The Titans vs Jets game is an underrated match-up that should see the edge given to Gang Green who are flying high after an exciting 23-20 victory over the Giants — in one of the franchise’s greatest-ever regular season moments.
Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) runs the ball past New York Giants defensive end Damontre Moore (98) and New York Giants corner back Prince Amukamara (20) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Giants 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Winning teams are able to snag victory from the jaws of defeat, and that’s exactly what the Jets did in their exciting 23-20 overtime win over their MetLife Stadium rivals, the Giants. Both teams did everything in their powers to hand the game to the other side, but the Giants turned out to be most gracious hosts, failing on a goal-line touchdown drive early in their the fourth quarter that let the Jets get back in the game. After the loss, Big Blue was dead and buried. But a day later, thanks to the inept Washington Redskins, they are still the favorites to take their division.
The Jets did not play smart football most of the afternoon. But anyone who’s ever played the game will tell you that it’s all about execution of the playbook and taking advantage of opportunities. That was the key to Gang Green’s first victory over the rival Giants since Brad Baxter ran off-tackle to score the only touchdown in a hard-to-watch Halloween 1993 victory, 10-6.
The Jets face a re-energized opponent in the last-place Tennessee Titans — off a thrilling 42-39 win over their AFC South rival Jacksonville Jaguars, in which Marcus Mariota threw for three touchdowns and ran for over 100 yards. That’s not great news because this is a situation where New York has a lot on the line, and Tennessee has nothing to lose.
Here are the top 5 factors to consider as the host Jets prepare for the tenacious Titans in a tough Week 14 match-up.
Next: 5. Heart Of Steel
Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles (left) celebrates after New York Giants kicker Josh Brown (not pictured) misses a field goal during overtime at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Giants 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
5. Heart Of Steel
There is no doubt that there’s a new sheriff in town. The Jets’ defensive line star Muhammad Wilkerson sat the bench for the first quarter over something he either did or said, though we may never know. Unlike the Jets’ previous head coaches — the ridiculously covert Eric Mangini followed by the irresponsibly overt Rex Ryan — rookie head coach Todd Bowles has shown himself to be wise beyond his years. He has proven to be his own man, a soft-spoken disciplinarian who plays by his own rules.
Bowles’ push to cut multi-million-dollar 2012 #1 pick Quinton Coples transformed the locker room. Other roster members — grinders with lesser resumes and higher-revving motors — are making the most of their opportunities. That’s called leadership.
All is fine now, but the Jets really need to develop some young talent on the O-line. Easier said than done, but general manager Mike Maccagnan must cultivate capable young replacements for green-and-white icons Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who will not be around much longer.
Former Seahawks guard James Carpenter and tackle Breno Giacomini have blended nicely, but both are pricey free agents not developed from within. Guard Brian Winters, a blocking sieve in his first two seasons, has played well in place of the injured-yet-still-penalized Willie Colon, but he still rates below-average by any measure.
Speaking of that, does anyone have a better job than behemoth backup tackle Ben Ijalana, the New Brunswick, NJ legend who has earned hundreds thousands of dollars and has traveled first-class all across America, able to watch NFL games from the sidelines — inactive for the better part of two seasons, including zero snaps this season? Just askin’…
Bowles’ style of leadership and preparation will be key in taking down the Titans and continuing the momentum for the Jets as they try to string together three straight wins for the first time this season.
Next: 4. Call To Arms
Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
4. Call To Arms
Do you believe in Fitzmagic? NFL insiders always talk about Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s Jekyll/Hyde play, but the veteran of over 100 NFL games has come from out of nowhere to put together one of the greatest quarterback seasons in Jets history. The team has clearly rallied behind the Harvard hurler’s leading-by-example and all-around toughness.
Over the past 25 years, the team’s best under-center performances have been by Boomer Esiason, Vinny Testaverde, Chad Pennington, and Fitzpatrick. The team will go as far as Fitz can take them — and as long as monster running back Chris Ivory doesn’t fumble the rock.
The Jets need to move the ball on offense if for no other reason that they continue to suffer from special teams problems. Punter Ryan Quigley, dominating against the Dolphins, slipped back into his mediocre ways last week against the Giants. The difference against the G-Men could have been Dwayne Harris‘ 80-yard punt return. New kicker Randy Bullock, who Maccagnan knew from working with the Texans, has provided such consistency that nobody’s mentioning the injury to Nick Folk.
Gang Green’s special teams problems have become obvious. Other than coverage aces like Trevor Reilly and Jamari Lattimore, most of the players fielding punts and kicks are the busts of previous regimes that have not been or cannot be cut.
Watching the Harris return, one could see falling to the ground the green-and-white jerseys of names like: the ninth-pick of the 2013 draft Dee Milliner; that year’s third-rounder Dexter McDougle; and under-productive tight end Jeff Cumberland. That’s nothing coaching can fix.
Next: 3. Metal Warriors
Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants running back Shane Vereen (34) is tackled by New York Jets linebacker David Harris (52) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Giants 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
3. Metal Warriors
Defense is the Jets lifeblood.
David Harris has proven himself an all-time great Jets linebacker. But what about his ILB mate Demario Davis? Rex Ryan’s “next Ray Lewis,” who after some glaringly slow reactions and missed tackles, is now a de facto third-stringer behind Erin Henderson and Lattimore. Not good news for a fourth-year-player in a big contract year.
The Jets’ vaunted defensive front put minimal pressure on Eli Manning in the first half, but hammered him so hard in the second half that not only did the Giants not score, but the veteran QB asked for X-rays; that thankfully proved negative. The vaunted D-line’s penetration can stuff the run, but it’s effectiveness against the pass is only as good as the edge-rushing, which is the where the Jets have some serious questions.
They thought they found an answer in Bayville, Long Island standout Mike “The Big Cat” Catapano, a lifelong Jet fan, who worked his way up from the practice squad to that edge spot. But in his first big MetLife appearance against the G-men, he suffered a nasty Lisfranc injury (two small bones in the middle of the foot) that ended his season.
That lack of ferocious outside pressure makes the Jets’ weak spot of safety most vulnerable to the long ball — see Odell Beckham‘s very Victor Cruz-like 72-yard touchdown sprint. The game also showed that the secondary is weak without strong safety Calvin Pryor‘s physicality, and that neither Rontez Miles nor the recently activated Ronald Martin look ready for prime time.
It can make one Id-sick to realize that former GM John Idzik’s handsomely compensated high draft picks choices to replace Revis — Milliner and McDougle — aren’t good enough to play anything but special teams. The truth hurts: on the depth chart, both cornerbacks are light years behind hungry former undrafted free agents Darrin Walls and Marcus Williams. It’s all consistent with what coach Bowles has been preaching — it’s not who you are, it’s how you play.
Next: 2. Gloves Of Metal
Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) catches a game-tying touchdown against New York Giants corner back Prince Amukamara (20) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Giants 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
2. Gloves Of Metal
Despite some head-scratching plays, and as many as two game-losing decisions, Brandon has brought leadership and credibility and sense of integrity to the locker room. The AFC Offensive Player Of The Week is one of those guys who has been to some dark places and come out of all that strong, and then used those experiences to become a leader of men. Not bad for a sixth-round pick and a few million they’d have to spend anyway under league rules.
Decker had difficulty last season as Geno Smith‘s #1 receiver (what pro wouldn’t?) but his short-game grit is the perfect complement to Marshall’s mouthy long-ball glory. Eric’s game is a large-and-in-charge blend of tough attitude and smooth production — just like his Country star wife Jessie James Decker’s latest album, Lights Down Low.
In terms of non-starters, Jeremy Kerley left the Giants game with migraines, but should play against Tennessee. Kenbrell Thompkins has been earning his time on the field. Hot shot rookie deep threat Devin Smith, conspicuously silent last game, must be heard from.
The Jets don’t really have a tight end. Quincy Enunwa is a big WR running TE routes, with decent results. Kellen Davis is more of a third tackle, like the ones that check in as receivers on plays in the red zone. The organization’s five-year project Jeff Cumberland has gone from 80-100% snap count games under Rex Ryan to a 2015 kickoff wedge-blocker and “hands team” specialist.
To take Mike Catapano‘s roster spot, the organization signed TE Brandon Bostick, infamous as “The Green Bay Buttfumbler” who ended the Packers’ 2014 season, two minutes away from the Super Bowl. It’s the most unproductive tight end unit in the league.
For the Jets to take down the Titans, they need someone to step up besides just Marshall and Decker. It remains to be seen who will want to be an X-Factor this week but the Jets can’t let these two have all the fun.
Next: 1. Battle Hymns
Dec 6, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA;Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) walks off the field after defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars 42-39 at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
1. Battle Hymns
The Jets are certainly thinking big after their exhilarating Giants win — and thinking about needing to win at least three of their last four games to possibly edge out the Steelers for that final wildcard playoff spot. But they must remain focused, because this one has all the makings of a trap game.
Mike Mularkey stepped in as the Titans interim head coach for Ken Whisenhunt after the team’s 1-6 start, and has gotten his team to play hard (2-3 under his helm) despite limited talent. But he has almost no chance of keeping the job. All you need to know about the front office situation in Nashville is that the interim GM/president is conducting a way-too-public coaching search (that will not confirm Mularkey) and that Jon Bon Jovi is denying rumors that he is about to buy the team (where there’s smoke, there’s fire).
Heisman-winning rookie Marcus Mariota — who despite what you might have read, was never gonna fall in the draft to the Jets’ #6 pick — has all the makings of an NFL star. He brings an amazing dimension to the Titans’ offense that the Jets must heavily prepare for. Mariota makes everyone around him better, so coach Bowles’ game plan will surely focus on containing him. That’s why the Jets really need some healthy cornerbacks to return; at press time it seems that Revis will return before Marcus Williams.
The Titans also have a hard-nosed Dick LeBeau-coached defense, who should have some answers for those classic Chan Gailey-designed scatback sets, run so successfully with Bilal Powell against the Giants last week. But even so, it’s hard not to think the jacked-up Jets won’t prevail at home with a lot on the line.
Remember the Titans? Not after this game. There’s plenty to feel good about for fans of Gang Green, and winning such winnable games is all part of what it takes to build a winner.