Thoughts and observations as we head into Day 2 of divisional weekend:
1. The Jets' hiring of Tony Sparano tells me they're not thinking seriously about Peyton Manning. Sparano is a run-oriented coach and it would make no sense to put a healthy Manning (big if) into that type of offense. In four years as the Dolphins' coach, Sparano's pass ratio never exceeded 57 percent in any season. It would be a bad marriage, and it's hard to imagine Manning wanting to play in that style. Of course, the Jets have been known to make illogical moves and, because owner Woody Johnson is a star chaser, I wouldn't rule it out.
2. Remember this date -- March 28. That's important date because if QB Mark Sanchez still is on the Jets' roster, it means he's not going anywhere. According to his contract, if he's on the roster on the 15th day of the league year, he gets a $2.75 million roster bonus, per someone familiar with the deal. (The league year begins March 13.) By the 28th, of course, the Manning soap opera should be long settled. The bonus includes $2.25 million in escalators that Sanchez reached in his rookie year, 2009.
3. I think Rex Ryan hired Sparano for three reasons: 1. His belief in the running game; 2. He's a no-nonsense, disciplinarian -- and this offense needs a firm hand; 3. His knowledge of the AFC East. Sparano also is known as a coach who stresses pass protection, yet the Dolphins allowed an average of 37.5 sacks per year under Sparano -- an awful lot for a team that ran so much.
4. Here's another way to look at the Sparano move: Ryan hired a mentality, not an offensive guru.
5. The Jets are trying to be trend busters. While most of the league is shifting toward wide-open passing, the Jets want to run. The "Elite Eight" sets up as a clash in philosophy. You have three run-oriented teams (Broncos, Texans and 49ers) and four passing teams (Patriots, Packers, Giants and Saints). Actually, the Saints do both well; the Ravens are relatively balanced. Can blue-collar still win in the NFL?
6. Everyone is fascinated by the Manning situation, and understandably so, but the quarterback more likely to land with the Jets is Sparano's former starter in Miami, Chad Henne, an unrestricted free agent. New coaches and coordinators always like to have someone in the room that knows the offense; it makes for a smoother transition. The Jets are looking to bring in someone to push Sanchez, so it's a perfect fit, right? We'll see. Henne prefers a team where he can compete for a starting job, according to a person familiar with his thinking. (Good luck with that.) He's also recovering from October surgery on his left (non-throwing shoulder). If Henne checks out medically, he'll be on the radar.
7. Aside from Henne, the Dolphins have only two other notable UFAs on offense -- G Vernon Carey and RT Marc Colombo. Both players are on the downside.
8. As of Saturday, the Jets still were considering former Chiefs coach Todd Haley for a position. I like Haley; he's a bright offensive mind, but he has a volatile temper. One league insider told me, half-jokingly, he could envision a Haley-Ryan sideline blow up, a la Buddy Ryan-Kevin Gilbride, 1993.
9. A thought on Sunday's AFC divisional matchup: The Texans are 0-5 against the Ravens. There's only one other team they've never beaten (minimum: five games) -- the Jets. I like the Ravens.
10. If the Giants win in Green Bay (and I expect them to pull the upset), Eli Manning will tie Sanchez and four other QBs for most career playoff road wins. That sounds weird: Manning tying Sanchez.
11. The Giants' cornerbacks are going to have to play a whole lot better than they did in the Week 13 meeting. In that game, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers completed 84.0 percent of his throws outside the numbers, the best rate for any quarterback the past 4 seasons (min. 25 attempts), according to ESPN Stats.