I am typically a very upbeat Jets fan. I’m usually the guy that is unrealistically optimistic about the Jets. I thought they’d go 13 – 3 this year and secretly thought they could be even better. Among my circle of Jets fan friends, I’m the guy who always thinks things are better than they are. However, this season, I have not been that guy. I have been profoundly disappointed with how ordinary the Jets have been. Their offensive line, play-calling, quarterback play, and defensive play have all been major disappointments. That said, I still believe that they have the talent and potential to be and play like an elite, Super Bowl contending team.
While I knew they weren’t mathematically out of it, after the Debacle in Denver, I declared the season over. However, I am ready to admit that I may have prematurely declared their End of Season. Despite the Jets winning in spite of themselves against Buffalo and putting together a fairly ugly win against the Redskins, they have the same record as 3 other teams for the final wildcard spot. If the Jets beat the 5 – 7 Chiefs this week, they could find themselves all alone in the final wildcard, controlling their destiny, spot with only 3 weeks to play. This week the other three teams the Jets have the same record as are all facing stiff competition. Their competition has a combined record of 30 – 6 (the Titans are facing the 9 – 3 Saints, the Bengals are facing the 9 – 3 Texans and the Raiders are facing the 12 – 0 Packers).
Here’s why I’m now cautiously optimistic that the Jets’ season isn’t over…
- I think the root of many of the teams struggles this year has been the offensive line. The offensive line has looked much improved over the last two weeks. For the second straight week, they did not yield a sack. The Redskins were 3rd in the league in sacks with an impressive group of pass-rushers and the Jets were able to hold them in check.
- Last week, I was concerned that the Jets weren’t able to get Greene in the end-zone despite him averaging an impressive 6 yards a carry. This week the Jets more than made up for it getting Greene in the end-zone 3 times while averaging 4 yards per carry.
- Last week, I was alarmed at how the Jets, despite having their backs up against the wall, were unable to close out the game. They did not win the game; Buffalo lost it. This week, the Jets were impressive in the forth quarter when it mattered most. Granted, the Jets were fortunate to be facing a quarterback who was really struggling but Jets defense deserves some credit for making him struggle. Other than a really poor opening drive, the Jets defense played quite well.
- I think it is safe to say that Aaron Maybin has turned out to be a true diamond in the rough. He is emerging as the Designated Pass Rusher that Ryan hoped Westerman would be. While playing in less than 10 games this year, Maybin leads the Jets in sacks accounting for 25% percent of the teams production with 6. If, when the Jets first signed him, someone would have said that at this point in the season, he’d have the same number of sacks as Richard Seymour, Clay Matthews and Brian Orakpo or have more sacks than Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, I doubt many would have believed it.
Here’s why I’m “cautious” in my optimism…
- The Jets seem to have their best games when getting Dustin Keller involved. This week Keller had a meager 12 yards. That isn’t going to cut it.
- The Jets need to stretch the field in the passing game. Their passing game has been limited to underneath passes and dump-offs. If the Jets want to get the safeties to back off the box and open up running lanes and underneath passing, they are going to need to challenge the defenders down the field and make them respect the threat.
- With a league high 6 fumbles in the return game, the sure-handed Jim Leonard should be the only Jet returning punts.
- The Jets still need to figure out how to start games faster. The defense looked awful on the opening drive. The offense has yet to score 10 points in the first quarter all year long. If the Jets want to be a playoff team, they should be putting away teams like the Bills, Redskins and Chiefs in the first half. When you let teams hang around, bad things can happen.
Each week we don’t lose is another week we have to figure some of these things out. With the Giants and resurgent Dolphins in weeks 16 and 17 to close out the season, we are running out of weeks to right the ship. I think we will learn a lot this week when the Jets play the Chiefs.