At 1–5, the New York Jets need a win in the worst way. Actually Rex Ryan needs a win in the worst way.
With the clock ticking at almost four years and counting since the last time “Gang Green” made the postseason, another year of watching the January games from home will surely spell the end for the popular coach. And this brutal stretch of losses is only making it worse.
Fortunately for Ryan, the schedule, which has been unforgiving to this point, will soon help him out.
Including Thursday night’s tilt in New England, the last seven opponents will have a combined 24–16 record. After the Patriots game, though, the next seven opponents are a much more beatable 17–23.
Whether that’s enough of a break for a team and a coach who continually trots out the lowest-rated quarterback in the league (69.7) remains to be seen.
But they could sure use a win against their biggest rival to start things off. Here are three keys to their topping Tom Brady and the Pats:
1. Get Jace Amaro involved.
The rookie tight end Amaro had 10 catches last Sunday against the Broncos in what was hopefully a sign of things to come for the second-rounder out of Texas Tech.
Amaro was reportedly way behind at training camp (not surprising for a rookie) and had a total of 14 catches in the previous five games.
Amaro’s involvement is especially critical given how much Geno Smith relies on the newly signed Eric Decker. Of course there’s nothing wrong with having a go-to receiver, but with Decker missing time to nurse a hamstring issue, he seems unsure of whom to throw to.
2. Pressure Tom Brady.
Injuries have decimated what was already a thin, inexperienced secondary, which is never a good thing when you’re going against the two-time MVP Brady.
Fortunately, the Jets have a pretty good defensive line and a head coach who’s creative when it comes to putting pressure on the quarterback. They’ll need it in a bad way Thursday night, because if Brady has any time at all to throw, the Jets’ cornerbacks are in trouble.
Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who totaled a team-best 10.5 sacks last season, has 4 through 6 games in 2014—good for ninth in the NFL. Yet in his career against Brady (six games), he’s registered just one sack.
Wilkerson and linebacker Calvin Pace (3.5 sacks this year) will need to create pressure outside of whatever blitzes Rex dials up for the Jets to be successful.
3 Run the ball.
As long as Geno is starting, the offense is going to have to rely on the running game, and a big part of that is the offensive line.
Minus injured starting guard Brian Winters, the Jets line would appear to be at a disadvantage, but given how much the former third-rounder has struggled over the past year and a half, this might not be a bad thing.
In his place will be the unproven Oday Aboushi, who was taken two rounds after Winters in 2013.
In addition, the Patriots are a little thin on defense. New England’s leading tackler, linebacker Jerod Mayo, is out with a knee injury.
Should the Jets open holes at the point of impact for Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson, the next-level defense should be vulnerable in Mayo’s absence.