The Jets have failed to score a touchdown in their last two games. In fact, they have failed to score a touchdown in each of their four losses this year.
Still, they field one of the top defensive fronts in the NFL, and do an excellent job of defending the run. Unfortunately, they are hurting badly at the safety position, especially with recent injuries to James Ihedigbo and Eric Smith. CB Dwight Lowery will make the transition to safety, and will likely be the starting SS on Sunday. So what's left for the rest of the season?
Pittsburgh Steelers (Dec. 19, 2010)
My Projected Line: Steelers -7.5
Actual Line: Steelers -6
The Skinny: The Steelers and DC Dick LeBeau's defense field, hands-down, the best defensive front in the NFL. It's safe to say NO ONE has run on this team this season. Maybe that's why they rank No. 1 in NFL against the rush, giving up only 60 yards per game.
As a result, teams have abandoned the run early against them, which is why they also rank No.1 in opponent's rushing attempts per game. Teams are only running 20.5 times/game against them on average, and have realized the only way to beat them is to attack their secondary. In their three losses, they've given up 350, 288 and 250 passing yards in those games.
Their weakness, like the Jets, lies in their offense. They have a good running back in Mendenhall, but no depth behind him and a suspect offensive line to boot. QB Ben Roethlisberger is great at extending the play, but their receiving corps is thin and only has one vertical threat in Mike Wallace.
Against the Jets... I think Pitt will be able to stymie our running game which has really struggled of late in the second half of the season. As a result, the pressure will be put back on QB Mark Sanchez. The Jets say they want to go to back to a simple "run, run, pass" gameplan, but is this the week to do so? No one runs on Pitt, and the way to beat them is through the air.
The good thing about the Steelers is they don't throw to their tight ends or WR3/WR4 much. Because of their weakness at safety, these are positions the Jets have struggled defending against this season.
The offensive line has struggled of late, and allowed Sanchez to be sacked six times last week. Expect Pitt to bring a lot of pressure on Sunday. Sanchez will have the make smart decisions with the football and limit his turnovers, or this game could get ugly. As stated, this game will be won or lost with his play. If the Jets cannot establish a running game early, he will have to re-gain his poise, and beat the Steelers with his arm, looking to WR Santonio Holmes often who will be motivated to beat his former team.
Chicago Bears (Dec. 26, 2010)
My Projected Line: Bears -4.5
The Skinny: With OC Mike Martz calling the plays this year and personally working with QB Jay Cutler in the offseason, analysts had projected them to rack up yards with ease. That hasn't been the case, though, as they actually rank No. 30 in NFL in total yards per game at 291.5 ypg.
They've been doing it with defense. They rank No. 2 against the run (87.9 yards per game) and are giving up 1 yard per game less than Jets are.
Against the Jets... Jets must get stronger play from the nickel back and safety positions, as Bears will look to spread the field and stretch Jets defense out with Cutler out of the shotgun. Everyone on this team is a threat in the passing game, including RB Matt Forte who loves to catch passes out of the backfield or running a wheel route.
Jets have been hurt this season by all-purpose running backs that have good burst in the open field to counter their blitz. The Bears LOVE to set up screens for Forte out of the backfield and Jets must make sure when they bring pressure that they leave a safety or LB underneath to spy on him.
On offense, I see a lot of the same keys as the Pittsburgh game. Bears are excellent against the run, and the Jets will need to use their passing game to attack Chicago. This game, also, will be on the shoulders of QB Mark Sanchez.
Buffalo Bills (Jan. 2, 2010)
My Projected Line: Jets -6.5
The Skinny: The Bills are not the same team the Jets decimated in week four. They've found balance on offense, utilizing WR Steve Johnson as a big-play, vertical threat to keep defenses a bit more honest. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has seen his handcuffs removed, and is not scared to throw the ball down the field and attack opposing secondaries. He certainly has a bit of "gunslinger" in him.
Against the Jets... The Jets have rushed for 664 yards in the last three games against the Bills, averaging over 220 yards per game on the ground against them! Bills still rank dead-last against the run giving up 165 yards per game, and I think the Gang Green will still be able to ground-and-pound the Bills to death as they have in the past.
When the Jets can run the football, control the clock and allow their defense to rest, they fare very well. I think the Bills and Fitzpatrick will still be able to rack up a fair amount of passing yards against us, but turnovers and their inability to stop the run will equate to a Jets victory. Don't expect a blowout like earlier in the season, though.