Nov 12, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) runs in for a touch down in front of Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore (24) in the 2nd half at MetLife Stadium.The Bills defeated the Jets 22-17 Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
The Jets vs Texans game will surely be a great one. The NY Jets (5-4), losers of three of their last four, travel to hostile Houston to take on the Texans (4-5).
Last week’s 22-17 home loss to the Bills is still difficult to deal with. The Jets’ diehard fanbase came out strong in full support, and frankly, they deserved much better than what they got from their team Thursday night on national television. Seeing the mediocre Rex Ryan do his post-game on-field sack dance was a bit too much to handle.
This writer stood less than 100 feet from that ill-fated late-4th quarter, 4th-down goal-line botched pass intended for blocking tight end Kellen Davis — which was about the same distance by which Fitzpatrick missed his intended target.
A win in that game would have been considered one of the team’s all time comebacks, after they had fallen behind 22-3 in the third quarter. But like all too few Jet classics, this one was not to be. The monument failure of that play sent the fans home angry, and honestly felt a bit like when John Hall missed that 35-yard field goal with 12 seconds left to miss the 2000 NFL Playoffs and end the fleeting Al Groh era.
The Jets real problem against Rex’s Buffalo “bullies” was the turnovers — both on offense. and even worse, on special teams. The game went the Jets way until 90 seconds before halftime. Following a Bills field-goal drive, the ensuing kickoff resulted in a soul-crushing kick-return fumble by rookie wideout Devin Smith that got ran back for a Bills touchdown, leaving a thunderous MetLife Stadium in stunned disbelief.
Insiders insist that the 2015 second-round pick Smith will blossom as a late-season breakout. But at this moment, his football IQ reads downright Stephen Hill-ish. Simply put, if the Jets turn over the ball, they cannot win.
This weekend, we will all see what the Green and White are really made of. Houston is football crazy, and the nation’s fourth-largest city is abuzz with the Texans having failed upwards into first place. This will be a very difficult game for the Jets to win. Then again, the Texans are very Jet-like in their incredible ability to fold at any critical moment, and to seize defeat from the jaws of victory. So, in that regard, its anyone’s game.
Here are five reasons to believe in the Jets’ hard rockin’ ride back into the playoff picture.
Next: 5. Delivering The Goods
Nov 12, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets center Nick Mangold (74) hikes the ball to New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) in the 2nd half against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. The Bills defeated the Jets 22-17 Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
5. Delivering The Goods
Everyone including his Jets teammates are saying they fully expect Ryan Fitzpatrick will be good to go after post-game surgery to repair the ligaments that he tore on his non-throwing hand in the Oakland game. The fiery quarterback who once wore Harvard crimson looks forward to facing his former team in his old NRG Stadium stomping grounds. If the “Grizzly Adams of QBs” makes it through the full 60 this Sunday in his arm cast, he will go down as one of the gutsier performers in team history.
But if best plans go awry and it needs to be Geno time in H-town, expect a long afternoon. John Idzik’s 2013 second-round flameout — the living embodiment of a million-dollar-body and a ten-cent head — proved able to complete some nice passes against the Raiders. But his decision-making still remains shockingly amateur, and is something that cannot be remedied by coaching alone.
Sadly, the best news for Jets fans may have been the sight of Brian Hoyer walking off the field to get checked out under the league’s concussion protocol. But the temporary instillation of the quite competent former UNC Tar Heel star T.J. Yates under center may not be the bonanza some Jets fans envision.
And while we’re on the subject of Texans QBs, exactly what was up with Ryan Mallett-head’s seemingly unfathomable decision to submarine his NFL career by oversleeping and missing team flights, in a tiff over his depth chart ranking? Wonder what can he possibly be discussing around the Thanksgiving table?
Next: 4. Ram It Down
Nov 12, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) tackled by Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Nigel Bradham (53) during the 2nd half at MetLife Stadium.The Bills defeated the Jets 22-17 Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
4. Ram It Down
Coach Bowles and his staff need to re-focus the offense. The Jets’ usually superior offensive coordinator Chan Gailey has made some head-scratching decisions of late — some that evoke frightening nightmares of the scary old days of controversial OCs like Paul Hackett and Brian Schottenheimer (but still not Tony Sparano-esque).
The Jets have gotten away from their early season powerhouse rushing attack. But that dip in is mostly due to the fact that teams now respect the Jets running game, and have been stacking eight or nine men in the box — and those teams have been making the plays at the line of scrimmage. The Jacksonville win was a good example of that.
With Zac Stacy out for the year, bruising backs Chris Ivory and ex-Pat Stevan Ridley will have to ride this season through till the end. Bilal Powell‘s scatback style — the key ingredient to most every successful Gailey offense — has been sorely missed, but the fifth-year Jet out of Louisville is far from 100% after spraining his ankle three weeks ago.
In regards to the NYJ’s withering rushing game, the injuries to their All-Pro center Nick Mangold and street-fightin’ guard Willie Colon took huge tolls. Wesley Johnson and Brian Winters have both filled in admirably in difficult situations, but they cannot really move the pile.
But the rushing game relies on an ability to stretch the field, and the Jets receivers, especially against the Bills, had way too many big drops. Earlier in the season, it could be rationally argued that Brandon Marshall was the Jets most exciting receiver since Al Toon. But at present he rates somewhere between a more polished Santonio Holmes, and a nice compliment to the Fitzpatrick-to-Decker passing game.
The best Decker on the MetLife field Thursday night was not Eric — who made more than one costly on-field gaffe — but his powerhouse Country singer wife Jesse James Decker, who belted out our national anthem in her man’s #87 jersey.
Next: 3. Defenders of the Faith
Nov 12, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) stretches before the game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
3. Defenders Of The Faith
Except for a few pretty unstoppable rushes by the elite LeSean McCoy, the Jets defense showed up strong in the second half against Buffalo. Muhammad Wilkerson played like a man among men. Snacks Harrison ate up the inside.
But just how badly injured is Sheldon Richardson, who has not performed at his elite level since his four-game suspension? And just what exactly happened to the development of early Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Leonard Williams ever since Richardson returned in Game 5?
Maybe the real questions should be: Has Coach Bowles, in his zeal to get the best four lineman on the field at the same time, stunted Williams’ growth by moving the mammoth defensive end inside? Or does that move have more to do with covering for the glaring pass-rushing deficiencies of outside linebacker Quinton Coples?
Here’s a crazy idea: With Richardson’s likely limited participation, why not turn the page on Rex’s try to turn Coples into the next Terrell Suggs, and give the 2012 #1 draft selection some reps this week as a hands-in-the-dirt lineman, and let him possibly demonstrate that skill set that made him an NFL top pick in the first place?
If not, please let the 6’7″ pride of Kinston, NC save a seat on the visitors bench by those Big Fogg misting fans for raw up-and-comer Lorenzo Mauldin — who along with Williams, Demario Davis and Calvin Pryor are the building blocks to lead the Jets defense into the next decade.
Next: 2. Some Heads Are Gonna Roll
Oct 25, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New York Jets center Nick Mangold (74) at the line of scrimmage during the first quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
2. Some Heads Are Gonna Roll
The Texans have a devastating front seven that includes J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork, Brian Cushing, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney. So the Jets offensive line will really have to excel, especially if “Fitzmagic” is in the mix.
On paper, the Jets big-time defensive line has a clear advantage over a very beatable Texans offensive front anchored by stud guard Brandon Brooks on one side and Florham Park castoff Oday Aboushi on the other. Sunday’s game will be a good barometer of whether Aboushi’s dismissal from the Jets organization was the result of his gridiron acumen, new coaching schemes, or as payback for his one-day suspension under the league’s personal conduct policy.
Without the injured Arian Foster, the Texans rushing game ranks a measly #28 in the league. The Texans receivers — DeAndre Hopkins, Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington, along with the Gronk-lite potential of former Iowa Hawkeye tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz — are on par with the pass-catchers the Jets put out on the field every week. But with Pryor and Antonio Cromartie practicing the past few days, expect the Jets to display flashes of their dominant early season secondary play.
The Texans could be vulnerable at secondary, because Houston has been forced to play guys that they recently signed off the street. If the Jets plan to win this game, their receivers will need to get past the home team’s cornerback tandem of ten-year vet Johnathan Joseph — who many Jets fans may recall as the big hole in the Bengals swiss-cheese secondary that transformed Mark Sanchez into “The San-chise” — and almost-Jet Kareem Jackson.
Next: 1. Screaming For Vengeance
Nov 12, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; American country pop singer Jessie James Decker wife of New York Jets wide receiver
(not pictured) sings the national anthem before a game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
1. Screaming For Vengeance
The backstories are few and far between. Besides, these guys are professional athletes, they are not like us fans. They are trained to tune out the media noise, stick to their routine and play one game at a time. Talk radio and fantasy sports have almost turned football into something that it’s not.
Common sense would dictate that new Jets kicker Randy Bullock — a Texans training camp cut recently signed to replace the injured surefooted booter Nick Folk — can’t be as good Nick Novak, the guy who took his job in Houston. Sixteen-year veteran punter Shane Lechler is still a great specialist, but almost ever punter in the NFL is better than the Jets’ Ryan Quigley, shockingly voted Special Teams Player of the Week, for his pulling last-second double duty when Folk when down minutes before game time.
Mike Maccagnan must have mixed emotions coming into this match-up against his employer of 14 years. But it’s really no big deal in Houston, where the new Jets GM worked in obscurity as a mid-level film-room rat. And don’t expect Coach Bowles to try to rile up his forces with any rah-rah dressing-room speeches to “win one for the Mac-gipper.”
Fitzpatrick is likely less worried about this game in terms of facing his 2014 coaches/teammates, and more about the safety of his non-throwing hand following post-Bills surgery. Fitz understands more than anyone, that if J.J. Watt finally comes to play this season (of which he displayed glimpses against the Bengals), NY has zero chance to win.
The Jets are by no means out of the playoffs. But they have been playing like a really lousy football team. Right now, they can lose to any team in the league. The Texans’ defense played great on Monday night, and they’re playing at home for sole possession of first place. That is not a great turn of events for Gang Green going into this game.