Ever the optimist, I believe I have found reasons to believe in the Jets this weekend against the Titans. Stay with me here for a minute, see if you can follow my (arguably delusional) reasoning.
First, and perhaps foremost, you're never as good as you look when you're winning in the NFL, and conversely, never as bad as you look when you lose. So let's look on the bright side for a minute, shall we? That spells D-E-F-E-N-S-E. Defense. As in J E T S JETS JETS JETS are tenth in the league overall total defense. Top ten. And the interesting thing is in years past the D hung its hat on stopping the run; this year's version? Better, much better statistically against the pass then against the run. In other words, the young backfield, starting two rookies and a second year corner in Bryce Hall is playing exceptionally well. Injuries at safety would normally have been a death knell against A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. But both Titans starters are out this week. Out. Tannehill is still Tannehill and he's having an excellent year. It will remain to be seen if he can find lesser talented, and relatively unfamiliar receivers when the Titans decide to pass.
I like my young secondary. Which wont have to carry as much weight if the d line can continue to not just generate pressure, but get to Tannehill and get him on the ground. Conventional rush quality and push at the front four has been very good so far this year, the Jets deep defensive line has been using its size and athleticism to consistently get into the opposition's offensive backfield. I dont think Tennessee's passing game will be much of a problem unless and until they move it on the ground. Which they almost certainly will with a massive, mobile and talented offensive line that paves the way for the league's leading rusher, Derrick Henry. 6' 3" 240. Big, strong, and 4.45. Fast. He's definitely a problem. Undersized outside linebackers running away from the ball carrier wont simply not work. It'll end this game before it even gets started. Moseley is gonna be ready, but Sherwood, Nasrildeen, and Williams have to commit to hats on the ball and wrapping up. No pussy footing around the ball carrier. Get to him hard, get to him fast and get him down before he hits second gear at the second level. Jets must establish the line of scrimmage with physical play, win third downs--and close those cutback lanes with team pursuit and tackling. Will they do it? I think the first ten minutes will tell. Strap in and watch this game from the beginning at one o clock. Because win, lose, or draw, its gonna be physical.
When the Jets have the ball, Mims, and Crowder, much less Davis wont, or shouldnt be the issue as much as the Carter/Johnson/Coleman running back by committee, at least not early in the game.. Tennessee has good athletes on d, but they havent been performing very well or very productively this year. Their best edge, Bud DuPree is out with a knee. His replacement outside would appear, at face value, to be pedestrian at best. Nicked up rush or not, the key to this game is again going to be running the football. The Titans three four is vulnerable at the nose, susceptible to both straight ahead/off tackle and lead draw in the zone blocking left and right. If we cant move them up front, not much reason to believe we can keep them off zack if he keeps getting forced into passing the ball on third and long. I say run it early and often. Get first downs and into rhythm, be patient. If they stop us, then punt, reluctantly, and play d. And keep fighting and playing situational football without falling far, or too far behind. Eventually, good things will come.
Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I went back and watched last week's Denver tape. Know what I found? The first half really wasnt that bad. Yeah the offense was putrid, but a lot of that had to do with jittery throws off pressure, hits and sacks will do that to a young quarterback. And although there were several, egregious errors and missed assignments up front, the o line was playing pretty hard and physical, moving its feet and putting serious effort into getting into the right spots. Ok, so the wheels fell off and halftime adjustments were non existent. But the Jets went into halftime in that game only down ten points. With the d holding up, the offense was at least making an effort to move in the right direction to try to get something done. Receivers were, to be fair, dropping the ball all day long. The two picks came late. The one off Berrios's hands you could argue should have been intended for Mims....
Never as bad as you look. Titans come in from Tennessee a seven point favorite, if Jones and Brown had been active, it may have been eight and a half or nine. Im not a betting man and I dont play one on tv, but if there's one thing I've learned in watching years of NFL football, its beware the underdog at home. Again, and even with Henry, against whom the Jets can risk extra help in the box because of the stiff back ups the Titans are trotting outside Sunday, I think our d can keep us in this game. The main issue is again going to be, not Zack, or even the o line, but La Fleur and his play calling. Will the offensive coordinator be patient enough to establish the run and take what the defense gives him? Or will he keep trying to break out all at once, with Wilson's arm and athleticism looking down the field for shots early on in the game which may not be there? Can we win this game with Saleh and La Fleur leading the way? Head says no way. But the heart is hopeful. And thinks the d can get a turnover or two. And that the offense can find a way to get the ball in the end zone twice, and add a couple few field goals. Say 24 points.
As in Jets 24, Titans 20. That's my story and Im sticking to it....