez feels. Sanchez is a better player now, and that shows."
Final score: Jets 27, Steelers 24. It's the same score he predicted last week, and it was almost dead on: The Jets beat the Patriots, 28-21.
No guarantees. But a lot of self-assuredness.
"I think they're going to do it," Namath said.
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