Jets vs Cowboys: 3 keys to victory for New York


For tonight’s Jets vs Cowboys game, here are three keys to victory for Gang Green to continue keeping their playoff hopes alive.

Nov 22, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles prior to a game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the 8-5 Jets will visit ‘Jerry’s World’ and the 4-9 Cowboys to play a must-win game. The Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers both sit at 8-5 with relatively easy schedules ahead, so Gang Green may have to run the table to get in. Kansas City currently sits at 7-2 in the conference while Pittsburgh holds a 5-4 record. If all three teams were to win out, the Jets would be out of the picture despite finishing with the same conference record (8-4) as the Steelers.

New York as of late has been on a roll. As winners of three straight, many people think the Jets can extend it to six and find a way to sneak into the postseason. Last week they took care of business against the Titans riding the hot hand of Ryan Fitzpatrick and continuing to play stifling defense. Receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker both found the endzone yet again as well as Bilal Powell who scored for the second consecutive week. If the Jets can keep playing like this, running the table can become very realistic.

On the other hand, the Cowboys have been nothing but a mess. They began 2015 winning their first two games with Tony Romo on the field, however when he went down, they lost their next seven. He returned to get them a win over the Dolphins sending them to 3-7, although playoff hopes came crashing to an end rather quickly when he broke his collarbone a second time on Thanksgiving.

The only win Dallas was able to scrap with Matt Cassel under center came against the Washington Redskins two weeks ago. If the offense continues to look as dismal as it has, the Cowboys could find themselves with a top-five draft pick in April.

Looking at this game on paper, New York is the clear favorite. Fitzpatrick has found his mojo in offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s system and head coach Todd Bowles has found a way to get the defense clicking week in and week out. The Jets have no business looking ahead because the Cowboys still have talent on their offensive line and in Dez Bryant, but this team is simply not the same without Romo.

Here are three things Gang Green must do to avoid an upset against America’s team.

Next: 3. Pressure Matt Cassel

Dec 13, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Matt Cassel (16) scrambles for shorts yards in the second quarter during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

3. Pressure Matt Cassel

Coverage becomes a lot easier for cornerbacks when a front-seven puts pressure on the quarterback. Tonight, the Jets have no other choice but to release the dogs often on Cassel. Despite the team’s 4-9 record, the Cowboys still indisputably have the best offensive line in all of football. Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and Doug Free make for a tough bunch when it comes to battles in the trenches. They’ve allowed just 27 sacks on the season, so nothing comes easy no matter how good the pass rush is.

When you consider Collins’ draft stock before the incident with his ex-girlfriend, Dallas has four first-round picks on that offensive line. Free was a fourth round selection back in 2007 and he’s been with the team ever since. Last season, DeMarco Murray was able to rush for over 1,800 yards behind that offensive line at 4.7 yards per clip. This year, Darren McFadden was the backup to Joseph Randle for the first five games and he still may find a way to rush for over 1,000 yards. When you have five of the league’s best at their position blocking for you, nearly anything is possible.

With that being said, Cassel will have all day to throw the ball if the Jets don’t blitz often. Even with how great Muhammad Wilkerson has been playing, three or four guys still won’t be enough to penetrate the Dallas offensive line. Expect Lorenzo Mauldin, Calvin Pace, David Harris and Demario Davis to all come after Cassel at times. Corner and safety blitzes wouldn’t hurt either given the minimal talent the Cowboys have at receiver outside of Bryant.

If the Jets can load the box and get in Cassel’s face, the secondary can have one of its best games of the season.

Next: 2. Stop Using Stevan Ridley

Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;Miami Dolphins defensive end Derrick Shelby (79) and Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins (53) tackle New York Jets running back Stevan Ridley (22) In the 2nd half at MetLife Stadium.The Jets defeated the Dolphins 38-20. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

2. Stop Using Stevan Ridley

The only thing holding the Jets’ stellar ground game back is Stevan Ridley. The LSU product signed a one-year deal this off-season and started the year on the PUP list due to his torn ACL in 2014. Many people ridiculed general manager Mike Maccagnan’s decision to sign Ridley due to the fact that he’s a between the tackles runner. New York already had Chris Ivory, Powell and Zac Stacy who have the ability to run with power up the middle. People felt the Jets needed a speed back who can catch passes out of the backfield and run the ball effectively outside.

So far this season, Ridley has carried the ball 18 times for a mere 27 yards. However, it isn’t entirely his fault. When a new back comes into the game, defenses get the feeling that the offense may test the waters with him and try to the ball. Sometimes backs do enter the game to block, but Ridley isn’t known for his blocking ability.

Against the Bills in what was essentially his first game back from injury, Ridley carried the ball three times for negative yardage and was a big reason why one of Gang Green’s drives stalled. Sadly, that was a game in which Ivory played very well and actually didn’t get the ball enough (18 carries, 99 yards).

For the Jets to consistently move the ball on the Cowboys, they have to go with what’s working in Ivory and Powell. These past two weeks, Powell has found pay-dirt catching balls out of the backfield and out of the shotgun, there are opportunities for him to carry the ball and fight for yards as well.

When New York decides to go under center, there is no reason for them to turn to Ridley when Ivory has been the reliable back all season. Yes he has fumbled a few times, but 914 yards in the 13 games he’s played is no joke. More Ivory and no Ridley will do the Jets wonders in tonight’s action.

Next: 1. Air It Out

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

1. Air It Out

While the Jets do need to feed Ivory in order to pick up first downs and control the time of possession, leaning on the hot hand is what Gailey needs to continue to do. No one can deny how well Fitzpatrick has played these last three games. He’s thrown for 930 yards and 9 touchdowns with no turnovers on a 64.2% completion rate.

People are even comparing him to Vinny Testaverde during his years in green and white. Even though ‘Fitz’ is hitting his targets and keeping drives alive, his performance is due in large part to the emergence of Powell along with Marshall and Decker’s presence.

Marshall has been as dominant as can be throughout the year racking up 1,187 yards and 11 touchdowns on 89 catches. If he can keep it up, he’ll finish the year with around 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns. No Jets receiver has put up those kinds of numbers since Santana Moss back in 2004.

Decker on the other hand has hauled in 66 passes for 875 yards and 9 touchdowns. With how ineffective New York’s passing game has been these past few seasons, two receivers going over 1,000 yards would be remarkable. The two could be arguably the best one-two punch in all of football.

Next: Why the best remains to be seen for Jets

What gives the Jets even more of a reason to throw the ball is Dallas’ secondary. They are ranked 4th in the league in yards allowed, but they have just six interceptions on the season. When you look at how Fitzpatrick has been able to take care of the ball these past three weeks, tonight’s contest could end up being another without a turnover for the Harvard graduate.

Quarterbacks also complete 64.3% of passes when playing against the Cowboys, which is almost identical to Fitz’s completion percentage these past three games (64.2%). Overall, if things continue to click for the passing game, Gang Green will have no problem improving to 9-5.