The NY Jets defense this year has been surprisingly good. This isn't unknown to Jets fans. But what may surprise some is just how good some statistics say it's been.
The overall numbers are familiar to most of us. Number 7 in passing yards per game. Number 6 in rushing yards per game. Number 3 in total yards per game. That all sounds really good, right? Better than most of us expected, albeit with only a small 3 game sample size. But wait, there's more. Hidden in the numbers are some very interesting details suggesting a much greater level of dominance.
If I asked you which NFL defense leads the league in rushing first downs allowed, who would you guess? I'd probably guess Denver, given that they lead the league in rushing defense by a wide margin. And you know what? I'd be wrong. The NFL defense leading the league in rushing first downs allowed is the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets. The Jets have allowed the miniscule total of 7 rushing first downs in 3 games.
If I asked you which NFL defense leads the league in passing first downs allowed, who would you guess? I'd probably guess Seattle, given their ferocious secondary and their league leading pass defense. And you know what? I'd be wrong. The NFL defense leading the league in passing first downs allowed is the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets. The Jets have allowed only 23 passing first downs in 3 games.
You read that right. The Jets lead the NFL in rushing first downs allowed AND in passing first downs allowed! This is a picture of utter dominance.
Let's add a little more detail to the picture. In three games the Jets have allowed all of 30 first downs from scrimmage (i.e., not by penalty). That's a ridiculously low average of 10 per game. The next best number in the NFL? The Houston Texans, with 37. Next comes the Seattle Seahawks, with 41. No other team in the NFL has allowed less than 44. So the Jets don't give up much yardage, and when they do, it does far less damage in terms of moving the chains than any other NFL team.
That's pretty freakin' awesome, right? Wait. There's more. The Jets right now are tied for third in the NFL with 12 sacks. It's obviously early, but can anyone even remember the last time the Jets ranked as high as third in the NFL in sacks? I can't.
Let's look a little more closely at the passing numbers. The Jets allow opponents to complete 47% of their passes. That's the best number in the NFL, and it isn't close. The Patriots are next best at 51%. San Francisco and Seattle sit at 53%. And no other team is better than 55%. League average is somewhere around 62%.
In yards allowed per pass attempt the Jets defense averages 5.10 yards. Kansas City leads the league with 4.91 yards per attempt. Seattle is next at 4.94. Third is the Jets at 5.10. Next is New England at 5.38. No other NFL team averages less than 5.69.
In yards per rushing attempt the Jets defense averages 3.2 yards per carry, good for third in the NFL, behind Denver's absurdly low 2.3 and the surprising Browns at 2.8.
Putting it all together, the Jets allow on average a microscopic 4.35 yards per play. That number is - you guessed it - the best in the NFL. The vaunted Seahawks' defense is next at 4.53, followed by the Patriots at 4.85. No other NFL team is under 5.10.
So the Jets have allowed the fewest passing first downs in the NFL. They have allowed the fewest rushing first downs in the NFL. They have allowed the fewest yards per play in the NFL. And they have allowed the lowest completion percentage in the NFL. What does that look like to you? To me it looks like the best defense in the NFL through 3 games, and it isn't all that close.
Now of course, there are the usual provisos, disclaimers, etc. The sample size is way too small. Opponents matter - facing the Bills and the Bucs is not in any way equivalent to facing the Saints and the Broncos. But still, the numbers are what they are. And they are phenomenal. Through three games, the Jets' defense has been absolutely dominant. It has arguably been the best defense in the NFL. And the only reason it doesn't currently rank that way is because of some very sloppy play on both sides of the ball. Giant gobs of penalties have kept opponents' drives going when they should have been stopped. Buckets of turnovers have given opponents extra possessions. It remains to be seen if those issues can be overcome. But if they are, watch out. This defense is fierce, and can hold its own against any unit in football. Don't be surprised if Rex's prized defensive unit returns by the end of the year to what he believes is its rightful place in the NFL: number 1, and feared.