Jets Have Good Start In Tough Stretch
By Neil Cohen
Now that’s how you start the toughest stretch of the season.
The Jets showed a primetime audience their potential when Nick Folk’s last-second kick pulled out a 30-28 win over the Falcons in Atlanta on Monday Night Football, improving their record to 3-2.
They had dominated the Falcons on both sides of the ball early before going to a softer defense that let Atlanta take a short-lived lead. But it’s still more wins than most experts had predicted by this point.
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith showed the poise of a veteran, leading the Jets on the drive to set up Folk’s winner. After a penalty- and turnover-ridden loss to Tennessee, the offense held on to the ball with no miscues against Atlanta. They also had fewer than double-digit penalties for the first time in three games.
If this is a harbinger of things to come, the Jets picked the right time to grow up.
Atlanta, despite its record, was the first of five possibly tough games the Jets face until their bye in Week 10. The next game is Sunday against Pittsburgh, then the rematch with the Patriots, both at home, travel to Cincinnati then come home to face New Orleans.
Before the season, Ryan was quoted on the Jets’ website saying about this stretch: “That is tough. Really, you don’t schedule wins in the National Football League, unfortunately. But that particular stretch with four playoff teams [including Pittsburgh] obviously is going to be tough."
With one game down, let’s see how things measure up against the rest of their opponents.
Steelers (0-4): It’s been a rough season for this proud franchise, which lost key players in its season opener and recently acquired Levi Brown to shore up its offensive line during its bye week. The Steelers have averaged just 3.2 yards per rush and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 15 times. Muhammed Wilkerson and his cohorts could have fun. The Steelers’ defense has just four sacks and has yet to pick off a pass this season. Smith, if he continues to be as smart with the ball as he was against Atlanta, might have another good game. What the Steelers have going for them is history, having won 18 of the 22 meetings between the teams.
Patriots (4-1): The Jets are lucky they don’t play the Patriots this week. Coach Bill Belichick dislikes them enough already that facing the Pats after a tough 13-6 loss to Cincinnati would be a difficult task. The Jets had their chances in a 13-10 Week 2 loss, where Smith had all three of his interceptions in the fourth quarter. New England’s defense has been inconsistent, but the Jets might have a better chance the second time around. Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory were able to run in the first game. The addition of Mike Goodson should help, especially with nose tackle Vince Wilfolk out for the season. Coach Rex Ryan has been able to contain Tom Brady, who will be getting tight end Rob Gronkowski back this week. The Jets’ defense always struggles with tough tight ends. The first time Julian Edelman had plenty of catches but was never able to break loose. Home field might be an advantage.
Bengals (3-2): Cincinnati has historically struggled against the Jets, who have won six of the last seven meetings, the last coming in 2010. And the Bengals had an awful 17-6 loss against Cleveland before halting Brady and New England last week, 13-6, ending the quarterback’s streak of 52 games with a touchdown pass. If Mike Zimmer’s defense can do that against Brady, it could give Smith a tough time. The offense is middle of the road, ranking 18th in passing and 19th rushing, but Andy Dalton can be a dangerous quarterback. A road win could be too much to ask for.
Saints (5-0): Oh boy. The best hope for the Jets might be that the Saints clinched the NFC South already. The return of coach Sean Payton has seen the offense clicking, ranking second in the league with 326.8 passing yards per game. Drew Brees has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes. The running game hasn’t been as good, but it hasn’t needed to be. The defense, run by Ryan’s twin, Rob, has not allowed more than 18 points in a game this season.
Not the easiest stretch of games. But reaching the bye with a decent record could give the Jets confidence the rest of the way.