Florham Park, N.J.– With the bye week now behind us, the Jets are set to begin the second half of their season with a chance to claim a share of the division lead. The Jets current 4-3 record has them sitting just one game behind the Patriots and Bills, who just happen to be the Jets next two opponents. If the Jets can win both of these next two games they will find themselves atop the division with seven games left to play and considering that just a few weeks ago the Jets were in a downward spiral losing three straight it’s easy to see why Rex Ryan is so excited at the possibility that they could have the lead in the division two weeks from now.
“Yes, shoot, yes. Would we like to have had a better record? Absolutely we would’ve, but we don’t.” Rex Ryan said on Monday, “We’re 4-3, but we have it right in front of us. This is what I talked about before. The teams you have to beat are right in front of you, so we’ll know. These next few weeks are going to be critical for us.”
Critical indeed. It’s been a long time since the Bills have been one of the teams the Jets have to worry about, but the time has come because this Bills team is for real. They, like every other team, still have glaring and fatal flaws but they present enough problems to opposing teams that they absolutely must be respected. Last year the Bills won just four games, after just seven games this year the Bills have already surpassed last year’s win total and they have done it with essentially the same group of players.
“Yes they are, they’re moving the football really well. Fred Jackson has been a monster. He is really running the ball well and he’s catching the ball. He’s doing a lot of things for them. He’s making a lot of big plays for them.” Ryan said, “And when you look at that offense, you don’t see as much vertical passing. It’s more catch and run and screens, they’re doing a great job with the screen game and again, they’re running the football. It’s a similar offense, it hasn’t changed that much, but they’re executing extremely well.”
Over the bye week Ryan and the other coaches had their traditional bye week self-scouting process and you can hear the results of that process in that last quote from Ryan. It’s not just that the Bills have been really good at running the ball and executing screen plays, it’s that the Jets have gotten themselves beat a couple of times by not being able to stop the run and screen plays.
“Nothing that we’re going to share, that’s for sure.” Ryan joked when asked if he learned anything during the week of self-scouting. “You always learn. When you go back and analyze things, there are always a few things that’ll stand out to you. And it’s like, ‘Oh, shoot’. These are things that you need to change and things that through the eyes, this is what your opponent is seeing about you. So I think it’s always good to do that.”
During the self-scouting the coaches look at how they would attack their own team as if they were playing against themselves. While it’s understandable that Ryan wouldn’t reveal what it is they identified as their weak spots that must get fixed, it doesn’t mean that we don’t know what some of the problems they saw are.
On defense they must do a better job of setting the edges and containing the other teams run game and they have to find better and more consistent coverage on tight ends (I still maintain that Brodney Pool should see more playing time over Eric Smith in passing situations, but time will tell if Ryan and company agree with me). On offense, obviously consistency is the area that needs most improvement, but it would also be nice to see more creativity like we saw in the last two games before the bye as opposed to the ultra conservative and predictable game plans we saw in the previous weeks.
Still through all the ups and downs of the first half of the season the Jets find themselves within reach of a division, all they need to do is take care of business themselves and these next few weeks will be their chance to do just that. Beat the Bills and Patriots and all of a sudden a division title and home-field advantage in the playoffs becomes an attainable goal, lose to both the teams and the Jets will find themselves right back to where they were a few weeks ago, only this time they won’t have enough time or games to dig themselves out of the hole.