Previewing the Jets vs. Texans

There are different types of cryptic conditions.  Certain mysteries may appear wearing the friendly guise of a pleasant surprise. And if a condition, or occurrence, proves itself to be positive, certain inscrutable elements can be overlooked.

For instance, the Jets are 7-2. Hardly a shock, considering the roster is overflowing with talent and experience. But the path they traversed to reach this current perch has been filled with sudden, inexplicable turns.

These unexpected twists have landed New York in a favorable position, rendering the detours exciting. It was baffling when the Detroit Lions totally outplayed the Jets for three quarters and change, but Mark Sanchez rallied, and complaints about team performance, while justified, became ultimately superfluous.

The Jets’ weaknesses may be potentially crippling, but if the winning continues, they are a sidebar, factual and worth following into the future, but not the main story. Victory is capable of erasing mistakes. Even when certain penalties are dumbfounding, and entire quarters evaporate without the Jets leaving an imprint, success provides an instant cure, and also buys time. Their fans may know the team flawed in certain respects, but the optimism is safe, as it should be. Wins and losses rule this business. Guide perceptions. The Jets have made enough plays. And while the secondary has been an unmitigated disappointment, Darrelle Revis appears to be rounding into shape, seven wins already in the bank. He and his teammates fly into this home against Houston, stress free.

The Texans and Jets are practically foils. The two roster’s basic compositions are wildly divergent. Their offensive philosophies are practically in direct opposition. If Rex Ryan is justifiably disappointed with his defense, one viewing session observing the Texans’ efforts just may put his critiques in perspective.

 And yet, the two teams are similar for more enigmatic qualities. Just when their stories seem fitted for a reasonable narrative, the journey always assumes a different shape. The Jets still can’t be fairly viewed as a lockdown defender of home field advantage, not after their startling response to a sterling Green Bay defense just a few weeks ago. Save for two ugly, seemingly aberrational performances against the Ravens and Packers, the Jets would be, undisputedly, the toast of a League currently sporting a dominant team vacancy. Considering the hype which preceded their season, a rampaging Jets team could have been a media bonanza. Instead, questions rightfully linger. The Browns may be a franchise on the rise, but when Colt McCoy can march downfield against a previously vaunted defense, and all but win the game before Drew Coleman made a game-saving strip, one naturally wonders which image of the Jets comes closest to defining them. That record makes it a pleasant exercise.

 Because of their sheer inability to stop opposing offenses, the Texans have slid into the opposite end of the spectrum. Their lapses, and momentary, fleeting glories, have left supporters frustrated, instead of drawn to their seat edges. Every year, it seems the Texans are poised to take the next step. Ready to secure consistency, establish an identity, finally threaten the Indianapolis Colts. And yet here they are; 4-5, far from fearsome, still utterly beguiling. These results garnered despite the best efforts of quarterback Matt Schaub, who will probably play this week despite suffering a burst bursa sac in his knee. Schaub has a quarterback rating of 91.5, a completion percentage of 64.2. Also consider Schaub is merely providing an encore for a truly outstanding campaign in 2009, which he may never top. Last season Schaub finished with a quarterback rating of 98, along with an outlandish 4,770 yards passing.  Mario Williams, the ultra-talented defensive end, has tallied 5.5 sacks. Andre Johnson, arguably the finest receiver current plying his trade, has reeled in 52 catches and collected 781 yards.

Second year man Arian Foster seemed to have the most important emergence in the sport, as he sprinted through opposing defenses early in the season. The Texans hadn’t just stumbled upon a reliable, tempo setting running game, at long last. They had an unleashed a superstar. Foster has accumulated statistics of the eye-popping variety. He has 920 rushing yards, ten touchdowns, and is chewing up the turf at a clip of 5.3 yards. He has also chipped in 33 receptions. This is quite a dossier.

  So, how does it all add up to four wins, status beneath the breakeven mark? There have been soul wrenching losses, to be sure. Just last Sunday, the Texans were victimized by a Hail Mary, batted into the arms of Jaguars receiver Mike Thomas by their defensive back, Glover Quinn. He had made a fundamentally correct play, practically smashing the sailing pigskin toward the earth. Quinn and the Texans were not rewarded. Not in the slightest.

 But bad luck will not suffice as the singular explanation for the Texans’ woes. Gary Kubiak has had this team knocking on the door for a long while. Now it seems they have become stranded on the porch.

Houston’s remaining schedule is difficult. They will assume an urgent posture. But will it translate into strong play? After they began 2010 a thrilling 2-0, with Foster in tow, very few could have correctly predicted they would be in a familiar station by midseason, strictly on the periphery. In many ways, the Texans’ resemble the 2009 Jets, at least when measuring the quality of the depth chart against results. Games begin slipping away, the outcomes excruciating, one defeat topping the next, pain barrier pushed relentlessly. Considering the Jets had a rookie quarterback when they were 4-6, this was not a comparison anyone in Houston wanted to be remotely valid. But here we are. Two strange teams… one is successful. The other is desperate. Hey, the Jets ended up playing football in January. And to completely write off such a gifted Texans team would be foolish.

 Who will walk away with this vital victory?

Sanchez must be on his game for a possible duel with Matt Schaub, the Texans' talented, probable QB

Prediction:

The Jets are faced with a difficult assignment, here. First of all, another setback at home would make their struggles in New Jersey a trend. Should they fall behind early, the crowd could checkout, out of sheer bafflement alone.

New York’s front seven must slow down Foster, while simultaneously guarding against a big day from Matt Schaub. In fairness to the secondary, which is under the microscope, their performance in the second half against the Browns was strong – until that final drive. They will not only have to be more consistent against a high flying stable of Texans’ receivers, they just may have to elevate their collective game. The Packers’ loss was not without a few positives. Their receiving core was not the reason why they won. In fact, it was rendered a near nonfactor. Revis, Cromartie, and company must summon that type of effort once more.

The Jets also may need to make a few coaching adjustments. They seem to be getting regularly burnt on shallow crossing routes. If the same type of play keeps working for the other side, the players’ accountability slides just a bit. A different approach is necessary. Pressuring the quarterback is also an issue, here. The Giants and Cowboys handled the Texans’ earlier this season by owning the point of attack. The Jets had similar success all the way back in week one of last season.

The Texans really could take this one. Logic is pointing me in their direction. The Jets’ running game hasn’t been game-breaking of late. They seem to be entering a transition phase, from Tomlinson to Greene as the feature guy, except the rhythm of ’09 has not returned. This makes New York vulnerable against high octane offenses, which they would prefer keeping off the field.

The Texans can try controlling the clock, with a heavy dose of Foster, and a barrage of high percentage passes which has haunted New York in recent weeks against inferior offenses.  

But Mark Sanchez seems poised for a real big day, statistically. Who wasn’t impressed with his effort against the Browns? He can definitely convert that momentum into a breakout day slinging. The Texans’ are an ideal opponent for this scenario. Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller, and Braylon Edwards present ample problems for their defensive backfield.

All told, it just may be a shootout…. Real close… And something spectacularly awful will befall the Texans, like Darrelle Revis nabbing his first interception, a pick six, in overtime…

Jets 30 Texans 24 [OT]

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