It's starting to feel like the Jets play the Titans every year. This will actually be the 4th consecutive year in which the Jets play the Titans. The Titans have been pretty awful during that span, compiling a record of 18-43. Somehow, the Jets managed to lose 2 of the 3 matchups in that time frame. The Jets won last year's meeting, but it was a hollow victory between 2 teams in the race for a top 5 draft pick. This year, the Jets are in the thick of the playoff hunt while the Titans are angling for another top 5 pick. Still, the Jets can't overlook the Titans.
Where We Are
Jets fans are riding high after a big win against their intercity rivals. Overcoming a 10 point deficit, the Jets kept themselves in the playoff hunt with an overtime win against a desperate Giants team. While most may think that the Jets are now in control of their fate, it's actually not that simple. While the Jets are currently in the 6th spot, they would lose their spot to Pittsburgh if both teams manage to win out. With so many teams in the playoff hunt, the Jets desperately need to win games like this one. The Titans are not a good team. This is a game the Jets have to win.
Where They Are
The Titans are a team in transition. The coach was fired midway through the season and frankly, there isn't a lot of talent on the roster. The offense basically sits on the shoulders of a rookie and tight end Delanie Walker. The offensive line is a mess. The wide receivers and running backs are a mix of no names and disappointments. The passing defense is tied for second to last in yards per passing attempt (8.2) and the team is tied for 21st in points allowed per game. For the most part, the defense is average to poor in all the other major categories. This is a team with a bad offense and a mediocre defense. To compound matters, the defense's success is based less on the talent (with only a handful of studs like Jurrell Casey) and more on a resurgence of an all time great, Dick LeBeau. Fortunately for the Titans, their young quarterback looks like he has serious potential and there are some intriguing young players on the team. The Titans are not a good team this year and I doubt that they'll be a good team next year, but there are some building blocks in place for the long term future.
|Fitzpatrick, Ryan||QB||Left Thumb||FP||FP||FP||probable|
My X-Factor for the Jets this week is Lorenzo Mauldin. Not many predicted Mauldin would have the pure pass rushing skills to make it as an OLB without improving his coverage. Despite being a rookie third round pick, Mauldin has quickly made his presence felt. Though he was slowed down by an extremely frightening concussion early in the season, Mauldin has shown a lot as a rookie. With three sacks and a forced fumble in limited duty, Mauldin has compiled reasonable numbers for his snaps. His production goes beyond the numbers, however, as he is often easily noticeable on the field (not just because of his hair) for the pressure he puts on the quarterback. The Jets can't afford to let Mariota get out of the pocket. Just look what happened to the Jags last week. Mauldin will have to keep pressure on the quarterback to disrupt the passing game while making sure he lose contain, springing Mariota for the long gains that kill a defense.
Mariota is an obvious choice here, so I'm going with someone who doesn't get the attention he deserves instead. Jurrell Casey is an absolute monster. Unfortunately, he suffers from Muhammad Wilkerson disease. It is an unpleasant disease in which you turn invisible because the team that you're on is a yearly disappointment. Like Wilkerson, Casey is a 300 pound athletic freak who dominates offensive linemen. Like Wilkerson, he has never received a Pro Bowl nod and has exactly one Second Team All Pro to his name. The two players are essentially mirror images on paper, in fact. Not a lot of people know about Casey, which is a shame because when you watch Titans games, he absolutely leaps off the tape. This guy is an elite game-wrecker. A few weeks ago, the Jets tried to block J.J. Watt one on one with Quincy Enunwa. Then they left Breno Giacomini on Watt for the majority of the game. If the Jets try these tactics on Casey, the results will likely be similar. Disastrous.
Keys To Victory
Offense: Throw the ball. The Titans are giving up an average of over 8 yards per pass attempt. There is no one impressive in the secondary and Blake Bortles' Jaguars just put up almost 40 points against this team. Let Fitzy cut it loose.
Defense: Just stop Mariota. Don't let him out of the pocket and try to get consistent pressure. He's having an excellent rookie campaign, but he has no one to throw the ball to outside of Delanie Walker. Oh yeah, also stop Delanie Walker.
The Bottom Line
This is a game that the Jets should win. I can't remember how many times I've said that before a crushing loss, but it really isn't a game in which the Jets have an excuse for losing. The Titans are arguably the worst team in the NFL right now. The Jets are the 6th seed at 7-5 right now. This should be an easy win and it's probably the only game left on the season that allows me to feel confident picking the Jets to win. I don't care about the score, but the Jets have to win games like these if they want to make the playoffs.