The New York Jets will be returning to California this Sunday with a purpose. They need to rebound from an embarrassing loss to the Denver Broncos, and lay the ground-work to control their destiny as the post-season approaches.
They will be taking on the revitalized San Francisco 49ers, led by interim head coach Mike Singletary.
The 2008 season hasn’t been very kind to New York when they travel out west, having been jettisoned back east with demoralizing losses to the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders.
However, this game comes against another NFC West team—a division the Jets have been very successful against.
New York has outscored their NFC West opponents, 103-38, in games against the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams.
With renewed vigor and a desire to prove that they are better than everything they’ve shown, playing the 49ers provides New York with a unique opportunity to get back on track in all facets of the game.
Time to Re-unleash the Pass Rush
The Jets’ Achilles’ heel all season has been defending the pass. It doesn’t matter who they’ve played against—they’re going to allow a ridiculous amount of yards through the air.
The quarterback could be one of the best in the league, a guy who hasn’t started since high school, or a career journeyman—he’s going to have a good day.
Shaun Hill has played very well since taking over the starting role, throwing eight touchdowns and three interceptions in four starts.
With no significant injuries, and a plethora of stars—past, present, and future—the Jets find themselves with the 30th-ranked pass defense in the league and something to prove.
At one point of the 2008 season, the Jets were second in the NFL when it came to recording sacks. In recent weeks, they’ve slipped in production and fell to fifth. Were the pass-rushing schemes figured out, or did the team lose some of their aggression?
Fortunately for New York, San Francisco ranks as one of the worst teams when it comes to protecting the quarterback, allowing opposing defenses to record 43 sacks so far this season.
It’s the exact match-up the Jets needed to rejuvenate their defensive spirits.
Quarterbacks can’t throw the ball for over 300 yards if they’re playing on their heels, right?
Fans might even see sixth-overall pick Vernon Gholston record his first sack.
Leave the Ball in Jones’ Hands
Head coach Eric Mangini took plenty of criticism after the Broncos game for some of his coaching decisions. One in particular was his choice to abandon Thomas Jones in the second-half.
Jones had over 100 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries against the Broncos in the first-half.
The Jets were playing from behind, but Jones’ ability to break off large gains shouldn’t have been abandoned in favor of the pass. Jones only received five more carried for about 30 yards as the Jets fell behind.
The 49ers are around the middle of the pack against the run, but Jones should still be very active against them.
When given 20 carries a game, the New York Jets have won the time of possession battle and have ultimately won the game.
The only instance to the contrary was against the Oakland Raiders, but Jets’ fans chalk that game up as an anomaly.
Fans understand how tempting it is to unleash the gunslinger in Brett Favre—it’s the reason he’s here.
But Thomas Jones proved that he can do more than kill the clock when he tried to keep the Jets competitive against Denver all by his lonesome.
The Playoff Picture
The Pittsburgh Steelers did the Jets a service when they brutally dispatched of the New England Patriots last week.
Unfortunately, New York missed out on an incredible opportunity to gain separation in their division when they fell to the Broncos.
The Jets still own the third spot in the playoff picture, but it’s now theirs to lose.
The Baltimore Ravens appear to be getting hot when it matters most, and could even threaten the Steelers for the division. And the Indianapolis Colts have the benefit of being blessed with a fairly easy schedule.
Within the division, New England has an opportunity to keep pace with the Jets when they take on the reeling Seattle Seahawks.
Jets’ fans should be hoping for the Buffalo Bills to play well enough to dispatch of the red-hot Miami Dolphins.
Not lingering far behind, Miami has the potential to win out for the remainder of the season and make the Week 17 game at the Meadowlands a lot more interesting. A loss to Buffalo—in Toronto—could make all of that a moot point.
Regardless of what the other teams are doing, the most important thing for New York is to win. Their loss to Denver came at the right time.
It was a reality check for the Jets, and could be the catalyst that forces them to play football the way their fans know they can.