The New York Jets have a very good chance at being a .500 football team heading into their bye week. The only thing standing in their way? Ryan Fitzpatrick and a reeling Buccaneers team who has been one of the most underwhelming teams in football this season. I take a closer look at how the teams stack up against each other.
Josh McCown and Ryan Fitzpatrick are two guys cut from the same cloth. They both throw bone headed interceptions at the worst times, they both have played for just about every NFL team and both have gotten monster contracts after anomaly seasons of success. This season however, McCown has been a serviceable quarterback for this young, upbeat Jets team. He’s not out there putting up MVP numbers but he’s doing what he needs to do to have the Jets in position to potentially make a playoff run.I could write 1,000+ words on Ryan Fitzpatrick and about five of them would be good words. He’s a single read quarterback that will throw the pass even if the receiver is double covered. He throws a bad deep ball and while there’s been flashes of good football, a lot his stats are on the receivers bailing him out on his bad throws. The Jets know exactly what Fitzpatrick is and should have no problem exploiting him.
Running Back: Jets
Whichever running back is in for the Bucs, they aren’t doing much. Doug Martin and Peyton Barber can’t make anyone miss and aren’t getting much of anything after contact. The Jets have done a great job of shutting down running backs after being thrashed by LeSean McCoy in Week One. Look for the Jets to continue that trend and shut down the already stagnant Bucs running game.
Matt Forte wanted the Jets to run the ball more and he got exactly what he wanted, rushing for 77 yards and two touchdowns against the Bills. Forte has looked a lot better after coming back from a toe injury. The clamoring for Bilal Powell to get a majority has quieted down a tad after Forte’s good game against the Bills, even after breaking off a huge run against them. They’ve looked better splitting carries lately and aren’t going up against a vaunted Tampa Bay rushing defense. I see more of the same production in Week 10.(Note: Forte is out for todays game. Watch for Powell’s workload to increase and for Elijah McGuire to take 40-50% of those Forte snaps)
Wide Receivers: Jets
Mike Evans being out certainly doesn’t help the Bucs passing attack, which is third in the league in passing yards per game. They’re going to have lean on Desean Jackson who is more of just a deep threat than anything at this point. After him it’s Adam Humphries and that’s really it for guys that the Jets have to worry about. Also take into account that it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing them the ball and it doesn’t look great.
Robby Anderson has been looking more and more like a number one receiver each week. He’s been beating guys deep consistently in man coverage and last week against Buffalo, showed he could get some YAC. Jermaine Kearse has been a nice addition, although he hasn’t made any substantial plays of late. There’s no Jeremy Kerley and ArDarius Stewart is questionable to play so we may finally get to see more Chad Hansen, which is a good thing.Tight End: Buccaneers
Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been a tremendous addition for this Jets offense this season. While I would like to see more downfield routes for him, he has done a great job in the red zone even if two of his touchdowns were called back for very bad penalties/one of the worst calls in NFL history. Eric Tomlinson was supposed to be a run blocking tight end and that’s it but even he has gotten into the game as a nice option to throw to every once in a while. They’re just a bit behind the Bucs group.
Cameron Brate is a big red zone target for the Bucs and is quietly becoming a top five or six tight end in football. O.J. Howard can break open long runs after catching the ball as well. These two guys create matchup problems for linebackers and safeties who are covering them. It will be a fun matchup to see in this weeks game and we’ll see if the Thursday night game was just a one time thing. They will also most likely see a lot more action with Mike Evans being out. If anyone is going to have the best chance to hurt the Jets in the receiving game, it’s these two guys.
Offensive Line: Push
The Jets offensive line has been tough to evaluate this season for the most part. Some games they’re killing it in run blocking and pass blocking, other games it’s one or the other and some games it’s neither. They’ve allowed the ninth most sacks and the tenth most quarterback hits this season. Rushing the ball they are in the middle of the pack with the yards per attempt. They’re not world beaters but they are playing well enough and not letting big mistakes happen during plays.
The Bucs have allowed the 12th least sacks and the 16th least QB hits so it’s not like they’re doing anything ground breaking either. They’re 27th in yards per attempt rushing the ball but some of that can be attributed to the backs as well. All in all, these are just two average offensive lines that, depending on the matchup, can thrive or look like turnstiles.
Defensive Line: Jets
Finally, the Jets defensive line is looking exactly like we hoped. Mo Wilkerson has had a resurgence these last couple of games while Leonard Williams finally recored his first (half) sack of the season. Kony Ealy has turned out to be one of the best moves GM Mike Maccagnan made this offseason as well. They’re finally getting pressure and stopping the run. It’s a shame that it’s taken nine weeks for that to happen but it looks like we could be in for a completely different second half of the season for the group.
On the other side, the ends of the Bucs are good even if the numbers don’t show it. Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers have a combined four sacks this season but are both serviceable guys. The Bucs still don’t have that great of a defensive line however. They invested on the interior guys but didn’t go out and get that all important pass rusher on the end. Those two guys are good but they’re not going to keep coaches up at night wondering how to stop them.
The last three weeks have been a renaissance for the Jets linebacker unit. Darron Lee is playing the best football of his career, Jordan Jenkins won AFC Defensive Player of the Week for the first time since David Harris in 2011 and Demario Davis is leading team dances while also becoming a team leader. They’ve looked faster on the field but they’ve also looked smarter. I want to see what they can do in a game where they’re supposed to win and the expectations are there.
Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and Kendell Beckwith are having serviceable seasons for the Bucs linebacker group. They’ve had to deal with a struggling defensive line and a secondary that’s one of the worst in the league. The issue with this team now is to get guys to care in what’s becoming a lost season. These guys are special players but in a game that means a lot more to the Jets than it does to the Bucs, we’ll see what kind of production and level of motivation we get from them.
Tampa Bays secondary is one of the worst in the league. Their first round Vernon Hargreaves can’t beat out third and fourth string corners for playing time and when he’s in the game there’s a good chance he’s getting beat. Brent Grimes, when he’s on the field, is a below average cornerback whose wife is more famous for her talking about her husband than he is for his play on the field. Look for the Jets to attack the Bucs early and often with downfield throws.
When they’re not dancing on teams, the Jets secondary is playing well enough to back up all of that dancing. They’re not giving the big plays and the tackling has also improved ten fold. They’re a confident group of guys who know they’re good and want the opponent to know too. Expect them to take some chances knowing that there’s little chance Ryan Fitzpatrick can beat them.
Special Teams: Jets
The Buccaneers have had more kickers this season than I’ve had girlfriends in my entire life. Chandler Catanzaro is Mr. Accuracy when he’s not playing in the middle of a monsoon. Neither teams return game is special.
When you have a talented roster like the Buccaneers do, if the team struggles the blame will most likely be placed on the head coach. That’s exactly what’s happening in Tampa Bay this season. Dirk Koetter is currently coaching for his job with a more talented roster while Todd Bowles is being praised as the second coming for being 4-5 with the talent that the Jets do. TB takes the coaching battle.
Photo courtesy of: nyjets.com