Titans vs Jets: 3 keys to victory for New York


In the Titans vs Jets game, here are 3 keys to victory for Gang Green to leave this game victorious.

Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) rushes against Tennessee Titans free safety Michael Griffin (33) during the second half at LP Field. Jets won 16-11. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Today, the 7-5 Jets host the 3-9 Titans in a must-win game to keep themselves in the AFC playoff picture. With the Chiefs and Steelers both sitting at 7-5 while the Bills and Texans loom at 6-6, Gang Green has little room for error. The Jets are on the short end of the stick in just about every tiebreaker scenario, so wins against AFC teams are absolutely crucial. That all starts with taking care of business this afternoon.

New York is coming off of a thrilling 23-20 overtime win over their in-state rival. The Jets trailed ‘Big Blue’ 20-10 at the half and proceeded to shut them out the rest of the way. Ryan Fitzpatrick finished the contest with 390 yards and two touchdowns to go along with a key first down run on 4th and six deep in the final quarter. Receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker also came up huge in the victory totaling for 232 yards combined.

On the other hand, the Titans are fresh off a 42-39 shootout win over the Jaguars. Marcus Mariota had the game of his life throwing for 268 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 112 yards and a score. However, Tennessee was given a gift in the 4th quarter after a bad snap went over Blake Bortles‘ head and was recovered for a touchdown. Those kinds of plays won’t happen vs. the Jets, so the offense will have to continue to put up points of their own.

Looking at this game on paper, New York is the clear favorite. Not to take anything away from the Titans, but it would be stunning for the Jets to drop a game at home to a 3-9 team in the midst of a playoff race. A win would bring them to 8-5 and that much closer to reaching the postseason for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign. Here are three things Gang Green has to do to avoid the upset.

Next: 3. Contain Marcus Mariota

Dec 6, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) carrie the ball during the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Nissan Stadium. The Titans won 42-39. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

3. Contain Marcus Mariota

The biggest key in beating the Titans is keeping Mariota within the pocket. Teams that have failed to do so put their offense under a ton of unneeded pressure and risk losing the game. The good thing for the Jets is that they fared well against Tyrod Taylor in Week 10.

Taylor finished the night with six carries for a mere 12 yards on the ground with only 158 passing yards and a touchdown through the air. Similar numbers should be the goal for New York’s defense today. With Kendall Wright sidelined and a Titans’ ground game that is basically a work-in-progress, Mariota is one of few players Gang Green needs to worry about.

In order to stop a mobile quarterback, various blitzes and pressure from the defensive line are essential. Blitzing middle linebackers up the middle, however, are a very bad idea. This flushes the quarterback out of the pocket and allows them to do whatever they please in open space. The types of blitzes that keep a mobile quarterback in check involve cornerbacks and safeties. The speed coming from the outside takes the quarterback’s scrambling ability out of the equation and makes him have to make a play with his arm. Although, without defensive pressure, big passing plays can be made. Especially on a depleted Jets’ secondary.

With that being said, there are many defenders who have to come up big today for New York. Calvin Pryor needs to provide a presence in the pass rushing department along with Calvin Pace and Lorenzo Mauldin. Last week, we saw undrafted free agent Mike Catapano make an impact tallying three tackles and placing a ton of pressure on Eli Manning before getting injured.

For head coach Todd Bowles‘ defense to execute, they need production from more than just one player. Defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams need to do a better job in consistently collapsing the pocket on blitzes to leave the quarterback with nowhere to go. A good time to start doing that would be in today’s action.

Next: 2. Continue utilizing Bilal Powell

Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Bilal Powell (29) runs for a touchdown past New York Giants defensive end Damontre Moore (98) during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

2. Continue utilizing Bilal Powell

Against the Giants, Powell erupted to give Fitzpatrick and the offense a huge boost. The Louisville product racked up 91 yards on eight catches to go along with an important touchdown that evened the game up at 10-10 to keep Gang Green alive.

His production on the ground wasn’t spectacular by any means (six carries for 17 yards), but he stepped up and caught passes out of the backfield. Something the Jets hadn’t done all season long until then. During the off-season, many ridiculed general manager Mike Maccagnan for not targeting a speed/receiving back in free agency or the draft. Powell has always had that type of the potential, so it’s about time it showed.

In past years, he’s showed flashes of his ability in the passing game. In 2013 as the featured back, Powell received for at least 20 yards in nine games. Even though 20 yards may not seem like that much, the most receptions he had in a game was four. Therefore, the catches he made went for a decent chunk of yards.

He finished 2013 averaging 7.6 yards per catch and with at least 8 yards per catch in every other year except for his rookie season. Despite his performance carrying the ball last week, he hasn’t been too shabby as a runner either. He’s rushed for 1,492 yards and six touchdowns throughout his career that has been predominately played as a rotational back.

Powell’s most important stat is the fact that he hasn’t lost a single fumble in his career. He coughed the ball up once in his rookie year against the Broncos and once in 2013 in the season-opener vs. the Buccaneers, but neither resulted in turnovers. When you have a back that can take care of the ball so well and fight for yards on every play, you have something meaningful.

Chris Ivory has been playing exceptional all season and they should continue to run him like a workhorse, but Powell needs his touches too. If the Jets want to move the chains on 3rd down more often and keep their defense rested, getting the ball in Powell’s hands can get that job done.

Next: 1. Execute on special teams

Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Dwayne Harris (17) runs past New York Jets punter Ryan Quigley (4) to return a punt for a touchdown during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

1. Execute on special teams

The Jets’ special teams unit has been so putrid as of late, fans are begging for Mike Westhoff to come back. In Week 3 against the Eagles, running back Darren Sproles took a punt 89 yards to the house and completely sucked the life out of New York. Last week, Dwayne Harris scored on an 80-yard punt return and almost ran back a kick in overtime as well.

Dolphins wideout Jarvis Landry did his damage in Week 4 also. He kept Miami in the game by gashing the Jets on huge returns and putting the offense in position to score points on multiple occasions.

Today could sadly result in another disaster for the special teams unit. Titans return-man Dexter McCluster has wheels and does just as much damage as Sproles and Harris did. This season, McCluster averages 9.3 yards per punt return and 21.9 per kick return. It may seem like he hasn’t done much, but against this special teams unit that New York has, anything is possible. He’s taken kicks and punts to the house before, so it’s crucial that Gang Green’s gunners get down the field as quick as possible and keep in mind how talented McCluster is with the football in his hands.

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Even though the special teams issues predominately fall on the players who are failing to make tackles and get downfield, punter Ryan Quigley is a guy who can change the unit for the better. More hang-time on punts and possibly even some directional kicking can help the special teams get on the right track. The punt to Sproles in Week 3 was actually very good, unfortunately the team didn’t tackle and he was able to find pay-dirt. Even if it takes away some distance, a tad more height on punts could end up making all the difference in the Jets winning or losing this game.