FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets are on the verge of a full-blown crisis. They've dropped two in a row, Geno Smith's job security is an issue and the talented Detroit Lions -- no longer underachievers -- are coming to town.
Yeah, it's crunch time in September. A loss in the NFL, according to Rex Ryan, is the equivalent of a 10-game losing streak in baseball.
"So we're on a 20-game losing streak," Ryan said. "If we're talking about a sense of urgency, yeah, there's a huge sense of urgency."
Funny, but that vibe isn't felt in the locker room. A handful of players, taking the glass-is-half-full approach, claimed they're only two plays away from being 3-0. Indeed, on paper, it doesn't look bad. The Jets are No. 2 in total defense, No. 8 in total offense, but they're not making winning plays on either side of the ball. They blew an 18-point lead one week and fell into a 14-point hole the next. They're wildly inconsistent, and have been for the last 19 games under Ryan.
The Jets (1-2) don't want to become only the ninth team since the 2002 division realignment to lose non-conference games in three consecutive weeks. They get a chance to snap the streak against the Lions (2-1), with a 1 p.m. kickoff at MetLife Stadium. The top storylines:
1. Geno and his plate: Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, no doubt trying to deflect some of the criticism away from his quarterback, took some of the blame for Smith's awful outing against the Chicago Bears by saying he "put too much on his plate." He declined to get into specifics, but it probably had something to do with the run-pass ratio (26-46). What happened to balance? This is a huge start for Smith, who already has five turnovers, including two in the red zone. If the Jets are considering Michael Vick, they've done a good job of hiding it. They remain committed to Smith -- and they should be. He'd have to be utterly inept to get benched in this game.
2. Fixing red-zone problem: The coaches spent extra time dissecting the issues in the red zone, trying to figure out solutions. Right now, it's the No. 1 problem facing the team -- well, that and the turnovers. Mornhinweg, who usually masks his emotions, was deeply bothered by last week's 1-for-6 performance. You know how coaches like to say, "We're so close"? Well, Mornhinweg avoided that cliche, admitting there were plays in which they weren't close to executing properly. In fact, they lost yardage or had no gain on nine of 16 red-zone plays. Look for more Chris Ivory and a "jumbo" package to help the running game.
3. Remember the tight ends: Jeff Cumberland and rookie Jace Amaro have combined for 14 receptions, which isn't bad, but there should be a concerted effort to get them more involved this week. Why? Because the Lions' safeties are suspect in pass coverage. Opposing tight ends have 15 receptions for 171 yards and two touchdowns against the Lions. Ex-Jets safety James Ihedigbo, coming off a neck injury, is expected to make his Lions debut. The Jets never thought much of his coverage ability, so look for them to attack Ihedigbo. The corners aren't bad, especially Darius Slay. That's why Smith should work the middle of the field.
4. Another week, another gunslinger: After losing to Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler, the Jets get a crack at Matthew Stafford, who, like Cutler, is another strong-armed passer with a penchant for getting sloppy and taking unnecessary risks. Stafford had three turnovers in last week's win over the Green Bay Packers. But here's the problem for the Jets: They haven't been able to exploit those flaws. In 122 dropbacks by opposing quarterbacks, they've yet to intercept a pass. They got shredded by Rodgers and Cutler for 571 yards and five touchdowns. Once again, cornerbacks Antonio Allen and Darrin Walls are under the gun, facing superstar Calvin Johnson and his new sidekick, Golden Tate. It's not a fair fight. The number to remember -- 329, Johnson's career high for receiving yards. Just saying.
5. High-rent district: This game features two of the top defensive lines in the league. You're talking about six of the last 40 defensive linemen selected in the first round -- Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Quinton Coples for the Jets; Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ezekiel Ansah for the Lions. Richardson and Suh are former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Years. Suh garnered most of the pre-game pub, but Fairley is the player who could wreak havoc against the Jets. Left guard Brian Winters struggles against big, athletic tackles. It's a matchup to watch.