For the Jets vs Bills game, Gang Green (10-5) knows what it will take to make the playoffs — they must travel upstate to Orchard Park and wrangle Rex Ryan’s underperforming but always dangerous Buffalo Bills (7-8).
Dec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back
(33) runs with the ball during the first half of their game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sport
Jet fans, rejoice: Sunday afternoon’s 26-20 overtime victory over the New England Patriots was one of the greatest moments in modern Jets history.
Sure, New England head coach Bill Bellichick looked out of sorts — most notably, running out the clock at the end of first half, with the best quarterback in football and three time outs remaining, followed by that ill-fated “decision” to kick off in overtime. But “The Hoodie” has certainly earned his free pass.
Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater deserves a game ball for his brain-freeze on that overtime coin toss, too. In all the post-game interviews with players, the Jets players talked about how they took New England’s decision to start on defense as a diss to their offense, and how that move really got Gang Green fired up. Eerily similar to how the Pats trash-talked themselves out of two Super Bowl wins over the Giants.
These Jets are no longer intimidated by the Pats — they full-on outplayed the defending champions at MetLife Stadium. New York’s defensive line totally owned New England’s battered offensive line — and that domination in the trenches cannot be fixed by coaching. Maybe it’s finally time for the green-and-white fanbase to toss that negative mentality and grasp the seismic changes underway in Florham Park.
Here’s five reasons to believe in a Jets playoff run — that will only begin with a win in the final week of the regular season against the team’s former front-man Rex Ryan and his third-place Bills.
Next: 5. Something to believe in
Dec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets fans celebrate an overtime victory over the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. New York Jets defeat the New England Patriots 26-20 in OT. Mandatory Credit: Jim O
5. Something To Believe In The Jets are building a solid foundation.
Team owner Woody Johnson deserves serious credit for turning things around — both for opening his pockets and being receptive to the return of Darrelle Revis, and for also listening to the fanbase about his feckless hire, John Idzik. Those moves all coincided with the Johnson & Johnson heir’s appointment of Charley Casserly to conduct the team’s front office search to replace head coach Rex Ryan and general manager Idzik.
Casserly knew enough to pull the trigger on coach Todd Bowles and prevent the Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator from boarding a plane to interview for the Atlanta Falcons job. He saw in Bowles a great game-day coach quick to adjust his schemes and a posed and disciplined man unafraid of the spotlight, with great plans and concept for his staff.
General manager Mike Maccagnan had a mega off-season — the returns of Revis and Antonio Cromartie, coupled with the low-risk acquisitions of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall — have all worked out tremendously. No NFL expert could have predicted a team looking at 11 wins and a hopeful playoff spot.
Maccagnan’s ability to clean house — both on the roster and amongst the organizational ranks — has created a fresh new optimism in a once stale and lifeless environment. For all these reasons “Trader Mike” deserves strong consideration for the award of 2015 NFL Executive of the Year.
The team reflects its new leadership. It’s a likable bunch, a winning team with great chemistry, where everyone’s on the same page. No more boasting and bragging and preseason playoff proclamations. This is what they refer to in the Midwest as lunch-pail football.
Against the Bills, the Jets need to be fully aware of all the hard work that went into this season and end it with a ticket to the NFL Playoffs. It seems that losing is completely unacceptable as it’s expected the Jets will really come out swinging from start to finish to ensure their fate into the postseason. What better way to do it in Ryan’s new stomping grounds in a game against their division rival.
Next: 4. I Want Action
Dec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets fan during the first quarter of game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim O
4. I Want Action
Winning football is all about execution — making key plays in big spots and taking advantage of opportunities. The Jets’ offense has been clutch this season — performing relatively mistake-free, completing big passes in big spots, and showing great efficiency in the red zone.
It all begins in the trenches, and Gang Green’s offensive line has been outstanding. Other than that killer strip-sack touchdown given up late in the game against New England, the unit led by center Nick Mangold has competently protected Fitzpatrick all season long. Another reason for their offensive line allowing just 21 sacks (#2 best in the NFL) and 66 quarterback hits (the league’s sixth-least) is the way Fitz scrambles to avoid the sack and his ability to get the ball out of his hands fast.
Chan Gailey continues to press all the right buttons. The esteemed offensive coordinator created another solid game plan, catered to his player’s strengths rather than to a set playbook. Last week’s game was probably his finest for the Jets in terms of maximizing personnel. Gailey has particularly done an incredible job with his Harvard-educated prized pupil Fitzpatrick — who is back in a system that he knows.
Every complimentary running back and wide receiver has made nice contributions; something Jets fans haven’t been able to say in years. The intended three-headed monster rushing attack of Chris Ivory, Stevan Ridley and Bilal Powell has finally come to form. Ivory gets some rest, Ridley just had his best game as a Jet, and Powell continues to excel as Gailey’s C.J. Spiller-style scatback.
New York might have the best wide receiver tandem in the league with Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall. The two are so mentally in-sync with Fitzpatrick; to get an idea of how they are all on the same page, review that game-winning touchdown over the Patriots and see the option Fitzpatrick called before his decisive pass to Decker. That is big-time pigskin; Geno Smith probably would not have handled such complexity.
Then there’s the redemptive story of Quincy Enunwa. The former Nebraska Cornhusker receiver and Jets practice squadder, back from his four-game personal-conduct suspension, has been that big, bruising run blocker that previous organizations thought they had found in former starting tight end and current kick return wedge blocker Jeff Cumberland.
Marshall and Decker have really helped out “Q” on and off the field, and plays like his clutch 48-yard catch in overtime last week against the Patriots or his tremendous grab on a 3rd and 13 against the Cowboys the week before are proof of a maturity beyond his years.
In another bit of good news, key contributing ex-Patriots WR Kenbrell Thompkins is fine after getting carted off the field in what looked like a season-ending leg injury. Now, against the Bills, the Jets must continue this consistency and make sure to execute. When they lost to the Bills earlier in November, the Jets had too many miscues and played sloppy football. This time around, they should be able to take care of business and continue their momentum.
Next: 3. Cry Tough
Dec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) is sacked by New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson (91) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Patriots 26-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
3. Cry Tough
The Jets defense deserves much of the credit. The #6-ranked “D” in the NFL is an impressive #2 against the run but #16 against the pass.
That statistic explains a lot about this Jets season — the run-stuffing, pressure-mounting front-four led by Big Mo Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Snacks Harrison and ever-improving rookie Leonard Williams, in relation to the injury ravaged but now relatively healed secondary.
Speaking of which, what’s a bigger issue, Dee Milliner revisiting the injury list, or the former #9 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft’s inability to crack the top-six cornerbacks on the current roster? Or the fact that John Idzik’s choice to replace Revis has only seen game action in 26 games of his 47 game career to date?
One standout defensive player against the Patriots was Demario Davis. The third-year inside linebacker, who once set Sun Belt Conference records as the defensive leader of the Arkansas State Red Wolves, led the Jets with eight tackles, four unassisted. Most importantly, he did not succumb to his pass coverage deficiencies this season that have placed him in defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers’ doghouse.
Davis may never pan out be that “next Ray Lewis” that Rex Ryan projected, but he may have not yet written his one-way ticket out of town just yet, in this his big contract year. Another highlight was Coach Rodgers celebrating on the sidelines after rookie OLB Lorenzo Mauldin‘s third quarter sack of the husband of Gisele Bundchen.
The Bills have many injuries on offense as the defense of the Jets should be able to once again, bring the heat and wreak all sorts of havoc against them. For them to make a statement, their defense needs to bash the Bills’ offense in front of their home crowd to set the tone early and often on Sunday.
Next: 2. Ride The Wind
Dec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) catches a touchdown against New England Patriots cornerback Duron Harmon (30) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
2. Ride The Wind
Perhaps it’s premature to broach the subject, but with all the league-wide injuries and losing streaks, the AFC playoff picture remains wide open. So if the Jets can endure Rex’s last stand in Buffalo, they have as good a chance as anyone in the post-season.
The team’s new leaders, Marshall and Fitzpatrick, have a combined 21 years combined NFL experience without making the playoffs. So you know that they will be rallying the troops all week long, to make sure they remain focused.
And while all the media chatter has been about how Rex really wants to stick it to the Jets, you know that deposed Bills head coach and quarterback, Chan Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick, really wanna taste of sweet revenge.
According to yesterday’s league statistics, Fitzpatrick — an 11-year journeyman on his sixth team — is NFL Top 10 (#9) in terms of Quarterback Rating (QBR). But in an AFC rife with key injuries to Andy Dalton, Peyton Manning and Brian Hoyer — replaced by A.J. McCarron, Brock Osweiler and Brandon Weeden — the Jets bearded wonder, despite his litany of slow starts and missed deep passes — may be the division’s #3 QB behind Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. The Jets seem ready for the playoff football, and their gunslinger has plenty of targets.
The NYJ need a new slogan, even if it’s an old one. How about: Do you believe in Fitz-magic? Or as Bill Parcells put on their 1997 training camp t-shirts: Who Says We Can’t? Against the Bills, Fitzpatrick needs to not only torch their defense but also throw one more touchdown to be the all-time leader in touchdowns by a quarterback in franchise history.
Next: 1. Every Rose Has His Thorn
Dec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets guard Brian Winters (67) and New England Patriots defensive end Akiem Hicks (72) battle for a loose ball during the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Patriots 26-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
1. Every Rose Has Its Thorn
On one hand, the Jets have not been great at road games, they will face a frigid and hostile environment, and they can easily beat themselves with foolish mistakes and turnovers. On the other hand, Rex Ryan can scream and yell all he wants about wanting to win this game in the worst way, but it seems like many of his players have tuned him out.
With the Bills #1 offensive weapon LeSean McCoy likely to sit out injured with nothing on the line, it will be up to Tyrod Taylor, Sammy Watkins and Charles Clay to light up the scoring board. It does not take a rocket science to realize that there is tension and frustration in the Arctic airs of Erie County.
But then there’s still the issue of the Jets’ not-so-special teams. Yes, they all seem to be coming to form at the right time, and Randy Bullock has been been so solid that injured star kicker Nick Folk has not even been mentioned.
Yet punter Ryan Quigley continues to come up small in big situations. CBS TV commentator Dan Fouts even pointed out special team coach Bobby April’s “extended monologue” after the former record-setting Boston College Eagle’s near game-costing blast into the end zone late in the late fourth quarter. This is one glaring deficiency that can really come back to haunt New York. Expect Buffalo to go after Week 9’s AFC Special Teams Player Of The Week early and often.
The Jets are a dangerous team playing big-time football. They are one of the league’s hottest team, and nobody really wants a piece of them. Do you think New England wanna take on Gang Green again?
But that’s getting way ahead of ourselves. The Jets first need to tend to an old nemesis before 70,000-plus fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Sure the green-and-white could easily implode Upstate, but have confidence that these are no longer your same ol’ Jets.