Welcome to Trends to Track, a weekly look at some of the developing trends shown by the upcoming opponent and/or the Jets. Here we foolishly go where smarter people fear to tread and try to establish some trends which might influence the outcome of this week's game. This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list, or even necessarily the most important trends and matchups to focus on. Rather, it is a highly idiosyncratic look at trends which caught my eye this week and might prove interesting in this week's game. Please feel free to supplement this article with any trends you've noticed. Now, let's get to it.
The Jets are going on the road to Minnesota this week, the first in a season ending stretch that includes three road games in the last four games of 2014. This does not bode well for the Jets. The Jets have not won a road game this year. Three of their five road games thus far have been lost by two touchdowns or more. Two have been lost by more than four touchdowns. This is what bad teams do on the road, but this issue is not limited to the 2014 train wreck Jets. Since going to the AFC Championship game in 2010, the Jets have put together a disastrous 7-22 record on the road. In that time they have not beaten a single team on the road that finished the season with a winning record. The Jets have been simply an awful road team for the last four years running. This does not bode well for the season ending road heavy stretch.
We Like Big Backs And We Cannot Lie
Big backs have gashed the Vikings this year. Minnesota has given up more than 80 yards rushing to a running back six times this year. They have given up 100 or more yards to a back four times this year. Every one of those performances have been by backs weighing 220 pounds or more. Look for a heavy dose of Chris Ivory in this game, as he is the only Jets back that matches the profile.
Two Peas In A Pod
In many ways the Vikings are the Jets' mirror image. The Jets are ranked 29th in the NFL in offensive yards per game, the Vikings are 30th. The Jets are 32nd in passing yards, the Vikings are 30th. The Jets are 32nd in passing touchdowns, the Vikings are 31st. The Jets are 32nd in passer rating, the Vikings are 30th. The Jets are 31st in passing yards per attempt, the Vikings are 30th. The Jets are 30th in sacks allowed, the Vikings are 28th. These are two sad sack offenses we're talking about. Neither team can get out of its own way on offense. Sunday's game may well come down to which offense manages to screw up less.
At A Loss With Turnovers
The Vikings protect the ball on offense much better than the Jets do. The Jets rank a surprisingly decent 21st in the NFL in offensive turnovers with 20, as their turn to a much more conservative game plan has paid dividends in dramatically decreasing turnovers lately. The Vikings rank eighth in the NFL with only 14 turnovers. However, in an interesting quirk, the Vikings have proven singularly incapable of recovering from turnovers. The Vikings have turned the ball over in only six of their first 12 games. They have lost every single game in which they have turned the ball over even once. In the six games the Vikings have played turnover free ball, they have a 5-1 record. Unfortunately, the Jets may not be able to take advantage of this, as they are the worst team in the NFL at generating turnovers on defense, with just eight on the year. In seven of the Jets 12 games they have failed to generate a single turnover, and in only one game have the Jets generated multiple turnovers on defense. In addition, even in games where the Jets have generated a turnover they have a record of just 1-4, with only the Steelers game, the Jets' lone game with multiple turnovers on defense, registering a win. So the Vikings lose when they turn the ball over even once, but the Jets don't generate turnovers on defense, and when they do it's only once, and when that happens the Jets lose. Something's gotta give here. Let's hope it's the Vikings.
130 Yards Or Bust
The Vikings have given up 130 yards or more on the ground in five of their 12 games, including their last three straight. In those games the Vikings have a 1-4 record. In games the Vikings give up less than 130 yards on the ground they are 4-3. The Jets have rushed for 130 yards or more in eight of 12 contests, including five of their last six games. Expect to see another extremely run heavy game plan on Sunday for the Jets. Forty or more rushing attempts seems likely, and it would not be surprising to see less than 20 passing attempts for the third time in the last four games. If the running game is working and the Jets are winning it is not out of the question to see last week's low mark of 13 passes surpassed.
As you might expect in a game between two not very good teams, the trends here might favor either team. Both teams are really, really bad on offense. Both feature young struggling quarterbacks. Both would prefer to ground and pound to victory if they can. The Vikings don't turn the ball over much, but when they do, they lose. The Jets don't generate many turnovers, and even when they do, they still lose. The Vikings can't stop the run, and the Jets run the ball well and often. This game looks like it could go either way. However, the deciding factor may well be location. The Jets simply don't win on the road, and they have been terrible away from New Jersey for a very long time. In what is one of the worst NFL matchups of the year, between two teams that field league worst or close to it offenses across multiple statistical categories, this one may well boil down to a one possession, low scoring game. The Jets don't win on the road, and they don't pull out games in the fourth quarter (zero fourth quarter comebacks and zero game winning drives all year). This one certainly could end with a Jets victory, but I wouldn't bet on it.