The Jets are off to a hot start and the bandwagon is now running local, picking up as many fans as possible. I haven't seen this kind of Jets pride since the start of the 2010 season and I have to admit, it's hard not to get carried away. It took more than half a season for the Jets to win this many games last year. Not only have the Jets won both of their first two games, they did so in commanding fashion. In recent years, even when the Jets had big wins, it always seemed like they barely managed to sneak by unscathed. The Jets seemed to be the same team in the first half of week 1, but over the last 6 quarters, the Jets have completely outplayed their opponents.
Where We Are
Sitting at 2-0, the Jets are tied with the Patriots in a tough AFC East division that has only 1 loss outside of the division (way to bring us down, Miami.) With the Patriots going up against an unimpressive Jaguars team, the Jets will likely need another win to keep pace. This means that the Jets are going to have to hope they can shake the injury bug, with some of their top players (Revis, Decker, Ivory, Cromartie) all banged up coming into just the third game of the season. The Jets have been clicking on all cylinders and losing stars could really set the Jets back right now. Or so you would think. For the first time in ages, the Jets also have depth at most positions. If Cromartie is hurting, Marcus Williams can fill in better than the average backup. If Decker needs a week to heal, Kerley is easily one of the most accomplished backups in the league (regardless of how the coaching staff feels.) For the first time, the Jets seem to have depth on both sides of the ball and starters who can win games. It's shown up on the field, with even the more skeptical pundits lifting the Jets into the top 10-15 in their power rankings after a bottom 10 start. I was skeptical that my fandom made me biased when the season started: Now, not so much. The Jets are for real, folks.
Where They Are
Oh, how quickly you can fall from grace. Universally praised as the next offensive genius after two stellar years in Philadelphia, Chip Kelly was given total control over his personnel. He imported Sam Bradford, Kiko Alonso, DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell, Trent Cole, and Ryan Matthews. He exported Nick Foles, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, and Brandon Boykin. How's it been working out? Sam Bradford has been terrible, Kiko Alonso is done for the year again, DeMarco Murray is leading the league in regrets, Byron Maxwell has been just slightly more effective than a tackling dummy in coverage, and the others haven't made a big impact. The Eagles sit at 0-2, but that doesn't even tell the whole story. The Eagles were embarrassed at home by a Cowboys team without essentially all of their star players, setting records for offensive futility. Competing in a division with two weak 1-2 teams and a Brandon Weeden/Terrance Williams-led Cowboys team, the Eagles are far from out of contention at 0-2. But they need a win badly. In the NFL, a 0-3 start is essentially a death sentence. Chip Kelly and Sam Bradford can't afford another loss. Bradford took a chance on himself by not signing a contract extension and things are not going well for him. Chip Kelly took a chance by taking over personnel management for the team and things are not going well for him. This is a must win for the Iggles.
Jets Thursday Practice
Stephen Bowen (FP), James Carpenter (LP), Willie Colon (FP), Antonio Cromartie (FP), Eric Decker (DNP), Breno Giacomini (FP), Chris Ivory (DNP), Jaiquawn Jarrett (FP), Lorzeno Mauldin (LP), Chris Owusu (DNP), Trevor Reilly (DNP), Darrelle Revis (LP), Devin Smith (FP), Geno Smith (FP), Darrin Walls (DNP)
Eagles Thursday Practice
Kiko Alonso (DNP), Taylor Hart (DNP), Mychal Kendricks (DNP), Cedric Thornton (DNP), Demarco Murray (DNP), Ajirotutu Seyi (FP), Trey Burton (FP), Fletcher Cox (FP), Chris Maragos (LP)
This is not an easy game to pick an X-Factor for the Jets. While individual matchups could be scarce, there should be a lot of positional battles to watch: How will the Jets cover Darren Sproles? Who steps up against Fletcher Cox on the OL? Where does the pass rush come from? For a single player, however, the Jets' X-Factor has to be Brandon Marshall. With Decker and Ivory as game time decisions, two of the three best offensive weapons could be out against the Eagles. With Kerley in the doghouse and Owusu sidelined for weeks after surgery, the offense could be in serious trouble. Meanwhile, Marshall has been a revelation for the Jets. While many worried that Marshall could be in decline, he is clearly the best receiver the Jets have had in ages. He has made incredible, game-changing plays in each of the first two games while averaging over 80 yards and a touchdown per game. He'll be going up against one of the weakest corner groups in the NFL, including the beleaguered corner Byron Maxwell. If Marshall can hold his own against Joe Haden and tear up Vontae Davis, Marshall should be able to go off against a weak Eagles secondary. And if he does, the Jets should expect a 3-0 start.
The X-Factor for the Eagles is, and will continue to be, the same player each week: Sam Bradford. The Eagles really went out on a limb trading for Bradford. He hasn't shown anything in years, he has a huge price tag, and it cost the Eagles their starting QB and multiple draft picks. So far, Bradford has rewarded the Eagles with a mediocre outing in Atlanta and an absolutely abysmal home opener which was actually hard to watch. To Bradford's credit, the offensive line has been horrid and their star running back is averaging just under 6 yards...per game. Chip Kelly's offense revolves around the running game, but if Bradford keeps playing this way, the Eagles are not getting anywhere close to .500 this year. Bradford needs to step it up if he wants a new contract and the Eagles need to him to step it up if they want to win this week.
The Bottom Line
For the second straight week, the Jets will be lining up against a winless team that had high expectations. Last week, I gave the edge to the Colts because of Andrew Luck. I was wrong. This week, I'll go against my better instincts and trust the Jets. The Jets are flying high (budumbum cha!) at 2-0, having bullied their opponents on both sides of the ball. On the other side, the Eagles looked worse than a division III high school team without cleats last week. It's the kind of game that looks like a slam dunk for the Jets. As an adamant Jets fan, this is obviously very disconcerting for me because any time I feel confident that the Jets can win, calamity ensues. It's impossible to ignore the signs, though. The Jets are a 2-0 team that haven't just won; they've won big. The Eagles are an 0-2 team that haven't just lost; they've lost bad. The Jets have the better matchups. The Jets have all the momentum. The Jets are playing at home. Under Rex Ryan, this wouldn't even be a close game; the Jets would lose by halftime. With Todd Bowles at the helm, I'm actually allowing myself to feel confident for once. The Jets are going to win this one and win big.