It has been almost four years since winning (losing?) the Mariota bowl, a mid-December affair featuring a 3-11 Jets square off against a 2-12 Titans that the Jets ultimately won, and it costed them a couple picks in the 2015 draft. The Titans took Mariota second overall, while the Jets had to “settle” on Leonard Williams at six.
Time heals all wounds, and the Jets finally got their quarterback after all this time. It doesn’t seem to matter that much, as the Jets sit at 3-8, and once again are looking at a high draft pick.
The Titans are in the playoff hunt at 5-6, and have the talent to make it. It all depends on which Titans team shows up. Their performance against our AFC East counterparts has been baffling; they blew out the Patriots 34-10, but lost to the Bills and Dolphins 12-13 and 20-27 respectively. Inconsistency reigns supreme in Tennessee, who have the talent to be a playoff team.
The Jets have been enigmatic themselves, having scored 40 points twice this season, a feat only New Orleans (5 times), Kansas City (4), Pittsburgh (2), and Chicago (2) have also done. The Jets are averaging 20.1 points per game, good for 26th in the NFL, but excluding the two games where the Jets were playing out of their minds the Jets are averaging a paltry 13.1 points-per-game. That would place them dead lat and full point-per-game behind the Arizona Cardinals, who have 14.1 points per game. Ugly.
Ugly is a good descriptor of the Jets current five game skid. The defense played an amazing game against Miami and kept their offense to only six points. Sam Darnold ended up throwing a pick six in the fourth quarter, and they lost 13-6. That seemed to have broken the defense, who followed up that game by allowing Matt Barkley and the Bills to hang 41 on them. The defense has struggled in the five game skid, and everyone is playing poorly except Jamal Adams and Avery Williamson.
Williamson has been playing at a consistently high level all season, even when those around him appear to be slacking. He always looks to rip the ball out when he’s the second man in, and he always seems to be near the ball. Williamson leads the Jets with 89 combined tackles this season, good for ninth (tied with Telvin Smith) in the NFL.
Williamson will be going against his former team this week, and he is going to be playing with something to prove.
The Titans started him at linebacker for three season, but in his third and final season with the team, they only used Williamson on 60% of snaps. When asked about why he was playing so few snaps, Williamson told the New York Daily News in June that “It was a weird situation. Honestly, I don’t know. But they didn’t want me to play certain downs. I was definitely offended by that all last year.”
After signing a three-year $22.5 million dollar contract this offseason, the Jets have used him on 99.2% of all defensive snaps, the fifth highest mark in the league.
If the Jets are going to win this week, they must keep the Titans out of the end zone and force some turnovers. That would involve some massively improved defensive play. Avery Williamson could be the spark this week that the Jets have needed. Win or lose, expect a big game from #54.