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Author Topic: Finny's 2010 playoff guide  (Read 4030 times)
pensodyssey
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« Reply #20 on: Jan 14, 2011 at 13:18 »

Thas' a sweet perdickshun, Jackson.

*begins to sweat uncontrollably*

Clearly, I should take out a second mortgage and bet it all on the Ravens (+3.5).

You should never hatch your chickens before they're counted!


Oh, I see you want to pull out all the dead horses in the closet.  But, um, it's whatever.
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« Reply #21 on: Jan 14, 2011 at 13:33 »

Yeah, yeah, if a tree fell in the woods you couldn't see it for the forest.
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« Reply #22 on: Jan 15, 2011 at 09:01 »

And that my friends, ain't nothing that needs to be said.....
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« Reply #23 on: Jan 15, 2011 at 09:31 »

And that my friends, ain't nothing that needs to be said.....

So... where the hell ya been???
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« Reply #24 on: Jan 15, 2011 at 10:16 »

It's gonna come dow to Int's and which QB throw the most costly ones.  Just my gut feeling.  Well that and we must contain Ray Rice on those little dump off screens that go for 15-20 yards.  Seems like that he gets 3 a game.  Prediction Steelers 24 Ravens 20, Woodley seals the deal with a sack/fumble late in the contest. 
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« Reply #25 on: Jan 15, 2011 at 11:30 »

And that my friends, ain't nothing that needs to be said.....

So... where the hell ya been???

Work schedule change usually gets me home around 7PM (CST)....Most of you oldtimers are in bed by then.....Still stop by now and then for my Black & Gold fix.....
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« Reply #26 on: Jan 20, 2011 at 14:08 »

A few prefatory notes not already stuffed into other threads.  Before the Jets came out and punched the Patriots' teeth down their throats, few in the media could conceive of any team that could beat them.  The closest any of the talking heads might get to that was that the Packers played them close with Matt Flynn as backup.  But playoff hype takes all the usual fluffery (Brady- and Peyton-fellation, proclamations of Belichick's unimpeachable genius, the undying ferocity of the Ravens D, the soon-to-be-elite status of Flacco, ad nauseam) and compresses all that kerfuffle into dense, unending barrages of mostly rote and reptitious shit packages flung from talking assholes.  The naked lunch wriggling at the end of the fork is the reality, discussed here at MGS, that the Patriots... can... be... beaten.  By God and Flying Spaghetti Monsters, it can be done. 

I mean, hells, they did lose to the Jets earlier in the season, and anyone familiar with division rivalries should have at least entertained the possibility that the Jets could win again, apparent matchup favorabilities aside.  For flying fuck's sake, they lost to the Browns.  They barely eked wins against the Ravens, Colts, Chargers, the aforementioned Packers, and even the lowly Bills.  Of those, only the Chargers was a road game.  So while all the media were dazzled by the bright and shiny offensive stats Brady and the Smurfs were amassing, and building the fable of the Patriots' invincibility, the reality is that defenses win championships. 

Didn't we go through all this once before? 

18-0?  Sound familiar?  How about 18-1?

As wondrous as the Patriots offense has been of late -- and there is much to admire in it -- the Patriots started the Brady era as a bunch of hardscrabble vet castoffs and untested upstart pups, somehow cobbled together into a team that won three Super Bowls by exactly 3 points each.  They were scrappy on defense, and did just enough on offense to get by.  The current configuration of the Patriots is almost the exact opposite:  a precision offense with just enough defense to get by.  That's not a Lombardi-winning formula, neither theoretically nor, apparently, in reality.

So when I turn on the radio for the drive to work the Monday after the Patriots lose, I am confronted by talking assholes yet again, only now they've cleared about 50 pounds of impacted fecal matter out of their bloated bowel-brains.  "The Patriots need to upgrade their offense...  they need to draft better players for their offensive line..."  I shit you not.  All year long, the Patriots offensive line gave Tom Brady so much time in the pocket that he'd start plays clean shaven and end them with 5 o'clock stubble.  The line?  Are you fucking kidding me?  The offense?  The offense warn't the problem, chum.  Yes, the Jets had their number that day.  The offense isn't the problem.  How can these talking assholes completely reverse track on everything they've been blathering about all year long?!

Which brings me to the Steelers game.  The Patriots were befuddled, confused, and surprised.  Tom Brady went through his progressions, lost track, started over, patted the ball, burped it, and then did dumb things or was reminded that the other team is allowed to sack you.  Meanwhile, Mark Sanchez, who is neither Derek Anderson-bad nor Brady-Manning-Ben-good, threw 3 TDs and posted a season-high 127.3 passer rating.  (Last year's win over the Bengals in the playoffs yielded Sanchez's career high 139.4 passer rating.) 

A very average QB named Mark Sanchez looked like Tom Brady and Tom Brady looked like a very average QB.

That's on the Patriots' defense, people.  On a balanced team, when the offense sputters, the defense has to hold its own.  A good defense, in fact, creates turnovers to give the offense more chances, and sometimes scores points all on its own.  Isn't that a cool idea?

Back to Sanchez.  Let's face it, the Steelers have never been the sexy sell for the media.  In the regular season, it's all Manning-Brady, Brady-Manning.  In the post-season, it's more of the same.  The Saints?  The Saints didn't shake that mold:  hot offense, and the whole sublimation of a ruined city's collective dreams.  But the Steelers?  Good gravy, people: those low scoring games, ugly, bloody, and... low scoring.  That sporadic offense.  Between the AFC teams, both of which feature solid defense and running games, which are you going to feature, the guy who threw 3 TDs in bringing down the unassailable Patriots?  Or the guy who is on the redemption tour after putting the idea of DTF to the test?

So the media will ignore the fact that our final four includes four teams with very good defenses, and will instead concentrate on the coronation of Aaron Rodgers, and how he is now Joe Montana based on one -- one! -- outstanding game, ignoring the fact that Rodgers had some mundane and even bad games this season and has never before even won a playoff game.  Sanchez as up-and-comer is the AFC lead.  Minor attention, all spotlighting QBs of course, since there are no other players on the team, goes to Cutler (Will he be erratic or not?  Stay tuned!) and Roethlisberger (Doesn't he finally deserve to be mentioned with the greats of this era?  Maybe... and now for more slobbering over Aaron Rodgers!)

Don't get me wrong.  Rodgers is a very good QB, but he has a long way to go to prove anything.  Sanchez is an average QB with further to go.  The story line is how improved he is in the playoffs.  And who can argue with statistics?  A 75.3 passer rating in the 2010 regular season... and a 91.6 rating in the playoffs!  Of course, don't look too closely at those playoff numbers, or you may notice that they are an amalgam of a 62.4 rating in the Colts game, and that 127.3 rating against the Pats.  Actually, DO look at that, close your eyes, and THINK about it for a second.

That's Mark Sanchez in a nutshell.

By any objective measure, an 80.0 passer rating is the cutoff for a passing grade.  And these days, with more emphasis on passing (and not interfering with passing, and all the silly new rules protecting everyone from hurt feelings and such), a 90.0 passer rating is really the demarcation between the men and the boys.  Sanchez posted a 75.3 regular season rating.  A mere boy.  Ben?  Try 97.0.  That there's a man, son.  But, oh, what about that horrible game against the Ravens, they were getting clobbered and -- 101.8. 

Sanchez had 5 games over 100 and 7 games under 70, playoffs included.  Ben had 6 games over 100 and only 1 under 70.  Not that passer rating is the be-all, as it doesn't measure fumbles, or rushing yards, or leadership, or broken noses.  But it does speak to consistency, and Sanchez ain't got it.

What Dick LeBeau does is he removes variables.

He looks at a team and says, OK, I can stop their rushing attack.  That's what this team is geared to do.  Now what?  And one by one he takes away top threats.  He minimizes the deep ball.  He makes the game one of attrition, where opposing QBs are forced to look for yardage in small parcels, forced to shrug off the big play and the big players and find the third and fourth receiving options.  And when that happens, mistakes happen.  (Usually:  we've dissected why the Patriots formula is LeBeau Kryptonite.)  When Billy Jo Schmenkman is your leading receiver, chances are you lost the game. 

Dick LeBeau is going to force Brian Schottenheimber to put the ball into Sanchez's hands, and look for Dustin Keller and Jericho Cotchery.  (A poster on another message board wrote, after the Colts game, that we should send Sanchez to Iran to overthrow it.)  If Sanchez misses his mark, the Steelers will force punts, will create turnovers, and will ultimately dampen the Jets' hopes of scoring.

And that brings me to this week's predictions...
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« Reply #27 on: Jan 20, 2011 at 15:23 »

Green Bay Packers (12-6) at Chicago Bears (12-5).  Line: Packers by 3.5. Total: 43.5.

All the way back on January third, I predicted the Wild Card games, the Divisional Round games, and the Conference Championship games, with overall success, not to brag.  Right on 6 of 8 games, even with 4 of those results contingent upon the first week results, and 3 of 4 of the AFCC and NFCC teams in the mix.  Had the Patriots beating the Steelers 38-35 in a shootout, and the Packers beating the Bears 20-16 in a close game. 

Everyone wants to see Aaron Rodgers throw for 3 TDs, as he did in each of the previous playoff games -- no, wait! make it 4! -- and rack up 400+ yards passing, another TD rushing, and afterwards feed the Soldier Field by dividing 5 kielbasi sandwiches and a cheese hat and passing it amongst the multitude.  Just remember that this is a division rivalry game, which almost always means close and hard-fought no matter which division you're talking about, and that in the previous two meetings this season, the Packers lost 20-17 and won 10-3. 

Point being, this could be the antithesis of what all the media assholes want.  They want another 48-21 drubbing, because if you actually have to look at things like, oh, fuck, I don't know... matchups, injuries, coaching, strategies, tendencies, statistics, and bothersome stuff like that... well let's just say it's much easier to pick a winner who wins a nice shiny perfect game than to have to use your brain if everyone's winning slobberknockers by 3 points.  We need our new idol, and we need it now!

Nothing against Rodgers, of course.  He was my fantasy QB, although his untimely concussion coincided with my demise in that noble league.  Rodgers, unlike Sanchez, has fantastic passer rating numbers (93.8, 103.2, and 101.2 over the past 3 seasons), and more importantly, he's consistent.  He's had some duds, as every QB has.  But this isn't just about Aaron Rodgers. 

Rodgers, against the Bears this season, threw for 34-45-316-1-1 and lost, and threw for 19-28-229-1-1 and won.  See what I mean? 

The Packers and Bears defenses have really paced these matchups.  If you average those regular season meetings, you'd get a 13.5-10 Packers advantage.  I can't see the defenses keeping things bottled quite as tight as that 10-3 matchup, so I like the contour of my 20-16 prediction.  The Bears will have a psych edge, being ignored despite being the home team and the 2 seed, but the Packers won't be taking this lightly.  The Packers D shredded the Bears OL and notched 6 sacks in the December game (if you're looking ahead to a Steelers Super Bowl matchup, this would be cause for concern). 

It will be difficult for Cutler to get on track, especially since his receiving corps is the weakest of the four remaining teams.  Cutler went 21-39-168-0-2 in the December game, and it's hard to see him doing much better.  In the win, Cutler was 16-27-221-1-1.  The Bears will need Matt Forte to drive the offense -- he had 91 yards in December but only 29 in the September matchup.  If not for a Devin Hester PR TD, the Bears would have lost that September game as well.

The erratic Bears WRs like Knox simply disappear too much, but I think TE Greg Olsen, who's more a glorified WR than traditional TE, has the potential to be the go-to guy.  He had 113 yards against the Seahawks.  Of course, like the rest of the Bears wideouts, he was inconsistent the rest of the year (averaging about 25 YPG over the course of the season), and the Packers defense is a step up from the Seahawks.  But if Cutler is going to get into any kind of synch with a guy, he'd be my bet.

The Packers offense is clearly superior, with James Starks sparking the running game (did Mike McCarthy intentionally hide this guy after his game against the Niners, as a playoff surprise?), and a nice group of wideouts.  Greg Jennings is the leading receiver, but Donald Driver is still playing the role of the Packers' version of Hines Ward.  James Jones and Jordy Nelson provide solid WR3 and WR4 options.  Steelers castoff John Kuhn does the lumbering white guy running back thing, sort of the Isaac Redman component.  Their TEs, Quarless and Crabtree, sound like they should sell pricey soap in suburban malls, and frankly they're non-factors, and poor replacements for Jermichael Finley.

The face of the Packers defense is undoubtedly Clay Matthews, but since this is a 3-4 defense with Dom Capers at the helm, it all starts at the nose, and BJ Raji is starting to show he can play at a high level.  That boy is big and unruly.  Matthews has 13.5 sacks, but just like the Steelers, none of that would happen without solid line play.  Raji has 6.5 sacks, which is a crazy number for a 3-4 NT.  In the secondary, Charles Woodson has passed the baton to Tramon Williams (IIRC, will be a free agent; the Pack have to keep this guy), who leads the team with 6 picks in the regular season and an astounding 3 picks (1 for TD) in the post.  (Clay Matthews has also kept his train a-rollin' with 3 more playoff sacks.) 

Most analysts depict the Packers D as "good" or "solid," but don't place it among the best in the league.  Not in the same league as the Steelers or Ravens, or even Bears.  But even in pure yardage stats, the Pack was fifth best, and they notched 47 sacks this season (one behind league leading Pittsburgh).  Football Outsiders ranks their defense 2nd overall, and I tend to agree.

As mentioned in the media rant above, defense gives your offense opportunities.  Even when the Packers offense sputters, their defense keeps giving them the ball back.

Which is not to slight the Bears.  Face of the Bears, Urlacher, for the past few years a solid group plagued by injuries, but overall still a top unit.  They were middle of the pack with 34 sacks, but FO ranks them 4th as a unit (behind the Steelers, Packers, and Ravens).  The Bears allowed 17.9 points per game (deja vu: behind the Steelers, Packers, and Ravens). 

Their line was helped immensely by the presence of Julius Peppers, and Urlacher and Briggs remain the bedrock tandem.  They also have some greedy defensive backs:  Ike's Louisiana-Lafayette teammate Charles Tillman has 5 regular season picks, as does corner Chris Harris, and the diminutive nickel back DJ Moore has 4. 

It's a very close matchup between two solid teams, especially on the defensive side.  The Vegas over/under seems curiously high, given the history here, so I'd go under, despite the nascent godhood of Rodgers.  But Rodgers is superior to Cutler, and he has superior weapons: sooner or later, the Packers will get theirs.  They do have to worry about Devin Hester, probably the best KR weapon on any team in the NFL.  As mentioned, he turned the tide once this season. 

But Packers 20-16 sounded good then and sounds good now: that's four scores (2 TD, 2 FG) for the Pack, and four scores (1 TD, 3 FG) for the Bears, making it an even matchup with an offensive edge to the Pack.

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« Reply #28 on: Jan 20, 2011 at 15:43 »

New York Jets (13-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (13-4).  Line: Steelers by 3.5. Total: 38.5.

Jets had 13 offensive points last game to the Steelers 17, scored the only KR TD the Steelers allowed all season, and generally won the battle of field position throughout. I think it's difficult to expect 7-9 non-offensive points this time around, but the Jets could still win the field position war. Stats from the first matchup favored the Steelers, but there's not a lot to take away from them here. Steelers played flat, at the time a game up on the Ravens in the AFCN race and pretty much assured a playoff berth; the Jets were coming off the Patriots drubbing and the letdown game versus the Fins, and very much needed to ensure that they stayed ahead of then 8-5 Jax and SD, and even 7-6 Miami, so the psych advantage was there. Steelers targeted TE/waste of space Matt Spaeth 9 times (WTF?), with predictable results, in Miller's concussion absence. Polamalu will play through the nagging injury this week, but sat out the previous match to nurse the Achilles.

When the Steelers have the ball. Rex was able to rush 3 and 4 and play cover against Indy and NE: while the Pats' rushing stats are virtually identical to the Steelers, much of that is a function of the wildly productive passing game and what that opens up. If the passing game is ineffective, as it was last Sunday, the rushing attack has no teeth. And the Colts' rushing game has left much to be desired. Mendenhall notched 99 against this defense, and will be relied on to get positive chunks on 1st and 2nd down. Rex will mix cover and blitz, and wasn't afraid to throw Coleman in last time for some effective corner blitzes. From his time as Ravens DC he knows that if you can overwhelm that Steelers OL you can kill drives and cause turnovers. The problem for the Steelers is that the OL can break down even on a 4 man rush if the Jets cover, and they're turnstiles against the blitz. They'll crush the B gap, where Ramon Foster and Chris Kemoeatu are often beaten by speed and overloads. (They're the old guard power blocking, compared to the nimble rook Pouncey.) The C gap at LT features Jon Scott, Bills reject and yet another guy forced into play by injury, who is unable to seal the edge. Ellis won't need dinner, because Scott's gonna be lunch.

That said, even with a porous OL, Ben shakes off defenders the way Charlie Sheen tosses aside hookers. It's the same old story for Steelers fans, and we know Ben's going to get sacked, 3, 5, 7 times, who cares? The Steelers just can't turn the ball over as they did early and disastrously against the Ravens. If Mendenhall's rushing compiles decent numbers (say, 65+), it bodes well but cannot mask the fact that it's inconsistent. The OL allows too many stops at or behind the LOS, and Mendy often gets chunks late or through improvisation, which is to say the drives can stall if the pass attack isn't working. With Miller and Ward, Ben has his go-to guys, and much has been made of who will cover Wallace. Likely Revis and Cro will rotate against him. If Bruce Arians is smart, which is an iffy proposition, he'll tailor which throws go to Wallace by who's in coverage: as speedy as Cro is, Wallace held his own against him, and deep ball is the call; if Revis, slant and go, don't give him anything downfield. Most interesting to me is the role of the seemingly interchangeable rookies, Manny Sanders and Antonio Brown. They've seen an increasing role as the season has progressed, and they can present matchup problems. Just the fact that Sanders or Brown can adequately spell Ward or Wallace means the DB has to adjust for new tendencies, has to adjust for fresher legs, has to consider which set of routes the new guy might assume, since they can take flanker, SE or slot.

One last note. With OC Arians, it's the best of times and the worst of times. He can pull some great playcalling when you least expect it, but will also revert to tried and true dumbassery. I expect to see a slow-developing bubble screen to Ward or Randle El that nets nothing, and a repeat of same flipped to the other side of the field a couple of plays later. I expect a slow-developing reverse to Wallace that the NYJD sniffs out for a loss of 8-10. I expect futile and predictable down and distance playcalls, mostly centered on running the ball up the gut every first down, through much of the second and third quarters. Going to the rooks with 2:13 and 2:07 left in the 4Q versus the Ravens, tied 24-24, on 2-and-19 and 3-and-19, was very gutsy however and shows that faith in Sanders and Brown that I touched on. So we'll see how creative Arians is the rest of the postseason.

When the Jets have the ball. Jets will have tough sledding running the ball, although they did a pretty decent job last time. Still, the old guys of the front 7 don't usually cede much past the opening drive. It's likely that Schottenheimer will attack through the air, based on WR-DB matchups, but that then puts the onus on Sanchez. Much has been discussed that I won't reprise except to say that while his play in the post has improved, his inconsistency plays right into the Dick LeBeau style of defense: make the opposing QB play the perfect game, and pin their ears back on 3rd and longs.

LT and Greene racked up 49 and 40 yards last time out, and they will need to do that again to give Sanchez breathing room. I also think Rex and Schotty will pick their matchups wisely. You have Edwards, Holmes, Keller, and Cotchery as the primary targets, and the Steelers tend to give WR3 and WR4 targets wide berth and statistically big games. Last time, Edwards was BMOC, 100 yards even, with Holmes and Keller notching 40 and 19. They'll be matched with: Ike Taylor, big and fast but susceptible to short/quick routes; Bryant McFadden, adequate but has been burned on the big play, and is dealing with an abdominal injury; Willie Gay, who reeked as a starter but is pretty heads-up as a nickel back (and who played well in BMac's place in the Ravens game); THEE living legend, Polamalu, who is due for a big game-changer, and who will play through nagging injury (he's been much more used in cover lately than near the LOS); Clark, who is sub-par when Troy is out but who is elevated more than anyone else when he's on the field; and Anthony Madison, the ST CB who was pressed into duty last week due to injury and who is a clear coverage liability.

Holmes and Edwards both match well against McFadden, IMO, but it's going to be the very short game going against Ike. Hard to say who covers Keller, who's more WR than TE, but whatever. He could get Gay, or Timmons, or Pola. Edwards can be a big play guy, but he showed a lot of drops as a Brownie, and I'd be worried about a drop in a clutch situation if the D gets in his head (read: if Clark lays a nice hit on him). If Sanchez can exploit BMac's flaws, and get quick hitters to whoever Gay is covering (Gay is better downfield, when he can see the field better and make a play if the ball is in front of him), he could have a decent day. It's worth noting that his improved play has not yet had him post a 200+ yard game this postseason, and his passer rating was 62.4 at the Colts, and 127.3 at the Pats. He had 170 yards and an 81.1 rating last game against the Steelers. I can see him putting up 200+, and having a decent PR, but if the Steelers can force a shootout I think Sanchez will be exposed.

Traditionally, it would be guys like Keller and Cotchery who should have the best statistical receiving days, and LeBeau will want to shut down the threats one by one: LT and Greene, Edwards, Holmes... make the WR3 and WR4 win it for you. Without Aaron Smith (he is out for Sunday), Ziggy Hood will need to keep showing improvement, and the front 7 will need to keep the pressure on. Steelers don't blitz as often as people seem to think, but they do on critical third downs, and that's where Harrison and Woodley will need to win their matchups. Expect Sanchez to move the ball well between the 20s, at least early on, but LeBeau will be trying to get into his head by confusing coverages, guys standing up, moving around, dropping, rushing, and once in the RZ the defense prides itself on being tighter than a nun's snatch.

Point of reference: the Steelers 13-10 win over the Ravens on December 5. Flacco threw for 266 yards and 1 TD. 1Q, 3-15 from the 3, Flacco beat Ryan Clark for a 61-yard throw to Boldin. 2Q, 3-6 from the 6, Flacco beats BMac for 67 to Stallworth. The takeaway? Flacco had all of 138 yards passing aside from those two plays, only one of which was a drive yielding points. He did very little in the second half. (Both were similar situationally and caught the Steelers trying to stop the short gain in the shadow of the BR own EZ, rather than expecting the deep ball.) I expect a similar dynamic with Sanchez: basically a very unimpressive stat line padded with a couple of big plays.

Prediction:
Should be a good, hard-fought game, much like a classic Steelers-Ravens scrum. Hard to pin a psych edge, the Jets ("our time is now") or Steelers (another day punching the clock). Jets should have some field position advantage. Ben will hit the big plays a few times, especially in the clutch. Something tells me 20-17 Steelers is the wise prognostication, but if the PSD makes some big plays I can see a deflated second half for the Jets and the Steelers pulling away. 10-10 at the half, 27-13 Steelers is your final.

On the Vegas line, again, the under seems wise, but I like the Steelers to shake the Jets in the second half.  If we could hang 31 on the Ravens, I think 27 is a good call against the Jets.  The Jets scored 13 offensive points last time out, so there's consistency for you.

Football Outsiders ranks the Steelers D best in the league, and 1st against the rush and 2nd against the pass.  Jets aren't pushovers either, 5th overall, 7th against the pass, 2nd against the rush.  Their offensive ranking metrics a surprising 3rd overall, 3rd passing and 14th rushing, but the Jets only 20th, 19th passing and 5th rushing.  So my sentiments about Sanchez, and the idea that LeBeau will put the game in his hands, seem reasonable. 
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« Reply #29 on: Jan 20, 2011 at 16:13 »

Quote
The naked lunch wriggling at the end of the fork is the reality, discussed here at MGS, that the Patriots... can... be... beaten.


You cannot beat the mark sanchez inside.  Or you could say the Jets slunked their way to victory.

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