The Landscape Has Changed For The New York Jets

TJ on how the lessons learned from the New York Jets three game losing streak have created a three game winning streak

The Jets, once 2-3 with no identity and a growing hole to climb out of, have suddenly gained a share of the AFC East lead. Owning a piece of the penthouse that will come as a surprise to detractors, who saw this club as one ready to implode after a brutal early road trip. It shouldn’t. A defense returning ten starters and an offense that has added key pieces, are simply beginning to gel. The Jets are NOT the same team that culminated a three game skid in Foxboro. Gang Green’s crucial Sunday night matchup with the Patriots comes at the right time. As all systems are go.

Hard lessons learned on the road

The Jets learned some hard, but key lessons during each stop of their long losing tour. One sent them reeling and threatened to ruin their season. In Oakland, the club realized their need to tighten the bolts on the edges thanks to the Oakland’s Darren McFadden. Otherwise running backs would roam free down sidelines all year long, like cars in the EZ Pass lane.

In Baltimore, the Jets realized that their chemistry was off. Derrick Mason was then sent packing. In Foxboro the Jets regained their footing on the ground but may have overemphasized the notion of the “Ground and Pound,” after a month of trying to force feed an air attack featuring a third year quarterback and new faces at wide receiver. Balance on offense was needed.

Turmoil subsides and a win streak begins

By the time the Jets returned home at 2-3 for a win or else matchup against hapless Miami, the club faced an uphill climb (the Pats and Bills were 4-1 at the time) back to the top of the standings. The big question at the time however, was not their play on the field, but the team’s unity off of it.

Former Jet hero Joe Namath had started it all back in week three by suggesting on 1050 ESPN that Rex Ryan’s “soft” overconfident approach led to an ambush in Oakland. A Daily News report that the wideouts were unhappy with Schotty then surfaced prior to the Baltimore loss. Suddenly a Jets club that had motivated itself with an “us against the world” mentality under Rex Ryan, appeared to have acquired a cancerous “us against each other” one. The soil was still fertile inside of Florham Park to the outside observer while the offensive line had struggled without Nick Mangold. A three time All Pro who was returning as the Jets headed for Foxboro.

All of those internal dramas however, were symbolically put to rest when Santonio Holmes and Brandon Moore ended their feud by coming out together as captains for the Monday night coin toss against the winless Dolphins. The move was a brilliant ploy by Ryan. What it showed the Jets and the entire nation was that THIS team would not be broken up by weekday quotes and any frustrations borne out of any October troubles. The offense again started slow again that night, but the defense began to ferment, albeit against backup Matt Moore. The result was a 24-6  win. A display that may not have proved the club as Super Bowl worthy, but went a long way towards building the club’s confidence back up again.

Offense and defense rise

Now at 3-3, a key matchup against 4-1 San Diego, helped set the stage for a cementing of the foundation on both sides of the ball. During the losing streak, the defense had been growing, even though the offense was still not in rhythm. Aaron Maybin was resigned in week four, adding speed and pass rushing to the equation. Kyle Wilson provided solid coverage in the nickel and Antonio Cromartie had begun to keep his hands to himself. All while Darrelle Revis was embarking upon what has been up until now, a career year.

The defense looked good against Baltimore. It was the turnovers that killed them THAT night. One week later, despite Ben Jarveus Green Ellis rushing for 136 yards in Foxboro, the defense put pressure on Tom Brady. Miami was dealt with properly as well, despite a long gain outside by Reggie Bush in the first quarter.

Trailing at the half 21-10 against the historically high powered Chargers (who have struggled as of late but were still viewed as a legit first place team at the time) who featured a hot Antonio Gates that day, the defense finally put it all together. They shut out Phillip Rivers, Gates and co. in the second half. This while featuring a spread out passing game and featuring Shonn Greene. Both working effectively in unison for the first time all season. Seventeen unanswered points. 27-21 Jets. A template was now in place for the offense now as well.

Bye week fear is put to rest

Then fears of a bye week layoff reared their ugly head. After all, Rex’s Jets were 0-2 after bye weeks, and looked bad doing it. Trailing both the 5-2 Bills and 5-2 Pats, the Jets flew up to Orchard Park, with a dodgy post bye history and a hot upstart Bills team in their way.

The Jets battled complacency and a fired up Bills home crowd on Sunday by coming out focused, fast, and aggressive. In all phases. Fred Jackson, the Bills go to star, was bottled up all afternoon. The Jet offense itself, was marching up and down the field in the first half. Often times they stopped themselves with too many mistakes, but the club’s ten minute drive on their first possession (resulting in a brutal interception by Mark Sanchez) provided a window into the future as to how the Jets could move the ball against Buffalo. Once they stopped aiming the gun at their own feet, the Jets offense, with the help of a Rex Ryan defense that is now starting to take over games, settled in and hit cruise control for a 27-11 win. Their third straight.

A Giants win moves the Jets into a first place tie

Hours later, QB Eli Manning gave Patriot fans Super Bowl nightmarish flashbacks with a dramatic come from behind win in the final minute. It was a Giants victory that was music to Jets fans ears as it dropped the Pats into the three way tie with the Bills and Jets at 5-3. The AFC East race is once again wide open. With the Jets having made up ground that one month ago, with so much working against them, seemed like a longshot.

New York Jets: Ready To Rise In Wide Open AFC?

Now is the time for the New York Jets to rise to the top of a wide open AFC

Oh, how a few weeks can change things in the NFL.

Remember a few weeks ago after the New England Patriots beat the New York Jets 29-21? It was crazy to think the Jets were even in the discussion of contending for a division title in the AFC East. They had no offensive line. They couldn’t run the football. The defense had fell off a cliff. They’d be lucky to reach .500 with two games still left against the mighty Buffalo Bills, the San Diego Chargers and still having to play New England again.

The three game losing streak had given the legions of New York Jets haters all the ammunition they needed. Everybody got ready to watch Rex Ryan and his over-hyped team go down in flames.

Unfortunately for them, the AFC East and the rest of the conference, it appears the Jets have rediscovered their defense and running game, which is their winning formula. They have smacked around two finesse teams in a row who were supposed to be serious contenders in their conference and now have a chance to send the New England Patriots into a three game losing streak.

The beauty of the Jets turnaround is that while they are getting better every week and thriving in their identity, the rest of the conference appears to be crumbling around them. The AFC West is a joke of mediocre of teams trying to out-lose each other to miss the playoffs. The AFC South has the Texans who are still a finesse team that I feel comfortable predicting will lose the home playoff game they host. Pittsburgh and Baltimore are who they always have been, but just a little more inconsistent than usual. Cincinnati? I’m not sold yet. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them go 0-4 against the Ravens and Steelers.

The AFC East? Buffalo is about ready for their swoon. The Jets just wrote the book on how to stop their gimmicky offense and their defense is soft. New England has an awful, I repeat an awful defense and immortal Tom Brady looked pretty damn average yesterday.

Now is the time for the New York Jets to put their foot on the throat of the Patriots and send them to 5-4 to begin the process of creating separation from them at the top of the division. Denver, Buffalo, Kansas City, and Washington are upcoming on the schedule, which is a golden opportunity for the Jets to rack up wins while the Patriots could start a mid-season tailspin.

Sunday is the night for the Jets to start their march not just to the top of the division but to the top of the conference. A home playoff game is the goal and it is looking more attainable than ever.

Grading Out Jets/Bills

TOJ grades out the New York Jets beatdown of the Buffalo Bills

Quarterbacks (B) – Mark Sanchez was a bonehead red-zone interception and a fumbled snap away from having a terrific game…unfortunately those type of plays count in a big way. Outside of those plays, he was accurate (20/28) and did a good job pressing the football down the field. The ball was also spread around well to his receivers and tight ends. I don’t think Sanchez is much of a threat as a blocker these days.

Running Backs (A-) – Shonn Greene was solid for the third straight game. He had a huge run wiped out by a holding penalty on Matthew Mulligan. LaDainian Tomlinson was good in a limited role and got into the end-zone. John Conner scored his first touchdown of the season.

Wide Receivers (A) – Plaxico Burress looks to be heating up just in time for the second half of the season. Santonio Holmes scored a touchdown and drew two huge pass interference penalties that set up other touchdowns. Jeremy Kerley is developing into a very good slot receiver.

Tight Ends (D) – The grade is low because of Matthew Mulligan’s penalties and Dustin Keller’s stupidity in trying to jump over defenders.

Offensive Line (A) – Completely physically dominated the Buffalo Bills. It is pretty amazing how far this line has come since the Baltimore game.

Defensive Line (A) – They played an excellent all-around game, despite not having Mike DeVito and Kenrick Ellis in the rotation. Kudos to Marcus Dixon, Ropati Pitoitua, and Martin Tevaseu for stepping up in the rotation. Muhammad Wilkerson also had one of his better games.

Linebackers (A) – Calvin Pace and David Harris both came up with interceptions and were a big part of slowing down Fred Jackson. Bart Scott had a big hit on 4th and 1 and overall had one of his best games of the season.

Secondary (A) – They completely smothered the Bills receivers all day, outside of Darrelle Revis getting beat on one play…no that wasn’t a typo. Antonio Cromartie has settled down and Kyle Wilson continues to have a very good year.

Special Teams (A) – Nick Folk made two long field goals. Joe McKnight ripped off a huge return. Brad Smith did absolutely nothing on returns thanks to the Jets kick coverage. Just another day at the office for Mike Westhoff’s unit.

Coaching (A) – Rex Ryan pushed all the right buttons and game up with a terrific game plan on defense. Also, how about some credit for Brian Schottenheimer who called maybe his best game of the season?

Instant Reaction: The Swag Is Back, Jets Dominate Buffalo

The swag is back for the New York Jets, who completely dominated the Buffalo Bills in their building today

The darling of the AFC East took a hard crack to the face today from the New York Jets, who flexed their defensive muscle in a way we haven’t seen since last year. Buffalo’s offense was thoroughly dominated by Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine’s unit. Ryan Fitzpatrick looked helpless against the Jets secondary and with the pass rush constantly in his face, as he threw two interceptions and never made a big play. The performance was that much more impressive considering both Mike DeVito and Kenrick Ellis were inactive on the defensive line. It was the best performance of the year from the front seven and the secondary was terrific as usual.

On the other side of the football, the first half was maddening. The Jets moved the ball up and down the field but Mark Sanchez threw a killer end-zone interception and botched a snap. Fortunately, he rallied and actually put together one of his best games of the year finishing 20/28, with 230 yards, and 1 touchdown. Plaxico Burress caught all 5 of his targets for 79 yards, Santonio Holmes pulled in a touchdown, and Dustin Keller had 64 yards receiving. Shonn Greene had a solid 76 yards on 19 carries and LaDainian Tomlinson and John Conner both got in the end-zone.

What did we learn today? We learned the Jets are still capable of having an elite defense and that they can still physically dominate teams, especially finesse ones like Buffalo. Anybody who wrote off the Jets as AFC East contenders were crazy. New England is coming to the Meadowlands this week where the Jets will have a chance to take control of the division and extend their winning streak to 4.

The Ground and Pound is back…and yes the swag is back.

TOJ Roundtable Week 9 – Jets/Bills Predictions

The TOJ writing staff submits their picks for the Jets week 9 showdown against the Buffalo Bills

Joe Caporoso: Check the 12 Pack

TJ Rosenthal: Jets Win If – They stop Fred Jackson. The Bills offense can be contained in the air for two reasons. First, their WR combo of Stevie Johnson and David Nelson won’t stand a chance to Darrelle Revis should the Jets choose to lock either one of them up. The Bills TE Scott Chandler has 6 TD’s but has been targeted just 18 times all season. The Jets get exposed when TE’s force safeties up in coverage. By shutting down the passing game the Jets can attend to Jackson who has been rushing for 5.5 yards per carry (132-721 yds).

We expect a balance on offense for the Jets with Shonn Greene being effective. The Bills defense has allowed 4.9 yards per carry to opposing backs and Greene is coming off his best three games of the season (62-269 yds 4.3 avg). Look for Holmes to breakout or contribute greatly this week in a winning scenario. The media spotlight on his “happiness” will only add motivation.

The Jets Lose If: They can’t stop Jackson and Mark Sanchez throws too many interceptions. His 5 INT game against the Bills as a rookie is a mere coincidence for this concept. Our point is, if Sanchez even manages this game, then Greene can burn down some clock so  the Bills can’t put up their 30 point average. However, if Fred Jackson helps open up the Bills offense for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick by keeping Rex honest and backed off of the line of scrimmage, then a poor decision making game by the Jets QB could be enough for Buffalo to tip the scales. Even in a game played by both teams scoring in the low 20’s. Containing Jackson, while protecting the ball on their own half of the field is the way to get out of Buffalo alive. Even WITH the understanding that attacking downfield must be mixed in by Schotty at times.

Chris Celletti: If the Jets have proved anything under Rex Ryan, it is that they play their best when their backs are against the wall. I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic when I say that their season rests on what they do Sunday in Buffalo. A loss is potentially crippling with the Patriots coming to town in Week 10. The Jets simply have to win this game, and I think they respond. It will hinge a lot on the Jets’ offense, an offense that simply has to put up points to beat the Bills. Buffalo has been very good on offense all year, with Fred Jackson being one of the best backs in football, and the Jets’ run defense having been suspect. On the other hand, Buffalo’s defense is statistically one of the worst in football.

I expect the Jets to give a healthy dose of Shonn Greene to try and control the clock and keep Ryan Fitzpatrick on the sideline (who would have ever thought that would be the strategy against the Bills?) In the end, I think the Jets make just enough plays on both sides of the ball, perhaps forcing a few key turnovers as the defense steps up in the second half. The Jets set up a showdown with the Patriots as they knock off Buffalo, 26-20.

Rob Celletti: Following the Jets in the Rex Ryan era, there have been a lot of stories written about the dangers of a team that “believes its own hype” and its eventual downfall.  Strangely, this week could potentially flip the script.  Yes, the Jets got some of their swagger back before last week’s bye, but is there a sexier team than the Buffalo Bills in 2011?  Media and casual fans are enamored, and the team’s confidence couldn’t be higher.  Well, that all comes crashing down to earth this week for the Western New Yorkers.

There will apparently be a “white out” at Ralph Wilson Stadium, with the home fans matching the home team’s all-white get-up.  But the Jets have not only played in, but thrived in more hostile atmospheres.  I expect the road warrior Jets of 2009 and 2010 to show up big for this game.  Buffalo is 4-0 in home games (including last week’s Toronto game), the Jets are 0-3 on the road.  As Michael Kay would say, “Do you believe in ‘due’?”

Do not forget that the Jets have embarrassed this Bills over the past few seasons with a relentless rushing attack, and I expect Shonn Greene to rack up another 100+ yard performance and punctuate it with a score or two.  Joe McKnight will be dangerous as well.  Santonio Holmes is also going to reel in a touchdown and post close to 100 receiving yards.  The Jets’ defense will shut down Ryan Fitzpatrick’s receivers, and they’ll pick off the Harvard man once or twice and turn it into points the other way.

The Bills have been a good football team, and I don’t mean to disparage them, but they’ve benefited from some pretty fortunate bounces (see the multiple interception games by Mike Vick and Tom Brady, for example).  I just have a feeling that their luck runs out this week, just as the Jets start to get rolling.

The game will seem close, but Mark Sanchez will throw a late touchdown to Dustin Keller to put this game on ice.  Jets 31, Bills 20.

Media Trends: New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills

It has been an interesting week of media coverage leading up to the New York Jets/Buffalo Bills week 9 match-up. Let’s take a look at what has been trending…

1. The Fallacy Of Santonio Holmes Unhappiness – Has everybody forgotten this rumor started with this BS article from Pro Football Talk? Read the article, there is no source…just a complete assumption that since Holmes didn’t have a big game against San Diego that he was unhappy. Everybody has ran with this story and questioned him on it, like this was an event that actually occurred. Take all PFT stories with a grain of salt considering their history and ongoing anti-Jets bias.

2. #BillsMafia – There is a group on Twitter that has risen out of Buffalo’s recent success talking tough to the Jets and their fans this week and preparing for a whiteout where they will be handing out pom-poms to all their fans…no really. When it comes to the Bills Mafia and there obvious jokes about feet and Rex Ryan, along with the Jets being from Jersey, we take them about as serious as everybody took Fredo in the Godfather.

3. Other Quick Hits

  • Expect to see some Joe McKnight at receiver this week. He was working with them throughout the week.
  • Keep an eye on TJ Conley, as Mike Westhoff was clear in his press conference that he is less than thrilled with him.
  • Have you seen a major media outlet pick the Jets to win this week? I haven’t.

New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills: Game Breakdown

TOJ breaks down the New York Jets week 9 match-up against the Buffalo Bills

Offense: I don’t think it is any secret that the New York Jets need to run the football this Sunday. They haven’t cracked 40 carries in a single game yet, but with Shonn Greene’s recent emergence and talk of Joe McKnight receiving more opportunities this week, now could be the time. Buffalo struggles to stop the run and has only had success on defense when they have forced turnovers. This is the perfect week to run right at them, have Mark Sanchez work off his play action and bootlegs, and control the time of possession. Remember the Jets game-plan back when they beat Cincinnati in the wild-card round? Brian Schottenheimer should dust off that tape.

Santonio Holmes is due for a big game and if he could find single coverage off play action, he should be able to make plays down the field. Also keep an eye on Dustin Keller, who did have two touchdowns against in Buffalo last year.

Mark Sanchez needs to protect the football and know when to pick his spots. With the recent improvement in the offensive line’s pass protection, he should have time in the pocket but this isn’t the type of game where he should try to do too much. Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Joe McKnight need to lead the charge. It would be nice to see Brian Schottenheimer finally dust off a screen pass or two to his backs as well.

Defense: A nice challenge for a unit this showed signs of improvement last week. Expect the Jets base defense to have Kyle Wilson and Brodney Pool out there to match-up with Buffalo’s spread attack. The key to slowing down Buffalo is slowing down Fred Jackson.  If the Jets can keep him under 100 yards, I would expect a victory. Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown his share of interceptions this year and if the Jets can get after him (see Aaron Maybin), they should be able to force him into mistakes.

Keep in mind Buffalo’s passing attack is built on timing and quick releases. The Jets have the corners in Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Kyle Wilson to play a physical man to man press with should disrupt the timing of Buffalo’s plays. Stevie Johnson isn’t doing anything on Revis and there is no reason Cromartie shouldn’t be able to handle David Nelson. The safeties and corners all need to have a hand in slowing down Fred Jackson as a receiver out of the backfield.

Special Teams: Two excellent units facing off against each other here, as it will be exciting to watch Joe McKnight and Brad Smith duel on returns. Nick Folk has been perfect this season at kicker, which is surprising and scary as you feel he is due for a big miss.

New York Jets Defense: Can They Rise To The Occasion?

TOJ wonders if the New York Jets defense has the personnel to slow down Buffalo’s high powered offense

The Buffalo Bills have surprised this season led by a high powered offense. Running back Fred Jackson is playing as well as any back in the league and possesses the type of game breaking ability on the edges that has given the New York Jets defense fits this year. Ryan Fitzpatrick quarterbacks a spread attack that is built around his quick release and timing.

In terms of Buffalo’s passing attack, the Jets are built to stop them. They have the corners to match-up with their receivers, who have the ability to be physical enough with them to disrupt their timing and push them around the field. Aaron Maybin is going to lead a charged up pass rush that should have the ability to get after Fitzpatrick.

It is going to come down to stopping Jackson both as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield, if the Jets defense wants to have a respectable showing on Sunday. There still remains a chance Mike DeVito won’t play this weekend, which means the pressure will be on Muhammad Wilkerson and the rotation of Marcus Dixon and Ropati Pitoitua at end to set the edge, along with Calvin Pace at outside linebacker.

When it comes to covering Jackson out of the backfield, that is on the safeties and extra corners. I would expect the Jets to spend most of this game with 5 or 6 defensive backs on the field. Kyle Wilson and Brodney Pool should play the bulk of the game and need to help in run support, along with disrupting the short passing game.

The Jets defense played their best half of the season against San Diego. They now need to build on it against a better offense.

New York Jets Ground and Pound Should Lead Way Against Bills

The New York Jets rushing attack needs to carry them to a victory against Buffalo

Over the past few years, the New York Jets have destroyed the Buffalo Bills with their rushing attack. Even though Buffalo is improved in 2011, it doesn’t mean they haven’t struggled stopping the running game. The Bills have allowed at least 100 yards rushing in every game this season up until last week, where they were facing the pathetic Washington Redskins. Overall, they don’t have a strong defense but have been able to thrive off turnovers and creating points from them. Their high powered offense is truly what has led the way to the Bills early success.

Enter the Jets, who have been improving their running game and have a quarterback, who despite improving is still prone to a few erratic interceptions here or there. It shouldn’t take a genius to compose the blueprint for a victory this Sunday: run the football and don’t turn the football over, by limiting the number of pass attempts. The ground it out game-plan, will keep Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson off the field, where they can’t rack up another 30 point performance.

This is the type of game where Shonn Greene’s 20-25 carries needs to be supported by another 12-15 from the LaDainian Tomlinson/Joe McKnight combination. The Jets should be relentless with their rushing attack, as they have the talent on the offensive line and at running back to dominate the Bills front seven. Mark Sanchez can take his shots, but they should be few and far between and built to take advantage of Buffalo overreacting to the Jets commitment to the run by stuffing the box. If the Jets offense is running the way they should, you can bet Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller will be able to get wide open down the field off play action.

There appears to be some swag returning to the Ground portion of the Jets “Ground and Pound,” which is good timing because the cold weather is here and the formula for this team’s success is built around confidence, running the football, and smashmouth defense.

Bye Week Leaves New York Jets Primed For Second Half Run

The table is set for the New York Jets to make a big second half run

After all of the hysterics and theatrics of the New York Jets three game losing streak, here is their current situation after 8 weeks of football.

  • Buffalo: 5-2
  • New England: 5-2
  • Jets: 4-3

One game behind both the Patriots and Bills, with two games left against Buffalo and one left against New England, in complete control of their own destiny after an extra week to get healthy and prepared.

Rex Ryan has already talked about the Jets making “their run.” The schedule breaks favorably for them after these two games. There is no reason they shouldn’t win 5 of their next 6 and be 9-4 heading into their final three games. Of course, it is easy to say those kind of things on paper. However, at a minimum the Jets must find a way to split these next two. If they happen to take both, they would assert themselves as the best team in the division.

Can they build off their second half against San Diego, which was their best of the season? A power running game, an improving Mark Sanchez and a defense thriving in Rex Ryan’s creativity is a tough formula to beat. Buffalo has been the darling of the AFC early this season, with everybody enjoying their surprising success. The Jets should be keyed up to smack them in face and remind everybody who should be taken most seriously as a contender in the AFC East.

Other Notes