Posted by: mdegeorge | November 17, 2010

Tuesday Morning Diagnosis: Don’t book the Jet to Dallas yet

The Week 10 storylines are plentiful. There was the shift in power atop the AFC thanks to New England’s manhandling of Pittsburgh, the light-out knockout by the Cowboys in New Jersey, and the sham defense that made the Washington Redskins look more like the Washington Generals on Monday night.

But perhaps the most important lesson to take from this weekend’s slate of games is yet another stumbling by the New York Jets, who needed overtime for the second straight week to dispatch a supposedly inferior opponent, the Browns 26-20.

The Jets have been the recipient of plenty of Super Bowl talk, most of it the product of their AFC-co-best 7-2 record, tying them with Atlanta and New England for the best record in the NFL.

Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril (L) strips the ball from New York Jets starting quarterback Mark Sanchez (R) during the first half of their NFL football game in Detroit, Michigan November 7, 2010. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

None of those three has established themselves as far and away the team to beat. The Falcons, despite their impressive victory over the Ravens Thursday night, have hardly been world-beaters, winning their last three outings by an average margin of six points. The Patriots demolition of the Steelers comes on the heels of a rather embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Browns.

But the Jets have looked the most likely of the Cinderella stories to transform back into a pumpkin at any moment. They’ve come off their bye week in less than convincing fashion. First, there was the 9-0 shutout by the Packers in the Meadowlands. Then, they needed overtime to escape the Lions (the Lions!!!) in Detroit, 23-20. And last week’s narrow elusion of the Browns.

This should be a major concern for Fireman Fred and his wig-wearing coach, especially the fact that it comes after their by week. New England won three straight after their bye; Atlanta two on the trot the last two weeks. The nearest NFC Super Bowl contender, the Eagles, has blistered our of their bye with two straight impressive wins, while the Jets’ stadium-mates creamed Seattle after their bye.

By contract, the Jets have limped out of their bye and failed to play their particular brand of football.

In the last three games, the Jets have been averaging 133.7 yards per game on the ground, down from their season average of 150.7. The decreased reliance on Shonn Greene and Ladanian Tomlinson has increased the burden on Mark Sanchez, and the USC grad hasn’t delivered.

He has aired it out 121 times over the last three weeks, an alarming number for anyone with the skill set of a game-managing quarterback like Sanchez. He’s accumulated 891 yards over that span, but at a woeful completion percentage of 53.7 and a negative touchdown-to-interception ration (3 to 4). It’s one of the many reasons why they Jets rank 29th in the league in passing efficiency.

They’ve also shown a lack of character at key moments. The Jets have been flagged 27 times the last three games for an average of 75 yards a game. A championship caliber team—especially one ostensibly driven by a loud-mouthed defensive unit—doesn’t let a middling team led by a rookie quarterback drive 10 plays and 59 yards in 1:58 to tie a game and send it to overtime as the Jets did Colt McCoy and the Browns on Sunday.

The Mark Sanchez charade may get a pass this week when Houston comes to town toting the league’s worst pass defense at over 300 yards allowed per game. But this team has something to prove down the stretch with a Monday night trip to New England and road games against Pittsburgh and Chicago still on the docket.

Right now, the Jets still register as pretenders. They’ll have to come up with something special soon if that’s going to change.


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