Meaningful games in December. Is there anything better? Currently the Jets sit at 7-5 and have a temporary hold on the number 6 seed in the AFC. The Titans come into East Rutherford fresh off of an emotional 42-39 win over the Jaguars, which marked the first time they had won a game at LP Field in over 420 days. If the Jets want to stay relevant in the AFC Wild Card race, it starts this Sunday when hosting Tennessee. Here are your story lines…..
The Mariota BowlThe last time the Jets and Titans met was actually in Week 15 of last year’s disastrous season. Gang Green (2-10 at the time) traveled to Nashville to face the Titans, in what was dubbed as the “Mariota Bowl”. Most of the cynical fans for both sides were rooting against their respective teams in order to land the number 1 pick to nab the Oregon Ducks signal caller to turn their franchise around. The game turned out to be one of the ugliest in recent memory, with the Jets squeaking out a 16-11 victory against Charlie Whitehurst and company.
The Titans did end up drafting Mariota with the #2 selection, while the Jets went a different route to address their Quarterback situation. As we now know, Mike Maccagnan and new HC Todd Bowles traded a 7th round pick to Houston for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, and drafted the record breaking righty QB of Baylor, Bryce Petty, in the 4th round. The Titans, now Mike Mularkey’s squad, have seen an up and down year from #8 but have enough to be optimistic. Meanwhile the Jets have been gifted with a career year from journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Of course, Fitzpatrick isn’t the long term answer, but it’s interesting to look back and see how much a Week 15 matchup between two awful teams can impact a team’s future.
Delanie Walker vs. Jets LB’s and Safeties
This Titans tight end has developed great chemistry with his rookie signal caller and is on pace for having a career year. He’s totaled 86 catches for 800 yards and 4 touchdowns thus far. Delanie Walker presents a mini match-up issue for the Jets, but Darrelle Revis and Marcus Williams are both returning. This means that the Jets can return to more man coverage, which they love, and put a combination of a LB/Safety to bracket Walker. With Erin Henderson and Lattimore seeing more and more playing time, expect one of those two to get physical with Walker on the line and play underneath his routes. Above Walker’s routes, we should see Marcus Gilchrist flying around. The Titans are most likely going to be without top WR Kendall Wright, making matching up with Walker a bit easier.Ryan Fitzpatrick Keeps Rolling?
Fitzmagic is on fire. Not only has he thrown for 677 yards and 6 touchdowns with zero turnovers the last two weeks, but he’s having a career year for Gang Green. Meanwhile the Titans, whose defensive has been middle of pack this year, are coming off a defensive melt down against Jacksonville last week. Blake Bortles carved their secondary up for over 300 yards and 5, yes 5 touchdowns. The Titans secondary had no answer for Allen Robinson, whose “game” just so happens to be very similar to Brandon Marshall’s, which obviously bodes well for the Jets. This is a defense that has one true stud on the defensive line in Jurrell Casey. If the Jets take care of him up front, which isn’t a guarantee seeing their struggles against JJ Watt just a few weeks ago, and Fitzpatrick should be comfortable in the pocket.
Though in recent weeks, Fitzpatrick has been brilliant in escaping the pocket collapses and making his own pockets. The ability of the Harvard QB to sense pressure and step up into the pocket and make big time throws has been noted, and was a main reason the Jets were victorious against the cross town rival Giants last week. The Titans may not have answers for Marshall and Decker, thus if Fitzpatrick can be protected, the bearded journeyman should keep on rolling.
Dorial Green-Beckham vs. Devin SmithIt may not be all that effective to compare two rookie WRs a short time into their careers. On the other hand, it’s extremely intriguing to take a look into how they were taken just three picks apart. The Jets have had trouble in recent history drafting WR’s. Just a few years prior to the 2015 draft, they selected a bust WR in Stephen Hill over Alshon Jeffrey, who was taken a few picks later. However, prior to the draft they addressed the position by trading for Brandon Marshall to pair with Eric Decker, but still needed a playmaker that could be trusted to run deep routes. That man was Devin Smith out of OSU, who was known throughout the nation for his ability to get behind his defenders and attack the ball.
Three picks later, the Titans continued their trend of stacking their offense by drafting large WR’s (Kenny Britt, Justin Hunter). They selected the enormous Dorial Green-Beckham from Missouri/Okalahoma (6’5, 237 lbs). DGB had first round, even top 15 talent, but his off field issues pushed his value back into the early second round. Both WR’s have had very inconsistent starts to their career, but both have finally started to make plays as of late. Will the Jets be kicking themselves in future years for taking Smith over Green-Beckham, or did the new management make the right move?