What to make of the Jets’ first six games? The Jekyll-and-Hyde Jets arrive in Foxborough at 3-3, just like the rest of the AFC East. On paper, the Jets look to have beaten up on bad teams and struggled against quality opponents. New York lost back-to-back home games against the 49ers (34-0) and Texans (23-17), but scored a decisive 35-9 victory against the Colts.
They have Rex Ryan’s customary swagger and a similar-looking offense to years past, but the pass defense has been surprisingly stingy even after losing its best player. Here are three areas to watch for on Sunday:
1. Are Jets OK without Revis?: Ryan’s preferred pressure schemes put a lot of responsibility on cornerbacks to shut down receivers in man-to-man coverage, and few players in the league (if any) did that as well as All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. So when Revis went down in Week 3 against Miami with a season-ending knee injury, few expected the unit to actually become more effective in coverage when using extra pass rushers. Last Sunday, the Jets defense held Andrew Luck to 5-of-13 passing for 85 yards and an interception when using at least five pass rushers. Quarterbacks completed 72.7 percent of passes against at least five rushers when the Jets had Revis, as compared to 42.1 percent since his knee injury. Is the defense better without Revis? Of course not. The Jets are still allowing 7.0 yards per pass attempt with Revis off the field as compared to 5.4 yards per attempt with Revis playing this season. They have picked their spots to pressure more effectively though, and the early returns without Revis will not dissuade Ryan from creative pressure.
2. Sanchez’s woes: Mark Sanchez is still the starter at quarterback for the Jets, which at this point should be music to the ears of Patriots fans. Sanchez has missed (over or underthrown) on 26.6 percent of his total attempts, the highest percentage of any qualified quarterback. He is the only qualified quarterback in the league with a sub-50.0 completion percentage, and his shortcomings are magnified on shorter throws. Sanchez’s completion percentage 5 yards or less downfield is 47.6 percent. The next-closest mark belongs to Josh Freeman with a 58.6 completion percentage. Need more? A quarterback’s Points Above Average measures the number of points contributed by a quarterback over the season, accounting for QBR and how much he plays, above the level of an average quarterback. Since the start of the 2008 season, no quarterback has cost his team more net points than Sanchez if replaced by a league-average quarterback. Sanchez has been worth -75.0 points to the Jets over his career, worse than JaMarcus Russell, Jimmy Clausen, Derek Anderson and others who eventually lost their starting jobs.
3. Jets weak against the run: The Patriots are 3-0 when running on more than half of their plays from scrimmage and 0-3 when rushing on less than 50.0 percent of plays. On a related note, the Jets defense has lost a step against the run. Only the Bills (nine) have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Jets (eight), and New York is allowing 2.2 yards after contact per rush this season, third-worst in the league. The Jets have allowed 4.6 yards per rush inside the tackles, sixth-worst in the league and almost a full yard worse than their 3.7 yards per rush inside the tackles mark from a year ago. Considering the Jets signed safeties Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry with stopping the Patriots tight end-heavy passing game in mind, flipping the script could pay dividends.
To check out ESPN New York's "Three-point stance" this week on Jets-Patriots, CLICK HERE.