It’s just Week 6 but the season is on the line tonight for the New York Jets when they go up against the Arizona Cardinals.
Oct 2, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws the ball during the second half against the Los Angeles Rams at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
This may seem hard to fathom only six weeks into the season, but the New York Jets need a win to keep their season alive. They are 1-4 after starting last season 4-1. Oh, how the times change in the NFL.
Although a big reason in the record flip-flop is the level of competition for the Jets. While this week they’re on the road in prime-time against a desperate team in the Arizona Cardinals.
It’s old stomping grounds for head coach Todd Bowles and hopefully, he learned a thing or two from Bruce Arians. The Jets have lost three straight and the problem is every week has been a different issue.
So how can the Jets turn it around? Let’s break down the top five keys to a Jets victory.
Next: 5. The torch is being passed prematurely
Oct 9, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Jets outside linebacker Darron Lee (50) makes a tackle on Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James (81) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 31-13. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
5. The torch is being passed prematurely
It appears David Harris‘ streak of 121 straight starts likely is over. He missed the entire week of practice and Bowles has never played someone listed as doubtful.
Which is going to basically result in an unofficial passing of the torch from Harris to linebacker Darron Lee. So far in his rookie campaign, he’s had his fair share of ups and downs.
Now the Jets are going to look to him to be the captain of the defense on Monday Night Football. Lee has the speed that Harris has never had and should be a huge plus in this game.
While the Cardinals have so many dynamic weapons that Lee will need to utilize his speed to help contain some of the monster pieces, he must step up to the challenge. Harris still has plenty in the tank, but with a productive day, Lee can earn a bit more playing time.
Next: 4. Rekindling the Fitzpatrick-to-Marshall combo
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) celebrates his touchdown against the Tennessee Titans with New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
4. Rekindling the Fitzpatrick-to-Marshall combo
While one of the best things about the 2015 season was Ryan Fitzpatrick to Brandon Marshall, it needs to be rekindled this season. The tandem became one of the most prolific combinations in franchise history.
Fitzpatrick completed 65 percent of his targets to Marshall, with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2015. In 2016? The percentage has plummeted to 47, with two touchdowns and four interceptions.
With Eric Decker out for the season, this combination will need to be relied upon that much more for this Jets offense to succeed. If the Jets can rekindle that relationship, that’ll open the rest of the offense.
While there is a ton of inexperience, there’s also a lot of raw potentials. Plus the Jets could be getting some reinforcements soon by way of Devin Smith when he’s healthy.
Next: 3. Getting the running game going
3. Getting the running game going
While Matt Forte‘s productivity on first and second downs has been troubling, to say the least., he’s averaging just 3.4 yards per rush.
Meanwhile, Bilal Powell is averaging 5.3 yards per clip. Clearly, Powell’s sample size is small, but it’s worth noting.
Not saying the Jets should make Powell the bell cow or anything, but they need to find a way to get one or both of them going. Forte has a ton left in the tank and for some reason, the Jets haven’t utilized his talents in the receiving game.
That should be a point of emphasis going into this game. The Jets have a strong chance to get the upset with a decent performance from their backfield.
Next: 2. Will a Jets edge rusher please stand up?
Sep 1, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Jets outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (55) during the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
2. Will a Jets edge rusher please stand up?
While the lack of an edge rusher is one of the reasons why the defense is struggling, to be honest, this is the reason they’ve been struggling for years.
With Muhammad Wilkerson in the midst of one of his biggest slumps in his career, the Jets need players to step up. The defense is talented, but too many guys are underperforming.
While that collection of disappointment has led to the Jets getting pushed around all season. If they fail to get in Palmer’s face, this could be a long day for the Jets defense.
This offense for the Jets won’t be able to win the game by themselves. Their defense needs to get turnovers and give this team short fields to work with.
Next: 1. Slow down the Cardinals talented passing attack
October 6, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11, top) congratulates running back David Johnson (31) for scoring a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the third quarter at Levi
1. Slow down the Cardinals talented passing attack
The main mismatch in this game is Arizona’s weapons in the passing game vs a slumping Jets secondary. Seemingly every week the Jets have allowed huge plays through the air.
While not only has that resulted in quick scores for the opposing offense, but it has taken the wind out of the sails of the Jets. The Jets need to flip the script this week and contain the bevy of talented players for Arizona.
Since 1990, teams with a 1-4 start have a 6 percent chance of reaching the playoffs. But there’s reason for hope: Last season, both the Texans and Chiefs turned it around after 1-4 starts. Via ESPN Stats & Info
While things may look grim for the Jets, there’s still hope tonight against the Cardinals. Although they can’t let the losing streak continue, they have to get this win on the road.