For the Jets vs Cowboys game, this matchup is just what the doctor ordered. The Cowboys (4-9) are against the ropes, and the visiting Jets (8-5) should have a large percentage of the national television audience behind them.
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) drops back to pass against the Tennessee Titans during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Titans 30-8. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Last week’s 30-8 thrashing of the Tennessee Titans was Gang Green’s most complete victory of the Todd Bowles era. The Titans were riding high off a victory in which Marcus Mariota played his greatest NFL game, helping to amass over 40 points of offense. Against the Jets, he got shut down, and frankly, he may have lost even worse had the home team not taken their foot off the accelerator.
The Jets started the year strong, but after that midseason swoon of losing four of five games, the playoffs are far from guaranteed. Of the three 8-5 teams battling for those two wild card slots, the Chiefs have a cream-puff schedule, the Jets still have tough division games against the Patriots and at Buffalo, and only a fool would bet against the Steelers.
And speaking of that final game against the Bills, you can bet your bottom dollar that Rex Ryan will have his underachieving forces — who’ve committed an astounding 124 penalties to date — geared and primed to finish their disappointing season on a positive note by knocking out his former employers from playing past Week 16.
Here’s five reasons to believe in the visiting Jets over America’s Team before 80,000 beat-down Cowboys fans at AT&T Stadium. A New York victory would just end the season of Jerry Jones and his dislikable breed spearheaded by Greg Hardy. Does it really get any better than that?
Next: 5. Can I Play With Madness?
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Tennessee Titans tight end Phillip Supernaw (89) is tackled by New York Jets linebacker Jamari Lattimore (54) and linebacker Demario Davis (56) and safety Marcus Gilchrist (21) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Titans 30-8. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
5. Can I Play With Madness?
The Cowboys are a mess. Jerry Jones is a win-at-all-costs owner, but he may just be the worst general manager in the game. Head coach Jason Garrett, one of a select few self-respecting Xs-and-Os men willing to eat crow in order to keep his job, is not far from joining the unemployment line.
Dallas fans have spent the better part of a decade dissing quarterback Tony Romo, but how great does the undrafted Eastern Illinois icon look now, after enduring a season of Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassell under center? Apparently, Dallas is all-in on acquiring local legend Johnny Manziel from Cleveland. But is he any better than Geno Smith?
In terms of the Cowboys’ other skill positions, what’s been the worst news about their running game? The senseless departure of DeMarco Murray to the Eagles, or Dallas’ weekly game plans based around a now slightly above average Darren McFadden? At least Utah State record-holder Robert Turbin has been a nice change-of-pace back.
And what has become of Dez Bryant? Is the All-Pro wide receiver becoming the next Terrell Owens before our eyes? All these question marks come down to the fact that the usually-high-powered Cowboys have the #28 offense in the 32-team NFL. Expect Matt Cassel to be looking all night long for mammoth tight end Jason Witten.
The Jets currently possess the league’s #1 defense against the run. But they are a middle-of-the-pack #19 against the pass, and susceptible to the long ball. With Darrelle Revis back from his concussion and back to lock-down cornerback status, there likely won’t be many chances for Dallas to throw deep to Bryant. So if the Jets front seven can stuff the run and keep Cassel running for his life, the result could be numerous three-and-outs and turnover opportunities.
Next: 4. The Number Of The Beast
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
4. The Number Of The Beast
Brandon Marshall is the greatest Jets receiving threat since Keyshawn Johnson, and he knows it. Why else would #15 now be carrying around a copy, and gifting copies, of that great literary work, Keyshawn’s Jets-era autobiography, Just Give Me The Damn Ball?
Brandon claims it has something to do with dispelling the myth of the diva WR, but it doesn’t really matter what he’s doing or why he’s doing it, so long as the behemoth end continues to be a leader in the locker room and on the playing field.
Marshall has been a revelation. Rookie general manager Mike Maccagnan’s ability to land the Pro Bowl-caliber passing tandem of Ryan Fitzpatrick-to-Brandon Marshall for two bottom-of-the-barrel draft choices have been some of the greatest under-the-radar acquisitions in Jets history. (Face it, Jets fans: it’s time to finally stop moaning about Vernon Gholston and Stephen Hill and Kyle Wilson and Dewayne Robertson and Johnny Mitchell and Johnny “Lam” Jones and…)
Marshall leads a receiving corp now decimated by injuries. Devin Smith‘s rookie season was a lost year, between his first-day-of-preseason broken ribs and punctured lung, to his Titans game season-ending ACL injury. We wish the speedy Ohio State flanker a rapid recovery.
Jeremy Kerley has inexplicably suffered through his worst season in green-and-white. Quincy Enunwa is a marginally better big-receiver-turned-tight-end-with-minimal-blocking-skills than four-year Jets starter Jeff Cumberland. Patriots castoff Kenbrell Thompkins is a grinder who has earned his playing time, and he catches the ball when it’s thrown his way.
True, the Jets are down to five healthy receivers, but with Marshall and Eric Decker as the focus of the attack, they are in a strong position moving forward.
Next: 3. Run To The Hills
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) runs the ball against the Tennessee Titans during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Titans 30-8. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
3. Run To The Hills
The Cowboys have talent, particularly at offensive line, defensive front and cornerback. Dallas currently rank as the #6 defense in the league, #3 against the run and #9 against the pass. That is all impressive, but the fact remains that they have been dreadful without Romo.
The key to this game is the Jets ability to handle the Dallas defensive linemen and linebackers. Simply put, Chris Ivory and Stevan Ridley must be able to run the ball for four-plus yards per carry behind the Jets monster offensive line.
New York also needs to really step it up on special teams. New kicker Randy Bullock finally missed one, from 40-something yards, but that did not affect the final outcome. Ryan Quigley once again punted like one of the league’s lowest-rated booters.
The kick coverage seemed better against Tennessee, but what is up with Kerley still fair-catching balls inside their own 10 yard line? Those are the type of brain-locked decisions that could cost the Jets in a tight game. It got so bad, the very un-fluid Decker ended up returning punts.
The Jets also still lack that scary kick-return threat. It seems that no matter what player they stick back there as a returner, they always go back to Antonio Cromartie, who can reliably bust a few tackles and not drop the ball. All the more reason for the Jets to keep grinding out the clock for first downs.
Next: 2. The Trooper
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) passes against the Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
2. The Trooper
Is there a Jet player or fan at this point who does not believe in their bearded quarterback Fitzpatrick, now playing the best football of his career? If there are, please remind them that the alternative is a return to Geno Smith.
And while we’re on the topic of the disgruntled, disappointing John Idzik second-rounder’s tenuous hold on an NFL roster spot, there are whispers around Florham Park that fourth-round redshirted QB Bryce Petty is starting to grasp the larger picture, learning and watching the game from Harvard’s flamethrower.
Fitzpatrick is a product of the Chan Gailey offensive system. It’s a proven relationship that fits him like a glove. And now with Bilal Powell finally healthy, the former Louisville back is earning his medal, ably filling that dynamic C.J. Spiller scatback role, that has helped set up the Jets new long ball game.
If you’ve paid close attention, every week Gailey adds a new wrinkle to the offense, and further lets loose the reigns on his prized pupil. Expect some bold moves this week in Big D.
Coach Bowles has proven that he is unafraid to lay down the gauntlet. You can be sure that he will have his squad well-prepared for what’s to come.
Next: 1. Two Minutes Till Midnight
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets fans cheer at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won, 30-8. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
1. Two Minutes Til Midnight
For the Jets, the time is now. They have won three in a row — and it all coincides with the de facto end of the Rex Ryan era; the cutting of his non-ambitious former first-round pick, starting outside linebacker Quinton Coples.
The Jets don’t wanna get too cocky going into this game. But that does not seem like an overarching issue for Bowles’ team, because it really feels as if this roster is taking on the quiet, cool, confident demeanor of its head coach.
The Jets “D” was truly lights-out against the Titans. Coach Bowles is proving himself as one of the NFL’s great defensive minds. But don’t expect another five-sack effort. The Cowboys offensive line, with studs like Doug Free, Zack Martin and controversial rookie La’el Collins, probably won’t let that happen.
A glaring problem in pass coverage was Rex’s Demario Davis, once again getting scorched with both slow reaction speed and marginal tackling skills whenever he goes man-on-man against either small receivers or big tight ends. More of that could spell trouble for the Jets’ game plan.
Predict the Cowboys to play a tough heads-up game, at least at first. Greg Hardy will lead a spirited defense playing at home and clinging to any last hopes for a playoff spot in the suddenly pitiful NFC East. Expect a close score at halftime but for the Jets to pull away in the second half.
This has been a great season for Gang Green thus far. Nobody knows what will happen, but a decisive Saturday night victory in Dallas would be a powerful statement going into their tough final two games.
A playoff spot is not vital for the organization, but it would be an incredible validation of an impressive Jets season. The Bowles-Maccagnan era has certainly gotten off to a tremendous start.