After six weeks of bad football, I feel it’s my duty as a New York Jets fan to grasp at any silver lining I can dig up or invent. After all, no one else will.
My fellow fans are thoroughly disgusted with Geno Smith, with Rex Ryan, with the receiving corps, with the secondary – as well they should be. The Jets beat the hapless Oakland Raiders in week one and have lost five straight since. But they haven’t played like the worst team in football this year. It’s not an all-around bad team, it’s a team with some fantastic strengths and some horrendous weaknesses.
Those weaknesses don’t need further exposition. Anyone can see the Jets have no talent in their defensive secondary, that the receivers and tight ends are dropping a lot of passes, that the quarterback throwing to those receivers and tight ends is also having some trouble this year, to say the very least.
The strengths? The defense as a whole hasn’t been nearly as awful as everyone expected. They’ve only allowed 92 rushing yards per game and they’re tied for the league lead with 19 sacks. On offense, prior to their insipid performance against Denver, the running game was sixth-best in the league with 139.2 yards per game and seventh-best with 4.8 yards per carry. Chris Ivory alone was averaging 5.4 yards a touch through five weeks.
And though most of the Jets’ games have been losses, most of them have been close, too. Outside of their 31-0 blowout loss in San Diego last week, the Jets have had an average point differential of -6.2. They’re losing most of their games by about a touchdown, and today’s loss to Denver would have been by just seven points, too, had Aqib Talib not brought his fourth-quarter interception to the house.
But the greatest advantage the Jets can account for won’t be tallied on a stat sheet. The team has not only been close and competitive in most of their five losses – they’ve been close and competitive with the toughest teams on their schedule. The NFC North’s three strong offenses are out of the way now, as well as San Diego and Denver. Two matchups with the New England Patriots still lie ahead, but so do four other division games – against the Kyle Orton-led Buffalo Bills and beatable Miami Dolphins. So do Minnesota, Tennessee, an up-and-down Kansas City Chiefs team and a very up-and-down Pittsburgh Steelers squad.
It’s a short week for my team, as they travel to face a revitalized Tom Brady in Foxboro on Thursday Night Football. It’ll be a challenge, but with an easier schedule lying ahead of them, the Jets have to turn their season around right away. Because no matter how many nice-looking stats I throw at you, we all know there’s only one number that matters in the end – the win column.