Jets, Ravens and Tigers (Oh My!) on This Week’s Sports Illustrated Covers

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There are three covers for this week’s Sept. 19, 2011, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands tomorrow. The national cover features Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. It is Sanchez’s third appearance with the Jets — he previously appeared on the Jan. 26 and Sept. 6, 2010 covers — and his fourth overall. (He appeared on a regional cover of the 2008 College Football Preview [dated Aug. 15, 2008] while at USC.)

Appearing on the two regional covers are Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice (available in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia) and Tigers ace Justin Verlander (available in Michigan and Ohio). Below is a rundown of the cover history for all three teams featured this week:

  • Jets: Sept. 5, 2011 (regional cover for the 2011 NFL Preview featuring Calvin Pace); 23rd appearance
  • Ravens: Nov. 13, 2006 (“The Gospel According to Ray Lewis”); fifth appearance
  • Tigers: Sept. 28, 2009 (“The Righteous Franchise”); 23rd appearance (Verlander’s second appearance following the Aug. 28, 2006, cover)

COWBOYS–JETS: OH, BROTHER, WHAT A START – LEE JENKINS (@SI_LeeJenkins)

The Ryan twins — Rex of the Jets, Rob of the Cowboys — are big, brash and kick sweet live ass (to borrow Rob’s favorite expression). Their matchup in Week 1 set the tone for the NFL season and might open the door for more coaches that aren’t cut from the traditional mold. Says Jets safety Brodney Pool, who has played for both Rob (with the Browns from 2005–09) and Rex (page 40): “There are so many coaches in the NFL who say one thing to the media and another behind closed doors. Guys don’t want to play for phonies. We want to play for coaches like the Ryans. I don’t know why the rest of the league hasn’t figured that out yet. Maybe they aren’t smart enough.”

STEELERS–RAVENS: ADAPT OR DIE – DAMON HACK (@si_damonhack)

Having been victimized by the Steelers in two of the past three postseasons, the Ravens brought new personnel and a new attitude to the latest edition of the league’s fiercest rivalry, which ended in a 35–7 rout. It was the latest proof that success in the NFL is dependent on how quickly a team can adapt and evolve. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said afterward (page 46): “At this juncture, they probably know more about us than we know about them. [Baltimore G.M.] Ozzie Newsome and Company have been active this offseason in improving their team.”

JUSTIN VERLANDER: A PITCHER IN HIS PRIME – BEN REITER (@SI_BenReiter)

It’s not just the league-leading 22–5 record that makes the Tigers’ Justin Verlander an MVP candidate that voters can’t ignore. He is the eighth pitcher since 1920 to last at least six innings in each of his first 31 starts. Among the majors’ 101 qualified starters, he is first in strikeouts (232), first in WHIP (0.91) and first in batting average against (.191). Verlander is also 15–3 with a 1.53 ERA in starts following a Detroit loss. The only thing he seems to struggle with is hiding his desire to be the first pitcher since Dennis Eckersley in 1992 to be named MVP. Verlander tells staff writer Ben Reiter (page 62): “Of course I care about it. Pitchers are players. It’s the Most Valuable Player award…. Right now, I don’t mind talking about it, but there’s a lot of other stuff going on.”

In addition, the prospect of facing Verlander twice in the opening round of the postseason is daunting to his prospective opponents. Says Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira: “It’s like the Cliff Lee thing last year with Texas. You knew they had a chance to win it all because Lee was going to have a chance to pitch at least twice in every series. Verlander is the same way.”


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