The New York Jets remain in the playoff hunt after snapping their three-game skid in Week 9. Another victory gets them to .500 at the bye.
Week 10 sends the New York Jets back on the road as they’ll take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gang Green holds a record of 4-5 while Dirk Koetter’s group sits at an underwhelming 2-6. When these two met in the 2013 season opener, New York won an 18-17 instant classic. They hope Sunday’s contest won’t be a grind of that nature.
The Jets opened eyes with their 34-21 rout of Buffalo. They shined in all three phases and kept what was a red-hot team in check until garbage time. John Morton’s offense compiled a total of 331 yards, 194 of which came on the ground. Don’t quit on this bunch just yet.
Tampa Bay, on the other hand, has been closing eyes. Their humiliating loss in New Orleans comes as no surprise and it’s only getting worse. Jameis Winston has been shut down for ‘several weeks’ and Mike Evans will miss one due to suspension. A potential revenge effort from Ryan Fitzpatrick is the one thing keeping them from throwing in the towel.
New York has as much momentum as you can ask for heading into this matchup. They beat down a playoff contender in the Bills and now they face a deflated Buccaneers team. Can they avoid what would be a painful loss to their ex-quarterback? Here are their three keys to victory.
Next: 3. Be creative defensively
3. Be creative defensively
Fitzpatrick spent 2015 and 2016 in New York, where he presumably gained an understanding of Todd Bowles‘ defense. That’s usually what happens when you practice against the same crew every day. As a result, Bowles will have to bring more creativity to the table than he normally would. Fitzpatrick could have success if the Jets use too many base looks.
Creativity in Week 9 vs. the elusive Tyrod Taylor worked to perfection. Jordan Jenkins concluded the night with two sacks and a forced fumble to be crowned Defensive Player of the Week. The rest of the team finished with five. The front seven’s big outing ended what was an enormous struggle to contain ‘T-Mobile.’ Before last Thursday, they sacked him a mere eight times in four meetings.
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Another well-rounded performance from the unit would make Fitzpatrick’s job tougher, but it’ll ultimately come down to how clever Bowles is. Safety blitzes could be what puts the pass rush over the top. Fitzpatrick isn’t familiar with Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, and Terrence Brooks. You can be aggressive with that trio, just don’t leave the corners on their own.
Next: 2. Continue feeding the backs
2. Continue feeding the backs
Gang Green’s running backs have found new life. Matt Forte thought his team didn’t run the ball enough in their Week 8 loss. His criticism would help his cause. He had 14 carries for 77 yards and two touchdowns along with four catches for 19 yards against Buffalo. Unfortunately, he’s been ruled out due to a knee injury but the depth behind him should be just fine to step up and deliver.
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Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire have proven they can hold down the fort. Powell had nine rushes for 71 yards in Week 9. McGuire ran for 30 yards on 13 carries and hauled in a nine-yard pass. These two came through with 321 all-purpose yards in Week 4 as well. They can keep any defense on the ropes when they get into open space.
The Jets are slowly realizing that most of their offensive explosiveness is in their backfield. They took the Bills’ eighth-ranked run defense to the woodshed. Tampa is 20th in the league in that department, so Morton would be smart to stick with what’s working. Dinking and dunking is the way to go here.
Next: 1. Prevent the big play
1. Prevent the big play
The Buccaneers have a plethora of weapons who can hurt you through the air. Let’s start with DeSean Jackson. The 30-year-old All-Pro still has the wheels to take the top off the defense and has done so several times this year. He has 27 receptions for 422 yards and two touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s eight games. You simply cannot afford to take risks with this guy.
The tight end duo of Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard is no joke either. Their route-running is the most impressive part of their skill sets. They’ve combined for 46 catches, 641 yards, and seven touchdowns. Koetter deploys them in a variety of ways whether it’s on the line, out wide or even in the backfield. It’s a challenge to survive with one-on-one coverage on either of these two.
There’s no need to worry about giving up a long play if at least one safety is deep at all times. Bowles has consistently failed to defend the deep ball throughout the season, but last week a corner may have been turned. Buffalo’s longest play was a 26-yard completion to Deonte Thompson. We’ll see if Gang Green can make it two toast-free weeks.