If the season ended at this exact moment, the New York Jets would be in the playoffs. Unfortunately, there are more games to play. The Jets (7-5) will look to win three straight when they host the Tennessee Titans (3-9) Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. and the game will be broadcasted locally on CBS.
What a thrilling time to be a Jets fan! They just came back in dramatic fashion to beat their big brother, there’s no quarterback controversy, the wide receivers are great and the defense is getting healthy again.
The Titans stand in the way of the Jets getting that much closer to a playoff spot. Let’s take a look at the matchup:
Getting to know the Titans
Tennessee is 3-9, but they’re a pesky 3-9 capable of huge offensive outbursts one week and duds the next. The Titans have lost five games by less than a touchdown this season. That’s the life of a team led by a rookie quarterback.
Marcus Mariota, drafted second overall in last year’s NFL draft, is having a pretty good rookie campaign. He’s completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,512 yards with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He’s also the team’s second leading rusher with 249 yards. That total was helped by an 87 yard touchdown run last week against Jacksonville.
The legs are something you have to account for. Tennessee will run some read option and have designed rollouts to play to Mariota’s strengths. The Jets defensive front will have to be very disciplined to not give Mariota a chance to break off long runs with his legs.
Mariota has been good, but there’s a reason the Titans have three wins. This is a bottom-5 roster in the NFL. There are not a lot of talented players on it. Antonio Andrews is the team’s leading rusher. Tight end Delaine Walker (67 receptions, 800 yards, four touchdowns). No one has more than 40 receptions or 400 yards receiving besides Walker.
One name to keep an eye on: Dorial Green-Beckham. The rookie wide receiver would have been a top draft pick if not for some character concerns. Tennessee grabbed him in the second round. Green-Beckham had his best game as a pro last week, going for five receptions, 119 yards and a touchdown. The athletic Green-Beckham can be a problem for a lot of corners.
Tennessee ranks eighth in total defense. They’re better against the pass than the run, but still rank in the top half of the NFL against both. Brian orakpo and Jurrell Casey are two names to know. They lead the team in sacks with seven and six, respectively. Safety Michael Griffin is a hard-hitting safety who is second on the team in tackles.
Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau told his defense that if Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambles but doesn’t slide, his defense is going to “knock the hell out of him.”
Tough words for a defense that gave up 39 points to the Jaguars.
Fitzpatrick does need to protect himself a little better, but I doubt those words will stop him from using his legs to extend plays, especially in crucial moments. The veteran is playing the best football of his life right now, and his legs are a reason why. He doesn’t even get to throw a game tying touchdown last week to Brandon Marshall if he doesn’t scramble for ten on 4th & 6.
The Jets did a very good job in the secondary without Darrelle Revis and Marcus Williams. Outside of a big play from Odell Beckham Jr., you can’t ask for a much better performance. Now, Revis (concussion) is listed as probable. With no true #1 receiver, Revis can be used in a variety of ways.
The Jets have struggled with guarding tight ends since the beginning of time. Demario Davis and David Harris are not the answer to that. With Walker being such a big receiving threat, expect to see a lot more of Erin Henderson and Jamari Lattimore in on passing situations.
Special teams struggles
The Jets gave up a punt return for a touchdown last week, marking that the fourth special teams touchdown allowed on the season. That’s a deplorable number for what was considered the best unit in the league for a number of years under Mike Westhoff.
Bobby April is the Jets special teams coach now. April has been in the league for over 20 years, twice winning special teams coach of the year. It’s not like he forgot how to coach. However, maybe it’s time to shake up the roster and roles of the guys on kickoff and punt coverage.Jeff Cumberland missed a key tackle in the punt return. Not to rip on Cumberland, but what’s a slow, blocking tight end like Cumberland doing out there to begin with?
The Jets are at home against a three win team in December. They’re fighting for a playoff spot. There are no excuses. Beat the Titans, and get another step closer to the big goal. Tennessee is a tough team, but they’re not spectacular in any regard; they don’t force turnovers, hit the quarterback, have a lot of big play potential, are young and playing on the road.
Take care of business and get to 8-5.