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When I was a young lad, some drunk guy at Giants Stadium told me there would be days/weeks/years like this. The New York Jets are virtually locked into a losing season and all-but officially eliminated from contention in the 2014 NFL season. Fans are jumping ship and looking forward to the 2015 draft left and right. Many are hoping the team tanks in order to maximize the teams drafting position as well as the odds of second year general manager John Idzik Jr. getting fired at the close of the season.
If you're still reading game previews at 1-8, you're either a really big fan of the Jets, or you are a huge masochist. Either way, I'll try to be gentle.
Where Each Team Is
The Pittsburgh Steelers looked to have a down year at the outset of the season, but they have quietly been climbing back to the top of the AFC North division. The 6-3 Steelers losses have come at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In spite of losing to mediocre opponents earlier in the season, the Steelers have looked absolutely dominant in recent weeks, including revenge wins over their division rivals Browns and Ravens. They have won their last two games by at least three scores each.
The New York Jets are shaping up to be one of the worst teams in the 2014 NFL. Rex Ryan is almost certainly doomed after his fourth straight season of missing the playoffs. Even the second year GM is widely embattled and faces the potential of losing his job in a very difficult market. The team has lost 8 straight and is widely expected to lose another this week, although it is worth noting that the Jets schedule softens drastically after their bye week.
Steelers vs Jets coverage
Sister Site: Behind the Steel Curtain
Location: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ.
Field: Open air, artificial turf.
Coverage: CBS. Yay.
Weather: Partly sunny with a high of 55 degrees F.
Record: Steelers dominate the all-time series, 19-4.
What happened last time? The Steelers beat the Jets in a low scoring affair, 19-6 on October 13, 2013.
Who is favored? Steelers by 2.5 in the opening line.
|Smith, Geno||QB||Rt. Shoulder||FP||FP||-||-|
|Heyward, Cameron||DE||Not Injury Related||LP||FP||-||-|
|Keisel, Brett||DE||Not Injury Related||DNP||DNP||-||-|
|Miller, Heath||TE||Not Injury Related||DNP||FP||-||-|
|Mitchell, Mike||S||Not Injury Related||DNP||FP||-||-|
|Pouncey, Maurkice||C||Not Injury Related||DNP||FP||-||-|
Jets: On offense the Jets are 30th in points scored, 25th in overall yards on average, 32nd in passing yards and 3rd in rushing yards. The Jets are a great rushing team, but their scoring and passing offenses are so bad that they can't hang with any but the very worst of NFL teams.
On defense the Jets are 31st in points allowed, 6th in overall yards allowed, 12th in passing defense, and 7th in rushing defense. The Jets above-average defense might be surprising to even the dedicated fan, who has watched the team get beat week in and out. The fact that Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman can field an above average secondary with a bunch of UDFA scraped off the waiver wire and Kyle Wilson is a testament to their abilities even in a miserable year. Whether you wish Rex fired at the end of the year or not, he coached up a group of scrubs.
Steelers: On offense the Steelers are 7th in points scored, 3rd in overall yards, 4th in passing yards; and 12th in rushing yards. The Steelers are a potent offense that has been really clicking in recent weeks, and they look to give the Jets defense fits. The Steelers don't do anything badly on offense, and they are among the most productive teams in the NFL.
On defense the Steelers are a little more of a mixed bag, ranking 20th in points allowed, 14th in overall yards allowed; 20th against the pass, and 11th against the run. The Steelers are vulnerable in all aspects of defense and can be exploited. Underwhelming teams such as the Browns, Texans, and Buccaneers have had excellent production against the Steelers, who rely on the power of their offense to outpace opponents and win games.
AP Pro Ranking has the Jets falling to 30th overall, and the Steelers are ranked 7th.
Attacking the Steelers
Vick and friends are going to have to pass to win. The Steelers have an above average run defense, while their secondary has on average been lacking against opponents. Many games with the Steelers turn into offensive shootouts, regardless of their opponents. The Steelers will likely throw everything they have against the run in order to try and force the Jets to pass in order to win. An effective ground game will simply not be enough, as has been demonstrated several times already this year.
On defense it's hard to envision the Jets effectively attacking the Steelers. "Big" Ben is as or more effective when under pressure and on the run than while in the pocket. If the Jets sell out against the run, they will likely be ripped apart in the secondary. Heck, even if the Jets don't sell out against the run, they will likely be ripped apart in the secondary. Unless the Jets can force multiple turnovers, they are outmatched by their opponents on both sides of the ball.
Michael Vick. I know, it's cheap to fall back on a quarterback as your teams difference-maker. The Steelers have shown that even a bad team can score on them. Percy Harvin, Eric Decker, and Jeremy Kerley make up a passable wide receiver core, even if inconsistent in their performances. Amaro and Cumberland have demonstrated limited potential. The Jets consistently are a top rushing team no matter who in the RB committee they roll out. Even Chris Johnson is showing signs of life.
What will make the difference between one of the overall worst offenses in the NFL and a team that can hang with their opponents is a competent QB. There is enough talent on this team for a quarterback to utilize, especially when you consider how effective game managers like Kyle Orton and Alex Smith have been with lackluster teams this year. If Michael Vick can limit his turnovers and keep the Steelers honest with his legs, he might have a fighting chance to hang with the Steelers.
Steelers to Watch
Antonio Brown is absolutely owning the NFL this season. Brown already has 71 receptions for 996 yards and 8 touchdowns; plus a 100% completion percentage at QB and a touchdown pass. They've used him on runs and end arounds as well. Brown is one of the most dangerous players in the NFL and in fantasy leagues, he will almost certainly give the Jets fits on Sunday. The Steelers have six receivers with 100 or more receiving yards, so if the Jets double Brown or give safety help against him, the Steelers will likely find another mismatch to exploit.
Le'Veon Bell is another stud for the offense, being both extremely effective on the ground, and the teams second-best leading receiver. Bell will look to punish the Jets out of the backfield more massive gains when the Jets throw everything they have in the secondary at Antonio Brown and friends.
James Harrison and Cameron Heyward are the biggest threats to sack the Jets. Six different Steelers defenders have intercepted opponents. Mike Mitchell and Cortez Allen are the only Steelers with multiple turnovers on the year so far.
Bro's Bottom Line
The Jets are playing for nothing but pride and future contracts. It's unlikely that a resurgence could even save their coaches, and even their front office might be on the outs. Things are pretty bad, and the team is going to have their hands full trying to pull out a second win before their bye week.
While difficult, beating the Steelers is not quite impossible. There are mismatches and weaknesses for the Jets to exploit, even if some fans are hoping they finish the year as low as possible to increase the chances of adding top-tier prospects next offseason. Others will never be able to root against their team and want the Jets to finish on a high note. Wherever you may stand, just know that this season is (hopefully) rock bottom. Kudos to you for hanging tough through the highs and lows.
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