Have you seen the standings in the AFC at the halfway point of the season? Even the most pessimistic New York Jets fan can’t proclaim their season over yet, particularly when taking the team’s schedule into consideration.
There is no question the next three games are going to be difficult. The Jets are rightfully 6.5 point underdogs this week and will be underdogs the following two weeks on the road against St. Louis and home against New England. Their final five games are against teams that I would argue the Jets are better than, despite how awful they have looked at times this season. There is no excuse for a 4-12 or 5-11 year. This team should not win less than 7 games unless they completely tank the rest of the way.
We are going to learn a ton about Rex Ryan and how his players respond to him these last 8 weeks. Do they quit and embarrass themselves in Seattle, in primetime against New England and against the mediocre slopfest that they play weeks 13-17? Or do they keep themselves relevant in the playoff race into December by scoring an upset or two in the coming three games and handling their business against inferior teams down the stretch?
The Jets defense has steadily improved in recent weeks. Outside of facing Tom Brady, they are facing a collection of unproven and inexperienced quarterbacks the rest of the season. You want hope in Seattle? Remember what the Jets defense did to Andrew Luck a couple of weeks ago. Russell Wilson is an impressive rookie but he is still a rookie and a much less talented one than Luck. Sam Bradford and Brian Schottenheimer’s offense? You better have a shutdown performance. John Skelton. Blaine Gabbert. Jake Locker. Ryan Fitzpatrick. The ghost of Philip Rivers. How about it, Rex? Kenrick Ellis will be back on the defensive line, more playing time should be given to Demario Davis, Antonio Allen, Aaron Berry and Marcus Dowtin and this defense must round into form to give the Jets a fighting chance.
On offense, the situation at running back will improve with a healthier Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell back. But ultimately it will come down to Mark Sanchez finding some measure of consistency. He must protect the football. He must improve his accuracy. The players around him must also elevate their play. No more drops from Stephen Hill. No more matador blocking from Matt Slauson and Austin Howard. If necessary get Vladimir Ducasse and Jason Smith in the starting line-up. If Sanchez is sputtering, give Tim Tebow a full series to run the offense. Yes, even this Sanchez apologist can admit the Jets offense could use a kick in the ass with more Tebow involvement…not as a starting quarterback but as a weapon in the running game and occasional downfield passing game.
Rex Ryan needs to show he won’t lose this team for the second season in a row. There is no excuse to get blown out in Seattle. There is no excuse not to steal a road game against the Rams or to be right there with the Patriots in the fourth quarter. There is no excuse not to find a way to beat Arizona and San Diego at home or to go on the road and handle Jacksonville or Buffalo. This team is lacking talent in plenty of areas but so are all the teams remaining on their schedule.
Sink or swim. What do you think Jets fans?