The New York Jets will try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive when they take on the Tennessee Titans tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Even though the Jets are just 6-7, they still have a shot at getting into the postseason, although it most likely will require them to win out and get some help along the way. The Titans (4-9) have already been eliminated from playoff contention, but are looking to finish the season strong and build some momentum headed into an offseason that could feature a fair amount of changes within the organization.
When the New York Jets have the ball:
The story of the New York Jets’ season has been its struggles on offense. They are 30th in the NFL in total offense, gaining less than 306 yards per game, and likewise have had trouble scoring, currently ranking 26th in that category with less than 19 points per contest. The running game has been somewhat productive, as they rank 11th in rushing yards with 119.1 per game, but they have just four runs of 20 or more yards on the season and are averaging just 3.8 yards per carry as a team. Running back Shonn Greene has had his moments this season, but he is basically splitting carries with Bilal Powell at this point and the duo has combined for 1,239 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. The majority of the attention and criticism, however, has fallen to quarterback Mark Sanchez and the lack of production from the passing game. The Jets are 30th in the league in passing (186.8 ypg) and Sanchez is the league’s 34th-rated passer. He has thrown more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (12) thus far, and as a team the Jets have turned it over 28 times, which is the second-most giveaways in the AFC.
Tennessee’s defense has not put up a great deal of resistance all season. The Titans are second-to-last in scoring defense at 29.7 points per game and 27th in total defense at 377.8 yards per game. They are giving up 127 yards rushing and more than 250 yards passing per contest and only three times have held an opponent to less than 300 yards of offense. The Titans have 27 sacks on the season, but only have generated 16 turnovers, 12 of those being interceptions.
When the Tennessee Titans have the ball:
Tennessee’s offense has endured its share of growing pains with Jake Locker in his first year as the starting quarterback, a struggle that’s been marked by Locker missing five games with a shoulder injury and the recent dismissal of offensive coordinator Chris Palmer. The Titans are 23rd in the league in total offense with 331.9 yards per game and 22nd in scoring at 20.8 points per game. After a slow start to the season, running back Chris Johnson got it going and he’s already surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the fifth straight season. Johnson has been stymied somewhat over his last three games with a total of 175 yards rushing and has just four rushing touchdowns. Locker has had some quality performances, but he’s struggled with turnovers too, tossing seven interceptions and losing two fumbles in his last three games combined. Wide receiver Kenny Britt struggled initially in his return from last season’s knee injury, but has been more productive and explosive recently. He is coming off of a season-best eight catches for 143 yards last week against Indianapolis and when he’s on his game, he is one of the league’s most dangerous vertical threats. Rookie wide receiver Kendall Wright also has been a pleasant surprise for the team, but on the whole, turnovers, costly penalties and breakdowns in communication and execution have plagued this offense. As a team, the Titans have turned it over 26 times, including 12 fumbles, four of those belonging to Johnson.
For the most part, the New York Jets’ defense has done its job this season, as it ranks eighth in the NFL in total defense at 332.5 yards per game. The offense’s ineptness and propensity to turn the ball over, however, has left the Jets’ defense on its heels far too often, which is one of the reasons why it ranks 19th in scoring defense at 23.5 points per game. The clear weakness with this defense is when it comes to stopping the run, as evidenced by the 136.5 yards rushing per game (29th) the unit is surrendering. On six different occasions, the Jets have yielded 150 yards or more on the ground, including 247 to San Francisco in a Week 4 home loss. Even without All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, the Jets’ passing defense has held up remarkably well. They rank third in the league in passing defense (196 ypg), as Tom Brady and the Patriots are the only team to throw for more than 300 yards against them. The Jets’ defense has produced the same amount of sacks as turnovers, 22 each, although the sack number is nothing to brag about. That’s the third-fewest quarterback takedowns in the AFC.
If not for the New York Jets’ slim playoff hopes, this game wouldn’t have any significant storyline attached to it, other than the perceived temperature of the two head coaches – Rex Ryan and Mike Munchak – respective hot seats. These are two teams that have visible flaws and plenty of questions how these flaws, not to mention other issues, will be addressed in the offseason. It appears that Tennessee is more settled when it comes to quarterback, but Jake Locker has yet to show he can be a consistent, reliable field general on a week in, week out basis. Given the struggles and inconsistent play of both offenses, I’m not expecting a lot of points scored by either team, unless the defenses are able to generate some, and in the end I think the Jets’ defense is a little more disciplined, talented and dependable compared to a young and still learning Titans’ unit.
Jets 20, Titans 17