The NY Jets Can Play With Anyone – Bye Week Thoughts
The NY Jets can officially play with anyone. Many felt like the Jets matched up poorly with Philadelphia, even with Aaron Rodgers on the field. Most fans filed into MetLife Stadium just hoping the Jets wouldn’t be embarrassed. Chris Berman, former anchor for ESPN, used to say, “That’s why they play the games.” Sunday’s Eagle game was already written off as a loss in the minds of most people, me included. I was reviewing the remaining schedule, assuming the Jets would be 2-4 today. Sunday was more fun than I thought we would have for the entire season after Aaron Rodgers was hurt. Things change quite a bit from week to week in the NFL.
Sunday was all about the defense. The Jets couldn’t run the ball as much as they needed to win. They gained just 89 yards on the ground after steamrolling Denver for 234 yards. Breece Hall was held to just 39 yards. Zach Wilson threw for 186 yards. 186 yards is around where the Jets need to be to stay close. It’s not a winning number, but it was enough for the defense. The important thing was that Zach didn’t turn it over – he didn’t throw a pick, and he didn’t fumble it. Any game where Zach is a net zero on the day in turnovers is a day the Jets have a chance, but just a chance. The Jets won the game by allowing the Eagles just 14 points. Philadelphia came into the game, scoring over 32 points per contest. The Jets held the Eagles to less than half of their normal output. The Eagles put their 14th point on the board with 5:32 left in the second quarter, and they didn’t score anything more for the rest of the afternoon. The Jets turned the Eagles over four times. Philadelphia came into the game with only 5 turnovers all season. The Jets defense grounded one of the best and most balanced offenses in the league and won the game for the team.
Now the bye week is here, and the Jets are preparing for The Giants, Chargers, and Raiders. There is every reason to think the Jets could be 6-3 when they travel to Buffalo on November 19th. The game in Orchard Park marks the start of the most difficult two-week stretch remaining for New York. The Jets head to Buffalo on the 19th of November; then they have the Dolphins at MetLife on November 24th.
The Giants, Chargers, Raiders, Falcons, Texans, Commanders, Browns, and Patriots – those are eight of the remaining eleven games after the bye. Those are eight very winnable games. Even if we assume they play poorly against one of the teams mentioned above, and they lose both games to Miami and the game at the Bills, the Jets could finish with 11 wins. I probably should have told you to sit down before you read that last sentence. Did you think 11 wins was remotely possible after week one? Did you think the Jets would even win 5 games after that New England debacle? This scenario is more than realistic…if….
The Jets will not finish 11-6, nor will they contend for a playoff spot without their quarterback making positive plays. It isn’t going to be enough to simply avoid mistakes. The Jets upset the Eagles with 186 passing yards and 89 rushing yards. That paltry level of offensive will only work if the Jets are +3 or +4 in turnovers. It took four turnovers to shock Philadelphia and win the game late. It was a similar story in week one. The Jets were +3 in turnovers and beat the Bills in overtime with 117 total yards passing. The Jets can’t consistently ask the defense to turn the other team over three to four times per game so they can win a close game. It isn’t going to work over the long haul.
The early part of this Jet season is remindful of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens won the Super Bowl that year largely on the backs of what is arguably the best defense of all time; although the 1985 Bears have a strong case to be made for that honor. The 2000 Ravens allowed just 10.3 points per game that year and turned over their opponents 49 times in 16 games. Despite those defensive numbers, the Ravens didn’t win their division. Baltimore didn’t get anything from their offense for the early part of year. The Ravens failed to score a touchdown in five consecutive games during their championship season. The 2000 Ravens dropped three straight games in weeks 7-9, scoring only 15 points total during those three weeks. The Raven’s record stood at 5-5 after losing to Pittsburgh 9-6 in week nine. The Ravens then ripped off 7 straight wins to finish the season at 12-5. The team scored over 27 points per game during their last 7 regular season games. So, what changed? Their quarterback changed. The Ravens plugged backup Trent Dilfer in as the starter in place of the struggling Tony Banks. Dilfer was far from perfect, but he made plays and produced points.
I am not looking for the Jets to change quarterbacks. I am just looking for the quarterback to change. Zach will need to produce for the Jets to be successful over the remainder of the season. He can’t be satisfied with avoiding turnovers. The Jets will be able to run the ball against many of their remaining opponents, but they will not run it on all of them. Zach needs to make plays in those games. Trent Dilfer is not mentioned in conversations about great quarterbacks, but he is mentioned as a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Dilfer made his share of mistakes, but he made more winning plays – a lot more. Dilfer was not simply along for the ride when the Ravens defense won the Super Bowl. I am not ready to pronounce the 2023 Jet defense as equal to the 2000 Ravens or 1985 Bears, but they might be near that class by year’s end. It won’t matter if the Jets get nothing from their quarterback. The Ravens were 5-5 on their way to 8-8, even with a legendary defense. The Jets are 3-3 right now. I hope Zach is using this bye week to figure out where he wants to go from here. I hope somebody pops in a tape of the 2000 Ravens this week and plays it for the Jets.