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State of the Jets- A Midseason Report

By: Conor Reilly

First order of business, a very Happy Veteran's Day to everyone. Our thanks to the men in service is limitless and will never waver.

Well, we are pretty much at the midway point of the NFL season. The Jets have a convenient bye week...right smack in the middle. It's a great time to examine what we have seen and what we will see the rest of the way. First, a pure recap of the season to date:

Week 1 @ Houston
Week 2 vs. New England
Week 3 vs. Tennessee
Week 7 @ Oakland

Week 4 @ New Orleans
Week 5 @ Miami
Week 6 vs. Buffalo
Week 8 vs. Miami

There it is. 4-4, middle of the road. The wins (Oakland aside) are impressive, but the losses overshadow them greatly. The team that beat New England should never lose to the Bills or both Dolphins games. One perhaps to Miami, but not both. So at first glance, fans would love to see that record at 6-2 instead of 4-4.

But you are what your record says you are. And here's how they stacked up through eight games.

All the talk going into the season was about quarterback Mark Sanchez. Could he be the next Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco and actually make the playoffs? Or would he go down the road most rookie QB's take--struggle at first and learn the ropes. After looking like option #1 the first three weeks, he has fallen back to earth very, very quickly. Two losses are squarely on his right shoulder (Saints, Bills.) That means he's on pace to lose 4 games on his own which, actually, sounds about right for a rookie. Sanchez may have taken a step back from his first few weeks, but there are not very many people saying the Jets made a mistake in the draft.

At running back, the season took a drastic, gloomy turn when Leon Washington broke his leg. With him gone for the year, rookie Shonn Greene has been thrust into a meaningful role quicker than anyone thought. He has looked promising thusfar. But the team's offensive MVP so far has been Thomas Jones. Everyone predicted a big drop from last year's numbers, but Jones is in the NFL's top 10 for rushing yards and top 5 for rushing touchdowns. Fullback Tony Richardson has been invaluable is the blocking scheme. And with the offensive line is picking it up after a slow start, and the running attack looks to be in a great spot going forward.

In the receiver spot, Jerricho Cotchery looked phenomenal early in the season, trying to dismiss the rumors the Jets needed a true #1 wideout. He then got banged up and, well, the Jets acquired who they hope to be their true #1 receiver. Braylon Edwards came over from Cleveland and has looked sharp thusfar. Jets fans hope that once Cotchery is 100% healthy, Sanchez will have two quality recieivers on the outside, along with tight end Dustin Keller down the middle. Keller has done well when Sanchez finds him open, but most fans agree that he hasn't been found nearly enough. Other pass catchers Brad Smith and David Clowney have been used very sparingly.

It seems like there are hundreds of different ways to evaluate a team's defense. For what it's worth, the Jets have the second best D in terms of yards against, giving up 1 more yard per game than the first-ranked Giants. Keep in mind, however, that the Jets and Giants combined have just a 9-8 record. So we must take defensive yardage statistics with a grain of salt.

The 'points against' stats are far more fascinating. The Jets are 4th in the NFL with a tremendous 16.8 points against per game. Every other team in the top 7 of this category (Colts, Pats, Broncos, Bengals, Steelers, Cowboys) have a record of 6-2 or better. Except for the 4-4 Jets. The reasons? The kid quarterback and a game lost solely due to the special teams unit we will discuss soon.

All things considered, the defense has more than held up their end of the bargain. The one road contest against Miami is the only game in which they played 'poorly.' Against Buffalo they weren't great, but were good enough. Besides that, Rex Ryan has installed a unit that keeps the Jets in every game they play. You can't ask for much more than that from a defense. But a huge drawback hit the unit when Kris Jenkins tore his knee up. He's the real engine of the defense and to call him irreplaceable is an understatement. The stars of the unit (Revis, Rhodes, Harris, Scott) have to pick up their play even more to try to contain this devastating loss.

Special Teams
Certainly an unheralded aspect of football, but the Jets got a bigtime eye-opener of how important it is. Miami's Ted Ginn brought back 2 kick returns against the Jets that were the difference in the game. It's an absolute nightmare to lose a game with special teams being a primary reason. If the Jets had beaten the Dolphins at home, they would be right in the thick of the playoff race. Instead, they are a middle of the road team that is ensured a bad divisional record. Special teams coach Mike Westhoff is too good to have this unit lose another game on its own, but sometimes just one game can be the difference between the playoffs and the golf course.

Leon Washington's injury hurts special teams along with the offense. Neon Leon has made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner, and his presence will be missed. Hoping to capture some magic of the past, Gang Green brought back Justin Miller to return kicks. Though it was a short-lived era, Miller's knack for a big return did wonders for the Jets back in the day. They hope he can find it again.

As far as the legs, Jay Feely has missed a couple of field goals lately, but he can be trusted. He's in the NFL's top 10 in both kicks made and kick percentage. The Jets knew they wouldn't have a good punter this season, and Steve Weatherford really hasn't boomed too many memorable ones. He's kept things entertaining with some successful fakes, though.

So there's a brief look at how the Jets have gotten to where they are. Here's what they face the rest of the way:

Vs. Jacksonville (4-4)
@ New England (6-2)
Vs. Carolina (3-5)
@ Buffalo (3-5)
@ Tampa Bay (1-7)
Vs. Atlanta (5-3)
@ Indianapolis (8-0)
Vs. Cincinnati (6-2)

Overall, it's probably not the scariest remaining schedule in the NFL. But boy is it loaded near the end. Simply put, the matchups against Jacksonville, Carolina, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay are games the Jets MUST HAVE. It's a roll of the dice in the other four games, including the Jets probably being significant underdogs against the Colts and Patriots. But if they take care of business against the weaker teams, it gives them sole leeway against the big boys.

Let's look specifically at the very-near future. The Jets tail New England by 2 games in the division. But the Patriots play the undefeated Colts this Sunday. If the Jets can beat the Jaguars and the Colts defeat the Pats, the lead shrinks to one game. Wouldn't you know it, the Patriots host Gang Green the very next week. So if things bounce the right way, the Jets have with a chance to come out of New England tied for first place. After the sometimes-glorious, sometimes-miserable 4-4 start, you couldn't ask for much more.


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