Well it's only four games into the season, but the Jets have already found a way to lose in every fashion. They've lost a nail biter to the Bengals, a humiliating blowout to the Chiefs, and a deceptively close generic loss to the Seahawks. In addition to being 1-3, they've already lost crucial head to head games against the Bengals and Chiefs. The first quarter of the season has been disappointing to say the least.
Where We Are
The Jets haven't just lost games this season, they've lost badly. Each team the Jets have lost to this season has been ravaged by injuries and suspensions. Two of the losses have come at home, and the third was a road game after a Thursday Night Football matchup, meaning the Jets had extra time to prepare. Even with all the chips in their pile, they haven't been able to pull out a win against a quality opponent. If the Jets want to turn it around, it has to start this week. Time is running out.
Where They Are
The Steelers are in a good place. Apart from a humiliating blowout loss to the massive underdog Eagles, they've looked pretty dominant. In a prime time meeting with the Chiefs, a team that forced 8 turnovers while demolishing the Jets, the Steelers offense quickly turned the game into a laugher. Big Ben had as many TDs as incompletions, and the world was reminded why Le'Veon Bell's absence was a game changer. The Steelers have one of the NFL's most dangerous offenses and a surprisingly serviceable defense, making them one of the NFL's elite teams. They've also got a lot to play for with the Bengals and Ravens also competing for the top record in the division.
It's hard to pick a single player for this game. With Marshall hurting and Decker out, Enunwa makes sense. Practically every defensive player has a huge assignment attempting to contain Bell and Brown, with big questions concerning who can step up and cover Brown without Revis or Bell out of the backfield. Can the strength of the defense take advantage of a hurting Steelers OL and disrupt an offense that went from feeble to unstoppable in consecutive weeks? I'll take Enunwa, however, because the Jets are going to need to score a lot to keep up this week. With Fitz struggling and the receiving group banged up, Enunwa's impressive emergence must continue against a mediocre secondary. If Enunwa doesn't step up again this weekend, Jets fans could be facing another blowout.
The Steelers offense is just packed full of X-Factors. I have to give a shoutout to Antonio Brown, who somehow doesn't get the respect he deserves for his Jerry Rice-esque play over the last few years. He is so consistent and dominant that he is often the forgotten man, probably because analysts just love to talk measureables. But my X-Factor has to be Le'Veon Bell. You could argue that the Eagles defense is better than the Chiefs and you could argue about off weeks. Simple fact: the Steelers scored 40 more points when Bell came back. Forty. Bell is just so versatile that he creates matchup nightmares and with limited tape on him due to injuries and suspensions, he remains one of the hardest players to game plan against. With the Jets struggling to defend the pass and likely without Revis for the game, how can they afford to cover a true #1 receiver while also having to give help against Bell out of the backfield? Even if they drop 7+ in coverage repeatedly, is that even enough? And Bell/Williams aren't afraid to pound the rock if the box is never stacked. Bell is going to have a big game.
Keys To Victory
Offense: Score a lot of points.
Defense: Don't let AB get free deep. That goes double for deep threat Sammie Coates. Win with 3-4 DL and give your secondary and LBs help in coverage. Make the Steelers beat you on the ground.
The Bottom Line
I'm running out of optimism for the Jets. After 3 losses to 3 banged up teams, the Jets are now a bit banged up themselves going against one of the NFL's best teams that just got one the NFL's best RBs back. I have to assume the Jets get demolished this week. The only solace I can take as I write this is that my iPad wants to autocorrect Steelers to "Steelers suck" without any prompting from me. I don't expect to be hearing much of that this season, however, and I'm expecting the Jets lose by at least two scores this weekend.